Download Your Ancestry Tree and Upload It Elsewhere for Added Benefit

Once you’ve created a tree at Ancestry, you can download or export that tree to upload it elsewhere, or for safekeeping at home.

Be aware that while the tree itself is downloaded, any documents you have attached through Ancestry are NOT downloaded along with the tree. To do that, you’ll need to sync your tree through RootsMagic or Family Tree Maker software on your home computer. That’s not the focus of this article.

This article provides step-by-step instructions on how to make a downloaded copy of your actual tree called a GEDCOM file. All vendors understand the GEDCOM file exchange format for family trees.

Uploading your tree elsewhere allows you to save time and enhances your experience at other vendors, such as Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage, and GEDmatch – all three of whom utilize your DNA test in addition to your tree in order to provide you with advanced tools and enhanced results.

These three vendors all use and provide segment information, in addition to trees, and matching is free if you transfer a DNA file. Transferring a DNA file and downloading a tree are two separate things.

To use DNA plus trees, there are two steps and I’ll cover both. First, let’s look at the benefits and the differences between those three vendors so you know what to expect.

Features Summary

Here’s a quick and very basic summary of the features and functions of each of the three companies that accept both GEDCOM and DNA file uploads and provide tree+DNA combination features.

  FamilyTreeDNA MyHeritage GEDmatch
Upload DNA File Yes Yes Yes
Free Matching Yes Yes Yes
Advanced Features $19 one-time unlock $29 one-time unlock $10 monthly subscription for Tier 1
Upload GEDCOM file* Yes Yes** Yes
Features Using GEDCOM File Phased Family Matching Theories of Family Relativity, Smart Matches, searches Comparison with matches’ trees
Genealogy Records Subscription Available No Yes No
DNA Testing in House Yes Yes No, upload only
Unique Features Assigning matches maternally and paternally, Y and mtDNA tests, archives your DNA Theories of Family Relativity, genealogical records, photo enhancement Ability to view your matches’ matches, advanced DNA tools

*There may be GEDCOM file size restrictions at some vendors.

**MyHeritage restricts free trees to 250 individuals, but you can add a records subscription to be able to work with a larger tree. You can read more, here. You can try a free subscription, here. I believe you can upload any size GEDCOM file without a subscription, but advanced functions such as record matches are restricted.

Unlike at the other vendors who focus exclusively on DNA, MyHeritage provides the resources to build and add branches to your tree, hence the restriction on how much is provided for free.

Both MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA also do their own DNA testing, so you don’t need to test at Ancestry. I wrote about testing and transfer strategies, here.

Regardless of where you test, you can download your tree from Ancestry and upload it to other sites.

I initially started out with only my direct ancestors in my tree, but you’ll want to include their children, minimally, in order to assist the vendors with tree comparisons, assuring that a person in two different trees is actually the same person, not just someone with the same or a similar name.

Downloading Your Ancestry Tree

After signing on to Ancestry, you’ll see the following at the upper left:

Download ancestry tree.png

Click on “Trees.”

Download Ancestry tree 2

You’ll see a list of all the trees you’ve created or that have been shared with you.

Click on the tree you want to download.

Download Ancestry tree settings.png

Next, you’ll see your tree displayed. Click on the down arrow to display options and click on “Tree Settings.”

Download Ancestry tree manage

You’ll see your tree settings, above. We’re focused ONLY on the area in the red box.

Downloading does NOT delete your tree. That is a different option.

Let’s look at a closeup of this section.

Do NOT Delete Your Tree

Delete means “throw away” permanently – you cannot retrieve the tree. Export means to make a copy, leaving the original intact on Ancestry.

Let’s look closer.

Download Ancestry export.png

People see the warning at the bottom, in the Delete tree section and they don’t realize that’s NOT referring to Export Tree.

See those little red arrows, above? They’re all pointing to minuscule tiny grey dividing lines between the Hint Preferences Section, the Manage Your Tree export function and the Delete your tree function.

The warning pertains to deleting your tree, not “Export tree.”


If you accidentally click on “Delete your tree,” you do get a confirmation step, shown below.

Download Ancestry delete

If you want to export or copy your tree for use elsewhere, do NOT press delete.

Download/Export Your Tree

To download your tree, click on the green Export tree button.

Download ancestry export 2.png

Export means to download a COPY of your tree, leaving the original on Ancestry.

Next, you’ll receive an “in process” message while your GEDCOM file is being created.

Download Ancestry generating

After you click on “Export tree,” you’ll receive this message.

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When finished, you’ll be able to click on “download tips” if you wish, then click on the green “Download your GEDCOM file.”

Save this file on your computer.

Uploading Your GEDCOM Elsewhere

Next, it’s time to upload your GEDCOM file to our three vendors. Please note that if you have previously uploaded a GEDCOM file to these vendors, you can replace that GEDCOM file, but that’s not always in your best interest.

We’ll look at GEDCOM replacement strategies and ramifications in each vendor’s section.

You’ll need to have an account set up with each vendor first.

Uploading to Family Tree DNA

At FamilyTreeDNA, the way to set up an account is to either order a DNA test, here, or transfer your autosomal DNA file from either 23andMe, Ancestry, or MyHeritage.

Transferring your DNA to FamilyTreeDNA

Transfer instructions for DNA from or to Family Tree DNA are found in the article, Family Tree DNA Step by Step Guide: How to Upload-Download DNA Files.

After you set up an account at Family Tree DNA, you can then upload your GEDCOM file.

Uploading Your GEDCOM File to FamilyTreeDNA

You can upload any GEDCOM file to FamilyTreeDNA.

Sign on to your account, then click on “myTREE” on the upper toolbar.

download ancestry ftdna

Click on “Tree Mgmt” at upper right.

Download ancestry ftdna gedcom.png

Next, you’ll see the “GEDCOM UPLOAD” beneath.

You can only upload one tree to Family Tree DNA. When you upload a new GEDCOM file, your current tree is deleted at the beginning of the process.

FamilyTreeDNA GEDCOM Replacement Strategy

You can replace a GEDCOM file with a newer, better one at FamilyTreeDNA, however, doing so means that any people you match who you’ve linked to their profiles in your original tree will need to be relinked.

Phased Family Matching where your matches are bucketed to maternal, paternal or both sides are created based on matches to people you’ve attached to their proper places in your tree.

If you have few or no matches attached to their profiles in your tree, then relinking won’t be a problem. If, like me, you’re taking full advantage of the ability to connect matches on your tree in order for your matches to be assigned maternally or paternally, then replacing your GEDCOM file would constitute a significant investment of time relinking.

The best plan for FamilyTreeDNA is to upload a robust tree initially with lines extended to current so that you can attach testers easily to their proper place in the tree.

If you didn’t do this initially, you’ll need to add the line to the tester from your common ancestor as you identify matches with common ancestors.

Uploading to MyHeritage

At MyHeritage, you can begin by ordering a DNA test, here, or transferring a DNA file from another vendor, here. You can also sign up to try a free genealogy subscription, here. From any of these three links, you’ll be prompted to set up an account.

Transferring Your DNA to MyHeritage

Instructions for transferring your DNA to MyHeritage can be found in the article, MyHeritage Step by Step Guide: How to Upload-Download DNA Files.

Uploading your GEDCOM File to MyHeritage

You can upload a GEDCOM file from any source to MyHeritage. After signing in to your account, you’ll see “Family tree” in the top task bar.

download ancestry myheritage

Click on Family tree and you’ll see “Import GEDCOM.”

Download Ancestry MyHeritage import.png

At MyHeritage you can have multiple GEDCOMs uploaded, but you’ll only be able to link your DNA test to your primary tree from which Theories of Family Relativity for you are generated.

MyHeritage GEDCOM Replacement Strategy

I have a full subscription to MyHeritage which allows an unlimited number in people of an unlimited number of trees. Smart Matches and other hints are generated for every person in every tree unless I disable that feature.

If I were to replace my primary GEDCOM file that is linked to my own DNA test, I would lose all of my Theories of Family Relativity which are only generated every few months. The next time Theories are run, I would receive new ones, but not before then.

Replacing an existing GEDCOM file at MyHeritage also means that you’ll lose links to any attached documents or photos that you’ve associated with that tree, additions of changed you’ve made, as well as Smart Matches to other people’s trees. You can, however, sync with MyHeritage’s own free desktop tree builder software.

Initially, a few years ago, I uploaded an ancestors-only tree to MyHeritage reaching back a few generations. Now I wish I had uploaded my entire GEDCOM file. I didn’t because I have unproven people and relationships in my computer file and I didn’t want to mislead anyone. However, Theories of Family Relativity uses descendants of your ancestors to connect across lines to other people. Having descendants of my ancestors in that tree wasn’t important at MyHeritage then, before that feature was introduced, but it is now.

Today, I’ve minimally added children and grandchildren of my ancestors, by hand. I use MyHeritage records and searches extensively, and I’d lose thousands of links if I replaced my primary GEDCOM file. Besides, when I review each person I add in the tree, it provides the opportunity of reviewing their information for accuracy and searching for new documents. I’ve discovered amazing things by using this one-at-a-time method for adding my ancestors’ children and descendants – including new information that led to a new ancestor just last week.

Uploading to GEDMatch

You’ll begin by setting up a free account at GEDmatch.

Download Ancestry gedmatch

GEDmatch isn’t a DNA testing site or a genealogy records site. It’s a DNA tools site that provides tools not found elsewhere. Sometimes matches found at Ancestry will download to GEDmatch but not elsewhere. Ancestry does not provide genealogically valuable segment information.

GEDmatch not only provides segment information and triangulation, as do FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage, but they also provide the ability for you to view the matches of your matches. This open-source approach is one of GEDmatch’s founding principles.

Uploading Your DNA to GEDmatch

After you sign in to GEDmatch, you’ll need to upload your DNA file from one of the vendors to GEDmatch. I strongly recommend using DNA files from the standard vendors, such as Ancestry, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage or even LivingDNA. Other vendors use different chips or test different DNA locations and matching is sometimes less reliable.

download ancestry gedmatch upload DNA.png

After signing on to Gedmatch, you’ll see “Upload your DNA files.” Click on the link there for further prompts.

After uploading your DNA file, you’ll want to upload your GEDCOM file so that your matches can see if you have a common ancestor in your trees.

Upload Your GEDCOM file to GEDmatch

Scrolling down the sidebar below the “Upload Your DNA” section, past the various applications, you’ll see the Family Trees section.

download ancestry gedmatch gedcom

You’ll see the GEDCOM upload section, as well as various comparison tools. Click on “Upload GEDCOM (Fast)” to begin.

GEDmatch GEDCOM Replacement Strategy

You can replace your GEDCOM file at GEDmatch at will. Since all information at GEDmatch is generated real-time, meaning when the request is submitted, nothing is “saved” nor pre-generated, so you won’t lose anything by replacing a GEDCOM file, at least not as of this writing.

However, you’ll need to delete your current GEDCOM file first. You can do that by scrolling to the bottom of your User Profile area where your kit number is listed. (Mine is obscured, below.) You’ll see your GEDCOM file information.

download ancestry gedmatch resources.png

Click to manage resources, including deleting a GEDCOM file.

Currently, at GEDmatch, my direct line ancestral tree is sufficient.


Regardless of where you maintain your primary family tree, download or export it as a GEDCOM file and upload it elsewhere. You’re only cheating yourself (and your matches) if you don’t take advantage of all available tools.



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Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

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Genealogy Research

Susanna Elisabetha Koob (1731 – after 1776), Refugee – 52 Ancestors #290

Susanna Elizabetha Koob was born to Johann Theobald Koob and Maria Catharina Kirsch in Fussgoenheim, Germany on June 17, 1731.

Koob, Susanna Elisabetha

Taufen__Trauungen__Bestattungen__Sonstiges_1726-1798_Bild14(1) Fussgönheim Evangelical Church Records from

Susanna Elizabetha’s baptism, found by Christoph and translated by Tom tells us quite a bit.

Baptism: 17 June 1731

Parents: Joh. Theobald Koob and his wife, Maria Catharina, a daughter was baptized and named: Susanna Elisabeth

Godparents: Johann Andreas Kirsch & Anna Elisabeth, widow of the late mayor (village elder), Koob.

Worth noting here is that while Anna Elisabeth is referred to as the widow of the late mayor, she is NOT referred to as the grandmother of the child, which essentially eliminates Anna Elisabeth and her husband as being grandparents of the baby being baptized.

Kirsch and Koob Family Vine

The Kirsch and Koob families are heavily intermarried. It’s not a family tree, it’s a vine. This becomes evident in the earliest records and certainly extends back before those records began being kept in 1726. In 1720, there were 30 or 40 families in the village of Fussgoenheim with a total population of between 150 and 200. In 1743, the Kirsch and Koob homes are shown adjacent on a map.

Susanna Elisabetha’s mother is Maria Catharina Kirsch whose uncle was Johann Andreas Kirsch, the baby’s godfather.

We don’t know for sure who Anna Elisabetha, the widow of Mayor Koob was, but there was a Johann Nicholas (Hans Nikel) Koob who was Mayor in 1701 whose son was married in 1728, putting making him a candidate to be the deceased Mayor Koob.


The next record we have for Susanna Elisabetha Koon is her implied marriage since her first child was born in 1663, sometime after she had married Elias Nicolaus Kirsch.

