Research Like a Pro Podcast – Native American DNA with Roberta Estes

I love to see families working together. Nicole Dyer and Diana Elder are a lovely mother-daughter genealogy team and hostesses of Research Like a Pro, a podcast through their genealogy research company, Family Locket. Their Research Like a Pro podcasts help genealogists “take your research to the next level.”

I was so pleased to be invited to join them for a discussion about my book, DNA for Native American Genealogy.

For those of you who don’t normally listen to podcasts and don’t have a podcast app, you don’t need one. You can just click to listen online, or they have kindly transcribed the session. The transcription is automated, so not exact, but still a great tool.

Interviews are interesting because the back and forth is so revealing and includes information not found in the book. As it turns out, their family had a Native American story too – and it was very similar to mine. That oral history which was accepted as fact in my family is what launched my search many years ago.

They “cheated” and opened by asking me about what drives and inspires me. I’m not interviewed live very often, and don’t think I’ve ever been asked this question before. If you’d like to hear me talk about what motivates me and gets me out of bed every morning, aka, “life’s pennies,” click here.

Of course, most of the hour was spent discussing Native American records and resources, including DNA evidence. We discussed ethnicity and how to actually USE it (yes, you can), vendors, their products and resources, Y and mitochondrial DNA, third-party tools, and how to integrate these resources successfully.

As a bonus, let me give you one of the tips I talked about that’s not in the book. Declined enrollment applications for the Five Civilized Tribes. If your family wasn’t enrolled, they might be found in the declined applications, which often provide a HUGE amount of family information. Here is a list of those resources at FamilySearch. Don’t miss the Cherokee by Blood book series by Jerry Wright Jordan and the Extract of Rejected Applications of the Guion Miller Roll of the Eastern Cherokee series by Jo Ann Curls Page.

Also, as an aside, in some cases, DNA testing has proven using Y or mitochondrial DNA that the declined enrollment was in error and the family did, in fact, have Native ancestors. That’s both heartbreaking and validating.

This was such a fun and informative hour. I swear, we talked about everything. While this podcast is focused on finding Native American ancestors, the DNA tools, tips, and research techniques are certainly relevant and useful for everyone, so please join us and enjoy!

If you don’t have my book yet, you can purchase it here:


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DNA: In Search of…Full and Half-Siblings

This is the fifth article in our series of articles about searching for unknown close family members, specifically; parents, grandparents, or siblings. However, these same techniques can be applied by genealogists to identify ancestors further back in time as well.

Please note that if a family member has tested and you do NOT see their results, ask them to verify that they have chosen to allow matching and for other people to view them in their match list. That process varies at different vendors.

You can also ask if they can see you in their results.

All Parties Need to Test

Searching for unknown siblings isn’t exactly searching, because to find them, they, themselves, or their descendant(s) must have taken a DNA test at the same vendor where you tested or uploaded a DNA file.

You may know through any variety of methods that they exist, or might exist, but if they don’t take a DNA test, you can’t find them using DNA. This might sound obvious, but I see people commenting and not realizing that the other sibling(s) must test too – and they may not have.

My first questions when someone comments in this vein are:

  1. Whether or not they are positive their sibling actually tested, meaning actually sent the test in to the vendor, and it was received by the testing company. You’d be surprised how many tests are living in permanent residence on someone’s countertop until it gets pushed into the drawer and forgotten about.
  2. If the person has confirmed that their sibling has results posted. They may have returned their test, but the results aren’t ready yet or there was a problem.
  3. AND that both people have authorized matching and sharing of results. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your vendor’s customer care if you need help with this.

Sibling Scenarios

The most common sibling scenarios are when one of two things happens:

  • A known sibling tests, only to discover that they don’t match you in the full sibling range, or not at all, when you expected they would
  • You discover a surprise match in the full or half-sibling range

Let’s talk about these scenarios and how to determine:

  • If someone is a sibling
  • If they are a full or half-sibling
  • If a half-sibling, if they descend from your mother or father

As with everything else genetic, we’ll be gathering and analyzing different pieces of evidence along the way.

Full and Half-Siblings

Just to make sure we are all on the same page:

  • A full sibling is someone who shares both parents with you.
  • A half-sibling is someone who shares one parent with you, but not the other parent.
  • A step-sibling is someone who shares no biological parents with you. This situation occurs when your parent marries their parent, after you are both born, and their parent becomes your step-parent. You share neither of your biological parents with a step-sibling, so you share no DNA and will not show up on each other’s match lists.
  • A three-quarters sibling is someone with whom you share one parent, but two siblings are the other parent. For example, you share the same mother, but one brother fathered you, and your father’s brother fathered your sibling. Yes, this can get very messy and is almost impossible for a non-professional to sort through, if even then. (This is not a solicitation. I do not take private clients.) We will not be addressing this situation specifically.


With any search for unknown relatives, you have no way of knowing what you will find.

In one’s mind, there are happy reunions, but you may experience something entirely different. Humans are human. Their stories are not always happy or rosy. They may have made mistakes they regret. Or they may have no regrets about anything.

Your sibling may not know about you or the situation under which you, or they, were born. Some women were victims of assault and violence, which is both humiliating and embarrassing. I wrote about difficult situations, here.

Your sibling or close family member may not be receptive to either you, your message, or even your existence. Just be prepared, because the seeking journey may not be pain-free for you or others, and may not culminate with or include happy reunions.

On the other hand, it may.

Please step back and ponder a bit about the journey you are about to undertake and the possible people that may be affected, and how. This box, once opened, cannot be closed again. Be sure you are prepared.

On the other hand, sometimes that box lid pops off, and the information simply falls in your lap one day when you open your match list, and you find yourself sitting there, in shock, staring at a match, trying to figure out what it all means.

Congratulations, You Have a Sibling!

This might not be exactly what runs through your mind when you see that you have a very close match that you weren’t expecting.

The first two things I recommend when making this sort of discovery, after a few deep breaths, a walk, and a cup of tea, are:

  • Viewing what the vendor says
  • Using the DNAPainter Shared cM Relationship Chart

Let’s start with DNAPainter.


DNAPainter provides a relationship chart, here, based on the values from the Shared cM Project.

You can either enter a cM amount or a percentage of shared DNA. I prefer the cM amount, but it doesn’t really matter.

I’ll enter 2241 cM from a known half-sibling match. To enter a percent, click on the green “enter %.”

As you can see, statistically speaking, this person is slightly more likely to be a half-sibling than they are to be a full sibling. In reality, they could be either.

Looking at the chart below, DNAPainter highlights the possible relationships from the perspective of “Self.”

The average of all the self-reported relationships is shown, on top, so 2613 for a full sibling. The range is shown below, so 1613-3488 for a full sibling.

In this case, there are several possibilities for two people who share 2241 cM of DNA.

I happen to know that these two people are half-siblings, but if I didn’t, it would be impossible to tell from this information alone.

The cM range for full siblings is 1613-3488, and the cM range for half-siblings is 1160-2436.

  • The lower part of the matching range, from 1160-1613 cM is only found in half-siblings.
  • The portion of the range from 1613-2436 cM can be either half or full siblings.
  • The upper part of the range, from 2436-3488 cM is only found in full siblings.

If your results fall into the center portion of the range, you’re going to need to utilize other tools. Fortunately, we have several.

If you’ve discovered something unexpected, you’ll want to verify using these tools, regardless. Use every tool available. Ranges are not foolproof, and the upper and lower 10% of the responses were removed as outliers. You can read more about the shared cM Project, here and here.

Furthermore, people may be reporting some half-sibling relationships as full sibling relationships, because they don’t expect to be half-siblings, so the ranges may be somewhat “off.”

Relationship Probability Calculator

Third-party matching database, GEDmatch, provides a Relationship Probability Calculator tool that is based on statistical probability methods without compiled user input. Both tools are free, and while I haven’t compared every value, both seem to be reasonably accurate, although they do vary somewhat, especially at the outer ends of the ranges.

When dealing with sibling matches, if you are in all four databases, GEDmatch is a secondary resource, but I will include GEDmatch when they have a unique tool as well as in the summary table. Some of your matches may be willing to upload to GEDmatch if the vendor where you match doesn’t provide everything you need and GEDmatch has a supplemental offering.

Next, let’s look at what the vendors say about sibling matches.


Each of the major vendors reports sibling relationships in a slightly different way.

Sibling Matches at Ancestry

Ancestry reports sibling relationships as Sister or Brother, but they don’t say half or full.

If you click on the cM portion of the link, you’ll see additional detail, below

Ancestry tells you that the possible relationships are 100% “Sibling.” The only way to discern the difference between full and half is by what’s next.

If the ONLY relationship shown is Sibling at 100%, that can be interpreted to mean this person is a full sibling, and that a half-sibling or other relationship is NOT a possibility.

Ancestry never stipulates full or half.

The following relationship is a half-sibling at Ancestry.

Ancestry identifies that possible range of relationships as “Close Family to First Cousin” because of the overlaps we saw in the DNAPainter chart.

Clicking through shows that there is a range of possible relationships, and Ancestry is 100% sure the relationship is one of those.

DNAPainter agrees with Ancestry except includes the full-sibling relationship as a possibility for 1826 cM.

Sibling Matches at 23andMe

23andMe does identify full versus half-siblings.

DNAPainter disagrees with 23andMe and claims that anyone who shares 46.2% of their DNA is a parent/child.

However, look at the fine print. 23andMe counts differently than any of the other vendors, and DNAPainter relies on the Shared cM Project, which relies on testers entering known relationship matching information. Therefore, at any other vendor, DNAPainter is probably exactly right.

Before we understand how 23andMe counts, we need to understand about half versus fully identical segments.

To determine half or full siblings, 23andMe compares two things:

  1. The amount of shared matching DNA between two people
  2. Fully Identical Regions (FIR) of DNA compared to Half Identical Regions (HIR) of DNA to determine if any of your DNA is fully identical, meaning some pieces of you and your sibling’s DNA is exactly the same on both your maternal and paternal chromosomes.

Here’s an example on any chromosome – I’ve randomly selected chromosome 12. Which chromosome doesn’t matter, except for the X, which is different.

Your match isn’t broken out by maternal and paternal sides. You would simply see, on the chromosome browser, that you and your sibling match at these locations, above.

In reality, though, you have two copies of each chromosome, one from Mom and one from Dad, and so does your sibling.

In this example, Mom’s chromosome is visualized on top, and Dad’s is on the bottom, below, but as a tester, you don’t know that. All you know is that you match your sibling on all of those blue areas, above.

However, what’s actually happening in this example is that you are matching your sibling on parts of your mother’s chromosome and parts of your father’s chromosome, shown above as green areas

23andMe looks at both copies of your chromosome, the one you inherited from Mom, on top, and Dad, on the bottom, to see if you match your sibling on BOTH your mother’s and your father’s chromosomes in that location.

I’ve boxed the green matching areas in purple where you match your sibling fully, on both parents’ chromosomes.

If you and your sibling share both parents, you will share significant amounts of the same DNA on both copies of the same chromosomes, meaning maternal and paternal. In other words, full siblings share some purple fully identical regions (FIR) of DNA with each other, while half-siblings do not (unless they are also otherwise related) because half-siblings only share one parent with each other. Their DNA can’t be fully identical because they have a different parent that contributed the other copy of their chromosome.

Total Shared DNA Fully Identical DNA from Both Parents
Full Siblings ~50% ~25%
Half Siblings ~25% 0
  • Full siblings are expected to share about 50% of the same DNA. In other words, their DNA will match at that location. That’s all the green boxed locations, above.
  • Full siblings are expected to share about 25% of the same DNA from BOTH parents at the same location on BOTH copies of their chromosomes. These are fully identical regions and are boxed in purple, above.

You’ll find fully identical segments about 25% of the time in full siblings, but you won’t find fully identical segments in half-siblings. Please note that there are exceptions for ¾ siblings and endogamous populations.

You can view each match at 23andMe to see if you have any completely identical regions, shown in dark purple in the top comparison of full siblings. Half siblings are shown in the second example, with less total matching DNA and no FIR or completely identical regions.

Please note that your matching amount of DNA will probably be higher at 23andMe than at other companies because:

  • 23andMe includes the X chromosome in the match totals
  • 23andMe counts fully identical matching regions twice. For full siblings, that’s an additional 25%

Therefore, a full sibling with an X match will have a higher total cM at 23andMe than the same siblings elsewhere because not only is the X added into the total, the FIR match region is added a second time too.

Fully Identical Regions (FIR) and Half Identical Regions (HIR) at GEDmatch

At GEDMatch, you can compare two people to each other, with an option to display the matching information and a painted graphic for each chromosome that includes FIR and HIR.

If you need to know if you and a match share fully identical regions and you haven’t tested at 23andMe, you can both upload your DNA data file to GEDmatch and use their One to One Autosomal DNA Comparison.

On the following page, simply enter both kit numbers and accept the defaults, making sure you have selected one of the graphics options.

While GEDmatch doesn’t specifically tell you whether someone is a full or half sibling, you can garner additional information about the relationship based on the graphic at GEDmatch.

GEDMatch shows both half and fully identical regions.

The above match is between two full siblings using a 7 cM threshold. The blue on the bottom bar indicates a match of 7 cM or larger. Black means no match.

The green regions in the top bar indicate places where these two people carry the same DNA on both copies of their chromosome 1. This means that both people inherited the same DNA from BOTH parents on the green segments.

In the yellow regions, the siblings inherited the same DNA from ONE parent, but different DNA in that region from the other parent. They do match each other, just on one of their chromosomes, not both.

Without a tool like this to differentiate between HIR and FIR, you can’t tell if you’re matching someone on one copy of your chromosome, or on both copies.

In the areas marked with red on top, which corresponds to the black on the bottom band, these two siblings don’t match each other because they inherited different DNA from both parents in that region. The yellow in that region is too scattered to be significant.

Full siblings generally share a significant amount of FIR, or fully identical regions of DNA – about 25%.

Half siblings will share NO significant amount of FIR, although some will be FIR on very small, scattered green segments simply by chance, as you can see in the example, below.

This half-sibling match shares no segments large enough to be a match (7 cM) in the black section. In the blue matching section, only a few small green fragments of DNA match fully, which, based on the rest of that matching segment, must be identical by chance or misreads. There are no significant contiguous segments of fully identical DNA.

When dealing with full or half-siblings, you’re not interested in small, scattered segments of fully identical regions, like those green snippets on chromosome 6, but in large contiguous sections of matching DNA like the chromosome 1 example.

GEDmatch can help when you match when a vendor does not provide FIR/HIR information, and you need additional assistance.

Next, let’s look at full and half-siblings at FamilyTreeDNA

Sibling Matches at FamilyTreeDNA

FamilyTreeDNA does identify full siblings.

Relationships other than full siblings are indicated by a range. The two individuals below are both half-sibling matches to the tester.

The full range when mousing over the relationship ranges is shown below.

DNAPainter agrees except also gives full siblings as an option for the two half-siblings.

FamilyTreeDNA also tells you if you have an X match and the size of your X match.

We will talk about X matching in a minute, which, when dealing with sibling identification, can turn out to be very important.

Sibling Matches at MyHeritage

MyHeritage indicates brother or sister for full siblings

MyHeritage provides other “Estimated relationships” for matches too small to be full siblings.

DNAPainter’s chart agrees with this classification, except adds additional relationship possibilities.

Be sure to review all of the information provided by each vendor for close relationships.

View Close Known Relationships

The next easiest step to take is to compare your full or half-sibling match to known close family members from your maternal and paternal sides, respectively. The closer the family members, the better.

It’s often not possible to determine if someone is a half sibling or a full sibling by centiMorgans (cMs) alone, especially if you’re searching for unknown family members.

Let’s start with the simplest situation first.