Susanna Elisabetha could have married anytime beginning in 1751. Many records from this time frame are missing, including their marriage record, so Susanna Elisabetha probably birthed several children who are unaccounted for.

My cousin, Tom, found the baptism records for four children of Elias Kirsch and Susanna Elisabeth Koob, born in 1763, 1766, 1772, and 1774.

1763 Elias Kirsch and wife, Anna Elisabetha
A son was born, baptized and named: Emanuel
The Godparents: the mother’s brother, Emanuel Koob and wife, Maria Elisabetha
Born: 23rd of April 1763       Baptized: the 26th of the same       Entry No. 50

1766 Elias Korsch and wife, Susanna Elisabetha
A son was baptized and named: Georg Henrich
Godparents: Georg Henrich Koob, the juror and wife, Anna Margaretha
Born: 12th of March 1766                Baptized: the 16th of the same       Entry 73

1772 Elias Kirsch and wife, Anna Elisabetha
A daughter was baptized and named: Maria Catharina
Godparents: Johann Theobald Koob, the juror and wife, Maria Catharina
Born: the 30th of September 1772             Baptized: the 30th of the same

Maria Catharina is the only known female child. If Susanna Elisabetha’s mitochondrial DNA exists today, it would be through all females from the current generation, which can be male, through all females directly back to Susanna Elisabetha. If anyone fits this description, please reach out, because I have is a mitochondrial DNA testing scholarship for you. Susanna Elisabetha’s mitochondrial DNA will reveal even more about her heritage.

1774 Elias Kirsch and wife, Anna Elisabetha
A son baptized and named: Andreas
Godparents: Andreas Kirsch and wife, Maria Catharina
Born: the 6th of February 1774       Baptized: the same

It’s difficult to believe that a German couple in the 1700s only had 4 children. It’s much more likely that they had several earlier children and the records are simply incomplete.

Susanna was born in 1731. If Emanuel, born in 1763 was her first child, that probably means that Susanna was 32 when she married. Not unheard of, but not common either. Most German women married about a decade earlier.

Given Susanna’s age, their last child would have been born around the time that Andreas was born, in 1774, which makes sense.

Based on the records we do have, it seems that minimally, we are missing the birth of children in late 1764, 1768 and 1770.

Their child, Andreas Kirsch, my ancestor, was named after an earlier Andreas Kirsch who appears to be Andreas Kirsch born in 1729 who married Maria Catharina Koob, both of whom were related to Elias Kirsch and Anna (or Susanna) Elisabetha Koob.

Doubly Related

Their son, Andreas Kirsch, was related to his ancestors, Johann Georg Kirsch, known as Jerg, and his wife Margaretha Koch through both his mother and his father’s lines.

He’s also related to the Koob line on both sides as well. Like I said, a vine.

Koob Andreas pedigree

The red stars are located between Johann Georg Kirsch and Margaretha Koch, and the gold ones on Koob ancestors who must be related in such a small village, although I don’t know exactly how.

It’s no wonder I’m having one heck of a time unraveling these families.

Susanna Elisabetha’s Death

Koob, Fussgoenheim farm

It would appear from the records we do have that Susanna Elisabetha’s life was mundane. She was born, got married, had 4 children, and at some point, died. How exciting could life be in this little farming village anyway?

The answer is – plenty exciting.

About the time that Susanna Elisabetha was born, a political transformation was occurring that would reverberate through the next several decades in Fussgoenheim.

The von Hallberg family acquired first one half of the village in 1728, and then the other half. Beginning in 1729, as lord of the land, Jakob Tilman von Hallberg resurveyed the town, reducing the land owned by the townspeople by two thirds – resulting in a revolt.

In 1743, several families were shown on a map that I believe is Hallberg’s resurvey map. The then-current mayor, Johann Michael Kirsch, the father of Elias Nicolaus Kirsch, Susanna Elisabetha Koob’s eventual husband, Susanna’s father, Johann Theobald Koob, and other town officials refused to sign the land document. They were subsequently jailed for several weeks and then the families were expelled in 1744. Kirsch family members went to nearly Ellerstadt.

In 1750, the court ordered that they be allowed to return, but von Hallberg ignored that order which was reissued in 1753.

In 1743, Johann Theobald Koob, Susanna Elisabetha’s father, is shown as the neighbor of Johann Michael Kirsch. I’d say she married the neighbor boy, but in a small village, they were all neighbors and knew each other well. They were probably all related to each other in multiple ways.

Kirsch 1743 Fussgoenheim under village

Click to enlarge

Either Theobald Koob owned two pieces of land, which is certainly possible, or there were two living Johann Theobald Koobs at that time.

The history of Fussgoenheim tells us that Theobald Koob was one of the residents who refused to sign the land register. The Kirsch family members were expelled to Ellerstadt, living as serfs there for the next decade, at least. We don’t know where Johann Theobald Koob and family found shelter.

Susanna Elisabetha would have been 14 years old in 1743 when her father was jailed for standing up for both his rights and the principle of his beliefs. In 1744, the entire family was evicted, likely without much more than the clothes on their backs. Von Hallberg confiscated possessions, including clothes, and sold them for taxes, and whatever other sins he could concoct as justification for his actions.

Koob Ellerstadt Fussgoenheim

Ellerstadt was a short walk, a mile and a half or about half an hour through the countryside, but still, it must have been terribly difficult for those families to watch other people living in their rightful homes in Fussgoenheim, while the Kirsch family lived essentially as indentured servants in Ellerstadt, within sight of their former homes.

Was Johann Theobald Koob and family living in Ellerstadt too?

Koob Fussgoenheim Ellerstadt atlas

This 1871 map is closer to what the area looked like in 1743 than contemporary era maps.

It’s possible that Susanna Elisabetha Koob and Elias Nicolaus Kirsch were married in Ellerstadt, not in Fussgoenheim. They had to be in the same location to court. The eviction order was lifted in 1753, and we know that some members of both families did in fact return to Fussgoenheim, but not everyone. After 10 years living elsewhere, some people had married and otherwise established new lives. For some, there was no going back.

Koob Ellerstadt

At least a few of these old homes in Ellerstadt today stood then. Susanna Elisabetha Koob may well have strolled down this street with Elias Nicolaus Kirsch before 1753 when the families were allowed back in Fussgoenheim.

Google maps shows a photo of the Protestant church in Ellerstadt, here, but it’s impossible to know if this is the original church, or one constructed or heavily renovated later.

If they married here, it’s likely that the first several children of Susanna Elisabetha Koob and Elias Nicolaus Kirsch were baptized in Ellerstadt here as well.

Many years at first glance appear to be are missing in Susanna Elisabetha’s life, from 1743/1744 to 1763.

By 1763, they were living in Fussgoenheim when son, Emanual, was born, probably living in one of their old family homes that has been restored by the order of the court.

We know that Elias and Susanna were living in Fussgoenheim in 1774 when their last child was baptized, but the records after that are very incomplete. In particular, Fussgoenheim church records are missing from 1776 to 1816 – entirely.

Kirsch French Elias

The next piece of information, at all, is the death of Elias Nicolaus Kirsch in 1804, in a record recorded in French.

Kirsch French Elias death



Why French, and is this really our Elias?

Yes, indeed it is.

Elias’s death is recorded in the civil office of Ruchheim, just two miles down the road from Fussgoenheim, and the actual entry says he lived in Fussgoenheim and is signed by his son, Andreas.

How do we explain French?

Yet another war broke out in 1789, slowly spreading across Europe.

The left bank of the Rhine was invaded by France, beginning in 1793, and was eventually ceded to France. The French Occupation lasted more than 20 years, toppling the Holy Roman Empire with its feudalism and rule by “lords,” like the Hallberg family. This would have pleased Susanna Elisabeth’s long-deceased father a great deal. After all, that’s what he fought and sacrificed so much for.

The warfare displaced many families and caused a great deal of uproar and anxiety – but ultimately, it was like ripping the bandaid off of a festering wound. The result was eventual democracy where citizens actually owned land that could not be taken away by the mandate of nobility and military service was not mandatory at the whim of a royal family.

If Susanna Elisabetha was still living, she would have been 62 in 1793.

What Happened?

We don’t know exactly what happened in Fussgoenheim and the surrounding area during this war, but a preamble to the Mutterstadt church records mentions that the residents had to flee across the Rhine “again” and were absent for about 5 years. Unfortunately, I don’t recall the years this entry was referring to, although the minister said that even baptism by a Catholic priest, if one could be found, was better than nothing. Some people stayed behind.

Koob Mutterstadt Fussgoenheim

Mutterstadt isn’t far, only about 4 miles, so I’d wager whatever was happening in Mutterstadt was also happening in Fussgoenheim.

Elias’s death record in 1804 does not mention his wife, nor his marital status, but that’s not terribly unusual for a male.

There are no later death records that look to be hers, but many records are absent, although these French records appear to overlap slightly with when the German Fusssgoenheim church records begin again in 1816.

Based on what we know, it appears that Susanna Elisabetha passed on sometime between the end of the Fussgoenheim records in 1776 and the beginning of the French death records for this region in 1798.

Anything But Mundane

Based on what was transpiring around her, Susanna Elisabetha’s life was anything, anything, but mundane. She and her family was sucked into that vortex.

We know Susanna Elisabetha was at least displaced once in 1743, returning to Fussgoenheim sometime between 1753 and 1763.

Did she live long enough to see her children to adulthood?

If she lived long enough, she was likely displaced for a second time about 1793 at about 62 years of age.

Susanna Elisabetha could have died, a refugee, someplace across the Rhine. Or, she could be buried in the Fussgoenheim churchyard.

I don’t know which to wish for, because if she is buried in Fussgoenheim before the war, she maynot have lived to attend hr children’s weddings or know her grandchildren. The only child we know anything about is Andreas, her youngest child, who began having children about 1795. For all we know, Susanna Elisabetha’s other children may not have survived – and I fear that’s the case, because there are no records. That of course would mean that only one of her children survived. At least if she’s buried in the churchyard in Fussgoenheim, she’s buried among her children and family.

On the other hand, if Susanna Elisabetha died across the Rhine, she was living once again as a displaced refugee, vulnerable and dependent upon the charity of others. Possibly buried in a pauper’s grave, entirely lost to time.

Koob Mutterstadt cross

Cousin Christine Cain’s photo from a cemetery in or near Mutterstadt

It’s no wonder following decades of upheaval that shortly after the French occupation ended, immigration to the US would begin in earnest. At least two of Susanna Elisabetha’s grandchildren would heed that call, founding the Kirsch line in Indiana along the Ohio River.

Rest in Peace, Susanna Elisabetha, wherever you are.



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.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

MyHeritage New Photo Enhancer – Seeing Family Faces for the First Time

MyHeritage has introduced a wonderful new photo enhancement tool.

A few months ago, MyHeritage introduced their photo colorization tool. I uploaded many photos and colorized old black and white family photos. I wrote about that here and colorized several photos of Mom and her amazing dance partner, here.

I knew that improvements were underway, but the newly released MyHeritage Photo Enhancer, which works in conjunction with, or separately from the colorizer, is absolutely wonderful.

The new Photo Enhancer brings blurry, grainy or fuzzy photos into focus. It works amazingly well on old photos, especially groups, that were taken in black and white although it works on color pictures too. For black and white, colorizing the result makes them literally come to life in an unimaginable, breathtaking way.

And of course, there’s a story…my grandfather was a photographer, that is, when he wasn’t bootlegging. Yea, a moonshining photographer – and not one picture of his mother-in-law. There’s a joke in there someplace.

My Grandfather

I never knew my father’s side of the family. My parents were divorced and my father died when I was a child. His father, my grandfather, William George Estes, known as Will, lived to be almost 99 and died when I was in high school.

My grandfather lived in another state, 800+ miles away, and wasn’t the most upstanding of citizens. He, apparently, was not interested one iota in me. I never met him and didn’t even realize he had been alive during my lifetime until some years after his death.

Retrospectively, that’s probably for the best, considering I would likely, as a rebellious teen, have been easily influenced by a bootlegging grandpa. Maybe influenced isn’t the correct word. I would have welcomed Grandpa with open arms, wanting to sample each of his wares that he had spent decades perfecting. I would have volunteered to be the taste tester. That combined with the “less than stellar” aspect of his character is probably exactly why my mother never mentioned him.

Some of the stories I’ve heard about him since since would curl your toenails.

All that said, after I began researching my genealogy, I was intensely curious about the side of my family that I never knew. I found and made contact with my father’s sisters – the elderly, eccentric crazy aunts.


Will married my grandmother in 1892 at the ripe old age of 19 and drifted from job to job for years. Not long after the wedding, rumored to have taken place on horseback in the road at the county line, since he was from Claiborne County and she was from neighboring Hancock County, the young couple left Tennessee for Springdale, Arkansas.

Had he stayed in Claiborne County, Will would have farmed. There was little else to be done. He would have built a cabin in Estes Holler and tried to eek a living out of some rocky area not already being cultivated. Opportunity beckoned elsewhere.

In Arkansas, my grandmother, Ollie, ran a boarding house and according to her, Will fished all day and drank, generally at the same time, and was pretty much good for nothing.

A few years and four babies later, Ollie grew tired of his shiftlessness and aversion to work, and the couple, now with two living children headed back for Tennessee. He promised to do better back home, and at least she would have her family nearby.

I don’t know exactly when Will bought his first camera, but I can get some idea by when he began to take photographs of his parents, Lazarus Estes and Elizabeth Vannoy.

color Lazarus black and white

In the photo where they look the youngest, I’d say they are about 50, which would date the photo to about 1898 or so. You can see that Will used a backdrop, because you can see the field stones in the building to the right.

I had colorized this photo before.

color lazarus

Now, I’ve enhanced it too.

Estes, Lazarus Enhanced.png

This resolution is remarkable. Just look at this.

Now, for the closeup.

Estes, Lazarus close

Aren’t these just amazing? I have no idea what the caterpillar-looking “growth” is beneath Lazarus’s nose – perhaps a flaw in the more than century old photo. I don’t have the original.

Estes, Elizabeth Vannoy close.png

The census tells us that Will and Ollie had returned to Claiborne County, Tennessee by 1900. Will reported when the census-taker came around that he was a farmer and that he had been out of work for 6 months. Given that the census was taken in June, that meant he had been out of work for the entire year. The couple lived next to Lazarus, who was also a farmer, but hadn’t been out of work at all. Hmmm….maybe Will was fishing again.

It was about this time that Will bought a camera. Maybe Lazarus bought it for him, purchasing the “high-falutin’” camera on one of his trips to Knoxville as a way to encourage his son to do something – anything.

Will would travel around the countryside attending various family reunions and taking pictures with his black camera, perched on a tripod, with a black cloth that covered Will’s his head and the top of the camera. People still remembered him riding a horse with that camera in the saddle bags when I first began interviewing the older people in the 1970s and 1980s.

Will would join people’s family reunions and take pictures all weekend. Most reunions weren’t just a day, but lasted for several, complete with great food and plenty of liquor.

Will would then develop the photos and go back to visit for another weekend where the family would gather to purchase or order photos. More food and liquor.

He loved this setup. Seeing another opportunity, soon, he was taking along some of his home-brewed liquor to sell too.

Ollie, as you might imagine, was left home tending to the children – and none too happy with Will.

Then, one Saturday night, tragedy struck.

Their cabin burned, claiming the life of their son, Robert. Neither parent was at home. The oldest child, Estel, age 12 or 13, had been left in charge and tried to get Robbie out of the cabin, but he hid under the bed, where he died. Estel was able to get the rest of the children out of the house.

Estes Ollie and kids 1907 colorized and enhanced

Photo both enhanced and colorized using the MyHeritage photo tools.

We don’t know exactly when Robbie died, but we know, based on Estel’s age at the time, what Aunt Margaret said about the event, her age in this photo, and Robbie’s absence, that the fire occurred before April, 1907.

This is not the picture of a happy family. This is a picture of grief.

Uncle George eventually planted a willow, also now gone, on the bank of the creek where their cabin stood – a silent marker to Robbie. His grave in the family cemetery, long since lost, is probably marked with a field stone.

Willow in Claiborne cabin location.jpg

Ollie and Will were never the same after Robbie’s death, although they did remain married for a few more years.

The Man Behind the Camera 

Because Will was the person behind the camera, we have very few photos of him. Not only just during this time, but for the duration of his life.

None of the photos of Will are either large or clear. I was lucky to obtain any at all.

After their divorce, his children by Ollie didn’t see much of their father, so photos were altogether quite scarce. The few I have of him in later years were contributed by other family members.


The earliest photo that includes my grandfather is from about 1910 when Will would have been about 37 years old. My aunt told me the camera had been fitted with a timer or remote release so he could be in photos too.

Estes 1910 family

I uploaded this photo to MyHeritage, without much hope. It’s small, at least somewhat blurry and has lots of people.

Estes 1910 family enhanced.png

Here, the photo has been both colorized and enhanced. Better than I expected.

But what I saw next took my breath away.

Estes William George 1910 close

That’s my grandfather.

I have never seen this man.

And he’s staring right at me with soul-piercing eyes – across a divide of 110 years.

I presumed Will looked similar to my father, and while he does, he also looks different. (Yes, the DNA has been verified – no NPEs in this line.)

Will’s draft registration tells us that he was medium height and build and had brown eyes and black hair.

That looks accurate.

He’s not clean shaven. I didn’t realize that in the other photo. He’s also not balding – perhaps a nod to our Native American ancestors who generally don’t bald.

About this time, Will and Ollie moved to Fowler, Indiana as tenant farmers. A year or two later, family was visiting, so another picture.

Estes 1913 Fowler cropped

Next, colorized and enhanced.

Estes 1913 enhanced.png

And now for my grandfather again.

Estes 1913 Will close

Was Will trying to grow a beard, and couldn’t? This one looks a bit scruffy. Is that his beard below his ear on the left-hand side of this picture?

Shortly after this photo was taken, Will and Ollie divorced. Ollie moved to Chicago, and Will went back south, settling in Harlan County, KY – bloody Harlan – moonshine capital of Appalachia.

There are no more photos of Will until more than 20 years later, in the 1930s or 1940s.

Estes, Will and Cornie.jpg

Will and his sister, Cornie Estes Epperson.

Estes, Will and Cornie enhanced

And again, his closeup.

Estes Will 1940 close.png

Hmm, his beard – you can see it’s thin and scruffy here too. I wonder if he couldn’t grow a beard – another hallmark of Native American heritage.

It’s one thing to see photos of my grandfather where he’s a small grey entity in a black and white photo, and another to see him literally in living color, just as if I were looking at him in person today.

And do I ever, ever have questions for this man. So many questions.

Next, I’d like MyHeritage to implement Photo Speaker where the ancestors answer questions😊

It’s Your Turn

Surely you must already be thinking about your photos that can potentially be enhanced. There’s nothing to lose by trying. It’s free.

If you already uploaded photos to be colorized, you can simply sign in to your account, click on “My photos” under the “Family tree” tab, select a photo and click on the Enhance “magic wand” icon. There’s more, too.

Let’s walk through this step by step.

Enhancing Photos – Step-by-Step

First, scan your photos at the highest resolution possible.

Click here and you’ll see the following image:

Estes MyHeritage enhance

You can either drag and drop a photo onto that page, or upload your photos by clicking on the little orange “Upload photo” link. If you don’t have an account already, you’ll be asked to create a free one.

There are additional benefits to having an account and working with your photos at MyHeritage. I’ll show you momentarily.

I have only one photo of me with my Dad. My fingers are crossed that this will work. We’re going to find out together.

Me and Dad

I dragged this photo of me and my Dad, plus an unknown child at bottom left and dropped it into the frame. The Enhancer got busy and in a few seconds – which seemed like the longest minute ever – the photo was ready.

Here’s the enhanced “after” photo.

Drum roll….

Estes me dad enhanced.png

You’re being shown the composite view, but you can click on the various people to see their faces.

Estes Dad 1956 enhanced

I think my Dad has my grandpa’s hairline – what do you think?

Estes 1956 me enhanced.jpg

And here’s me as a baby.

Next, I’m going to click on colorize.

Estes 1956 dad me colorized

What does Dad look like now?

Estes 1956 dad colorized.jpg

Dad’s hair was salt and pepper grey by this point, and I suspect the last photo of my grandfather where his hair looks lighter means that his was grey too.

Estes 1956 me colorized

I look for this baby’s face in my face today, and I look for me in my father’s face too.

Estes go to photos.png

You can download your enhanced photos, but they are automatically saved for you at MyHeritage.

There’s MORE!

Next, click on “Go to my photos,” or you can simply click on My photos” under the Family Tree tab, below.

Estes my photos

You can do everything you need to do with photos from this tab.

If you’ve just set up your account, import your GEDCOM file of your tree to give yourself a head start.

You’ll want your family members to be in your tree, because now you’re going to tag and link the photos to the correct people.

On your My photos page, you’ll see all of the photos you’ve uploaded whether you’ve colorized or enhanced them or not. Both versions are here, before and after.

If you have photos you uploaded prior to these features being available, you can easily colorize them and enhance them by simply clicking on the photo. You can tell which have been colorized or enhanced by the icons displayed over the photos

Estes photo gallery.png

The first two photos have the magic enhancement wand button and the colorize button displayed, so those photos have had both treatments. The third photo, at right, has only been enhanced. You always see the original photo displayed on your page initially.

To tag people in photos, click on the photo, which will expand to a screen, shown below.

Estes tag

You’ll notice that you can type a comment and also that you can tag photos. If you fly your mouse over the faces of the people, you’ll be able to tag them with their name, if they are in your tree.

Estes dad tag
I clicked in the frame to start tagging, began typing the person’s name, and the system showed me candidates. William Sterling Estes is the only person in the database with that name, so I’m selecting him.

I tagged myself too. At right, the photo information is updated.

Estes two tags

Now, when I see this photo and fly over the people, the tag box shows me the identity of that person.

Estes tag box.png

By clicking on the little dots to the right of the name of the person you’ve tagged, you can visit their profile page, among other things.

Estes profile page.png

The photo you tagged is automatically saved to their profile page.

Estes dad profile page

When you look at your tree, you’ll see that it’s now “decorated” with the ancestors you’ve tagged, and you likely have different kinds of hints waiting for you.

Estes tree with photos.png

You’ll notice informational icons for each person in your tree.

Estes smart matches

  • The green icon indicates Smart Matches to other people’s trees which may include additional photos, if they’ve uploaded photos to their trees too.
  • The brown sheet-of-paper icon indicates historical record matches, such as census, books and other records.

MyHeritage allows a complimentary 250 person tree for free, but you’ll want to add more people or better yet, upload your GEDCOM file. You’ll also want to take advantage of Smart Matches, super searches, hints, DNA tools and record matches that are benefits of a subscription.

I’m so grateful for the integration between the various MyHeritage tools – and I especially love seeing the faces of my ancestors.

Thank you, thank you, thank you MyHeritage!



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.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

DNA Q&A With Roberta Estes on MyHeritage Facebook LIVE – June 24 at 2 PM EDT

MyHeritage June Q&A

I’m so pleased to send this invitation to the free MyHeritage Facebook LIVE series where I’ll be answering DNA questions beginning at 2 PM EDT on Wednesday, June 24th.

The Facebook LIVE session that I did in April, Top Tips for Triangulation, is MyHeritage’s most-viewed Facebook LIVE session with over 13,000 people to date. We realized then that a DNA Q&A session would be very well-received – so here we are!

For my friends with time conflicts, or for whom it’s the middle of the night – the session will be recorded and available afterward.

Please note that I can’t answer support type questions nor product release questions. For example, I don’t know when MyHeritage is going to roll out enhancements or updates.

All DNA questions are welcome, and you can ask them in advance at this link. You will also be able to ask questions during the session.

Tomorrow, about 10 minutes before we go live, MyHeritage will post a link to the live session on their Facebook page, here.

I will also post the live link on my DNAexplain Facebook page, here.

I’m so excited. This is going to be SOOO much fun!

Hope to see you there!



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.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

The Day Dad Shot Himself


Hot mid-summer days in Indiana were so stifling that you felt like you were trying to breathe water through a hot, saturated, oppressively heavy blanket. The air was so thick you could cut it with a knife.

Before you even woke up in the morning, you were sweating. Your PJs were already sticking to your skin.

The sun rose, shining on dew-kissed leaves, and before you could even see the rays over the horizon, we were already hustling, trying to get as many of the day’s chores done before the thermometer rose even higher.

The windows were all open, held up by a piece of an old broom handle, but that didn’t matter. It was so hot that even the wind was too overtaxed to put forth the effort to stir.

Our house didn’t have air conditioning. No one did back then. Some stores did, and businesses, but not homes. That was decades away, far in the future.

Mom tried to get a head start on her Avon route on those blistering summer days, delivering quite early to other farm wives who were also up before the roosters, and long before breakfast.

Mom would pack her demonstrator bag with samples the night before. When it was this hot, Mom had to carry the entire heavy bag into each house, because leaving it in the car, even with all of the windows down would melt the lipsticks and ruin the cosmetics in about 2 minutes flat.

Plastic tubes and bottles would melt and warp. Sometimes it was so hot she would put the customer’s orders in a cooler alongside paper milk cartons filled with water and frozen into ice blocks so their purchases wouldn’t overheat and be ruined before she delivered them. She only had one old metal cooler though, so she could only take as many orders as would fit there, or in cardboard boxes, if the contents weren’t in jeopardy from heat.

The Avon order arrived by UPS every other week. Mom would unpack the order and sort the contents of the boxes on the Formica kitchen table. She put each customer’s order in a white Avon paper bag with their name and the amount they owed written on the front, plus an Avon book of course, in case they wanted to order something for the next time.

Those bags with customer orders would be placed into cardboard boxes sorted by the delivery order.

The hotter it was, the more often Mom had to return home, at least until cars had options for air conditioning and she would part with the $$ for that luxury. When Dad bought a car with AC, she never said a word about the cost.

Even after she had AC in the car, she didn’t want to let the car run while she was in someone’s house. No, not because of the danger of theft, but because it wasted gas. Literally, every penny mattered on the farm where a hailstorm could wipe out an entire year’s crop, and income, in the blink of an eye. I remember some of those years all too well.

Automobile theft was non-existent in Hoosier farm country. Heck, everyone knew everyone’s car or truck. No one needed security cameras back then. We had nosey neighbors who knew when everyone came and went. Speaking as a former teenager, trust me on this one😊

That neighborhood security force of church ladies came in handy more than once over the years and saved more than one life too. Farm country was inherently safe, at least in this way.