Let’s say both of your parents have tested, and of course, you match both of them as parents.

Your new “very close match” is in the sibling range.

The first thing to do at each vendor is to utilize that vendor’s shared matches tool and see whether your new match matches one parent, or both.

Here’s an example.

Close Relationships at FamilyTreeDNA

This person has a full sibling match, but let’s say they don’t know who this is and wants to see if their new sibling matches one or both of their parents.

Select the match by checking the box to the left of the match name, then click on the little two-person icon at far right, which shows “In Common” matches

You can see on the resulting shared match list that both of the tester’s parents are shown on the shared match list.

Now let’s make this a little more difficult.

No Parents, No Problem

Let’s say neither of your parents has tested.

If you know who your family is and can identify your matches, you can see if the sibling you match matches other close relatives on both or either side of your family.

You’ll want to view shared matches with your closest known match on both sides of your tree, beginning with the closest first. Aunts, uncles, first cousins, etc.

You will match all of your family members through second cousins, and 90% of your third cousins. You can view additional relationship percentages in the article, How Much of Them is in You?.

I recommend, for this matching purpose, to utilize 2nd cousins and closer. That way you know for sure if you don’t share them as a match with your sibling, it’s because the sibling is not related on that side of the family, not because they simply don’t share any DNA due to their distance.

In this example, you have three sibling matches. Based on your and their matches to the same known first and second cousins, you can see that:

  • Sibling 1 is your full sibling, because you both match the same maternal and paternal first and second cousins
  • Sibling 2 is your paternal half-sibling because you both match paternal second cousins and closer, but not maternal cousins.
  • Sibling 3 is your maternal half-sibling because you both match maternal second cousins and closer, but not paternal cousins.

Close Relationships at Ancestry

Neither of my parents have tested, but my first cousin on my mother’s side has. Let’s say I have a suspected sibling or half-sibling match, so I click on the match’s name, then on Shared Matches.

Sure enough, my new match also matches my first cousin that I’ve labeled as “on my mother’s side.”

If my new match in the sibling range also matches my second cousins or closer on my father’s side, the new match is a full sibling, not a half-sibling.

Close Relationships at MyHeritage

Comparing my closest match provided a real surprise. I wonder if I’ve found a half-sibling to my mother.

Now, THIS is interesting.

Hmmm. More research is needed, beginning with the age of my match. MyHeritage provides ages if the MyHeritage member authorizes that information to be shared.

Close Relationships at 23andMe

Under DNA Relatives, click on your suspected sibling match, then scroll down and select “Find Relatives in Common.”

The Relatives in Common list shows people that match both of you.

The first common match is very close and a similar relationship to my closest match on my father’s side. This would be expected of a sibling. I have no common matches with this match to anyone on my mother’s side, so they are only related on my father’s side. Therefore they are a paternal half-sibling, not a full sibling.

More Tools Are Available

Hopefully, by now, you’ve been able to determine if your mystery match is a sibling, and if so, if they are a half or full sibling, and through which parent.

We have some additional tools that are relevant and can be very informative in some circumstances. I suggest utilizing these tools, even if you think you know the answer.

In this type of situation, there’s no such thing as too much information.

X Matching

X matching, or lack thereof, may help you determine how you are related to someone.

There are two types of autosomal DNA. The X chromosome versus chromosomes 1-22. The X chromosome (number 23) has a unique inheritance path that distinguishes it from your other chromosomes.

The X chromosome inheritance path also differs between men and women.

Here’s my pedigree chart in fan form, highlighting the ancestors who may have contributed a portion of their X chromosome to me. In the closest generation, this shows that I inherited an X chromosome from both of my parents, and who in each of their lines could have contributed an X to them.

The white or uncolored positions, meaning ancestors, cannot contribute any portion of an X chromosome to me based on how the X chromosome is inherited.

You’ll notice that my father inherited none of his X chromosome from any of his paternal ancestors, so of course, I can’t inherit what he didn’t inherit. There are a very limited number of ancestors on my father’s side whom I can inherit any portion of an X chromosome from.

Men receive their Y chromosome from their fathers, so men ONLY receive an X chromosome from their mother.

Therefore, men MUST pass their mother’s X chromosome on to their female offspring because they don’t have any other copy of the X chromosome to pass on.

Men pass no X chromosome to sons.

We don’t need to worry about a full fan chart when dealing with siblings and half-siblings.

We only need to be concerned with the testers plus one generation (parents) when utilizing the X chromosome in sibling situations.

These two female Disney Princesses, above, are full siblings, and both inherited an X chromosome from BOTH their mother and father. However, their father only has one X (red) chromosome to give them, so the two females MUST match on the entire red X chromosome from their father.

Their mother has two X chromosomes, green and black, to contribute – one from each of her parents.

The full siblings, Melody, and Cinderella:

  • May have inherited some portion of the same green and black X chromosomes from their mother, so they are partial matches on their mother’s X chromosome.
  • May have inherited the exact same full X chromosome from their mother (both inherited the entire green or both inherited the entire black), so they match fully on their mother’s X chromosome.
  • May have inherited the opposite X from different maternal grandparents. One inherited the entire green X and one inherited the entire black X, so they don’t match on their mother’s X chromosome.

Now, let’s look at Cinderella, who matches Henry.

This female and male full sibling match can’t share an X chromosome on the father’s side, because the male’s father doesn’t contribute an X chromosome to him. The son, Henry, inherited a Y chromosome instead from his father, which is what made them males.

Therefore, if a male and female match on the X chromosome, it MUST be through HIS mother, but could be through either of her parents. In a sibling situation, an X match between a male and female always indicates the mother.

In the example above, the two people share both of their mother’s X chromosomes, so are definitely (at least) maternally related. They could be full siblings, but we can’t determine that by the X chromosome in this situation, with males.

However, if the male matches the female on HER father’s X chromosome, there a different message, example below.

You can see that the male is related to the female on her father’s side, where she inherited the entire magenta X chromosome. The male inherited a portion of the magenta X chromosome from his mother, so these two people do have an X match. However, he matches on his mother’s side, and she matches on her father’s side, so that’s clearly not the same parent.

  • These people CAN NOT be full siblings because they don’t match on HER mother’s side too, which would also be his mother’s side if they were full siblings.
  • They cannot be maternal half-siblings because their X DNA only matches on her father’s side, but they wouldn’t know that unless she knew which side was which based on share matches.
  • They cannot be paternal half-siblings because he does not have an X chromosome from his father.

They could, however, be uncle/aunt-niece/nephew or first cousins on his mother’s side and her father’s side. (Yes, you’re definitely going to have to read this again if you ever need male-female X matching.)

Now, let’s look at X chromosome matching between two males. It’s a lot less complicated and much more succinct.

Neither male has inherited an X chromosome from their father, so if two males DO match on the X, it MUST be through their mother. In terms of siblings, this would mean they share the same mother.

However, there is one slight twist. In the above example, you can see that the men inherited a different proportion of the green and black X chromosomes from their common mother. However, it is possible that the mother could contribute her entire green X chromosome to one son, Justin in this example, and her entire black X chromosome to Henry.

Therefore, even though Henry and Justin DO share a mother, their X chromosome would NOT match in this scenario. This is rare but does occasionally happen.

Based on the above examples, the X chromosome may be relevant in the identification of full or half siblings based on the sexes of the two people who otherwise match at a level indicating a full or half-sibling relationship.

Here’s a summary chart for sibling X matching.

X Match Female Male
Female Will match on shared father’s full X chromosome, mother’s X is the same rules as chromosomes 1-22 Match through male’s mother, but either of female’s parents. If the X match is not through the female’s mother, they are not full siblings nor maternal half-siblings. They cannot have an X match through the male’s father. They are either full or half-siblings through their mother if they match on both of their mother’s side. If they match on his mother’s side, and her father’s side, they are not siblings but could be otherwise closely related.
Male Match through male’s mother, but either of female’s parents. If the X match is not through the female’s mother, they are not full siblings nor maternal half-siblings. They cannot have an X match through the male’s father. They are either full or half-siblings through their mother if they match on both or their mother’s side. If they match on his mother’s side, and her father’s side, they are not siblings but could be otherwise closely related. Both males are related on their mother’s side – either full or half-siblings.

Here’s the information presented in a different way.

DOES match X summary:

  • If a male DOES match a female on the X, he IS related to her through HIS mother’s side, but could match her on her mother or father’s side. If their match is not through her mother, then they are not full siblings nor maternal half-siblings. They cannot match through his father, so they cannot be paternal half-siblings.
  • If a female DOES match a female on the X, they could be related on either side and could be full or half-siblings.
  • If a male DOES match a male on the X, they ARE both related through their mother. They may also be related on their father’s side, but the X does not inform us of that.

Does NOT match X summary:

  • If a male does NOT match a female on the X, they are NOT related through HIS mother and are neither full siblings nor maternal half-siblings. Since a male does not have an X chromosome from his father, they cannot be paternal half-siblings based on an X match.
  • If a male does NOT match a male, they do NOT share a mother.
  • If a female does NOT match another female on the X, they are NOT full siblings and are NOT half-siblings on their paternal side. Their father only has one X chromosome, and he would have given the same X to both daughters.

Of the four autosomal vendors, only 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA report X chromosome results and matching, although the other two vendors, MyHeritage and Ancestry, include the X in their DNA download file so you can find X matches with those files at either FamilyTreeDNA or GEDMatch if your match has or will upload their file to either of those vendors. I wrote step-by-step detailed download/upload instructions, here.

X Matching at FamilyTreeDNA

In this example from FamilyTreeDNA, the female tester has discovered two half-sibling matches, both through her father. In the first scenario, she matches a female on the full X chromosome (181 cM). She and her half-sibling MUST share their father’s entire X chromosome because he only had one X, from his mother, to contribute to both of his daughters.

In the second match to a male half-sibling, our female tester shares NO X match because her father did not contribute an X chromosome to his son.

If we didn’t know which parents these half-sibling matches were through, we can infer from the X matching alone that the male is probably NOT through the mother.

Then by comparing shared matches with each sibling, Advanced Matches, or viewing the match Matrix, we can determine if the siblings match each other and are from the same or different sides of the family.

Under Additional Tests and Tools, Advanced Matching, FamilyTreeDNA provides an additional tool that can show only X matches combined with relationships.

Of course, you’ll need to view shared matches to see which people match the mother and/or match the father.

To see who matches each other, you’ll need to use the Matrix tool.

At FamilyTreeDNA, the Matrix, located under Autosomal DNA Results and Tools, allows you to select your matches to see if they also match each other. If you have known half-siblings, or close relatives, this is another way to view relationships.

Here’s an example using my father and two paternal half-siblings. We can see that the half-siblings also match each other, so they are (at least) half-siblings on the paternal side too.

If they also matched my mother, we would be full siblings, of course.

Next, let’s use Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA.

Y DNA and Mitochondrial DNA

In addition to autosomal DNA, we can utilize Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in some cases to identify siblings or to narrow or eliminate relationship possibilities.

Given that Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA both have distinctive inheritance paths, full and half-siblings will, or will not, match under various circumstances.


Y DNA is passed intact from father to son, meaning it’s not admixed with any of the mother’s DNA. Daughters do not inherit Y DNA from their father, so Y DNA is only useful for male-to-male comparisons.

Two types of Y DNA are used for genealogy, STR markers for matching, and haplogroups, and both are equally powerful in slightly different ways.

Y DNA at FamilyTreeDNA

Men can order either 37 or 111 STR marker tests, or the BIg Y which provides more than 700 markers and more. FamilyTreeDNA is the only one of the vendors to offer Y DNA testing that includes STR markers and matching between men.

Men who order these tests will be compared for matching on either 37, 111 or 700 STR markers in addition to SNP markers used for haplogroup identification and assignment.

Fathers will certainly match their sons, and paternal line brothers will match each other, but they will also match people more distantly related.

However, if two men are NOT either full or half siblings on the paternal side, they won’t match at 111 markers.

If two men DON’T match, especially at high marker levels, they likely aren’t siblings. The word “likely” is in there because, very occasionally, a large deletion occurs that prevents STR matching, especially at lower levels.

Additionally, men who take the 37 or 111 marker test also receive an estimated haplogroup at a high level for free, without any additional testing.

However, if men take the Big Y-700 test, they not only will (or won’t) match on up to 700 STR markers, they will also receive a VERY refined haplogroup via SNP marker testing that is often even more sensitive in terms of matching than STR markers. Between these two types of markers, Y DNA testing can place men very granularly in relation to other men.

Men can match in two ways on Y DNA, and the results are very enlightening.

If two men match on BOTH their most refined haplogroup (Big Y test) AND STR markers, they could certainly be siblings or father/son. They could also be related on the same line for another reason, such as known or unknown cousins or closer relationships like uncle/nephew. Of course, Y DNA, in addition to autosomal matching, is a powerful combination.

Conversely, if two men don’t have a similar or close haplogroup, they are not a father and son or paternal line siblings.

FamilyTreeDNA offers both inexpensive entry-level testing (37 and 111 markers) and highly refined advanced testing of most of the Y chromosome (Big Y-700), so haplogroup assignments can vary widely based on the test you take. This makes haplogroup matching and interpretation a bit more complex.

For example, haplogroups R-M269 and I-BY14000 are not related in thousands of years. One is haplogroup R, and one is haplogroup I – completely different branches of the Y DNA tree. These two men won’t match on STR markers or their haplogroup.

However, because FamilyTreeDNA provides over 50,000 different haplogroups, or tree branches, for Big Y testers, and they provide VERY granular matching, two father/son or sibling males who have BOTH tested at the Big Y-700 level will have either the exact same haplogroup, or at most, one branch difference on the tree if a mutation occurred between father and son.

If both men have NOT tested at the Big Y-700 level, their haplogroups will be on the same branch. For example, a man who has only taken a 37/111 marker STR test may be estimated at R-M269, which is certainly accurate as far as it goes.

His sibling who has taken a Big Y test will be many branches further downstream on the tree – but on the same large haplogroup R-M269 branch. It’s essential to pay attention to which tests a Y DNA match has taken when analyzing the match.

The beauty of the two kinds of tests is that even if one haplogroup is very general due to no Big Y test, their STR markers should still match. It’s just that sometimes this means that one hand is tied behind your back.

Y DNA matching alone can eliminate the possibility of a direct paternal line connection, but it cannot prove siblingship or paternity alone – not without additional information.

The Advanced Matching tool will provide a list of matches in all categories selected – in this case, both the 111 markers and the Family Finder test. You can see that one of these men is the father of the tester, and one is the full sibling.

You can view haplogroup assignments on the public Y DNA tree, here. I wrote about using the public tree, here.

In addition, recently, FamilyTreeDNA launched the new Y DNA Discover tool, which explains more about haplogroups, including their ages and other fun facts like migration paths along with notable and ancient connections. I wrote about using the Discover tool, here.

Y DNA at 23andMe

Testers receive a base haplogroup with their autosomal test. 23andMe tests a limited number of Y DNA SNP locations, but they don’t test many, and they don’t test STR markers, so there is no Y DNA matching and no refined haplogroups.

You can view the haplogroups of your matches. If your male sibling match does NOT share the same haplogroup, the two men are not paternal line siblings. If two men DO share the same haplogroup, they MIGHT be paternal siblings. They also might not.

Again, autosomal close matching plus haplogroup comparisons include or exclude paternal side siblings for males.

Paternal side siblings at 23andMe share the same haplogroup, but so do many other people. These two men could be siblings. The haplogroups don’t exclude that possibility. If the haplogroups were different, that would exclude being either full or paternal half-siblings.

Men can also compare their mitochondrial DNA to eliminate a maternal relationship.

These men are not full siblings or maternal half-siblings. We know, unquestionably, because their mitochondrial haplogroups don’t match.