On this particularly scorching summer day, Dad started working before dawn in the barn. The animals were all hot too, so he made sure to give them all extra fresh, cool, water, pumped straight out of the ground. He ran water for the hogs to be able to wallow in the mud. Sometimes he would take the hose and run it over their bodies so they would feel better.

He was a very soft-hearted farmer.

By the time he finished his morning chores, Dad was done just in time to help Mom load her car with her Avon deliveries.

This particular day, Mom knew it was going to be beastly, so she planned to return home mid-morning for a second box of deliveries. That would give her the opportunity to touch up her makeup, which would surely be running by then, use the bathroom and maybe make a phone call or two to see if people were home before going back out again.

Mom wanted to be finished on the road before lunch. She still needed to cook something for her and Dad to eat – although, on hot Avon days like that, we often had a quick meal like BLTs while sitting in front of the box fan in the kitchen. Of course, iced sweet tea and for the adults, ice coffee was the preferred beverage.

Mom would insist it really wasn’t THAT hot, while the rest of us had rivulets of sweat running down our backs.

But on this miserable day, even Mom wasn’t pooh-poohing the heat – and it was still quite early.

The Basement

Farm 1955

The only cool place on that farm was the basement. The basement was called a Hoosier or Michigan basement. Our basement, maybe 15 by 20 feet, or perhaps slightly larger – wasn’t under the entire house. I suspect the original house had been built in the mid-1800s. It was Amish and square. No plumbing, kitchen, central heat, or wiring, of course.

The basement was only beneath the later addition, to the right of the original square house, above, which was built later, but still significantly pre-1950. The basement was old enough that there was no wall on one side – just dirt that receded into a spider-infested shallow crawl space under the rest of the house. There wasn’t enough tea in China to get me to crawl under there. Three sides had very old concrete blocks with two small ground-level windows that didn’t open. At some point, Dad had concrete poured over the dirt floor, facilitating a drain that emptied into a pipe that drained into the little creek down by the barn. I suspect he finished and leveled the concrete himself, because it wasn’t.

We had purchased a used pool table at an auction and played pool down there. It took about 6 men to get it down those stairs and it was never, ever coming out again, I assure you.

Later, Dad somehow rigged up a shower by running a pipe across the ceiling from the outside well by the windmill. It was the only shower in the house, and from that day on, Mom and eventually grandkids were the only ones who took baths instead of showers. In fact, Mom didn’t go down into the basement unless she had to.

That shower had one temperature – cold. Eventually, we got tepid warm too. That was a red-letter day!

Soap sat in a wire soap dish on a wooden crate along with a shampoo bottle. You carried your washcloth and towel up and down the stairs with you. There were no sides to the shower. You just stood in the corner of the basement in all of your birthday-suit glory and washed quickly.

Dad Gary Spot

My brother lived under threat of immediate and certain death if he DARED to come down to the basement or go anyplace near those windows when I was showering.

Of course, to a brother, that was simply an invitation to cause trouble. He would stand outside the window and sometimes kick it with his foot, calling my name. I would swear, “Damn it, Gary, go away.” Then, of course, I would get in trouble for swearing, which he thought was hilarious. Rinse and repeat.

On the far side of the dark, damp, but cool, basement room was Dad’s “shop.” Not to be confused with his shop in the barn.

Dad’s basement shop, even though the basement had no heat, was warmer than the unheated shop in the barn which was typically used to repair farm machinery. Repair might well mean forging a part or beating some misbehaving piece of mechanical gear into submission. Dad was good at almost everything.

Dad's buttons

The shop in the basement, over the years, came to be favored for things like working with wood and leather, making bone and wooden buttons for his rendezvous clothes and re-enactments where he was a mountain man – and working with vintage guns.

By vintage, I mean black powder muzzleloaders. Those all came and went through the side door to the basement.

Truth be told, I’m not sure Dad even owned one himself. Our guns on the farm were “put up,” meaning locked up in the house, taken very seriously, and never gotten out unless there was a need. If you saw Dad walking out of the house with a gun, something was wrong and you needed to ask how you could help.

Most often, it meant some poor animal needed to be put out of its misery. If there was any saving it, Dad would bring it in to me and Mom. Otherwise, we were instructed to stay in the house and he did whatever needed to be done.

Mom and I listened for the report, both of us winced and looked at each other – grateful that whatever it was, was over.

Dad loved to work in his shop.

People would bring him broken things at rendezvous encampments and asked him if he could fix them. He would often tell them he didn’t know, but he’d give it a try, which often meant recreating an obsolete part. He’d return the item to them at the next rendezvous. Over time, his reputation working with firearms grew and he always had something he was fixing. I think he enjoyed the challenge – and he was very good at figuring out how to repair things that seemed irrecoverably broken.

That Hot Morning

Mom pulled out of the driveway and headed north.

I pulled out of the driveway and headed south, the pavement so hot that the heat shimmered in the distance, creating optical illusions. I worked in town, some 20 or 25 miles away. Before I was past the first crossroads, my legs were already sticking to the seat.

I’m not sure where Gary was, but I think he may have been living in town at that time. He wasn’t at home.

Retrospectively, Dad probably relished the quiet of the household when Mom and I were gone, with the windows wide open and hearing the distant rustling of the animals making farm sounds.

Make no mistake, he loved us, but we weren’t exactly quiet. We were always busy, talking, doing something, cooking, canning, and complaining about the heat. Well, that was me.

After we left, Dad went down to the shop that he affectionately called his office, probably because it couldn’t have been further removed from anything resembling an office – although he had commandeered an old desk as a work surface. To this day, I have NO IDEA how that man could see anything down there in that sacrosanct dungeon that served as his man-cave. There was one light bulb hanging from the ceiling, and it was not in “his” corner of the basement, furthest from the windows.

After Mom left, Dad went downstairs to work on fixing a black powder muzzleloader that needed a part.

The thing about an Avon route is that while it might take all day, you were never terribly far from home. Mom knew all of her customers of course, but if she decided it would be better to return home to go to the bathroom, she probably wasn’t more than a few miles away, at most.

Mom had completed her first few deliveries. She was always torn between wanting to hurry so that she would get done before the worst of the heat, and not wanting to leave before someone had a chance to take a look at the sale brochure. Her best shot at getting a new order was right there in the living room or at the kitchen table when making a delivery.

As Mom left someone’s home, a very strange feeling came over her.

She couldn’t shake it.

She felt like she needed to go home.

Not like when she needed to go to the bathroom, this was different.

She tried to ignore it. It wasn’t rational, she told herself.

As she turned in the direction away from the house, heading on to her next destination, the feeling became more urgent.

Then it became overwhelming.

Mom turned around in the middle of the road and made tracks for home.

She heard the disembodied words, “hurry, hurry.”

Dad’s truck was parked at the barn, like always, so he was there.

A sense of foreboding had overcome her on the short drive home that seemed to take forever.

Mom parked in the driveway and scampered inside, somehow knowing something was wrong.

Had something happened at the barn?

Did the tractor flip over?

Where was Dad?

As she tripped across the threshold of the back door, dashed through the mudroom and into the kitchen, she saw it and stopped dead in her tracks.


A trail of blood.


She didn’t know which end of the trail was the beginning and which was the end.

What had happened?

Where was Dad?

There was blood, splatters, and misshapen partial footprints – like someone had been sliding in the blood, all blurred together.

Her head spun.

The bright red trail reached from the kitchen side door leading down the steps to the basement, across the kitchen in front of the refrigerator, and disappeared into the bathroom.

Worse yet.

There was total silence.


Not even the dog.

Where was the dog?

Something was horribly, horribly wrong.

Mom ran into the bathroom and stopped again.

Dead still.

Dad was laying on the floor, white as a sheet.

The dog was protectively curled around him, not moving.

Terror struck like a knife stabbed into her heart.

She rushed to him, falling on her knees in the puddle of blood.

Thank God, he was still breathing.

Mom looked for the source of the blood and quickly realized he had been trying to apply a tourniquet when he lost consciousness.

His leg was hemorrhaging, but he had been able to apply at least some pressure, and the dog was actually laying on that leg, over the wound.

Bless that dog!

Mom grabbed something. His belt, I think, but I can’t remember for sure, and secured it around his leg. She had no idea why he was unconscious. Was it loss of blood, pain, or another injury someplace?

She turned him over and saw nothing more. It never occurred to her that maybe, just maybe, someone had shot him and might be in the house and they both might be in danger.

Those were the days long before cell phones. Mom ran to the desk in the kitchen where their only phone was located. There was no 911 back then either, but there was always a sticker under the handset on the rotary phone that displayed the phone number for the ambulance, “just in case.” That was that day.

Her hands were shaking.

It rang busy.

She tried the neighbor, hoping for help.

No answer.

Ran back to check on Dad – still breathing.

She decided to take matters into her own hands.

Dad Mom Dobie Spot

My 100-pounds-soaking-wet mother couldn’t lift Dad. She pulled him through the kitchen, out the mudroom, plopped him down the two steps, dragged him along the sidewalk, and somehow stuffed him into the passengers’ side door of the car.

Then, she drove like a bat out of hell the 20 miles to the hospital.

That was the first of two times she did exactly the same thing, both times saving Dad’s life.

That was, however, the only time Dad shot himself.

The Hospital

Arriving at the hospital, Mom called me at work. I knew something was very wrong. No one ever called anyone at work back then. She minced no words.

“Dad’s shot, come to the hospital.”

My heart stopped.

Just stopped dead.

I had no idea if he was alive or dead.

Who shot him?

Where was Mom?

Which hospital. I guessed the one closest to the farm.

I simply had no idea about anything…at all.

But I will tell you that my life stopped in that moment, time morphed, and I have absolutely no recollection whatsoever of the actual drive to the hospital.

Pulling into the hospital property, I spotted Mom’s car abandoned in the driveway under the canopy, with the doors open and no sign of Mom or Dad. But blood. There was blood.

That’s all I could see.


The security guards were looking quizzically at the car, clearly wondering what to do. I pulled up behind her car, leaped out of my car and ran into the emergency entrance.

Someone pointed me towards the curtained rooms in the back where I saw Mom emerging, looking like she was in shock, and covered in blood – even on her glasses and in her hair.

I could feel the anxiety squeezing my chest. I could smell the blood now.

“Where’s Dad?”

“They just took him up to surgery.”

“Oh my God, he’s alive?”


Of course he was alive if they were taking him to surgery, but you don’t think clearly at a time like that.

Only then did it occur to me to ask Mom if she was hurt. All things considered, I presumed she wasn’t.

Mom and I both had a sobbing meltdown, right there, hugging and holding each other, which of course got me bloody too.

A volunteer took pity on us and shepherded us to a room that looked suspiciously like a chapel where we could cry in private. Plus, Mom was a mess and I’m sure they didn’t want us in the waiting room.

I gave the security guard our keys so he could move our cars out of the drive where they were blocking everything.

I asked Mom what happened.

I had no idea that she might not actually know.

Mom was in shock and could only cry.

What Happened?

After Mom left that morning, Dad had decided to work on a black powder muzzleloader.

Generally, he took a gun outside and made sure it wasn’t loaded.

But this gun was broken. Apparently, it was jammed somehow.

When Dad started to work on the gun in the basement, it discharged the bullet which then hit the concrete block wall. Ricocheting off the wall, the bullet hit Dad in the leg, badly damaging an artery and more.

Dad knew he was “hurt bad” as he put it, and decided to go upstairs to the bathroom to try to stop the bleeding.

Why he didn’t apply a tourniquet in the basement, and why he walked directly past the phone on the way to the bathroom, even touching the desk where the phone sat, instead of calling for help, I’ll never know. He was aware that his artery was involved.

He likely was shocky immediately. Who knows how much blood he had already lost by the time he had walked to the doorway, climbed the stairs, and made his way to the bathroom.

In the chapel, Mom suddenly realized that she didn’t know if she had shut the house door (she hadn’t) and was worried about the dog.

I told her I’d go home, take care of whatever needed to be done, get her some clean clothes, and come back to the hospital.

When I arrived, the dog was guarding the open door. The house looked like a massacre had occurred. Even a small amount of blood looks like a huge quantity, especially when on a flat surface like a floor.

I wasn’t prepared for what I saw.

Neither, apparently, was the sheriff, who we knew, and who pulled in right behind me.

Apparently one of those see-everything neighbors I mentioned noticed Mom driving with an intensity that belied an Avon delivery and after thinking about it, decided to drive up to the house to see if everything was alright.

The neighbor found the back door open, blood on the sidewalk, and the dog refusing to let anyone enter. They went home and called the sheriff.

The sheriff took one look at me, with blood residue on my clothes from Mom, but not realizing where it came from, and immediately put me in the squad car.

I got to sit in the squad car for some time while the sheriff radioed back to headquarters. It seems the deputies were already at the hospital – standard procedure in a shooting. The neighbor showed up again and told the sheriff what he saw.

As soon as the sheriff confirmed that things were as I said, he took a few pictures, just in case, confiscated the gun, and then he and the neighbor helped me clean things up a bit. He told me I was too upset to drive and took me back to the hospital. Mom’s clean clothes got a police escort.

This time the sheriff parked in the hospital driveway and we entered together, heading off to find Mom. I’m sure our family was the talk of the hospital for weeks, if not months or years.

I know this incident became legendary in the neighborhood.

The Legend

Dad was fine, eventually. Not just fine, but he had a wonderful story, a wonderful yarn to spin to entertain his buddies.

When he got home, his first priority was to find the bullet.

Yes, find the bullet.

How would one ever locate that bullet that was bouncing around the basement?

Well, somehow Dad found it and made what was left into a memento which he wore from that day forward – especially to rendezvous.

Dad bullet shirt

He wore his bullet with his favorite shirt. After Dad passed away, Mom wore this as well to feel close to him.

Dad bullet

When asked about why he was wearing this “thing” he had created, and what it was, the door was opened wide, providing him with the perfect opportunity to tell the story about when he shot himself. That story might, just might, have evolved a wee bit over time into somewhat of a tall tale.

Kids would gather, wide-eyed, and ask to see his scar from where the bullet went flying around the pitch-black room like a heat-seeking missile propelled by pitchfork fire.

His buddies wanted to know how that happened with the gun and all about when the sheriff arrested his wife and daughter.

Mom’s friends wanted to know how the heck she had managed to haul his carcass to the car. Dad didn’t really want to acknowledge that part. In his defense, he was unconscious and had plausible deniability.

They also wanted to know how Mom got the blood out of the linoleum and the seat of the car. She didn’t – she got a new kitchen floor with nary a whimper from Dad, and seat covers worked wonders.

In fact, sometimes the bloodstain on the seat would become part of Dad’s tall tale performance. He’d take those kids right over to see it, prefacing the great reveal with, “Are you ready? Are you sure?” before yanking the car door open to their amazement and horror. Ok, he might have enhanced the seat a bit, for effect.

The sheriff had a version of his own that he referred to as the Muzzleloader Massacre where the dog was the hero and saved Dad’s life. Sometimes, the sheriff would stop by the rendezvous and he and dad would tell dueling tall tales where they would both good-naturedly call each other liars. Those were something to hear. No matter how many times you had already heard them, they were funny. It seems there was always some new detail added by one or the other, or both.

Occasionally, I’d get to tell my own version, kind of as a tie-breaker, where I’d explain how Mom carried Dad to the car, kind of like a reverse wedding, carrying him outside over the threshold and then qualified for the Indy 500 on the way to the hospital. Then how she managed to get a new kitchen and new car out of the deal.

I think everyone always liked the dog-hero version of the story best.

Me and Dad

Wedding me with Dad

Dad, who was actually my step-father, and I had a wonderful one-of-a-kind relationship. We adored each other, as you can see by the look on our faces, above, at my wedding, just before he walked me down the aisle, after telling me it was alright to bolt out the back door if I wanted to change my mind.

Dad Mom wedding me Karen

I marvel at how fortunate Mom, along with me, were to have stumbled into his life. Or maybe he stumbled into ours.

Dad Mom wedding

It was my lucky day when they married.

Forever the prankster, you never expected that of Dad. He was always the quiet one, a man of very few words, and infinite love. However, he was always on the lookout for an opportunity to cause some mischief. My step-brother came by it honestly.

I’m positive, on the other hand, that I sorely tried that man’s patience, especially as a teen. He actually married my Mom when I was a teenager, in spite of me. Of course, I inherited that pesky brother in the deal, so I guess that was a two-way street.

Dad and I became incredibly close, bonded by our common losses and the joy of finding each other. I lost my father and he lost his daughter. One time, he walked past me sitting at the table, thunked me on the head with his thumb and forefinger, and said, “You know, when I married your mom, I got my daughter back,” and just kept on walking. Like I said, a man of very, very few words.

Not one time did any cross words ever pass between us. Not once. We loved each other, infinitely.

Only death would separate us, but not on that particular hot day in Indiana.

Back at the Hospital

Seldom did I get the best of Dad, but this time, I did.

I’m still secretly pleased by this.

Back at the hospital, when Dad returned from surgery and recovery, and we had cleaned up and changed clothes, they told us we could go to his room to wait.

As they wheeled the gurney in and got him settled, Mom was terribly relieved just to see him and started babbling – a release for hours of pent-up nerves.

Dad was all hooked up to IVs, a little groggy, but talking.

Mom asked him what happened.

He told her simply, “I shot myself.”

She asked, incredulously, “On purpose?”

“Hell no, Jean,” he replied, quite irritated at the question, probably because he was a much better shot than that.

I’m sure he thought he was about to receive a lecture, and he might just have been right.

I wasn’t sure he saw me, so I bent over the bedrail, looked down, smiled at Dad, and touched him. His irritation melted away immediately when he saw me, frown lines smoothing into the tenderest smile. I remember it so well, even today, all these years later.

He reached out to hold my hand. I could tell, in spite of his toughness that he was frightened and badly shaken. He knew how close he had come. So did I.

Had it not been for Mom, the dog, and perhaps the hand of God…

I took his rough, calloused, farm-hardened hand in both of mine, ever so gently and lovingly, and said…

“So, Barney, tell us what happened.”

Gotcha Dad.

Dad Barney

I love you and miss you incredibly. I am so privileged to have had you in my life along with these wonderful memories – and your bullet – one of my cherished possessions.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

Dad bullet me


Genographic Project Participants: Last Chance to Preserve Your Results & Advance Science – Deadline June 30th

If you’re one of the one million+ public participants in the National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project, launched in 2005, you probably already know that testing has ceased and the website will be discontinued as of June 30th. Your results will no longer be available as of that date.

I wrote about the closing here and you can read what the Genographic project has to say about closing the public participation part of the project, here.

However, this doesn’t have to be the end of the DNA story.

You have great options for yourself and to continue the science. Your results can still be useful, however…

You MUST act before June 30th.

Please note that if you control the DNA of a deceased person who did not test elsewhere, this is literally your last chance to obtain any DNA results for them. If you transfer their DNA, you can upgrade and purchase additional tests at Family Tree DNA. If you don’t transfer, the opportunity to retrieve their DNA will be gone forever.

Three Steps + a Bonus

  1. Preserve Your Results – Sign in to the Genographic site and take screenshots, print, or download any data you wish to keep.
  2. Contribute to Science – Authorize the Genographic Project to utilize your results for ongoing scientific research, including The Million Mito Project
  3. Transfer Your Results – If you tested before November 2016, you can transfer your results to FamilyTreeDNA and order upgrades if a sample remains

Here are step-by-step instructions for completing all three.

First – Preserve Your Results

Sign on to your account at The Genographic Project. You’ll notice an option to print your results.

Geno profile

Scroll down and take one last look. Did you miss anything?

Your profile page includes the ability to download your raw genetic data.

Geno profile option

Your Account page, below, will look slightly different depending on the version of the test you took, but the download option is present for all versions of the test.

Geno download

The download file simply shows raw data values at specific positions and won’t be terribly useful to you.

Geno nucleotides

Generally, it’s the analysis of what these mutations mean, or matching to others for genealogy, that people seek.

At the very bottom of your results page, you’ll see the option to Contribute to Science.

Geno contribute

Click on “How You Can Help.”

Second – Contribute to Scientific Research

The best way to assure the legacy of the Genographic Project is to opt-in for science research.

You can learn more about what happens when you authorize your results for scientific research, here.

Geno contribute box

Checking the little box authorizes anonymized scientific research on your sample now and in the future. This assures that your results won’t be destroyed on June 30th and will continue to be available to scientists.

The Genographic Project celebrated its 15th birthday in April 2020. Genographic Project data, including over 80,000 local and indigenous participants from over 100 countries, in addition to contributed public participation samples, has been included in approximately 85 research papers worldwide. Collaborative research is still underway. There’s still so much to learn.

Dr. Miguel Vilar, the lead scientist for the Genographic Project, is a partner in The Million Mito Project. The anonymized mitochondrial results of people who have opted-in for science will be available to that project, and others, through Dr. Vilar. Please support rewriting the tree of womankind by opting-in for scientific research.

Those words, “in the future” are the key to making sure this critical opportunity to continue the science doesn’t die.

If you don’t want to scroll down your page, you can access the scientific contribution authorization page directly from your profile.

Geno profile 2

To contribute to science, Click on the “My Contribution to Science” tab.”

Geno profile contribute

You’ll see the following screen. Then, check the box and click on the yellow “Contribute to Science” button. You’ll then be prompted with a few questions about your maternal and paternal heritage.

Geno check box

Contributing your results to science helps further scientific research into mankind, but transferring your results to FamilyTreeDNA preserves the usefulness of your DNA results for you and facilitates upgrading your DNA to obtain even more information.

Transferring also allows you to participate fully in The Million Mito Project which requires a full sequence mitochondrial DNA sample.

Third – Transfer Your Results to FamilyTreeDNA

If you tested before November 2016 when the Genographic Project switched to Helix for processing, you can transfer your results easily to Family Tree DNA.

If you don’t remember when you tested, sign in to your account. It’s easy to tell if transferring is an option.

Geno transfer option

If you are eligible to transfer, you’ll see this transfer option when you sign in.

Just click on the “Transfer Your Results” button. If you don’t want to sign in to Genographic to do the transfer, just click on this transfer link directly.

Geno transfer FTDNA

You will then see this no-hassle transfer option on the Family Tree DNA web page. Because FamilyTreeDNA did the laboratory processing for the Genographic Project from its inception in 2005 until November 2016, all you need to do is enter your Genographic kit number and the transfer takes place automatically.

Please note that if you DON’T transfer NOW, the Genographic Project is requesting the destruction of all non-transferred kits after June 30th, per their website.

Geno destroy

As you might imagine, preserving the DNA of a deceased person is critical if they didn’t test elsewhere and you have the authority to manage their DNA.

In order to support The Million Mito Project, Family Tree DNA is emailing a coupon to all people who transfer, offering a discount to upgrade to a full sequence mitochondrial DNA test.

After you transfer to Family Tree DNA, be sure to enter your earliest known ancestor and upload a tree. Here’s my “Four Quick Tips” article about getting the most out of mitochondrial DNA result, but it’s sage advice for Y DNA as well.

Bonus – Upgrade Transferred Kits

If you transfer your Genographic results to FamilyTreeDNA, you can then utilize the DNA sample provided for your Genographic DNA test for additional testing

Different versions of the Genographic Project testing provided various types of results for your DNA. In some versions, testers received 12 Y STR markers or partial mitochondrial DNA results, and in other versions, partial haplogroups. You can only transfer what the Genographic provided, of course, but once transferred, you can order products and upgrades at Family Tree DNA, assuming a sample remains.

This is important, especially if you control the kit for a loved one who has now passed away. This may be your only opportunity to obtain their Y, mitochondrial, and/or autosomal DNA results. For example, my mother passed away before autosomal DNA testing was possible, but I’ve since upgraded her test at Family Tree DNA and was able to do so because her DNA was archived.

Support Science

Please support The Million Mito Project and other academic research by:

  • Choosing to contribute to science through the Genographic project and
  • By transferring your results to Family Tree DNA so that you can learn more and upgrade

Both options are totally free, and both equally important.

Time is of the essence. You must act before June 30th.

Don’t let this be goodbye, simply au revior – the legacy of your DNA can live on in another place, another way, another day.



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Anna Margaretha Kirsch (c1700 – 1738), the Mayor’s Wife – 52 Ancestors #289

Kirsch isn’t Anna Margaretha’s surname, at least not that we know of – it’s her husband’s surname. Unfortunately, none, not a single solitary one of the existing church records provides Anna Margaretha’s birth surname, including her death record.

A Shadow

Something happened in the small village of Fussgoenheim, Germany, about 1725 or so. We only glimpse shadows of this event, whatever, it was, and only because the local “Lord,” vol Hallberg alleged a few years later that the Fussgoenheimers refused to pay to build the Lutheran church.

I say “alleged,” because Hallberg wasn’t exactly known for his honesty and integrity. He seemed willing to say or do anything to extract more money and taxes from the villagers, so I take pretty much anything he says with a very large grain of salt.

Local history says that Fussgoenheim has been Lutheran since before 1728, which might suggest that 1728 is some sort of transition or line in the sand – maybe some reason to recall that year specifically.

We know from other records and old cemetery stones that the first known Protestant pastor was in Fussgoenheim and buried there in the early 1600s, so Protestantism reaches back a long time in Fussgoenheim – long before our Anna Margaretha was born.

Something happened about that time to cause the church to need to be rebuilt. Something also happened to all of the church records prior to 1726. I’m just guessing, of course, but I can’t help but wonder if the church burned, the fire consuming all of the records along with the identity of Anna Margaretha’s surname and parents.

Anna Margaretha’s husband, Johann Michael Kirsch, the Mayor, was born about 1700. We don’t have his birth or death date, but we do know he was referred to as Sr., so older than his cousin, Johann Michael Kirsch, the Baker, born about 1706. His wife was named Anna Margaretha too. Another Johann Michael Kirsch, the Eldest, referred to as a Judge, who died in 1743 was married to Anna Margaretha Spanier.

It seems that Anna Margaretha was a very, very popular name in the small village of Fussgoenheim. That probably started decades or even hundreds of years before, with one Anna Margaretha, then more after children were named after her. In the 5 years surrounding 1738, there were Anna Margarethas in Fussgoenheim with the surnames of: Rusch, Hauck, Keiss, Kirsch (3), Seeg, Metthert, Wohfferts, Gross, Schuler, Bross, Poross, Borstler, Eigel (2), Koob/Kob, Ritthaler, Giff, Klinger, Linckenstein, Seng, and multiples with no surnames. (Ancestry is notoriously bad at translating and transcribing names, so some of these may be misspelled and others may be missing.)