23andMe also constructs a genetic tree, but often struggles with close relative placement, especially when half-relationships are involved. I do not recommend relying on the genetic tree in this circumstance.

Mitochondrial DNA

Mitochondrial DNA is passed from mothers to all of their children, but only females pass it on. If two people, males or females, don’t match on their mitochondrial DNA test, with a couple of possible exceptions, they are NOT full siblings, and they are NOT maternal half-siblings.

Mitochondrial DNA at 23andMe

23andMe provides limited, base mitochondrial haplogroups, but no matching. If two people don’t have the same haplogroup at 23andMe, they aren’t full or maternal siblings, as illustrated above.

Mitochondrial DNA at FamilyTreeDNA

FamilyTreeDNA provides both mitochondrial matching AND a much more refined haplogroup. The full sequence test (mtFull), the only version sold today, is essential for reliable comparisons.

Full siblings or maternal half-siblings will always share the same haplogroup, regardless of their sex.

Generally, a full sibling or maternal half-sibling match will match exactly at the full mitochondrial sequence (FMS) level with a genetic distance of zero, meaning fully matching and no mismatching mutations.

There are rare instances where maternal siblings or even mothers and children do not match exactly, meaning they have a genetic distance of greater than 0, because of a mutation called a heteroplasmy.

I wrote about heteroplasmies, here.

Like Y DNA, mitochondrial DNA cannot identify a sibling or parental relationship without additional evidence, but it can exclude one, and it can also provide much-needed evidence in conjunction with autosomal matching. The great news is that unlike Y DNA, everyone has mitochondrial DNA and it comes directly from their mother.

Once again, FamilyTreeDNA’s Advanced Matching tool provides a list of people who match you on both your mitochondrial DNA test and the Family Finder autosomal test, including transfers/uploads, and provides a relationship.

You can see that our tester matches both a full sibling and their mother. Of course, a parent/child match could mean that our tester is a female and one of her children, of either sex, has tested.

Below is an example of a parent-child match that has experienced a heteroplasmy.

Based on the comparison of both the mitochondrial DNA test, plus the autosomal Family Finder test, you can verify that this is a close family relationship.

You can also eliminate potential relationships based on the mitochondrial DNA inheritance path. The mitochondrial DNA of full siblings and maternal half-siblings will always match at the full sequence and haplogroup level, and paternal half-siblings will never match. If paternal half-siblings do match, it’s happenstance or because of a different reason.

Sibling Summary and Checklist

I’ve created a quick reference checklist for you to use when attempting to determine whether or not a match is a sibling, and, if so, whether they are half or full siblings. Of course, these tools are in addition to the DNAPainter Shared cM Tool and GEDmatch’s Relationship Predictor Calculator.

FamilyTreeDNA Ancestry 23andMe MyHeritage GEDmatch
Matching Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Shared Matches Yes – In Common With Yes – Shared Matches Yes – Relatives in Common Yes – Review DNA Match Yes – People who match both or 1 of 2 kits
Relationship Between Shared Matches No No No Yes, under shared match No
Matches Match Each Other* Yes, Matrix No Yes, under “View DNA details,” then, “compare with more relatives” Partly, through triangulation Yes, can match any kits
Full Siblings Yes Sibling, implies full Yes Brother, Sister, means full No
Half Siblings Sibling, Uncle/Aunt-Niece/Nephew, Grandparent-Grandchild Close Family – 1C Yes Half sibling, aunt/uncle-niece-nephew No
Fully Identical Regions (FIR) No No Yes No Yes
Half Identical Regions (HIR) No No Yes No Yes
X matching Yes No Yes No Yes
Unusual Reporting or Anomalies No No, Timber is not used on close relationships X match added into total, FIR added twice No Matching amount can vary from vendors
Y DNA Yes, STRs, refined haplogroups, matching No High-level haplogroup only, no matching No No, only if tester enters haplogroup manually
Mitochondrial DNA Yes, full sequence, matching, refined haplogroup No High-level haplogroup only, no matching No No, only if tester enters haplogroup manually
Combined Tools (Autosomal, X, Y, mtDNA) Yes No No No No

*Autoclusters through Genetic Affairs show cluster relationships of matches to the tester and to each other, but not all matches are included, including close matches. While this is a great tool, it’s not relevant for determining close and sibling relationships. See the article, AutoClustering by Genetic Affairs, here.

Additional Resources

Some of you may be wondering how endogamy affects sibling numbers.

Endogamy makes almost everything a little more complex. I wrote about endogamy and various ways to determine if you have an endogamous heritage, here.

Please note that half-siblings with high cM matches also fall into the range of full siblings (1613-3488), with or without endogamy. This may be, but is not always, especially pronounced in endogamous groups.

As another resource, I wrote an earlier article, Full or Half Siblings, here, that includes some different examples.


You have a lot of quills in your quiver now, and I wish you the best if you’re trying to unravel a siblingship mystery.

You may not know who your biological family is, or maybe your sibling doesn’t know who their family is, but perhaps your close relatives know who their family is and can help. Remember, the situation that has revealed itself may be a shock to everyone involved.

Above all, be kind and take things slow. If your unexpected sibling match becomes frightened or overwhelmed, they may simply check out and either delete their DNA results altogether or block you. They may have that reaction before you have a chance to do anything.

Because of that possibility, I recommend performing your analysis quickly, along with taking relevant screenshots before reaching out so you will at least have that much information to work with, just in case things go belly up.

When you’re ready to make contact, I suggest beginning by sending a friendly, short, message saying that you’ve noticed that you have a close match (don’t say sibling) and asking what they know about their family genealogy – maybe ask who their grandparents are or if they have family living in the area where you live. I recommend including a little bit of information about yourself, such as where you were born and are from.

I also refrain from using the word adoption (or similar) in the beginning or giving too much detailed information, because it sometimes frightens people, especially if they know or discover that there’s a painful or embarrassing family situation.

And, please, never, ever assume the worst of anyone or their motives. They may be sitting at their keyboard with the same shocked look on their face as you – especially if they have, or had, no idea. They may need space and time to reach a place of acceptance. There’s just nothing more emotionally boat-capsizing in your life than discovering intimate and personal details about your parents, one or both, especially if that discovery is disappointing and image-altering.

Or, conversely, your sibling may have been hoping and waiting just for you!

Take a deep breath and let me know how it goes!

Please feel free to share this article with anyone who could benefit.


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Andrew McKee (c1760-1814), Distiller on the Middle Fork of the Holston River – 52 Ancestors #372

In May of 2006, I journeyed with my wonderful cousin, Daryl, to the Washington Co. Va. Historical Society in historic downtown Abington, VA.

I was delighted to discover that they had computerized a great deal and that they had an amazing records collection. Several databases are online, including a vertical surname file.

I was hot on the trail of Andrew McKee and his wife, Elizabeth, and was fortunate enough to meet a cousin in Washington County who was familiar with both the local terrain and the McKee family.

She said that there were supposedly 3 McKee men who arrived in Pennsylvania. One stayed in Pennsylvania, one came to Washington County, Virginia, and one went elsewhere. The old “three brothers” story. Sometimes those stories are true, sometimes kind of true, and sometimes anything but.

We don’t know where Andrew was born. In addition to the Pennsylvania story, he was reported to have been born to an earlier Andrew McKee, and also to a Hugh McKee, variously in Gloucester, VA, and also in other locations.

Finding a man by the same name doesn’t mean they are father and son, or even related at all. There’s no evidence to connect them, although I don’t think thorough systemic research has been undertaken.

The bottom line is that we don’t know.

The Old Country

Almost all of the earliest recollections of the various McKee lines contain some version of the “brothers” story, and also some variation of what happened in the old country. I’m always skeptical of these stories, because I’ve seen so many of them be proven wrong, but this one might, just might, be somewhat different.

In part, we do know that the family is Presbyterian, which, combined with the surname, location, and time, equates to Scots-Irish. Secondly, regardless of whether or not the specific McKee men identified back in Ireland are accurate, the situation likely is, and reaches back to the legendary Battle of the Boyne, fought near Drogheda, north of Dublin, in 1690.

The armies of James Stuart the II of England and William of Orange faced off, above, with four McKee men, supposedly brothers, fighting for the latter. These four men are not the immigrants, but one is believed to be the father of the immigrant McKee brothers who settled in Pennsylvania.

The best summary I’ve seen is in the McKee Family Matters Newsletter, published by Kevin McKee (1954-2013), here. I encourage all McKee researchers to read what Professor James Y. McKee had to say about the McKee origins in Scotland, England, and Ireland, and the historical information he was able to gather. I’ve compiled the old  McKee Family Matters Links, here, but given the age of these pages, I’d suggest saving the information if it’s relevant to you.

Professor McKee posits, based on naming patterns and other information, that Alexander McKee, who we know exists and settled in Antrim after the famous 1690 battle, was likely the father of the four (or more) brothers who immigrated to Pennsylvania between 1725-1738, and whose descendants scattered across Pennsylvania, into Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky.

That Irish Alexander was buried under the arms of the Strathnaver and Reay branch of the Clan Mackay.

Of course, there are other potential Scots-Irish progenitors, as well, and it’s probable that multiple families and lines migrated at different times.

Early McKee Immigrants

I found an old typewritten book, titled “The McKees of Virginia and Kentucky” by George Wilson McKee in the Tennessee State Library and Archives. In this book, the author, quoting from a letter written from Samuel McKee to William McKee in 1869, states that “In 1738, 10 or 11 brothers McKee emigrated to America.” He then goes on to say maybe as few as five. Those men, Samuel recounts, were the sons of “one who had borne a part in the defense of Derry and settled near Lancaster, PA. From there, some settled near Wheeling, West Virginia, and some in Pittsburg, PA.”

John and Robert “went almost directly to Virginia, about 1757, and settled on a portion of Borden’s grant on Kerr’s Creek in what is now Rockbridge Co., about 8 miles northwest of Lexington and about the same distance from Timber Ridge, which is north of Lexington on the Staunton Road, and was within a mile or so of the Cyrus McCormick Historical Site. In 1760, William, another brother, also removed to Augusta County.”

  • Robert McKee died in Rockbridge County on June 11, 1774, which I suspect is the date his will was probated or the date of his will. His wife, Agnes, died in 1780, age 84. “All the traditions refer to Robert as a perfect type of Sturdy old Scotch Irishman. He was a strict Presbyterian but by no means an overbearing or aggressive Calvinist. On the contrary, he was a mild-mannered man and attended to his own business in both religious and secular matters. He was a man of the greatest integrity, respected by all who knew him, of sound sense and judgment, and a good citizen.”
  • John McKee settled on Kerr’s Creek where his wife was killed by the Shawnee in 1763. He died October 29, 1791 in Rockbridge County. “I have always heard John spoken of with the greatest respect and admiration by the Kentucky McKees, but he had not, from all accounts, the mild manner which characterized Robert. He was most positive in his language and actions and, in his day, made his full share of enemies.”
  • William McKee initially settled in either Botetourt or Augusta County, but moved to Kentucky about 1788. His descendants live in Montgomery County, KY, but William was said to have died in Virginia at an unknown date.

First cousins Miriam, daughter of John, and William, son of Robert, married each other and kept a Bible recording the deaths of both John and Robert. The dates differ slightly from the dates given above. John’s death is recorded as “March 2, 1792, in the 84th year of his age,” which means he was born about 1708. Robert’s death is recorded as “June 11, 1766, in Rockbridge County, age 82,” which means he was born about 1684.

Another book, “One Who Gave His Life” by James Lucy, states that a group of men, including the McKees, came and settled near the coast.

The Ulster-Scots from County Down left Ireland for America about 1735. They were staunch Presbyterians and descendants of one of the defenders of Londonderry who had “acquitted himself with great gallantry and suffered patiently the horrors of that awful siege.” The McKees established themselves in Lancaster County, PA, and two of the family members took part in the ill-fated Braddock expedition of 1755.

Later, William, Robert, and John removed to the Valley of Virginia, but James stayed in Lancaster County, having sons John and Robert who inherited his lands. One tract was in Lancaster County, but James had also acquired land “in the Tuscarora settlement in western Pennsylvania, and in North Carolina.”

In 1752, James’s widow, adult children, and young son, William, went to North Carolina, where three years later, two miles to the west, Fort Dobbs was built as a border defense against the Indians.

The Scots-Irish passed further and further westward, into North Carolina and beyond, carrying with them their racial strength, religious bent, and their enthusiasm for freedom.

Another author, Rev. A. J. McKellway in 1905 writes in “The North Carolina Booklet,” that:

The migrants from Pennsylvania, including William McKee, were already and speedily establishing cultivation. The versatility of the early settlers, men and women alike, was as remarkable as their thrift and perseverance.

William McKee first served in the campaign under General Rutherford against the Cherokees in the summer of 1776. In the spring of that year, this tribe, incited by the British, descended from the mountains in a succession of murderous forays, and by the 28th of June, 200 western settlers had been slain. General Griffith, 400 men of the militia under his command, by swift movement into the Indian country, surprised the savages and completely destroyed their power to harass the frontier. Rutherford’s forces started on their march for the trackless mountains on July 19, and after the accomplishments of their arduous task, the men were disbanded at Salisbury on October 3. Afterwards, McKee served under General Davidson and Colonel Locke and refused to accept any compensation for his military service. His country needed the money more than he did, he declared. It was his belief that a man should no more accept pay for defending his country than for protecting his family. While Wiliam McKee was soldiering with the North Carolinians, his older brother, Robert, served as a Captain of a Pennsylvania company, and a first cousin, Colonel William McKee of Rockbridge County, Virginia, marched with the Old Dominion troops from Point Pleasant to the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.

After the war, these men went quietly back to their farms and workshops and turned their energies to improving their own and their children’s circumstances and building up the country.

Early Appalachian Virginia McKees

There were McKee men in the Washington County, Virginia region about the same time as Andrew, based on records I found.

  • There is an Alexander McKee whose will was entered on March 17, 1778 in Washington County. He received 3000 acres in 1774 due to his service during the Revolution.
  • There was a Lt. William McKee who served in the Revolutionary War out of Botetourt County and was the son of Robert, one of the original brothers. This man signed the Virginia Constitution and eventually moved to Kentucky about 1790.
  • An Elias McKey or Mackey served in Washington and Montgomery County. Elias McKee is found on the 1782 Washington County tax list.
  • Then, the local cousin reported, “I have a stickey note that says “Andrew McKee died in W. Chester Co., Pa. July (I think July, J something) 25, 1732.”

It’s quite likely that Andrew McKee descends from this line of men, especially given the names of his sons and the migration route into Washington County, Virginia.

I’m hoping to find a male McKee who descends from Andrew and is willing to do a Y DNA test which will help us connect our McKee line back in time to earlier McKee men. If that is you, or someone you know, I have a Y DNA testing scholarship for you! Just reach out. Y DNA testing is the single most productive thing we can do for our McKee line genealogy.

Based on the first records we do have for Andrew, he was probably born sometime around 1760.

Based on the ages of his proven children, Andrew was probably likely around 1788, so born sometime between 1760 and 1765. The 1810 census tells us that he was over 45 years of age, so we know he was not born in 1765 or after.

Washington County on the Frontier

The lands within Washington County had been contested by the Shawnee and Cherokee tribes. The three branches of the Holston River provided prime hunting grounds.

Early settlers in the region fled due to the French and Indian War (1754-1763). The first permanent settlement began in 1769. Most of the early settlers streamed down the valley from Pennsylvania, a generation or two after the first immigrant in their family line. Many were Scots-Irish, hardy men who knew battle and hard work, and weren’t afraid of either.

In 1779 and 1780, men from Washington County marched with William Campbell to King’s Mountain, where the Tories were resoundingly defeated by these mountain men that the Tory leader had the bad judgment to mock and disparage. HUGE mistake.