Three Johann Michael Kirschs, all with wives named Anna Margaretha. No, nothing confusing about that. I wrote about our Johann Michael Kirsch, the Mayor, here.


Fussgoenheim Lutheran church baptismal records begin in 1726, but other records suggest that at least one child, Johann Jacob Kirsch, was born about 1725, which would suggest a marriage for Anna Margaretha in about 1724, assuming Johann Jacob was her first child. German girls typically didn’t marry until they were at least 20 and sometimes significantly older.

Kirsch Fussgoenheim house church

The village was small, with the church being just a short walk from the Kirsch home on Haupstrasse, in the upper red square. The original Kirsch home still stands, today, and remained in the Kirsch family for generations – at least three centuries, into the mid/late 1900s. This photo of the Kirsch family, standing outside the Kirsch home, was taken in the early 1940s or perhaps slightly earlier.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch home

Anna Margaretha’s Life

We don’t know who Anna Margaretha’s parents were, or anything about her childhood, but we do learn about Anna Margaretha’s life after marriage through various church and historical records.

1724/1725 – If Anna Barbara’s birth, recorded in church records in 1726, occurred the normal 18-24 months after the prior child’s birth, that would put Johann Jacob Kirsch’s birth someplace between September 1724 and March 1725.

We know that son, Johann Jacob, survived, because he was confirmed in 1739, married Anna Catharina Elisabetha Klamm on February 12, 1750, in Ellerstadt, and died there in 1760.

Of course, Johann Jacob may not have been Anna Margaretha and Johann Michael Kirsch’s first child, especially if earlier children had died, a fate all too common in Germany of that day and age.

1726 – We know that Anna Margaretha had daughter Anna Barbara Kirsch on September 24, 1726.

Kirsch Anna Barbara 1726

Fussgönheim, Bavaria Evangelical Church records. Taufen_Trauungen_Bestattungen_Sonstiges_1726-1798_Bild9(1) from

24 November 1726

Parents: Johann Michael KIRSCH and his wife, Anna Margaretha, a daughter was baptized and named: Anna Barbara.  Godparents: Johann Jacob Spanier and his wife, Anna Barbara.

Anna Barbara married Abraham Zeitler on February 16, 1774, in Dannstadt and died there on December 26, 1796.

It’s interesting that the Spanier family served as godparents. There is no direct ancestral line to the Spanier line, at least not that we know of, BUT, they are heavily married into the Kirsch family.

The Eldest Johann Michael Kirsch, the Judge, who died in 1743 was married to Anna Margaretha Spanier and was the brother of Johann Adam Kirsch, the father of Johann Michael Kirsch, the Mayor. Anna Margaretha Spanier was his aunt by marriage.

Furthermore, the brother of Mayor Johann Michael Kirsch, Peter Kirsch, married Maria Barbara Spanier.

Could our Anna Margaretha be a Spanier too? It’s certainly possible, but it’s also equally as possible that those families were simply close because they had been intermarried for at least two generations and were probably neighbors.

1728 – Anna Margaretha’s next child was born on August 17, 1728.

Kirsch Maria Barbara 1728

Taufen_Trauungen_Bestattungen_Sonstiges_1726-1798_Bild11 from

17 August 1728

Johann Michael KIRSCH, the parent above and Anna Margaretha, his wife, a daughter was baptized named: Maria Barbara. Godparents: Maria, the late Wilhelm Kirsch’s widow from here.

Wilhelm Kirsch was the uncle of Mayor Johann Michael Kirsch. Wilhelm’s widow was Anna Maria Borstler, the Mayor’s aunt by marriage.

We find no further records about Anna Margaretha’s daughter, Maria Barbara. Most death records from this timeframe are missing, and it’s likely that she died.

It was about this time that the tides began to turn in Fussgoenheim, although that may not have been evident immediately. Jakob Tillman von Hallberg, a member of the House of Hallberg, inherited half of the village of Fussgoenheim.

1729 – The following year, Hallberg undertook a resurvey of the village, supposedly in order to understand the land, relationships of people, and taxes due. Emphasis on “taxes due.”

In 1730, the situation became worse when Hallberg obtained the other half of the village as well and set about to essentially bankrupt the villagers – his apparent goal to reduce them all to serfs over whom he could rule with impunity.

Hallberg stated that he, “tolerated in his village no stranger to serfdom.”

That set the stage for decades of conflict with the Kirsch family.

Kirsch family members owned land, apparently as third-generation land-owners – which pitted them against the Hallbergs. These families became mortal, life-long enemies. And I’m guessing into eternity as well.

In the Kirsch household, I’m sure many red-hot words were spoken, if not in front of the children, then at least between adults as they tried to figure out how they would cope.

Some things, however, didn’t change. Children continued to be born.

I do wonder if Anna Margaretha lost a child in 1730 for whom the records are missing since we have a three-year gap between children.

1731 – Maria Veronica Kirsch was born on July 24, 1731. Her godmother was Anna Veronica with no birth surname given, the widow of the late mayor Heldmayer.

1733 – We don’t know for sure when Johann Michael Kirsch became Mayor, but in January 1733, Johann Michael Kirsch, the Baker, had a child with his wife and the Godmother was the daughter of “Herr Schultheiss Koob,” translated as Mayor Koob, from here. Apparently, Johann Michael was not yet mayor, given that the Koob and Kirsch families were neighbors in the under-Village. Each half of the village had a mayor, but the Koob and Kirsch families would have lived under the jurisdiction of the same mayor.

In Fussgoenheim, the situation and relationship with von Hallberg was deteriorating badly, and rapidly. He pressured townspeople relentlessly, adding tax after tax, and they rebelled.

Suits were filed, and every time the villagers won an inch, von Hallberg took another mile, going so far as shortening the survey rod when resurveying the village, causing 2/3rds of the village to become “vacant,” which he, of course, claimed for himself.

The villagers were furious and revolted.

It was about this time that he raised taxes again, claiming among other things that the villagers refused to pay for the building of the Lutheran church. That’s our clue that something had happened to the original church.

Amidst this uproar, on May 6, 1733, our Anna Margaretha was again baptizing a baby, probably in that “new” church which still stands today, nearly 300 years later.

Kirsch Elias Nicolaus 1733

Taufen_Trauungen_Bestattungen_Sonstiges_1726-1798_Bild18 from

6 May1733 Johann Michael KIRSCH and his wife, Anna Margaretha, a son was baptized and named: Elias Nicolaus. Godparents: Elias Nicolaus Specht and his wife from Durckheim.

Elias Nicolaus Kirsch, my ancestor, married Susanna Elizabeth Koob sometime before April 1763 when their first child was born. He died on February 4, 1804, down the road in Ruchheim, probably having evacuated over the Rhine during the war.

1735 – Like clockwork, two years later, in 1735, Anna Catharina Kirsch, a new daughter, joined the family.

Kirsch Anna Catharina 1735


Johann Michael Kirsch & wife, Anna Margaretha

A daughter was born, baptized and was named: Anna Catharina

Godparents: the honorable Johannes Schneer?, town councilman from Lam(b)sheim and wife, Anna Catharina.

Born the 17th of July 1735 between 8-9 a.m. and baptized the 20th.

We know that Anna Catharina survived childhood. On March 4, 1853, she stood up as the godmother for Johann Nicolaus Moeser in Ellerstadt, identified as the daughter of the Johann Michael Kirsch, the Mayor. We have no further information about Anna Catharina.

1738 – On February 6, 1738, Anna Margaretha, another daughter, joined the family as well and was baptized 4 days later.

Kirsch Anna Margaretha 1738 birth

Taufen_Trauungen_Bestattungen_Sonstiges_1726-1798_Bild26 from

1738 Johann Michael Kirsch, Sr. and wife, Anna Margaretha

A daughter named Anna Margaretha

Godparents: Johann Georg Eigel, the member of the court and his wife, Anna Margaretha nee Ritthaler.

Born: 6 Feb 1738            Baptized:10 Feb 1738

Margaretha’s Family in 1738

After Anna Margaretha’s birth in 1738, Anna Margaretha, the mother, would have had several children at home.

Her eldest, Johann Jacob would have been 14 or maybe even 15, a strapping young man who had probably been helping with produce and harvests for years.

Kirsch home aerial

The family lived in the house boxed in red and worked the fields immediately behind their home. All German villages were laid out in this manner, which the houses clustered together for safety. The first road parallels a stream that probably served the residents and their livestock as well.

Anna Barbara would have been 11.

Maria Barbara and Maria Veronica had probably passed away, but maybe not. If not, they would have been 9 and 7.

Elias Nicolaus was a spunky 4, almost 5. He probably shared the fact that he was “almost 5” with anyone who would listen.

Anna Catharina was assuredly an exasperating two and a half year old. The “terrible twos” weren’t invented in our generation, that’s for sure.

And then, of course, the new baby arrived in February of 1738. Everyone loves new babies.

They would have celebrated holidays by walking together to the church. Michael would have attended meetings, trying to deal with Hallberg shrinking his fields by two-thirds – and how to fight not “city hall” but a royal family.

The daily rhythm of life, preparing and cooking food, making and cleaning clothing, the never-ending needs of children, and spending time with her husband and family would have defined Anna Margaretha’s days. A woman with between 5 and 7 children has little time for much of anything else.

I hope Anna Margaretha found some time to walk alone in the fields, perhaps in the misty early mornings before anyone else was awake. Perhaps along the bank of the creek, listening to the rooster crow, and perhaps enjoying some dew-kissed wildflowers.

Kirsch roses

Then, Tragedy

But something went terribly wrong this time, before the end of the year.

Tom translates a bare-bones burial record:

December 10, 1738 – Anna Margaretha Kirsch, wife of the Mayor Kirsch

Such a brief entry with so little information provided. Perhaps the reverend was overwhelmed.

Anna Margaretha wasn’t the only one.

There were several Kirsch deaths. One in the middle of November, then another on December 6th, then 4 days later, our Anna Margaretha succumbed, followed by another Kirsch death in January.

The church records reflect a total of 44 deaths in 1738, with almost half, 20 of them occurring in November or December, and I know the indexed list on Ancestry is incomplete because two of our Kirsch deaths are omitted. Using that as a yardstick, there could have been twice as many death – a devastating blow to a small village.

In 1739, there were 42 deaths, and 16 were in January and February, mostly January. Clearly, something fatal swept through the village, taking Anna Margaretha.

Most years saw less than 20 deaths. In 1720, the entire population of the village was 150-200 people. Assuming the same population in 1738, 22% to 29% of the population died, in each year. If there were even more deaths, then a higher proportion of the population succumbed.

In 1738, there were only 35 baptisms. Some years saw negative population growth.

Kirsch Fussgoenheim churchyard

Anna Margaretha was buried here, in the churchyard, outside the Lutheran church. New graves were dug weekly, and sometimes daily. I’d bet they had an ossuary someplace, or the original churchyard was larger because this small churchyard could not have accommodated that number of deaths without reusing graves.

The entire village probably attended Anna Margaretha’s funeral service, at least anyone who wasn’t ill with whatever was killing villagers. It’s likely that Anna Margaretha was a local girl with many relatives to mourn her passing.

Anna Margaretha was only about 38 years old. Her parents could well have been sitting in those pews, along with her siblings, nieces, and nephews. It’s not impossible that a grandparent or two was still living.

Someplace in this timeline, Anna Margaretha either buried her parents, or they buried her.

Anna Margaretha’s death record tells us that she was the mayor’s wife, so the church would have been packed from that alone. She was probably, literally, related to every villager.

The baptism records of her children indicate that the couple had close relations with people from surrounding towns as well. Those people, at least some of them, may have been relatives. Some godparents might have been selected because they were politically expedient – but still – a good German couple was NOT going to entrust someone untrustworthy to raise their children. They believed that the very souls of those children hinged on that selection – so they would have chosen well.

Parents didn’t expect to die, but with the high mortality rate before modern medicine, it was certainly a good possibility that at least one parent would bury the other and at least a moderate possibility that both parents would perish while the children were still young.

After the minister preached her funeral, Johann Michael Kirsch, now a widower, probably carried the baby and led the rest of the children, holding hands, youngest to oldest, as they walked through the doorway into the churchyard. Johann Jacob, Anna Margaretha’s oldest child, then a young teen of maybe 14 or 15 was probably trying not to cry publicly.

With heads bowed, final prayers would have been said, the coffin lowered, and Anna Margaretha was laid to rest.

What Happened?

What happened to Anna Margaretha?

We will never know for sure. Some death records provide a great deal of information, but not this one. No cause of death, no surname, no notation about the verses at the funeral. Nothing.

It could have been dysentery, typhoid, or perhaps the flu. Childbirth was unlikely just 10 months after giving birth to her namesake daughter, Anna Margaretha. She could have been very early in a pregnancy with their next child who would never be born. Perhaps a miscarriage.

However, there is one other possibility.

The scourge that came to be known as the Great Plague of 1738 – an outbreak of the Bubonic Plague that first arrived in Europe in early 1738 and claimed tens of thousands of lives through 1740. No exact number of deaths is available, but the 1740 Hungarian Diet said that the Great Plague had claimed 36,000 lives there. The Palatine in Germany was not among the hardest-hit regions, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t affected at all.

Under whatever guise the grim reaper arrived, death brought a great deal of grief to this little village.

The Mayor is a Widower

Probably just shy of 40 and a widower, Johann Michael Kirsch had at least 5 children and possibly 7 if the two girls we know nothing more about were still living. They ranged in age from a teenage boy to a 10-month-old baby girl who would have still been nursing. Or was, before her mother died.

The battle with the Hallbergs was still escalating. Michael was Mayor now, according to Anna Margaretha’s burial record, and not only responsible for his own family, but also for the other villagers as well. His village was under siege and Johann Michael had children who needed a mother.

Plus, he still needed to earn a living.

Single For a Few Months

Johann Michael Kirsch wasn’t a widower for long. He married Maria Magdalena Michet, the widow of the mayor of Alsheim on June 23, 1739, 7 months after Anna Magaretha passed, likely a marriage of convenience for both of them.

We don’t know how many children Maria Magdalena had, but given that she was born in 1700, it’s likely that she had 7 or 8 children too, assuming they all lived.

Johann Michael Kirsch’s family would have swollen substantially, but his children would now have a step-mother and her children had a step-father.

However, tragedy wasn’t done with the Kirsch family, and struck again.

Another Tragedy

Three months after his marriage to Maria Magdalena Michet, baby Anna Margaretha died, on September 23, 1739, just 19 months and a few days after her birth.

She was laid to rest in a grave beside her mother just 9 months after our Anna Margaretha had passed.

What a terribly difficult day this must have been for Johann Michael – to have lost both Anna Margarethas. I can only imagine how grief-stricken her children were. By this time, the older children had not only buried their mother and baby sister, but likely two more sisters as well, not to mention at least two grandparents. Plus other relatives in the village as they were plucked off, one by one.

I am left to wonder if my ancestor, Elias Nicolaus, who would have been 5 years and 6 months old when his mother, Anna Margaretha, died, had any recollection of her. I hope his last memories were not of her suffering. He would have been raised by Maria Magdalena Michet who didn’t pass away until 1784, back in Alsheim, where she likely had roots and returned sometime after Johann Michael Kirsch’s death occurred after 1757.

Maria Magdalena and Johann Michael had two children of their own, one in March of 1741 and one in June of 1742. Sadly, it appears that both of these children probably died as well.

The Fussgoenheim church records are remarkably incomplete during this time.

Mitochondrial DNA

The only one of Anna Margaretha’s daughters that we know survived to marriage is Anna Barbara Kirsch who was born on September 24, 1726, and married on February 16, 1774, to Abraham Zeitler in Dannstadt at the age of 47 – too old to have children.

Unless another one of Anna Margaretha’s daughters did survive to have children and has descendants through all females to the current generation, which can be male, Anna Margaretha’s mitochondrial DNA is extinct.

Unless we discover the identity of Anna Margaretha’s parents, and she had sisters who were more fortunate and had surviving female children, the information held in her mitochondrial DNA is forever lost.



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.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Y DNA + Stories Create a Personal Gift for Father’s Day

What DO you get someone for Father’s Day during a pandemic?

Perhaps a nice gift that arrives in the mail and that keeps on giving.

A DNA test is a perfect gift and has a wonderful story to tell.

Males carry the Y chromosome that provides genealogical information directly about their paternal, or surname line. Y DNA information is unique and can answer many different genealogy questions.

  • Do you match other men with the same surname?

You can easily see who you match by looking at your matches – along with their earliest known ancestor.

  • Do you match the ancestral line you think you descend from, or a different one?

Is your genealogy accurate? You can confirm descent from a common ancestor easily using matches and surname projects.

  • Where did your ancestral line come from?

By entering the location of your earliest known ancestor, your matches can see where your ancestor is from – and vice versa. Where your matches ancestors’ are from may provide hints, or confirmation, as to where your ancestors are from.

  • Can you jump the pond?

If you match someone by the same surname from overseas, the location of your matches ancestors may be the location of your ancestors too. I’ve found several ancestors using this methodology that I could never have found otherwise.

  • Do you match a specific group of men who form a clan?

For Scottish clans, you can make this determination by matches and maps. For other groups, such as Native American, Jewish, African, European and Asian, your haplogroup will provide you with a book of historical knowledge.

Y DNA Plus Genealogy = Great Stories!

A wonderful gift for Dad would be a combination of DNA testing and genealogy. Everyone loves a story, especially when the story is about your own family and ancestors.

I like to weave DNA, photos and history into spellbinding stories.

Of course, DNA and genealogy is addictive, so you might want to add an autosomal DNA test, which includes matching and ethnicity for all of your ancestral lines, or mitochondrial DNA which provides information about your Dad’s matrilineal line.

Or, perhaps you can make an additive book, building chapters, adding DNA tests, and ancestors, over time.

Here’s a quick example (with DNA sale prices following.)

Happy Father’s Day!

Hi Dad, and Happy Father’s Day. I’d like to introduce you to a few people you’re going to want to get to know.

FD William Sterling

This man, William Sterling Estes, is your Dad, of course, who served in both WWI and WWII. You might have heard that he ran away and enlisted in the Army as a teenager with his brother, Joe. That’s all true. Those boys got into a mite of trouble together in boot camp, but we’ll talk about that later.

Have you ever seen a photo of your Dad in a uniform before? He’s handsome and I think he looks just like you!

FD William George

This man, William George Estes, is your grandfather. He, on the other hand, never got near a uniform. His specialty was bootlegging in Harlan County, Kentucky, up on Black Mountain.

One family member told he was “mean as tiger pee.” He didn’t drive, smoked a pipe and kept bullets in his pocket at all times. One day, a bullet got mixed in with his pipe tobacco on the Greyhound bus on the way to Tazewell, Tennessee. He lit the pipe and bang. He got himself put out on the side of the road and banned from riding the bus ever again.

Tough as nails, he lived to be just shy of 99 and died in 1973 of old age.

FD Lazarus

His father, your great-grandfather, Lazarus Estes, booted William George right out of Estes Holler down in Claiborne County Tennessee for cheating on your grandmother.

Lazarus drove his team of mules and took his wagon to Knoxville once a month in the summer and fall, selling produce and bringing back supplies for the local folk. He hand-carved all the gravestones of kin in the cemetery, including his children’s and his own mother’s stone stone.

He and his wife died about 3 months apart in 1918, probably victims of the flu pandemic.

FD John Y

His father, your great-great-grandfather, John Y. Estes, fought for the Confederacy during the un-Civil War. Most of the family either fought for or were loyal to the Union. John was taken captive by Union forces and held as a POW. He was eventually released at Rock Island, Illinois, and walked all the way home.

However, all was not well on the home front. A few years later, he left everything, including family, behind in Tennessee, after spending a few months in the clink, and walked to Texas…and back…and then returned to Texas again.

He did this all while limping on a bum leg, using a walking stick. Some say he got shot in the knee in the war, but others say he broke his leg as a child.

I’m telling you, these Estes men are forces to be reckoned with.

His father, John R. Estes fought in the War of 1812, settling in Claiborne County, TN with his young family afterward, living to right around 100.

His father, George Estes, fought in the Revolutionary War out of Halifax County, VA, not once, not twice, but three times – and survived the terrible winter at Valley Forge to tell the story. He lived to be 98 years old. Longevity seems to run in the family.

Our family history tells us that our Estes ancestor was Abraham who arrived on the Virginia shore in 1673 from England.

Your Y DNA test results confirm that that he did sail from England. Not only that, but now we know where too!

You match an Estes gentleman who still lives near Deal, in Kent. After knowing where to look we found marriage records of our Abraham in the church records. His wife and child died before he sailed for the colonies. We found his father too.

white cliffs of dover 2

Our ancestors in England were fishermen and mariners, trawling the waters of the English channel along the white cliffs of Dover, in the shadow of Deal Castle.

castle from distance

They attended St. Nicholas church in Ringwould where they are buried in the churchyard.

st nicholas ringwould churchyard13

Our earliest known ancestor, Nicholas Ewstes was born in 1495, the same year that Columbus set sail, and died in 1533 in the quaint seaside village of Deal, with a will no less.

pier sunrise

Where did we come from before that?

Stay tuned Dad, I’m working on it! I’ve ordered your Big Y-700 test to help answer that question!

Wouldn’t your Dad love a story like this?

Father’s Day Sale Prices

Pretty much everything is on sale for Father’s Day at Family Tree DNA.

FD sale prices

Where will Dad’s DNA take you?

To find out, click here to upgrade or order any of the above tests, or click here to go directly to Y DNA tests.

My preference is for the Big Y-700 because it bundles all of the Y DNA products and tools. However, you can order the 37 or 111 marker test and upgrade later.



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.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research

Genos Will Be Discontinued June 22, 2020 – Download Your Data Now

Sadly, Genos (original article here) is discontinuing both its service and supporting the customer portal to access your results. This means that if you tested with Genos, you need to download your raw data file now (before June 22, 2020) to be able to utilize your raw DNA with other providers that accept an exome file.

What I liked about Genos, aside from the medical information and easy-to-use platform, was that instead of selling your data for research, with them retaining the money, they provided a platform for you to make your DNA available for studies. The study organizer would contact you directly, and you could choose based on the study involved. That’s much more transparent and fair to the consumer than other models where you consent generally, but literally have no idea where your DNA is, or who is using it for what type of study.

Here’s what the email from Genos said.




Download Now

Download your raw data file now.

Sign in to your account at Genos. You’ll see the following options on the Data Download page:


I recommend downloading your data in all of the available formats. Be sure to name the files something familiar, so you know what they are. On a PC, these files download into the Downloads folder, and you’ll need to rename and move them.

You can upload your file to Promethease to receive similar medically focused results. I wrote about my experience with Promethease, here.

I hate to see a good product bite the dust. RIP Genos.

Concepts: Inheritance


What is it?

How does it work?

I’m not talking about possessions – but about the DNA that you receive from your parents, and their parents.

The reason that genetic genealogy works is because of inheritance. You inherit DNA from your parents in a known and predictable fashion.

Fortunately, we have more than one kind of DNA to use for genealogy.

Types of DNA

Females have 3 types of DNA and males have 4. These different types of DNA are inherited in various ways and serve different genealogical purposes.

Males Females
Y DNA Yes No
Mitochondrial DNA Yes Yes
Autosomal DNA Yes Yes
X Chromosome Yes, their mother’s only Yes, from both parents

Different Inheritance Paths

Different types of DNA are inherited from different ancestors, down different ancestral paths.

Inheritance Paths

The inheritance path for Y DNA is father to son and is inherited by the brother, in this example, from his direct male ancestors shown by the blue arrow. The sister does not have a Y chromosome.

The inheritance path for the red mitochondrial DNA for both the brother and sister is from the direct matrilineal ancestors, only, shown by the red arrow.

Autosomal DNA is inherited from all ancestral lines on both the father’s and mother’s side of your tree, as illustrated by the broken green arrow.

The X chromosome has a slightly different inheritance path, depending on whether you are a male or female.

Let’s take a look at each type of inheritance, how it works, along with when and where it’s useful for genealogy.

Autosomal DNA

Autosomal DNA testing is the most common. It’s the DNA that you inherit from both of your parents through all ancestral lines back in time several generations. Autosomal DNA results in matches at the major testing companies such as FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, Ancestry, and 23andMe where testers view trees or other hints, hoping to determine a common ancestor.

How does autosomal DNA work?

22 autosomes

Every person has two each of 22 chromosomes, shown above, meaning one copy is contributed by your mother and one copy by your father. Paired together, they form the two-sided shape we are familiar with.

For each pair of chromosomes, you receive one from your father, shown with a blue arrow under chromosome 1, and one from your mother, shown in red. In you, these are randomly combined, so you can’t readily tell which piece comes from which parent. Therein lies the challenge for genealogy.

This inheritance pattern is the same for all chromosomes, except for the 23rd pair of chromosomes, at bottom right, which determined the sex of the child.

The 23rd chromosome pair is inherited differently for males and females. One copy is the Y chromosome, shown in blue, and one copy is the X, shown in red. If you receive a Y chromosome from your father, you’re a male. If you receive an X from your father, you’re a female.

Autosomal Inheritance

First, let’s talk about how chromosomes 1-22 are inherited, omitting chromosome 23, beginning with grandparents.

Inheritance son daughter

Every person inherits precisely half of each of their parents’ autosomal DNA. For example, you will receive one copy of your mother’s chromosome 1. Your mother’s chromosome 1 is a combination of her mother’s and father’s chromosome 1. Therefore, you’ll receive ABOUT 25% of each of your grandparents’ chromosome 1.

Inheritance son daughter difference

In reality, you will probably receive a different amount of your grandparent’s DNA, not exactly 25%, because your mother or father will probably contribute slightly more (or less) of the DNA of one of their parents than the other to their offspring.

Which pieces of DNA you inherit from your parents is random, and we don’t know how the human body selects which portions are and are not inherited, other than we know that large pieces are inherited together.

Therefore, the son and daughter won’t inherit the exact same segments of the grandparents’ DNA. They will likely share some of the same segments, but not all the same segments.

Inheritance maternal autosomalYou’ll notice that each parent carries more of each color DNA than they pass on to their own children, so different children receive different pieces of their parents’ DNA, and varying percentages of their grandparents’ DNA.

I wrote about a 4 Generation Inheritance Study, here.


Keep in mind that you will only inherit half of the DNA that each of your parents carries.

Looking at a chromosome browser, you match your parents on all of YOUR chromosomes.