The Tories were gone, but not the drama. Nosiree, not for a minute.

In 1782, Arthur Campbell led a movement to establish a new western state, the State of Franklin. Washington County residents were divided in their opinions, but after attempting to run a “parallel” government for some time, the effort collapsed into disarray.

The State of Franklin attempted to push into Cherokee land, and in March of 1788, the Chickamauga and Chickasaw attacked again.

Finally, in February 1789, the failed State of Franklin disappeared altogether.

Andrew McKee was in this area because on October 5, 1789, his land was surveyed.


Land was so often the lure that crooked her come-hither finger and caused young men to set out with nothing more than a horse and dreams.

Andrew McKee may well have been one of those young men. His father and uncles and maybe older brothers would probably have fought in the Revolutionary War, but Andrew was too young.

When that war ended, vast swaths of land opened on the western frontier. Officials back east hoped that frontiersmen, particularly the difficult-to-manage Scots-Irish, would move westward and provide a barrier between the Native tribes that were still somewhat volatile, not fond of treaty-breaking whites that settled on their land, and the cities and towns further east. If anyone got attacked, let it be the Scots-Irish who were experienced and certainly knew how to wage battle.

Washington County, VA, was a mega-county formed in December of 1776, along with Montgomery and Kentucky. Yes, one county would eventually become the entire state of Kentucky.

If Andrew McKee was slightly older when that land bug bit him, he was probably accompanied by a starry-eyed young bride who would pretty much have followed him anyplace – and obviously did.

To the frontier. Land of bears, wolves, bobcats, and danger. Also, the land of opportunity. Land available for the clearing and inhabiting of your own farm.

Jeffrey La Favre mapped this area of what was originally Augusta County, Virginia, and became Washington County and plotted the various grantees and original landowners on a map, here.

I am incredibly grateful! Thank you, Jeffrey.

We know that Andrew McKee was there by the fall of 1789 when his land was surveyed. It was subsequently granted on July 19, 1790 – just in time for the 1790 census if it existed for Washington County. But alas, it doesn’t.

Page 373 – Andrew McKee, assignee of Zephemah Woolsey, assignee of Joseph Posey – 228 ac – commissioners certificate – on a branch of the middle fork of Holstein River – corner to John Kelly’s land – supposed to be on James Thompson’s line – with a line of Dozers survey – in a valley – corner to Samuel Kithcart’s land – October 5, 1789

Andrew likely bought the patent rights to have this land surveyed from Woolsey.

Andrew was able to snag a nice piece, including a section of the Holston River and probably a crisp, clear spring that drained into the river.

The Washington County Surveyors Record 1781-1797 shows the grants of the neighbors too.

Page 415 – James Thompson – 41 ac – treasury warrant #11963 – on both sides of the middle fork of Holstein River – on the north side of the river a corner to his old patent track – corner to Wilson & John Kelly’s land with Andrew McKee’s line – January 18, 1794

Page 458 – James Robinson, assignee of Moses Edmondson – 100 ac – treasury warrant #8184 dated February 2, 1782 – on a branch of the middle fork of Holstein River – line of Thomas Edmondson, Sr.’s land – corner to David Snodgrass – line of James Robinson’s land – corner to David Martins land – corner to John Kelley’s land – corner to Andrew McKee’s land – June 27, 1796

Page 460 – Jacob Halfacre, assignee of James Thompson – 35 ac – treasury warrant #12173 dated June 4, 1782 – on a Spring Branch of the middle fork of Holstein River – corner to Halfacre’s old survey – in James Thompson’s old survey – corner to McKee’s land – August 23, 1796

If you were to fast-forward in time, you’d recognize a great many of these families purchasing goods at Andrew McKee’s estate sale in the future.

Selecting Land

Andrew would have selected his land with several things in mind. The terrain might have been difficult to view, given that the land wasn’t yet cleared.

Most importantly, it had to have fresh water that was not contaminated upstream.

On this topographical map, I’ve placed the red star where Andrew built his house, on the bluff of the hill. You can see the small stream running right past the house, which is likely why this location was selected.

Well, that and the hill is not AS prone to flooding. I don’t know if Andrew somehow knew about the Holston floods, or if he was just exercising good judgment about rivers in general – but he made an excellent choice.

Of course, it’s also possible that he built a small cabin first and learned the hard way – or there were ruins of someone else’s cabin.

Here’s the little stream that watered and sustained the family, right at the bend in the road leading to Andrew’s house on the right.

But, Andrew’s house wasn’t just any house. It was actually quite remarkable, and, amazingly, still stands.

Driving to Andrew’s Land

My cousin from Washington County was kind enough to drive us to the McKee land, while cousin Daryl recorded our pathway. Thank goodness, or I could never have found this again.

Me, I was busy fighting motion sickness – turning a funny shade of green. I don’t do well in the passenger’s seat on those twisty curvy mountain roads.

I’ve included directions in case you’d like to visit.

From Abington, drive north on 81 to exit 35 (Whitetop Road) – right off the ramp and immediately right on 762, S. River Road, which becomes Friendship Road. A sign says you’re leaving Smyth County and reentering Washington County. The road curves, a 90-degree turn to the left. The house on the right is the old McKee home – up on the hill. My cousin says the house has been recorded in a local book.

I “drove” this route with Google Street View, but unfortunately, the Google car doesn’t drive down some types of roads. The section in front of the McKee house at 12786 Friendship Road is missing, unfortunately.

However, we can see the clump of trees on the right, on the hill. The stream is running on the right side of the road now, where the cattle are watering, and runs directly in front of the house, which is located behind the trees.

Fortunately, Google Earth saved me. We can’t drive by, but we can see the house fairly well.

Someone erected a period split rail fence that, of course, is exactly what Andrew would have had.

You can see the creek path in front, meandering along beside the road.

Fortunately, I took pictures of the house all those years ago.

I told you, this house looks different than other original log cabins.

For the time, this was a HUGE home. At least four times as large as normal log cabins, which were often no larger than a single room – two at most. This house has two fireplaces, one on each end.

Let me share some thoughts with you.

In the photo below, you can see the original cabin logs, at the top, and a very tall field-rock foundation, beneath. Thankfully, the siding was cut away when I was there.

This was a massive, substantial building.

I’d wager that this house was built with the extra tall foundation at least partly due to Holston flooding. That also explains the raised second-story porch, and no porch underneath at ground level. But I think there’s more to this story.

The chimney reaches all the way to the ground, so it’s possible that there are actually two fireplaces on each end – one below and one above, with different flues in the same chimney. I wish this building was on the register of historic places. It should be.

Note those small windows by the fireplace. We’ll talk about those in a few minutes.

Let’s Visit Andrew

I found this home listed at The listing says it was originally built in 1765, which would be right after the end of the French and Indian War, but before the first permanent settlement in the area. I wonder how that year was determined. I can’t help but think a year might have been carved on a beam someplace.

Come on inside.

I want you to take a minute here to relax and close your eyes. When you open them, you’re not in the here and now, but back in the late 1700s. You’ve just ridden up on your horse, or maybe walked a mile or so from a neighboring cabin, and you’re visiting Andrew.

Maybe someone is ill, and you’re bringing soup. Maybe you’re the midwife delivering another baby. Maybe you’re John Kelly, Andrew’s best friend and neighbor, and you’re going to sit by the fire and discuss crops and a fence.

Or maybe you’re the preacher making rounds, or visiting because that baby that was just delivered, died. The entire family is in tears, especially Elizabeth. You’ll be consoling the family, saying soothing preacherly things, then helping Andrew out in the barn make a small casket. You’ll be preaching that funeral tomorrow.

You rode up the path towards the barn and tied the horse, or maybe the mule, by the water, and you’re walking towards the house. A dog runs up to greet you, and you hear children’s voices.

You dug some potatoes and carrots, and stop to put them in the root cellar. Elizabeth sent some onions over last week, and everyone will need the food during the upcoming winter. Root cellars, built into the ground, keep everything cool. Some even have water running through one side, but this one doesn’t. The Holston river floods too high for that.

The newer log cabins are built with a door, but they only have a string that hangs out through the hole by the latch. Don’t want company, pull the string inside. No one has locks.

Andrew’s home is different though. His doors are barricaded. Bolts, reinforced wood and steel. A veritable fort. You can shoot from the holes above the door if you need to. We still have an Indian scare, here, from time to time. Andrew says he’s never felt entirely safe since John McKee’s wife was tomahawked and scalped by the Shawnee in the Kerr Creek Massacre.

Nope. Never have and never will. This is, after all, the frontier.

No one is getting through these doors, or these walls either. Since peace came to the valley, Andrew’s doors are never bolted after sunup, and generally not even shut during the day. Too hot for that in the summer.

You shout out, “howdy” as you climb those outside stairs and walk across the porch, alerting the family that someone was there, and walk on in.

You’ve never seen another cabin with outside stairs like that.

This house, like all cabins, didn’t exactly have rooms back then, at least not on the main floor. The kitchen was the center of the home where cooking was done in the fireplace, which was also the source of heat for the entire household.

The colder it was, the closer in people gathered by the fire.

The walls were thick. You looked out the window, as one of the older children was tending the bee hives outside. For a minute, you sat in the windowsill which was as thick as the wall was deep, and just watched. There would be honey in the fall to sweeten some of the baked goods at Christmas. What a luxury!

The wooden beams were hewn from the logs that had been cleared to make room on this hillside for Andrew’s home. The ceiling was low in order to contain heat in the winter.

The stones in the fireplace and hearth were dug out of the field, shaped to fit by a master stonemason, and placed so that the chimney flue would draft the smoke up and out. A poor fireplace and stray sparks were responsible for many cabin fires that burned families out entirely, or burned them to death.

Fire and Indians were a frontiersman’s worst fears.

Venison stew with beans was cooking in a pot over the fire, on the pothook, where it would simmer all day. The scent wafted through the house. As the hungry men came in from the fields, everyone was welcome to take a wooden trencher, a carved out wooden item that was a combination of a plate and bowl, from the mantle or cupboard, ladle in some stew, and cut some bread. Sometimes there was freshly churned butter for the bread too.

Them was good eats!

Of course, chairs were a luxury. Those pioneers made their own chairs, lashing them together as best they could. But mostly, people sat on benches by a table of long boards. A generation or so after an area was settled, you might be able to bid on some old pioneer’s chairs at an estate sale after he was gone. Bless his heart and soul.

Of course, the executor of his estate made sure to pass around some of the local whiskey. It helped the bidding and raised the prices.

But in the early days, chairs were scarce, so everyone pulled up a windowsill, sat out on the porch, or on benches at the table.

In the back room, or in Andrew’s house, on the lower level, crocks held cabbage and other brined vegetables that would see the family through the winters and early spring known as the starving time. This was especially important if hunting was too dangerous or the men came home empty-handed. Of course, when the wars broke out, which seemed to be often, the men were gone for long stretches at a time, and everyone had to make do – until, or if, the men returned home.

Andrew’s home was HUGE by pioneer standards, but that was because it was the local station, or fort. Most cabins were a couple hundred square feet, max, with rudimentary ladder-type steps to the “upstairs” where the kids slept. Rain and snow blew in between the boards, and everyone huddled together to keep warm.

At almost 3,000 square feet, with two fireplaces for cooking and heat, Andrew’s home could shelter several families in times of danger. Men could defend the fort using those high windows or shooting through the holes above the doors. Indians would have had to run up the hill, out in the open. Yes, this was the best place for a local defensive fort.

That also meant it literally felt like a community possession, and everyone felt at home here.

Bedrooms weren’t just for sleeping.

Women had to spin thread from cotton or linen that was then used to weave cloth to make clothing. Sheep were sheered, and their wool was spun into yarn that was knitted into socks, capes and such.

Everything had to be grown and then processed. Work was from sunup to sundown, and often later by candlelight.

The women often gathered together, making those communal tasks. Not only did many hands make for light work, but they needed each other’s companionship. The people you depended on were your neighbors, who might have also been your family.

Blankets were woven, and quilts were often made from clothing scraps. Everyone shared.

Young children would have slept in the bedroom with their parents, and older children likely slept in the lofts. Andrew, however, had two additional beds, one for boys and one for girls.

Andrew had quite a large family and would tell you just how lucky he was that 13 of his children lived. That was nearly unheard of. That meant that he had lots of help on the farm, of course, but it also meant he had 15 mouths to feed and needed three beds!

Our visit with Andrew has been lovely, but of course, we have to drift back to the present.

The owners have done an amazing job with modernizing without destroying the historical charm of the McKee home. It would have been so much easier to just cover everything up – and the series of owners from then until now has not done that. I don’t know who you are – but THANK YOU!.

Of course, as modernizing occurred, the ever-present threat of flooding was kept in mind, and it appears that the wiring is concentrated in the rafters. The old, original beams seem to have been reinforced. Andrew’s house may stand forever, a testament to those men who built it with nothing more than hand tools! If it was built in 1765, we’re now at 257 years. This may be one of the oldest remaining structures in western Virginia.

Click to enlarge any image.

In this satellite view, you can see Andrew’s section of the Holston River that I’ve labeled “Holston.” You can also still see the field lines that follow his property lines in the survey. And of course, his house.

I’m sure when the Holston floods, everything in this area is covered in water. The good news is that flooding makes the fields fertile, another important aspect of selecting land.

However, this makes the fact that this home still stands even more incredible! It must be built like a battleship.

Early Forts

I want to call your attention to those small windows near the crest of the roof.

The style, size and fortification of this home, in addition to these windows, suggest that this might have been a local station house. A fort, of sorts.

In the early deeds of many East Tennessee and Virginia counties, we find references to places with names such as “Carter’s Station” and “Martin’s Station.” For example, in what would become Hawkins County, Tennessee, on another branch of the Holston River, we find Carter’s Station established in 1787, and Martin’s Station in Lee County, VA. Stations were often the earliest homes, established along Native American pathways, which were often the same pathways settlers used when settling an area.

Stations were early “forts” where settlers rushed when any sort of attack was expected. Families gathered together inside for protection, and the men fought from, hopefully, an advantageous position.

Hence, the high windows of a building and a more elevated position would both confer an advantage. Was this McKee’s Station? I don’t know. We might find mention of that in the deeds of the neighbors or court notes. I don’t have access to the deed books without another trip either to Washington County, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, or the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Hmmm….

Let’s continue with a tour of Andrew’s neighborhood.

The McKee Cemetery  

If you continue to the end of the road and turn left on to route 736 – Kelly’s Chapel Road, you’ll have arrived at the McKee cemetery – or where it used to be. Behind the 1st fence on the left, the old cemetery is near the trees, but nothing remains now. It was destroyed by cattle, according to the local cousin.

Google Street View doesn’t travel down this road either, but you can see the area from the satellite view.

It’s worth noting that this cemetery is not on Andrew’s original land grant, and I doubt it’s on the second piece he apparently purchased because his second “plantation” was adjacent his first. I think this location was beyond that and just the other side of John Kelly’s land based on the La Favre drawing.

My cousin didn’t know who, exactly, was buried here, just that it was the McKee Cemetery of long ago.

Andrew’s descendants probably rest among those trees, but it’s unlikely that Andrew himself is there.

According to the local cousin, on this same stretch of road, there’s also a newer, but still quite old McKee home that has been sided, shown above. This might have been the “second” plantation owned by Andrew that eventually was inherited by his sons, or maybe land purchased later by his descendants.

The McKee family still owns land across the road from the original homestead.

The Original Land

I was trying to gain perspective on Andrew’s original land.

This flat strip of the river that Andrew owned is about one-fifth mile long.

Andrew’s house was located about that far from the Holston River.

These are roughly his property lines, with the house in the red square and the McKee Cemetery in the red circle.

The Neighborhood

Going on past the cemetery intersection, you come to the fork of River Road and Loves Mill, which is Edmondson land. Down that road is Mt. Olivet United Methodist church and cemetery.

The Mt. Olivet cemetery is across from the church on Love’s Mill Road, below

The cemetery overlooks the beautiful mountains in the background

In the other direction, near the McKee Cemetery, we find Kelly’s Chapel Church.

According to my cousin, the McKees lived in the Kelly’s Chapel church area, which used to be called McKee’s Store, and was changed to Kelly’s Chapel to keep peace in the family and not to upset someone.

Kelly’s Chapel church, above, with its old foundation.

Many later McKee family members are buried here.

Ebbing Springs Presbyterian Church

The oldest church in the area was Ebbing Springs Presbyterian Church, 5 or 6 miles from Andrew McKee’s home and assuredly where he attended church. He would have loaded the kids on the wagon and set off for church in good weather. Not sure what they did in bad weather.

I’ve noted the locations we’ve visited so far.

In 1773, Ebbing Springs and Sinking Springs Presbyterian Church, in Abingdon joined forces to obtain the Reverend Charles Cummings who preached in both churches from 1773 to 1780. Men, including the good Reverend himself, came to church with their rifles at their sides.

Today, the old church and cemetery are long gone, replaced by the “new” church nearby, above, but the Glade Springs Congregation erected a memorial stone to commemorate the early settlers buried there. You can view some early photos, here.

The location of Ebbing Spring, shown above, which apparently actually does ebb and flow, isn’t actually at the present-day church. From the church intersection above, head down 736, Debusk Mill Road near the old mill on the banks of the North Fork of the Holston where the original church and cemetery were located. I was told that the old gravestones stones were actually pushed into the Holston River.

I would bet that Andrew McKee, his wife, and children are found resting here, along the river, in now-unmarked graves. We know that when Andrew’s neighbor and friend, John Kelly, died in 1834, his will specified that he be buried by his wife’s side in the Ebbing Spring graveyard.

Andrew’s son, William McKee is reportedly buried in the Cemetery beside the Sinking Springs Presbyterian Church in Abingdon. A memorial marker for the McKee family is located there.

Update: I subsequently proved that this William McKee, a merchant in Abingdon, is NOT the son of William McKee, who appears to have died about 1811. Please see the article, here, about Andrew McKee’s wife, Elizabeth, and their children.

The fact that the first church in the area was Presbyterian is a clue, as is the surname McKee itself, that Andrew was indeed Scots-Irish. Apparently, Andrew’s neighbor, John Kelly, who was also the executor of his estate, was Presbyterian and Scots-Irish too.

The 1810 Census

We find Andrew in the 1810 census, which was taken on August 6th.

  • 1 free white male 0-9
  • 2 free white males 10-15
  • 2 free white males 16-25
  • 1 free white male over 45 (Andrew)
  • 5 free white females 0-9
  • 2 free white females 10-15
  • 1 free white female 16-25
  • 1 free white female 26-45 (Elizabeth)
  • 10 total household members under 16
  • 2 household members over 25
  • Total number of household members 15

Andrew and his wife had 13 children living at home in 1810.

Thankfully, this census also tells us that Andrew did not own slaves, which I find hugely relieving. It also means that his family supplied all the labor themselves. Good thing he had 13 children.

The census is quite interesting because it ties in with Andrew’s will in a strange sort of way.

You see, Andrew wrote his will in 1805, but didn’t die until 1814. Andrew’s will names his children, and the census confirms them by age…and…tells us something more.

Two additional daughters and a son were born after Andrew’s will was written in 1805 and before the 1810 census. Otherwise, we might never have known – or more specifically, never understood what “strange” records 29 years later were telling us.

Andrew’s Will

I sure would like to know what happened in 1805.

Did Andrew get hurt? Was he so gravely injured that it was believed that his death was imminent?

Men at that time didn’t write a will in preparation for an uncertain future. They didn’t write a will until they believed they were going to need one. Andrew must have been gravely ill, calling his neighbors to his bedside to witness him writing and signing his will.

There’s no sign that any of his children died, so it likely wasn’t something like Cholera, Smallpox, or Dysentery that would have been shared by family members. The area wasn’t swampy, so no “swamp” fevers.

In 1805, Andrew would have been about 40 – in the prime of his life.

Yet, he was obviously thinking about his demise, shortly, and put his wishes on paper. You can tell this was spontaneous and not a “form” because it doesn’t contain the typical introductory paragraph. He got right down to business.

I have transcribed his will with the original spelling.

I, Andrew McKee of Washington County, Virginia do make and publish this my last will and testament. After my executors pay all espence (sic) of clothing and buriel my desire is that all my perishable property shall be sold and the money arising on it shall to go pay all my just debts and the balance shall be disposed of as will be hereafter directed.

First, I gave to my wife Elizabeth one third of all the money in possession or due and arising on the sale of the property after all by debts is paid to her untill she marry then it shall return to all my daughters but if she never married she shall have it during her life then to return to them all equally likewise she shall have the dwelling house untill she marryes but if she never marries then she shall have it during her life. Also she shall have her maintenance and as many of the children as she will keep until she marryes if not she shall have it during her life. The money to be paid her after the property is sold and the money collected and must be paid by the executors.

Second I gave to my four sons James, William, Edward and Andrew my two plantations the one on which I live the other joining to be equally divided between them when the youngest comes of age to be divided by the executors provided they can’t egree themselves. If any of them dye before the come of age or marry then their part shall go to the rest all equally but still Elizabeth my wife shall have her maintenance as was provided for her before. My will and desire is that the executors rent out both my plantations untill my four sons all come of age and the rents shall go to the seport of Elizabeth my wife or so much as is reasonable for her seport the balance shall be left for my four sons when the come to the age of inheritance.

Third. I gave to my six daughters Sally, Mary, Ann, Charity, Jain and Elizabeth all the money that is left after all my debts is paid and the one third that my wife is to receive and likewise my four sons shall pay my six daughters two hundred dollars in money when the girls comes of age. If any of my daughters shall dye before the come of age or marry their part shall go to the rest all equally

All the money goods or chattles which I have devised shall go to them and their heirs forever escept otherwise provided.

And further I desire my executors to bind out all my children escept such of them as my wife shall choose to keep with her to some good trade or calling.

And lastly I appoint my friends Samuel Kelly and John Kelly Jr. of this my last will…no security required…revoking all former wills.

Signed March 24, 1805 in the presence of:
Andrew Edmiston
John Todd
Andrew E. Kelly

At a court held for Washington County the 21st day of June 1814 the last will and testament of Andrew McKee decd was eschibited into court proved by the oaths of Andrew Edmiston and Andrew E. Kelly two of the subscribing witnesses and ordered recorded. On the motion of Samuel Kelly and John Kelly Jr. the executors therein named…took the oath of an escecutor.

Andrew was by no means an old man when he wrote his will, nor when he died 9 years later. Based on that 1760 estimated birth year, he would have been 54. Some researchers put his birth year closer to 1765, which means he would have been about 50.

I can’t help but wonder if whatever was wrong back in 1805 resurfaced in 1814. Although the 1814 fatal event may have been sudden, because Andrew never updated his will with his three youngest children.

Estate Sale

Andrew’s estate sale took place in August. That’s actually quite speedy, which makes me wonder if the sale was actually 14 months later, not two. I can’t read the year clearly, but it doesn’t actually matter.

Two of Andrew’s sons were purchasers, as was his wife, who was noted as both “The Widow” and “Elizabeth McKee.”

Based on how his will was written, Andrew’s wife would have had to purchase anything she wanted. She would receive one-third of the estate value, and some of that value she would have wanted in the form of household goods and furniture. Put another way, she had to allow two-thirds of her household goods to be sold. Ouch!

Purchasers were:

  • James McKee purchased a good deal of farming equipment, plus a saddle and bridle, a bull, heifer, 2 steers, black mare, grindstone
  • Andrew McKee – saddle and bridle, farming equipment, black horse, sorrel colt
  • “The widow” purchased a large kettle, 2 churns, 1 small pot, 1 pot, 1 oven, pail and wash tub, 2 pot racks, 4 cows, grey mare, 6 sheep, 2 pair cards and flat iron
  • Elizabeth McKee – 1 bedstead, bed and furniture, 1 small and large bedstead and bed, 1 chest of drawers, 2 spinning wheels, 1 table, 6 old chairs, cupboard and furniture, 1 bed, 1 counting reel, 3 old keggs, 1 bag 2 baskets, 2 lines, 1 loom, 1 hackle
  • Henry Bois (Boys)
  • Daniel Boyd
  • Moses Brooks
  • David Buchanan
  • John Casey
  • James Cleghorn
  • John Cole
  • Robert Crow
  • William Deen
  • John Evans
  • Andrew Gibson
  • Thomas Gill
  • James Grimes
  • Thomas James
  • Samuel Kelly
  • John Larrymore
  • Robert Larrymore
  • Siberius Main
  • John Main
  • James McGill
  • Robert Murdock
  • Arthur Orr
  • David Roberson
  • John Roe
  • Daniel Troscel

Estate sale Aug. 19

The sale document was filed with the court on February 20, 1816

Andrew was not a poor man, not even in 1805. At that point, he had two plantations. Of course, plantations then meant something a bit different than we think of today. Still, he had two nice farms, one that was 228 acres, and quite a bit of equipment and livestock

In total, Andrew had the following property, in addition to the farms:

Item Number Comment – Money in $
Plows 3 5.29
Harrow 1 2.50
Pitchfork 1 .67
Axes 3 1.58
Hoes 3 1.00
Pair stretchers and clives 1 1.72
Stock lock 1 1.39
Riddle or ribble (can’t read) and old iron 1 2.05
Wheel 1 .30
Saddle and bridle 2 The set that James purchased was $15, the one that Andrew purchased was $1
Large kettle 1 1.00
Churns 2 .60
Small pot 1 .25
Pot 1 .75
Oven 2 .50
Skillet 1 .62
Kettle 1 3.25
Pail and washtub 1 1.00
Pot rack 2 .30
Catting box and knife 1 1.58
Shovel 1 .88
Pair gears 2 4.30
Bridle 4 2.30
Beehive 3 4.86
Sickle 3 2.46
Still and tubs 1 75.00
Heifer/cow 11 100.07
Calves 3 7.00
Steer 7 41.47
Ball 1 5.25
Wagon and hind gears 1 74.00
Geese 17 6.05
Mare 3 57.25
Sorrel horse 1 50.00
Bay mare and colt 1 50.00
Sorrel colt 1 50.00
Gun, moles, and wipers 1 5.80
Sheep 22 29.69
Kegs 5 2.50
2 pair cards and flat iron 1 2.0
Hogs 15 19.05
Bedstead, bed, and furniture 1 8.00
Small bedstead & bed 1 3.00
Large bedstead & bed 1 9.00
Spinning wheel 2 1.50
Table 1 1.00
Old chairs 6 1.00
Cupboard & furniture 1 5.00
Bed 1 3.00
Counting reel 1 .50
1 bag, 2 baskets 1 .39
Lines 2 .30
Chairs 3 1.05
Arm chair 1 .72
Grindstone 1 .95
Loom 1 3.00
Hackle 1 1.00

All of the family possessions, less the real estate which went to Andrew’s sons, amounted to $671.69, of which $85.56 was sold to Elizabeth, his widow.

Andrew had obviously continued to farm after whatever happened in 1805. Two of his sons were purchasing farming equipment.

Andrew had four mares, a horse, and two colts, but only two saddles and bridles. Two of his sons purchased one set each.

It’s interesting what’s NOT listed in his estate. None of Andrew’s clothes, no guns, no butchering equipment, no knives, no crops or produce, no plates or silverware, and no quilts, bedcoverings, or blankets. You know beyond a doubt that Andrew’s household had all of these things.

Almost every farmer had a secondary skill, but there were no shoemaker tools, no candlemaking tools, no blacksmith tools, and no carpentry tools in Andrew’s estate.

I’d also bet Andrew owned a Bible, but that’s open to speculation. He did not sign his will with a mark, so he clearly could read and write. There were also no other books listed either.

We know one thing that Andrew McKee did, positively, He distilled whiskey in a fine Irish tradition. His still and tubs were the single most valuable item of his possessions. Sure enough, Andrew was a distiller. McKee’s finest!

Andrew’s sons didn’t purchase his still, either. There was quite a good market for whiskey, which was used medically and for another form of “medicine” as well.

Andrew’s widow, Elizabeth, still had every single child at home, all 13 of them, ranging in age from 4 to about 25 or 26, so she clearly needed all of the beds and furniture they had. If you look at the list, four beds for a married couple and 13 children isn’t much at all.

Maybe they had a boy’s bed and two girl’s beds.

Those upper windows – you know who was sleeping up there. I suspect some of those children were probably sleeping on straw on the floor – maybe by choice rather than sleep in a bed full of squirming siblings.


When children are listed in a will, we presume that ALL of the children are listed – but that wasn’t the case. Well, let me restate. It was at the time the will was written.

Andrew and Elizabeth had three more children after Andrew made his will; Eliza, Rebecca, and Alexander, who was born about 1810. This suggests that Andrew’s wife, Elizabeth was probably 42ish in 1810, putting her birth about 1768 and her marriage to Andrew about 1788ish – just before or around the time he had that land surveyed.

Andrew didn’t die for another nine years after he wrote his will – which means he was still relatively young – someplace around 50.

Let’s correlate our data using the 1810 census, Andrew’s will, and what we know about Andrew’s children based on birth or marriage dates.

Child – in will order 1805 Will 1810 Census Birth Marriage Other
James Yes 1785-1794 Jan 12, 1791 Jan 1816 Sarah Roe Died July 18, 1855
William Yes 1785-1794 1788-1794 Died abt 1811 Not the William McKee who lived in Abingdon.
Edward Yes 1795-1800 Abt 1798 Dec 1818 Mary Hand Died 1832
Andrew Yes 1795-1800 Abt 1796 Mar 1816 Nancy Roe
Sally Yes 1785-1794 Abt 1790 Dec 1810 Robert Larimer
Mary Yes 1795-1800 Abt 1799 Jan 1820 John Larimer
Ann Yes 1800-1810 1804-1805 Feb 1823 Charles Speak
Charity Yes 1800-1810 Aft 1800 May 1823 William Griever Minor in June 1818
Jain (Jane, Jenny) Yes 1800-1810 Abt 1803 Abt 1823 Richard Jones Minor in Jan 1822, died before May 1839
Elizabeth Yes 1795-1800 Abt 1795 Wallace
Rebecca No 1800-1810 1805-1809 William Jamison Will probated April 22, 1839
Eliza No 1800-1810 1805-1806 Jan 1823 Eleazer Rouse Minor in Jan 1822
Alexander No 1801-1810 1810 Never married Will May 20, 1839, named sisters in will

Perhaps on my next trip to Sale Lake City, I’ll have the opportunity to search through the Washington County deeds and court records for more information about Andrew’s life. Maybe Andrew has a few secrets yet to reveal.

Au Revoir for Now

It’s time to leave Andrew after one last look at the beautiful McKee land on the Middle Fork of the Holston River.

It sure looks a lot different today. When Andrew staked his claim, that was just the first step. The land had to be cleared before it could be farmed. Tree by tree. Felled and the stump removed.

Andrew would be proud to see his manicured land today, his beautiful home still standing. How I wish he could tell us stories.

Some of his family members, now several generations removed, still live on surrounding land and nearby, two and a half centuries later.

Like the details of Andrew’s life, most of his descendants have scattered hither and yon. It’s only in the last few years, through genealogy, then genetic genealogy, that we have discovered and reconnected with Andrew.