Inheritance parental autosomal

For example, this is me compared to my father. I match my father on either his mother’s side, or his father’s side, on every single location on MY chromosomes. But I don’t match ALL of my father’s DNA, because I only received half of what he has.

From your parents’ perspective, you only have half of their DNA.

Let’s look at an illustration.

Inheritance mom dad

Here is an example of one of your father’s pairs of chromosomes 1-22. It doesn’t matter which chromosome, the concepts are the same.

He inherited the blue chromosome from his father and the pink chromosome from his mother.

Your father contributed half of his DNA to you, but that half is comprised of part of his father’s chromosome, and part of his mother’s chromosome, randomly selected in chunks referred to as segments.

Inheritance mom dad segments

Your father’s chromosomes are shown in the upper portion of the graphic, and your chromosome that you inherited from you father is shown below.

On your copy of your father’s chromosome, I’ve darkened the dark blue and dark pink segments that you inherited from him. You did not receive the light blue and light pink segments. Those segments of DNA are lost to your line, but one of your siblings might have inherited some of those pieces.

Inheritance mom dad both segments

Now, I’ve added the DNA that you inherited from your Mom into the mixture. You can see that you inherited the dark green from your Mom’s father and the dark peach from your Mom’s mother.

Inheritance grandparents dna

These colored segments reflect the DNA that you inherited from your 4 grandparents on this chromosome.

I often see questions from people wondering how they match someone from their mother’s side and someone else from their father’s side – on the same segment.

Understanding that you have a copy of the same chromosome from your mother and one from your father clearly shows how this happens.

Inheritance match 1 2

You carry a chromosome from each parent, so you will match different people on the same segment. One match is to the chromosome copy from Mom, and one match is to Dad’s DNA.

Inheritance 4 gen

Here is the full 4 generation inheritance showing Match 1 matching a segment from your Dad’s father and Match 2 matching a segment from your Mom’s father.

Your Parents Will Have More Matches Than You Do

From your parents’ perspective, you will only match (roughly) half of the DNA with other people that they will match. On your Dad’s side, on segment 1, you won’t match anyone pink because you didn’t inherit your paternal grandmother’s copy of segment 1, nor did you inherit your maternal grandmother’s segment 1 either. However, your parents will each have matches on those segments of DNA that you didn’t inherit from them.

From your perspective, one or the other of your parents will match ALL of the people you match – just like we see in Match 1 and Match 2.

Matching you plus either of your parents, on the same segment, is exactly how we determine whether a match is valid, meaning identical by descent, or invalid, meaning identical by chance. I wrote about that in the article, Concepts: Identical by…Descent, State, Population and Chance.

Inheritance on chromosomes 1-22 works in this fashion. So does the X chromosome, fundamentally, but the X chromosome has a unique inheritance pattern.

X Chromosome

The X chromosome is inherited differently for males as compared to females. This is because the 23rd pair of chromosomes determines a child’s sex.

If the child is a female, the child inherits an X from both parents. Inheritance works the same way as chromosomes 1-22, conceptually, but the inheritance path on her father’s side is different.

If the child is a male, the father contributes a Y chromosome, but no X, so the only X chromosome a male has is his mother’s X chromosome.

Males inherit X chromosomes differently than females, so a valid X match can only descend from certain ancestors on your tree.

inheritance x fan

This is my fan chart showing the X chromosome inheritance path, generated by using Charting Companion. My father’s paternal side of his chart is entirely blank – because he only received his X chromosome from his mother.

You’ll notice that the X chromosome can only descend from any male though his mother – the effect being a sort of checkerboard inheritance pattern. Only the pink and blue people potentially contributed all or portions of X chromosomes to me.

This can actually be very useful for genealogy, because several potential ancestors are immediately eliminated. I cannot have any X chromosome segment from the white boxes with no color.

The X Chromsome in Action

Here’s an X example of how inheritance works.

Inheritance X

The son inherits his entire X chromosome from his mother. She may give him all of her father’s or mother’s X, or parts of both. It’s not uncommon to find an entire X chromosome inherited. The son inherits no X from his father, because he inherits the Y chromosome instead.

Inheritance X daughter

The daughter inherits her father’s X chromosome, which is the identical X chromosome that her father inherited from his mother. The father doesn’t have any other X to contribute to his daughter, so like her father, she inherits no portion of an X chromosome from her paternal grandfather.

The daughter also received segments of her mother’s X that her mother inherited maternally and paternally. As with the son, the daughter can receive an entire X chromosome from either her maternal grandmother or maternal grandfather.

This next illustration ONLY pertains to chromosome 23, the X and Y chromosomes.

Inheritance x y

You can see in this combined graphic that the Y is only inherited by sons from one direct line, and the father’s X is only inherited by his daughter.

X chromosome results are included with autosomal results at both Family Tree DNA and 23andMe, but are not provided at MyHeritage. Ancestry, unfortunately, does not provide segment information of any kind, for the X or chromosomes 1-22. You can, however, transfer the DNA files to Family Tree DNA where you can view your X matches.

Note that X matches need to be larger than regular autosomal matches to be equally as useful due to lower SNP density. I use 10-15 cM as a minimum threshold for consideration, equivalent to about 7 cM for autosomal matches. In other words, roughly double the rule of thumb for segment size matching validity.

Autosomal Education

My blog is full of autosomal educational articles and is fully keyword searchable, but here are two introductory articles that include information from the four major vendors:

When to Purchase Autosomal DNA Tests

Literally, anytime you want to work on genealogy to connect with cousins, prove ancestors or break through brick walls.

  • Purchase tests for yourself and your siblings if both parents aren’t living
  • Purchase tests for both parents
  • Purchase tests for all grandparents
  • Purchase tests for siblings of your parents or your grandparents – they have DNA your parents (and you) didn’t inherit
  • Test all older generation family members
  • If the family member is deceased, test their offspring
  • Purchase tests for estimates of your ethnicity or ancestral origins


Y DNA is only inherited by males from males. The Y chromosome is what makes a male, male. Men inherit the Y chromosome intact from their father, with no contribution from the mother or any female, which is why men’s Y DNA matches that of their father and is not diluted in each generation.

Inheritance y mtdna

If there are no adoptions in the line, known or otherwise, the Y DNA will match men from the same Y DNA line with only small differences for many generations. Eventually, small changes known as mutations accrue. After many accumulated mutations taking several hundred years, men no longer match on special markers called Short Tandem Repeats (STR). STR markers generally match within the past 500-800 years, but further back in time, they accrue too many mutations to be considered a genealogical-era match.

Family Tree DNA sells this test in 67 and 111 marker panels, along with a product called the Big Y-700.

The Big Y-700 is the best-of-class of Y DNA tests and includes at least 700 STR markers along with SNPs which are also useful genealogically plus reach further back in time to create a more complete picture.

The Big Y-700 test scans the entire useful portion of the Y chromosome, about 15 million base pairs, as compared to 67 or 111 STR locations.

67 and 111 Marker Panel Customers Receive:

  • STR marker matches
  • Haplogroup estimate
  • Ancestral Origins
  • Matches Map showing locations of the earliest known ancestors of matches
  • Haplogroup Origins
  • Migration Maps
  • STR marker results
  • Haplotree and SNPs
  • SNP map

Y, mitochondrial and autosomal DNA customers all receive options for Advanced Matching.

Big Y-700 customers receive, in addition to the above:

  • All of the SNP markers in the known phylotree shown publicly, here
  • A refined, definitive haplogroup
  • Their place on the Block Tree, along with their matches
  • New or unknown private SNPs that might lead to a new haplogroup, or genetic clan, assignment
  • 700+ STR markers
  • Matching on both the STR markers and SNP markers, separately

Y DNA Education

I wrote several articles about understanding and using Y DNA:

When to Purchase Y DNA Tests

The Y DNA test is for males who wish to learn more about their paternal line and match against other men to determine or verify their genealogical lineage.

Women cannot test directly, but they can purchase the Y DNA test for men such as fathers, brothers, and uncles.

If you are purchasing for someone else, I recommend purchasing the Big Y-700 initially.

Why purchase the Big Y-700, when you can purchase a lower level test for less money? Because if you ever want to upgrade, and you likely will, you have to contact the tester and obtain their permission to upgrade their test. They may be ill, disinterested, or deceased, and you may not be able to upgrade their test at that time, so strike while the iron is hot.

The Big Y-700 provides testers, by far, the most Y DNA data to work (and fish) with.

Mitochondrial DNA

Inheritance mito

Mitochondrial DNA is passed from mothers to both sexes of their children, but only females pass it on.

In your tree, you and your siblings all inherit your mother’s mitochondrial DNA. She inherited it from her mother, and your grandmother from her mother, and so forth.

Mitochondrial DNA testers at FamilyTreeDNA receive:

  • A definitive haplogroup, thought of as a genetic clan
  • Matching
  • Matches Map showing locations of the earliest know ancestors of matches
  • Personalized mtDNA Journey video
  • Mutations
  • Haplogroup origins
  • Ancestral origins
  • Migration maps
  • Advanced matching

Of course, Y, mitochondrial and autosomal DNA testers can join various projects.

Mitochondrial DNA Education

I created a Mitochondrial DNA page with a comprehensive list of educational articles and resources.

When to Purchase Mitochondrial DNA Tests

Mitochondrial DNA can be valuable in terms of matching as well as breaking down brick walls for women ancestors with no surnames. You can also use targeted testing to prove, or disprove, relationship theories.

Furthermore, your mitochondrial DNA haplogroup, like Y DNA haplogroups, provides information about where your ancestors came from by identifying the part of the world where they have the most matches.

You’ll want to purchase the mtFull sequence test provided by Family Tree DNA. Earlier tests, such as the mtPlus, can be upgraded. The full sequence test tests all 16,569 locations on the mitochondria and provides testers with the highest level matching as well as their most refined haplogroup.

The full sequence test is only sold by Family Tree DNA and provides matching along with various tools. You’ll also be contributing to science by building the mitochondrial haplotree of womankind through the Million Mito Project.

Combined Resources for Genealogists

You may need to reach out to family members to obtain Y and mitochondrial DNA for your various genealogical lines.

For example, the daughter in the tree below, a genealogist, can personally take an autosomal test along with a mitochondrial test for her matrilineal line, but she cannot test for Y DNA, nor can she obtain her paternal grandmother’s mitochondrial DNA directly by testing herself.

Hearts represent mitochondrial DNA, and stars, Y DNA.

Inheritance combined

However, our genealogist’s brother, father or grandfather can test for her father’s (blue star) Y DNA.

Her father or any of his siblings can test for her paternal grandmother’s (hot pink heart) mitochondrial DNA, which provides information not available from any other tester in this tree, except for the paternal grandmother herself.

Our genealogist’s paternal grandfather, and his siblings, can test for his mother’s (yellow heart) mitochondrial DNA.

Our genealogist’s maternal grandfather can test for his (green star) Y DNA and (red heart) mitochondrial DNA.

And of course, it goes without saying that every single generation upstream of the daughter, our genealogist, should all take autosomal DNA tests.

So, with several candidates, who can and should test for what?

Person Y DNA Mitochondrial Autosomal
Daughter No Y – can’t test Yes, her pink mother’s Yes – Test
Son Yes – blue Y Yes, his pink mother’s Yes – Test
Father Yes – blue Y Yes – his magenta mother’s Yes – Test
Paternal Grandfather Yes – blue Y – Best to Test Yes, his yellow mother’s – Test Yes – Test
Mother No Y – can’t test Yes, her pink mother’s Yes – Test
Maternal Grandmother No Y – can’t test Yes, her pink mother’s – Best to Test Yes – Test
Maternal Grandfather Yes – green Y – Test Yes, his red mother’s – Test Yes – Test

The best person/people to test for each of the various lines and types of DNA is shown bolded above…assuming that all people are living. Of course, if they aren’t, then test anyone else in the tree who carries that particular DNA – and don’t forget to consider aunts and uncles, or their children, as candidates.

If one person takes the Y and/or mitochondrial DNA test to represent a specific line, you don’t need another person to take the same test for that line. The only possible exception would be to confirm a specific Y DNA result matches a lineage as expected.

Looking at our three-generation example, you’ll be able to obtain a total of two Y DNA lines, three mitochondrial DNA lines, and 8 autosomal results, helping you to understand and piece together your family line.

You might ask, given that the parents and grandparents have all autosomally tested in this example, if our genealogist really needs to test her brother, and the answer is probably not – at least not today.

However, in cases like this, I do test the sibling, simply because I can learn and it may encourage their interest or preserve their DNA for their children who might someday be interested. We also don’t know what kind of advances the future holds.

If the parents aren’t both available, then you’ll want to test as many of your (and their) siblings as possible to attempt to recover as much of the parents’ DNA, (and matches) as possible.

Your family members’ DNA is just as valuable to your research as your own.

Increase Your Odds

Don’t let any of your inherited DNA go unused.

You can increase your odds of having autosomal matches by making sure you are in all 4 major vendor databases.

Both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage accept transfers from 23andMe and Ancestry, who don’t accept transfers. Transferring and matching is free, and their unlock fees, $19 at FamilyTreeDNA, and $29 at MyHeritage, respectively, to unlock their advanced tools are both less expensive than retesting.

You’ll find easy-to-follow step-by-step transfer instructions to and from the vendors in the article DNA File Upload-Download and Transfer Instructions to and from DNA Testing Companies.


You can order any of the tests mentioned above by clicking on these links:





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.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research