Our DNA is reuniting us as Andrew’s descendants, confirming Andrew and Elizabeth as our common ancestors.

Andrew lives on in me on chromosomes 4 and 10, where I match other cousins.

Many of Andrew’s descendants carry a bit of his DNA, a gift that we can map on the palette of our chromosomes, like his land is mapped upon the earth. A wink and a nod from the past.

Now, like Andrew’s DNA, perhaps Andrew’s story will be carried forward as well so that Andrew’s life, as best we can resurrect, will never be forgotten.

Much like the three deaths.

The first death is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.

The final death is to be forgotten, to disappear entirely into oblivion, forever.

Andrew gave me life. I’m just returning the favor.


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Wolfgangius Gockeler & his wife, Barbara (born c 1585), I Baptize Thee – 52 Ancestors #370 & #371

In the article about Katharina Gockeler, I reported that her parents were Hans Gockeler and his wife, Katharina.

That information was incorrect. Mea culpa. Live and learn. As genealogists, we correct mistakes as soon as we find them.

Based on earlier documents from researchers in Germany, Hans Gockeler and his wife were, indeed, having children in Schnait at the right time, and did have a child, Catharina Goeckeler. This seemed like the right family, especially since one Hans Lentz was the godfather of the Catherina Gockeler born on May 27, 1604, and roughly 30 years later, a Katharina Gockeler would marry Hans Lenz, probably the son of the Hans Lentz/Lenz who stood up at the baptism of the Catherina born in 1604.

Yep, it seemed that Hans was Katharina’s father, right up until Beutelsbach historian Martin Goll discovered Catharina’s death record, which led to the correct birth record.

Martin was kind enough to share.

Cousin Tom was kind enough to translate:

Death: 25 Oct 1677 Beutelsbach

Catharina, surviving widow of the late Hanns Lentz(en), age 65.

We know this is the correct Catharina because she was indeed the widow of Hans Lenz/Lentz.

Now we have her age, which means she was born about 1612, not 1604. Which Katharina or Catharina was born in 1612?

Martin provided the record of her birth.

Cousin Tom translates:

9 October 1612 Beutelsbach


Parents: Wolff Göckeler(n) and Barbara, his wife

Child: daughter, Catharina was baptized

Godparents: Alexander Wagner and Anna, Leonard Kurtz’ wife, …the daughter Anna ?

Marginal Notation added at a later date: Catharina, as Hans Lentz(in)’s widow.

Tom notes that “the data from the death entry fits well with the baptismal entry.  I would be confident with this data.”

Hmmm, I guess I need to start spelling her name Catharina, not Katharina.

Wait? What?

Catharina was born in Beutelsbach and not in Schnait as we originally thought? Granted, they are only a mile apart.

Cousin Martin adds, “In Schnait, I know there was a family Wolf Gokeler, but it is not sure if he was the father of Katharine. According to the remark, there is no sign about this father coming from somewhere else. We are not sure. Schnait was a long time a part of the Beutelsbach parish.”

What Martin means is that when the father was “from” somewhere else, meaning a citizen elsewhere, the church records would reflect that.

Tom says, “Regarding the Catharina problem above, Mr. Goll has it correct. The only baptism of a child of Wolff Gockeler and wife, Barbara, is the one in 1612. None afterwards. The baptisms from 1609-1611 are not extant. The marriages and deaths from this time period do not exist as well.”

In other words, we’ve hit a dead end.

Or maybe not entirely.

Digging Up Wolff

What can I dig up about Wolff Gockeler?

To begin with, absolutely nothing in Beutelsbach. Not one thing. Just as Tom said. How frustrating.

However, as Martin mentioned, Schnait didn’t have its own church until the 1560/70s. Before that, everyone in Schnait attended church and had all of their religious work done in Beutelsbach, meaning baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and funerals.

German citizens typically didn’t have a child baptized in a church where they didn’t live and weren’t citizens.

However, records for this timeframe are very scarce and only partially exist. Not to mention that the area was devastated by the plague which arrived and retreated in waves.

Unexpected circumstances could have forced the family to have baby Catharina baptized in Beutelsbach. Maybe the child was sickly and in peril. According to the religious doctrine of that time, a baby needed to be baptized before death if at all possible.

Maybe the Reverend was ill or absent, and the Beutelsbach church was the closest nearby location. Typically the baptism record would state such, and it says nothing to indicate that the parents lived in Schnait, not Beutelsbach. The godparents were Beutelsbach residents as well.

The plague had ravaged this area in 1595, so maybe Wolff Gockeler and Barbara had moved to Beutelsbach for his trade or profession. Of course, we don’t know what Wolff’s profession might have been – but Martin Goll thinks that Catharina’s parents were wealthy, which is how her husband, Hans Lenz, a baker from Schnait, wound up with ten vineyards when most people had one, at most.

If that’s the case, Catharina’s father may have been a well-to-do vintner, which means he was probably also a merchant, selling as well as producing wine. Almost every family was tied to the grape, wine, and vineyards in this region – if not directly – then secondarily. If you were a baker, like Hans Lenz, your customers were vinedressers and vintners.

The Path Leads to Schnait

We find nothing in Beutelsbach, but in the Schnait family book, we find several men named Wolff Gockeler or derivatives, but none with a wife named Barbara. Of course, Wolff could have been married to other women, either before or after Barbara, or both. He may not have married in Schnait. Or, the records we need could simply not exist anymore.

In Schnait, from the family book, we find:

  1. Wolff Gockeler, wife Dorothea, had son, Hanns Goeckeler on February 27, 1564, godparents Michel Ruele and Marta Schwegler. This birth date for Hanss puts Wolff’s birth sometime before 1540.
  2. Wolff Gockeler, wife Maria, had a daughter Catharina on March 25, 1595. This clearly isn’t the correct Catharina. This birth date puts Wolfe’s birth sometime around 1570 or earlier. This may very well be #4 below.
  3. Wolfgang Gockeler born October 15, 1598, died October 25, 1626 of the plague, and married Catharina Vaihinger, who died just a couple of months after Golfgang. Of their three children, the first child, Anna, lived long enough to marry, but the next two, born in 1622 and 1624, both died in the summer of 1635. (Note – keep 1635 in mind. More in a minute.) This Wolfgang Gockeler’s parents were Wolfgang Gockeler and Maria Dendler.
  4. Wolfgang Gockeler born in 1565 in Schnait and died in September of 1635 married Maria Dendler, who died in 1622. (There’s 1635 again.) They had six children, one of whom was a Catharina, born on March 25, 1596, and who died on May 18, 1636, in Schnait. Her death record says, “daughter, 40 years old, died of starvation.” Wolfgang and Maria had five other children. Of those, four are baptized but never mentioned again, which most of the time means they died young. The other child, Johannes, also died in July of 1635. (1635 again.)
  5. Wolfgangius Gockeler was born on March 11, 1582, to Lucas Goeckeler and Barbara Haan, but no further information is available about this child, or any of Lucas and Barbara’s five other children.
  6. Wolfgangus Gockeler was born March 9, 1586, to Lucas Goeckeler and Catherine, surname unknown. No further information is known. Lucas and Catherine had six other children. Nothing is known about five of them, but son Lucas died in October 1626 in Schnait of the plague.

Wolff’s Age

Of course, we don’t know when our Wolff Gockeler was born, but traditionally, a German man didn’t marry until he was about age 25. He needed to be able to support a family first.

If Catharina was his first child, Wolff would have been born no later than 1587ish.

If Barbara was roughly his same age, and Catharina was their last child when Barbara was age 45, then Wolff and Barbara would have been born 1567ish. Of course, if Barbara was a younger wife, Wolff could have been born earlier.

Wolff and Barbara were born sometime between roughly 1567-1587.

Of the various men listed above, we can:

  • Probably eliminate #1 due to age and a different wife, although clearly, people remarried. This Wolff was already having children in 1564.
  • Combine #2 with #4.
  • Eliminate #3 who was born too late.
  • Eliminate #4 because our Catharina’s mother was not named Maria, and Wolffgang was married to Maria in 1612 based on their children’s births.

Both #5 and #6 are good candidates to be “our” Wolff, both due to the dates they were born and due to the fact that nothing more about either of them appears in the Schnait church record. This would make sense if Wolff moved to and became a citizen of Beutelsbach.

Given that there were two Wolfgangus/Wolfgangius Gockelers, both about the same age, and both living in Schnait at the same time, this tells us that they did not have the same father, but could well have had the same grandfather who might have been named Wolfgangus.

We also have two Lucas Gockelers in Schnait at the same time as well, both having children. It’s evident that even though we don’t have the records, the Gockeler family was in residence here at least two generations earlier, given that Hans was born by 1540, and likely before that. This family’s history reaches back before existing records.

As cousin Tom said, “This will have to be the end of the Gockeler story as anything prior to this would be speculation without some additional data from other sources. Martin Goll has done a great job on this massive history.”

Other Gockelers

While this is certainly the end of anything resembling proof, it’s worth taking a look at anything Gockeler in the region during this timeframe, or earlier.

My friend, Maree, who lives halfway around the world, down under, sent me the following phone screenshot that she discovered using her local library.

Some days she finds wonderful information surfing on her phone that gets missed otherwise. Apparently, not everything from the church records is not yet recorded in the online Schnait family book.

Thank you, Maree!!

Hmmm, look, another Wolffgangus was born in 1579 to Lucas and Barbara.

Here’s the actual entry.

Given that Lucas Gockeler and Barbara, assuming there was only one couple by that name in Schnait during this time, was the same couple that had the child, Wolfgangius in 1582, this 1579 child would have died.

There was an earlier Wolffgang Gockeler in Schnait though, one who married Maria Dalderls in 1588.

The record has been translated as Gackeler, but assuredly, it’s the same family.

This is the same man as #4 in our Wolffgangius list. We know this is not our Wolff because this man’s daughter, Catherine, died in 1636, at 40 years of age, in Schnait, of starvation.

Think about the larger ramifications of that cause of death.


Starvation. Even that word makes me cringe – and ask exceedingly difficult questions.

How long does it take an adult to starve to death?

It can take months if water and even small amounts of food or any kind of nutrition are available. People ate acorns, wood, and sawdust, yet perished anyway. Starvation is utterly horrific.

She wasn’t the only one. Notice all of those 1635 and 1636 deaths, including many young people – far more than normal.

The fact that residents were starving, beginning in 1634 and reaching across 1635 and 1636, tells you how awful, complete, and prolonged the devastation was following the Battle of Nordlingen.

Family Name

Clearly, Wolffgangius was a name passed down in this family for generations which makes for same-name confusion. The Wolffgangius, who married in 1588 and whose father was Hans, would have been born around 1560.

Based on the earliest records, we know that there was a Hans Gockeler having children in Schnait early, probably by about 1535, so born about 1510 or earlier, but that Hans is not the father of our Wolff Gockeler who was born later. At least we’ve eliminated one person.

How many Gockeler families lived in Schnait anyway?

How Big was Schnait?

The earliest church records we have for Schnait are the final three months of 1562, the full year of 1563, and the first three months of 1564. Then we have a half page of German script that, instead of additional church records, reveals some local drama that was probably quite serious.

According to my native German-speaking friend, Chris, the first note was written by Georg Schilling, pastor in Schnait, and is about his predecessor Bastian Lutz, whom he describes as “alcohol-addicted and did not take care of his duties. Plus, finally, because of this behavior, Bastian Lutz was buried beside the church, not in it.” Hoo-boy!!!

The next note is not legible but seems to be a note to Pastor Schilling.

This drama may well have been why the Schnait church records were discontinued abruptly in 1564, as reflected on the next page, and did not resume until 1570. It’s possible that the church was without a pastor for that many years.

However, the existing 1562-1564 records, combined with the records from 1570-1579 provide enough information to be able to extrapolate more about the population of Schnait.

Math is Our Friend

These records show an average of 2.25 baptisms each month, but not all of those babies lived.

Some infants perished and were buried not long after their births, having little crosses painfully scribed above their names in their birth record by the Reverend. Therefore, several women would be bringing another child into the world about that same time the following year.

For those mothers whose children did survive the first year, they would be having another baby about 18 months later.

Using this information, the calculations are as follows:

  • If every woman of reproductive age had a child once per year, that birth rate equates to about 27 couples having children.
  • If every woman of reproductive age had a child once every 18 months, that equates to about 40 different couples.
  • The actual number of couples is probably between those two numbers, so let’s say maybe 34 or 35.

There would be some households that were beyond childbearing years – maybe half as many as were having children since not many people lived beyond 60. However, I suspect that many households were multi-generational, with older couples living with family members, or maybe younger families living with one set of parents.

That gives us someplace between 35 and 50 total houses in Schnait in the 1560s and 1570s, and we’ve already seen that several families, at least 5 or 6, had the Gockeler surname.

Keep in mind that this is before the population was reduced by the Plague in 1595, and the dramatic reduction by about half in the first half of the 1600s due to the 30 Years’ War.

I have to wonder, were there Gockelers nearby too?

Cousin Wolfram’s Records

I’m related to Wolfram Callenius through multiple lines. He lives a few miles away and is deeply interested in both the history of the region and our families. You can find the index of his ancestors, here.

Under Gockeler, Wolfram shows several ancestors from Schnait.

Granted, none of these are mine, but that doesn’t mean we don’t share ancestors. Given that his and my Gockeler families are in the same small town, early, and have the same surname, it’s almost assured that we do connect, even if it’s before the preserved records.

His earliest listed Schnait Gockeler ancestor is Johannes, born in 1594:

Clicking on Johannes’ parents shows an earlier Hans born about 1566, during that records gap.

Clicking on his parents shows just the name, Hans.

This Hans would have been born about 1540 or earlier.

That’s the end of the Schnait line, but Wolfram has discovered an earlier Balthasar Gockeler (also Geckeler) in Grunbach, born about 1555. The Grunbach family book is here and the Gockelers in Grunbach, here.

I tracked Wolfram’s line closer in time, and about three generations later, one of Balthasar’s male Gockeler descendants arrived in Grosheppach, across the river from Beutelsbach, and intermarried with the Ellwanger family, also found in Schnait.

Was this perhaps a migration path for the Gockeler family?

Were the Schnait Gockelers related to the Grunbach Gockelers?

Well, where is Grunbach? That would tell us a lot!

AHA – literally just across the river, close to Grossheppach. Yep, these two Gockeler lines are very likely connected in the early 1500s, and earlier.

Y DNA Would Tell the Story

At this point, given that we are back beyond existing church records, the only possible way to definitively solve this mystery would be Y DNA testing of the Gockeler males from both Grunbach and Schnait/Beutelsbach. If any Gockeler male descends from these or nearby lines, please reach out – I’ll provide a DNA testing scholarship.

What Do We Know?

Having gathered as much material as possible, what do we actually know about Wolff Gockeler and his wife, Barbara?

  • Literally, all we know beyond question is that their daughter, Catharina, was born in Beutelsbach in 1612. We can, however, infer a few other things.
  • Wolff would have been at least in his mid-20s and Barbara, at least in her early 20s in 1612 when their daughter was born, putting their births in the mid/late 1680s or earlier. Roughly 1567-1587.
  • Based on Martin Goll’s opinion, extrapolated from later records, that their daughter, Catherina, was from a well-to-do family, Wolff was likely a vintner and/or merchant.
  • Wolff Gockeler and Barbara were probably residents of Beutelsbach in 1612, based on the lack of any indication otherwise in the church records, and that the witnesses to Catharina’s baptism, her Godparents, were Beutelsbach residents.
  • Wolff was probably the Wolfgangius born in Schnait in either 1582 or 1586 to either one of the Lucas Gockelers.
  • Given that the Schnait records do mostly exist for this time period, and the Beutelsbach records mostly do not, it’s likely that Wolff and Barbara had additional children in Beutelsbach.
  • The 30 Years’ War broke out six years after Catharina’s birth in 1612. Wolff and Barbara would have been between 30 and 50.
  • Beutelsbach church records do not exist during that war and don’t begin again until about 1646.
  • We know from the Schnait church records that the plague devastated this region in 1626, and it’s certainly possible that either Wolff or Barbara, or both, died during the plague outbreak.
  • In 1634, 1635, and 1636, the residents of both Beutelsbach and Schnait were literally starving. Many died. We see that evidence in the Schnait church records.
  • In December of 1634, following the Battle of Nordlingen, soldiers plundered and set fire to Beutelsbach, burning the town to the ground and killing anyone who attempted to resist. If Wolff and Barbara were still living, they would have been at least 50 years old, but possibly as old as 70. If Barbara had children into her 40s, who lived, they could have had children as young as 7 or 8.

Photo courtesy cousin Wolfram

If Wolff and Barbara were still living in 1634, were they able to get to the church, up the stairs, through the gate, above, and into the fortified churchyard in time, or were they destined to perish in the fire, or be massacred?

Their daughter, Catharina, married shortly after the fire to Hans Lenz, the Beutelsbach baker (originally from Schnait) who was widowed during the fire. Catharina would have been 22 years old in 1634, prime marriage age – but if her parents had died, that would have certainly encouraged her marriage sooner than later. What was an orphaned 22-year-old female to do?

If Wolff and Barbara witnessed their daughter’s marriage, they would have become immediate step-grandparents to 7-year-old George Lenz, whose mother had perished in the fire.

If Wolff and Barbara died either during the 1626 plague, the 1634 fire or the horrific starving time from at least 1634-1636, Catharina might have been the only child left to inherit her father’s vineyards, which would have explained her and Hans Lenz’s eventual wealth, after the war, when the vineyards slowly began producing again.

Photo courtesy Martin Goll

The grapevines on the hillsides rising above Beutelsbach and Schnait may have been the only things to survive the fire and the devastation of the region. Those grapes may have sustained the population when there was nothing else, nothing left. Wine was then, and is now, a fundamental staple in the lives of the residents of Beutelsbach and Schnait.

Wine is, literally, life.

Perhaps it was from that legacy, those vineyards, left by Wolff and Barbara that Catharina and Hans were able to survive and rise again.

Just as we descend from them, maybe this vineyard descends Wolff and Barbara’s vines that survived 400 years ago.

Their Deaths

We can infer that both Wolff and Barbara died sometime after 1612 and before 1646 when the Beutelsbach church records at least began to be sketchily kept again.

We can also, sadly, infer that Catharina was probably their only surviving child. At least she was their only child that died in Beutelsbach, because there is no further mention of Wolff and Barbara as the parents of anyone who died after the war. Generally, when people died, the minister recorded the identity of their parents. That’s how we know who Catharina’s parents were – her own death record in 1677. Were it not for that minister’s few words, we would never have known that Catharina was a Gockeler, nor who her parents were. I’m incredibly grateful to that long-deceased nameless minister in Beutelsbach.

Catharina herself had only one child that survived, so having no or few descendants certainly wasn’t unusual during that horrific, devastating three-decades-long descend into the fiery pits of Hell. Martin Goll tells us that the population of Schnait fell by one-third and Beutelsbach, by half. This means that the population wasn’t replacing itself, and essentially, every couple that was reproducing, on average, only had one child that survived. That’s incredibly grim when you remember that women often gave birth to a dozen children in their lifetimes.

By the time the 30 Years’ War ended, in 1648, Wolff and Barbara would have been on the north side of 60. Even without a war spanning three decades, successive waves of plagues and epidemics, not to mention the fire and starvation years, odds were against survival beyond 60.

I think we can reasonably infer that, by the end of the war, Wolff and Barbara were no longer with us and that they were likely buried in the Beutelsbach churchyard where Catharina visited them regularly – every time she went to church – or buried another child.

The days in which Wolff and Barbara lived were indeed sorrowful and sorrow-filled times.


It looks like our Gockeler line has come to at least a tentative end in Beutelsbach, but maybe, just maybe, there’s still a little more to be distilled. Like fine wine that morphs into brandy.

If I were a betting person, I’d bet that our Wolff is the Wolfgangius born in either 1582 or 1586 to one of the two Lucas Goeckelers in Schnait.

I’d also bet that one of the Lucases is the son of the earlier Hans Gockeler in Schnait.

And, I’d bet that the contemporaneous Balthasar Gockeler line in Grunback is the same Gockeler family, connecting at some point back in time. Who knows which came first, Schnait or Grunbach. We know that Gockelers lived in both villages in the early 1500s. We also find Wolff Gockeler, clearly short for Wolffgangius, in Beutelsbach by 1612.

Those populations intermingled over the decades and centuries.

Harkening Back

The name Wolfgangius harkens back to the Catholic Latin naming conventions, not the more protestant Wolfgang. That’s not surprising.

The century before Wolfgangus’s birth had been violent and divided in the Germanic part of the Holy Roman Empire, both politically and religiously.

Wurttemberg was located dead center in the middle, in yellow.

This region had been a hotbed of conflict for a very long time, most of the 1500s – and our Gockeler family was there to experience it all firsthand.

Poor Conrad’s Peasant Revolt began in Beutelsbach on May 2, 1514, against Ulrich, Duke of Wurttemberg, following crop failures in 1509 and 1513, which caused an increase in taxes to fill the resulting deficit in the noble coffers. However, the peasants had no way of paying. They were desperate, but peasants and serfs had no legal rights and no opportunity to improve their lot in life.

The Duke didn’t care. He just wanted their money at any cost. His opulent lifestyle and resulting debt required funding, no matter the effect on his subjects. It would be safe to say he was intensely disliked.

The resulting uprising took place beneath the hilltop Kappelberg Castle, now in ruins, , but shown below before 1819.

The Duke sent troops into the Rems Valley, hauling some 1700 rebels off to Schorndorf, which only had a population of 3000, where torture, prison, and the beheading of the leaders dampened their spirit and deterred additional resistance, at least for a few years.

Were Gockeler men among the rebels? It’s likely, given the number of people involved and the size of the local villages, but we’ll never know for sure. If villages like Schnait, Beutelsbach, Grunbach, and Grossheppach had maybe 50 houses each, 1700 people would encompass many villages in the region.

Hang on tight, because next came the Reformation, which was the equivalent of lighting a fire under a powder keg.

The Protestant Reformation began in Germany with Martin Luther in 1517, eventually transforming most of Germany from a Catholic to a Protestant state. The Reformation, in turn, inspired the second peasant revolt known as the German Peasant’s War which spread throughout Germany, peaking in 1524 and 1525.

Unfortunately for the peasants, that revolt failed too, and more than 100,000 were slaughtered, or about one-third of the people who took part. Then, noble landowners increased the taxes once again.

It’s no wonder that few records exist from this time. It was in this timeframe that the Protestant church was born. Villages throughout the land saw their Catholic churches forcibly become Protestant.

From the 1530s through the 1560s, Catholic church records, along with the church statues and icons, were destroyed during the Reformation, followed by the church buildings being reconstituted as Protestant.

The recessed piscina, present in every Catholic church wall was used for washing the communion basin, chalice, and to dispose of sacred substances, such as Holy Water and Sacramental Wine.

Those sacred liquids that had become Holy by being blessed by the priest were returned to the Earth by draining inside the church wall to prevent them from being used in sorcery.

Piscinas were retired and sometimes filled in and plastered over, reminders that the church, and her attendees, had once been Catholic.

Parishioners’ faith and rituals changed as well, by edict of the ruling nobles and without consent or agreement of the governed. While many people would have welcomed the new religion, that certainly wouldn’t have been unanimous. It was unquestionably a time of great upheaval, fear, uncertainty, and angst.

It’s likely that Wolff’s grandparents would have told him stories about what happened. They might have been children, and their parents told them about participating in Poor Conrad’s Rebellion. About not being able to pay their taxes. About the people who were taken away and tortured – and about those who dared to speak up and never returned.

How the rebellion melted away because they knew what would happen, otherwise. And how the resentment continued to fester, like an infected boil. The scene was set and the situation primed. All that was needed was someone or something to light the match.

A few years later, probably when Wolff’s grandparents were young, or maybe young adults, they would have heard about a rebel priest named Martin Luther and how he came to reject several of the Roman Catholic teachings, beginning with indulgences – in essence, buying your way out of church-prescribed punishments. Of course, poor peasants couldn’t afford indulgences, either.

Luther believed and began to teach that salvation was not earned by specific deeds or behaviors but received as a gift of God’s Grace through faith – essentially challenging the Pope and his authority. Luther taught that the Bible was the only source of divinely revealed knowledge, not the Pope or any church authority.

Heresy, pure heresy.

Then, in 1517, that priest became even bolder. He authored the Ninety-five Theses and reportedly nailed them to the All Saints’ Church door in Wittenberg for all to see – which sent the church and everyone else into a tizzy!

Of course, the entire countryside would have been talking about Luther and his heretical writings. In these 95 numbered opinions, Luther claimed that the Bible was the central religious authority and the people only reached salvation by their faith, not their deeds. Even more controversial, he outright said that the Pope had no power over Purgatory and indulgences don’t remove guilt.

Was he right? Did people really deserve punishment? If they didn’t deserve church-imposed punishment, then there would be no need to purchase indulgences, right? Could this be true?

Luther was causing people to question their beliefs and the teaching of the Catholic church and to discuss and debate Luther’s bullet points.

Luther’s interpretation changed EVERYTHING. The Catholic church considered Martin Luther a heretic. The populace found hope in his teachings. The Catholic church banned Luther’s teachings and his Ninety-Five Theses – which of course, meant that everyone wanted to hear about them. Forbidding something assures it will be sought.

The farmers, peasants, merchants, and hausfraus would have been chattering like magpies, with word passing at lightning speed through the human grapevine.

Luther’s name was on the lips of every patron in every market and pub in Germany, where, assuredly, every person shared a strongly held opinion and was probably sharing it freely.

In 1521, the Pope excommunicated Luther, but Luther refused to recant his statements and teachings and was ordered to appear before the Diet of Worms, shown in the painting below, where he was, in essence, tried by a tribunal within the church.

For five days, private conferences were held to determine Luther’s fate. The emperor presented the final draft of the Edict of Worms on May 25, 1521, declaring Luther an outlaw, banning his literature, and requiring his arrest: “We want him to be apprehended and punished as a notorious heretic.”  It also made it a crime for anyone in Germany to give Luther food or shelter and permitted anyone to kill Luther without legal consequence.

He was a condemned man – marked for death by the Catholic church.

It was open season on Luther, and one could be confident that his demise was all-but-assured, although they agreed that he could return home safely. Yea, right. Wink, wink.

On his way home, Luther disappeared, kidnapped by masked horsemen dressed as highway robbers. It was a sham, however, and he was taken into the protection of the Wartburg Castle, where he safely began forming the new religion that would soon become the Lutheran faith.

The Reformation movement had begun in earnest. The Diet of Worms had both struck the match and poured gasoline on the fire.

Luther, by then excommunicated, went further and condemned Catholic Mass as idolatry. Priests and nuns could break their vows without sin, because those vows were illegitimate anyway in a vain attempt to win salvation through unwarranted deprivation and an attempt to win favors from God – as prescribed by the Pope and church. Friars began to revolt, as did many in the populace.

Others were equally as strongly opposed to Luther and his teachings, convinced he would spend eternity burning in Hell and eager to send him there sooner rather than later.

Speculation about what Luther was up to, pro or con, would have been the daily discussion in every village marketplace and in hushed whispers, or maybe not so hushed, in every church.

Luther’s willingness to challenge the powerful Catholic church led German peasants, everyday working people, toilers of the soil, like the residents of Beutelsbach and Schnait, to believe that he would support their revolt against the injustices being wrought upon them by the nobility, much like he rejected the authority of the Catholic church. Emboldened once again. the German Peasants’ War began anew in 1524 and quickly spread throughout Germany.

Taking a lead from Luther, the leaders of the peasant troops drafted, printed and circulated their own Twelve Articles that, among other things, demanded that the tithes required by the Catholic church be rescinded.

The Twelve Articles demanded:

  • The right for communities to elect and depose clergymen demanded the utilization of the “great tithe” for public purposes after subtraction of a reasonable pastor’s salary. The “great tithe” was assessed by the Catholic Church against the peasants’ wheat and vine crops, and often amounted to more than 10% of the peasant’s income.
  • The abolition of the “small tithe,” which was assessed against the peasant’s other crops.
  • The abolition of serfdom, death tolls, and the exclusion from fishing and hunting rights; restoration of the forests, pastures, and privileges withdrawn from the community and individual peasants by the nobility
  • A restriction on excessive statute labor, taxes, and rents.
  • An end to arbitrary justice and administration.

The peasants had misjudged Luther. In 1525, Luther condemned the violence and became enraged at the result of his own instigations, especially the sacking of convents and churches. He began to wonder what he had unleashed, but that freight train was already speeding headlong down the tracks.

The 1525 Peasant’s War ended tragically, with many who participated being slaughtered. Luther seemed to take credit for this turn of events, and many in the populace felt utterly betrayed. Crushed. They believed and trusted Luther, sacrificing everything, and found themselves in a spiritual and personal never-never land, a personal purgatory. What were they to think? What were they to do? Should they believe him? Why did this happen?

Luther married a former nun in 1526, and between then and 1529, established a supervisory church body and prescribed a new form of worship, replacing the Catholic rituals. He translated the Bible into German from Latin, finishing in 1534, so the German people could read God’s Word for themselves. They didn’t have to rely on a priest for translation and interpretation. They could have a personal relationship with God, without an intermediary.

The advent of the printing press meant that Martin Luther’s new Bible, along with thousands of pamphlets critical of Catholicism, could be printed in masse, distributed, and read by German citizens.

Everyone would have wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and discuss Luther’s points, probably at great length.

The resulting arguments were probably quite heated.

Wurttemberg became Lutheran in 1534 by ducal edict, just 50 years or so before Wolfgangius Gockeler was born.

The Catholic relics in the Beutelsbach church would have been retired or perhaps confiscated by the Duke for their monetary value, and the records destroyed. The priest was replaced with a Lutheran minister, a Bible written in German along with new teachings and traditions.

Perhaps Wolffgangius held the first German Bible his family owned in his own hands.

Did he read that Bible, interpreting God’s word for himself instead of relying on a language, Latin, that he didn’t understand and interpretation by Catholic priests?

Did he hold his grandfather’s German Bible close, or did he cherish a Latin Bible, perhaps because it had once belonged to a beloved grandfather or great-grandfather? Perhaps a man who had perished during the revolts?

How did the Gockeler family feel about any of this? Were they unified or find themselves deeply divided in their beliefs?

Did some people embrace the new tenets, finding them more in touch with their everyday lives, while others staunchly protected and defended the religion and rites they had always known, fearful of the fires of Hell if they did otherwise?

Beginning in 1534, they had no choice about their public religion, but their own personal convictions couldn’t be controlled by edict.

What stories were repeated from generation to generation around the table, to Wolffgangius, and then to his daughter, Catharina? Wolffgangius knew people, family members, and other village residents, who had experienced all of these events personally.

The fact that we have ANY records from that era is rather amazing. If our Wolfgangius Gockeler was born in the mid-1580s, he was probably only two generations removed from Catholicism – and maybe only one. His grandparents could easily have been and probably were baptized Catholic, and his parents may well have been secretly performing the Catholic rituals, like repeating the Rosary, that brought their parents and grandparents comfort in their time of need.

And there was so much need during this time.

In the Beutelsbach church, maybe the “Hail Mary,” repeated during the Catholic Rosary was replaced with the Lutheran “Jesus Prayer,” but using the same sacred rosary beads, passed down within families for centuries. Maybe the transition wasn’t all-or-nothing, bringing reluctant parishioners along slowly by allowing some retention of the familiar.

Catholicism wasn’t simply a preference, but a deeply held conviction taught from early childhood and reinforced on a nearly daily basis through universally-accepted, oft-repeated community and personal rituals and church services – baptisms, marriages, confessions, funerals, and burials in a prescribed manner. The requisite Seven Sacred Sacraments.

Perhaps Wolfgangius, a Latin name, given at his baptism, was a wink and a nod to the one thing citizens could still control – selecting their child’s name. Perhaps he was named for his grandfather and the men in preceding Gockeler generations. One thing is certain – Wolfgangius was a popular name in the family and likely had been for generations. It was, after all, a saintly name – Saint Wolfgangus was the Bishop of Regensburg, Germany, and canonized in 1052.

Photo courtesy Sharon Hockensmith

Family members could sit in the beautiful collegiate church in Beutelsbach, close their eyes, and harken back to the time when the Catholic priest was baptizing the newborn babies, speaking Latin, instead of the Lutheran minister. I couldn’t help but notice the month names in the earliest Beutelsbach and Schnait Lutheran church books in the 1560s and 1570s were still written in Latin – so perhaps the Lutheran minister sometimes spoke in Latin as well.

There is comfort in age-old rituals that sustained our ancestors. Old habits die hard.

Indeed, I can hear the minister’s voice echo in the stone church where so many baptizers’ voices had echoed since the Beutelsbach church was built in the 1200s. The Holy Water and Catholic Priests may have been gone, but the baptismal font and the intentions weren’t.

Salvation is salvation – in whatever language.

“I baptize thee, Wolfgangius Gockeler, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost.”



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DNA Purchases and Free Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

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Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research

How Many Matches at Each DNA Testing Vendor?

We know that it’s important to test at, or upload to, each DNA testing vendor. Every vendor has some people that aren’t in any other database.

If you don’t assure that your DNA, and that of your close relatives, is in each database, you’re cheating yourself out of information. Potentially very valuable information. Puzzle pieces you need.

It’s like searching for that lost item. It’s ALWAYS in the last place you look!

I’m sometimes asked how many matches I have in each database, so let’s take a look.

Vendor Number of Matches Closest match*
LivingDNA 567 Predicted Second/Third Cousin
23andMe 1,803** First Cousin Once Removed
FamilyTreeDNA 7,750 First Cousin
MyHeritage 15,038 First Cousin
Ancestry V2*** 57,812 Half First Cousin
Ancestry V1*** 103,516*** Same as above
GEDmatch**** 3,000 and 200,000 Second Cousin

*This is the closest match whose test I did not arrange. For example, I tested my mother and several close cousins. In other words, these are matches I would have found had I not tested family members.

** 23andMe restricts matches to 1500 without a yearly membership, which allows 5000ish matches. Memberships are only available for people who have taken the V5 health+ancestry version test. The match limits are 1500/5000+any person you have communicated with that would have otherwise rolled off your match list.

***I’ve included both of my Ancestry V1 and V2 test numbers because I tagged each one of the 6-8 cM segment matches on my Ancestry V1 test in order to prevent those people from being removed from my match list back in the summer of 2020. The Ancestry V2 test is the test without any special “preservation” tagging, so that is the number of matches I would have without having preserved those smaller matches.

****GEDmatch is not a testing vendor, but provides matching tools not available at all vendors. The matches found there have tested someplace else and may be included in the matches at the original vendor. The number of matches displayed at GEDmatch is 3,000 using the free version, and up to 200,000 in the subscription version, although the match list at the highest levels sometimes doesn’t load on some computers.

The Right Match

The right match is far more important than the total number of matches. Fishing in all the ponds is your best bet to find the matches you specifically need to achieve your genealogy goal or goals. You never know where the match you need has tested – and is waiting for you – so fish in all of the ponds.

You must test directly at both Ancestry and 23andMe, respectively, but you can upload your raw data file from either of those vendors to the other databases – all of whom accept free transfers. I wrote step-by-step DNA file download and upload instructions, here.

Happy fishing!!


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You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

If you haven’t already subscribed (it’s free,) you can receive an email whenever I publish by clicking the “follow” button on the main blog page, here.

You Can Help Keep This Blog Free

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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

My Book

Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research

DNA: In Search of…Signs of Endogamy

This is the fourth in our series of articles about searching for unknown close family members, specifically; parents, grandparents, or siblings. However, these same techniques can be applied by genealogists to ancestors further back in time as well.

In this article, we discuss endogamy – how to determine if you have it, from what population, and how to follow the road signs.

After introductions, we will be covering the following topics:

  • Pedigree collapse and endogamy
  • Endogamous groups
  • The challenge(s) of endogamy
  • Endogamy and unknown close relatives (parents, grandparents)
  • Ethnicity and Populations
  • Matches
  • AutoClusters
  • Endogamous Relationships
  • Endogamous DNA Segments
  • “Are Your Parents Related?” Tool
  • Surnames
  • Projects
  • Locations
  • Y DNA, Mitochondrial DNA, and Endogamy
  • Endogamy Tools Summary Tables
    • Summary of Endogamy Tools by Vendor
    • Summary of Endogamous Populations Identified by Each Tool
    • Summary of Tools to Assist People Seeking Unknown Parents and Grandparents

What Is Endogamy and Why Does It Matter?

Endogamy occurs when a group or population of people intermarry among themselves for an extended period of time, without the introduction of many or any people from outside of that population.

The effect of this continual intermarriage is that the founders’ DNA simply gets passed around and around, eventually in small segments.

That happens because there is no “other” DNA to draw from within the population. Knowing or determining that you have endogamy helps make sense of DNA matching patterns, and those patterns can lead you to unknown relatives, both close and distant.

This Article

This article serves two purposes.

  • This article is educational and relevant for all researchers. We discuss endogamy using multiple tools and examples from known endogamous people and populations.
  • In order to be able to discern endogamy when we don’t know who our parents or grandparents are, we need to know what signs and signals to look for, and why, which is based on what endogamy looks like in people who know their heritage.

There’s no crystal ball – no definitive “one-way” arrow, but there are a series of indications that suggest endogamy.

Depending on the endogamous population you’re dealing with, those signs aren’t always the same.

If you’re sighing now, I understand – but that’s exactly WHY I wrote this article.

We’re covering a lot of ground, but these road markers are invaluable diagnostic tools.

I’ve previously written about endogamy in the articles:

Let’s start with definitions.

Pedigree Collapse and Endogamy

Pedigree collapse isn’t the same as endogamy. Pedigree collapse is when you have ancestors that repeat in your tree.

In this example, the parents of our DNA tester are first cousins, which means the tester shares great-grandparents on both sides and, of course, the same ancestors from there on back in their tree.

This also means they share more of those ancestors’ DNA than they would normally share.

John Smith and Mary Johnson are both in the tree twice, in the same position as great-grandparents. Normally, Tester Smith would carry approximately 12.5% of each of his great-grandparents’ DNA, assuming for illustration purposes that exactly 50% of each ancestor’s DNA is passed in each generation. In this case, due to pedigree collapse, 25% of Tester Smith’s DNA descends from John Smith, and another 25% descends from Mary Johnson, double what it would normally be. 25% is the amount of DNA contribution normally inherited from grandparents, not great-grandparents.

While we may find first cousin marriages a bit eyebrow-raising today, they were quite common in the past. Both laws and customs varied with the country, time, social norms, and religion.

Pedigree Collapse and Endogamy is NOT the Same

You might think that pedigree collapse and endogamy is one and the same, but there’s a difference. Pedigree collapse can lead to endogamy, but it takes more than one instance of pedigree collapse to morph into endogamy within a population. Population is the key word for endogamy.

The main difference is that pedigree collapse occurs with known ancestors in more recent generations for one person, while endogamy is longer-term and systemic in a group of people.

Picture a group of people, all descended from Tester Smith’s great-grandparents intermarrying. Now you have the beginnings of endogamy. A couple hundred or a few hundred years later, you have true endogamy.

In other words, endogamy is pedigree collapse on a larger scale – think of a village or a church.

My ancestors’ village of Schnait, in Germany, is shown above in 1685. One church and maybe 30 or 40 homes. According to church and other records, the same families had inhabited this village, and region, for generations. It’s a sure bet that both pedigree collapse and endogamy existed in this small community.

If pedigree collapse happens over and over again because there are no other people within the community to marry, then you have endogamy. In other words, with endogamy, you assuredly DO have historical pedigree collapse, generally back in time, often before you can identify those specific ancestors – because everyone descends from the same set of founders.

Endogamy Doesn’t Necessarily Indicate Recent Pedigree Collapse

With deep, historic endogamy, you don’t necessarily have recent pedigree collapse, and in fact, many people do not. Jewish people are a good example of this phenomenon. They shared ancestors for hundreds or thousands of years, depending on which group we are referring to, but in recent, known, generations, many Jewish people aren’t related. Still, their DNA often matches each other.

The good news is that there are telltale signs and signals of endogamy.

The bad news is that not all of these are obvious, meaning as an aid to people seeking clues about unknown close relatives, and other “signs” aren’t what they are believed to be.

Let’s step through each endogamy identifier, or “hint,” and then we will review how we can best utilize this information.

First, let’s take a look at groups that are considered to be endogamous.

Endogamous Groups

Jewish PeopleSpecifically groups that were isolated from other groups of Jewish (and other) people; Ashkenazi (Germany, Northern France, and diaspora), Sephardic (Spanish, Iberia, and diaspora), Mizrahi (Israel, Middle Eastern, and diaspora,) Ethiopian Jews, and possibly Jews from other locations such as Mountain Jews from Kazakhstan and the Caucasus.

AcadiansDescendants of about 60 French families who settled in “Acadia” beginning about 1604, primarily on the island of Nova Scotia, and intermarried among themselves and with the Mi’kmaq people. Expelled by the English in 1755, they were scattered in groups to various diasporic regions where they continued to intermarry and where their descendants are found today. Some Acadians became the Cajuns of Louisiana.

Anabaptist Protestant FaithsAmish, Mennonite, and Brethren (Dunkards) and their offshoots are Protestant religious sects founded in Europe in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries on the principle of baptizing only adults or people who are old enough to choose to follow the faith, or rebaptizing people who had been previously baptized as children. These Anabaptist faiths tend to marry within their own group or church and often expel those who marry outside of the faith. Many emigrated to the American colonies and elsewhere, seeking religious freedom. Occasionally those groups would locate in close proximity and intermarry, but not marry outside of other Anabaptist denominations.

Native American (Indigenous) People – all indigenous peoples found in North and South America before European colonization descended from a small number of original founders who probably arrived at multiple times.

Indigenous Pacific Islanders – Including indigenous peoples of Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii prior to colonization. They are probably equally as endogamous as Native American people, but I don’t have specific examples to share.

Villages – European or other villages with little inflow or whose residents were restricted from leaving over hundreds of years.

Other groups may have significant multiple lines of pedigree collapse and therefore become endogamous over time. Some people from Newfoundland, French Canadians, and Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) come to mind.

Endogamy is a process that occurs over time.

Endogamy and Unknown Relatives

If you know who your relatives are, you may already know you’re from an endogamous population, but if you’re searching for close relatives, it’s helpful to be able to determine if you have endogamous heritage, at least in recent generations.

If you know nothing about either parent, some of these tools won’t help you, at least not initially, but others will. However, as you add to your knowledge base, the other tools will become more useful.

If you know the identity of one parent, this process becomes at least somewhat easier.

In future articles, we will search specifically for parents and each of your four grandparents. In this article, I’ll review each of the diagnostic tools and techniques you can use to determine if you have endogamy, and perhaps pinpoint the source.

The Challenge

People with endogamous heritage are related in multiple, unknown ways, over many generations. They may also be related in known ways in recent generations.

If both of your parents share the SAME endogamous culture or group of relatives:

  • You may have significantly more autosomal DNA matches than people without endogamy, unless that group of people is under-sampled. Jewish people have significantly more matches, but Native people have fewer due to under-sampling.
  • You may experience a higher-than-normal cM (centiMorgan) total for estimated relationships, especially more distant relationships, 3C and beyond.
  • You will have many matches related to you on both your maternal and paternal sides.
  • Parts of your autosomal DNA will be the same on both your mother’s and father’s sides, meaning your DNA will be fully identical in some locations. (I’ll explain more in a minute.)

If either (or both) of your parents are from an endogamous population, you:

  • Will, in some cases, carry identifying Y and mitochondrial DNA that points to a specific endogamous group. This is true for Native people, can be true for Jewish people and Pacific Islanders, but is not true for Anabaptist people.

One Size Does NOT Fit All

Please note that there is no “one size fits all.”

Each or any of these tools may provide relevant hints, depending on:

  • Your heritage
  • How many other people have tested from the relevant population group
  • How many close or distant relatives have tested
  • If your parents share the same heritage
  • Your unique DNA inheritance pattern
  • If your parents, individually, were fully endogamous or only partly endogamous, and how far back generationally that endogamy occurred

For example, in my own genealogy, my maternal grandmother’s father was Acadian on his father’s side. While I’m not fully endogamous, I have significantly more matches through that line proportionally than on my other lines.

I have Brethren endogamy on my mother’s side via her paternal grandmother.

Endogamous ancestors are shown with red stars on my mother’s pedigree chart, above. However, please note that her maternal and paternal endogamous ancestors are not from the same endogamous population.

However, I STILL have fewer matches on my mother’s side in total than on my father’s side because my mother has recent Dutch and recent German immigrants which reduces her total number of matches. Neither of those lines have had as much time to produce descendants in the US, and Europe is under-sampled when compared with the US where more people tend to take DNA tests because they are searching for where they came from.

My father’s ancestors have been in the US since it was a British Colony, and I have many more cousins who have tested on his side than mother’s.

If you looked at my pedigree chart and thought to yourself, “that’s messy,” you’d be right.

The “endogamy means more matches” axiom does not hold true for me, comparatively, between my parents – in part because my mother’s German and Dutch lines are such recent immigrants.

The number of matches alone isn’t going to tell this story.

We are going to need to look at several pieces and parts for more information. Let’s start with ethnicity.

Ethnicity and Populations

Ethnicity can be a double-edged sword. It can tell you exactly nothing you couldn’t discern by looking in the mirror, or, conversely, it can be a wealth of information.

Ethnicity reveals the parts of the world where your ancestors originated. When searching for recent ancestors, you’re most interested in majority ethnicity, meaning the 50% of your DNA that you received from each of your parents.

Ethnicity results at each vendor are easy to find and relatively easy to understand.

This individual at FamilyTreeDNA is 100% Ashkenazi Jewish.

If they were 50% Jewish, we could then estimate, and that’s an important word, that either one of their parents was fully Jewish, and not the other, or that two of their grandparents were Jewish, although not necessarily on the same side.

On the other hand, my mother’s ethnicity, shown below, has nothing remarkable that would point to any majority endogamous population, yet she has two.

The only hint of endogamy from ethnicity would be her ~1% Americas, and that isn’t relevant for finding close relatives. However, minority ancestry is very relevant for identifying Native ancestors, which I wrote about, here.

You can correlate or track your ethnicity segments to specific ancestors, which I discussed in the article, Native American & Minority Ancestors Identified Using DNAPainter Plus Ethnicity Segments, here.

Since I wrote that article, FamilyTreeDNA has added the feature of ethnicity or population Chromosome Painting, based on where each of your populations fall on your chromosomes.

In this example on chromosome 1, I have European ancestry (blue,) except for the pink Native segment, which occurs on the following segment in the same location on my mother’s chromosome 1 as well.

Both 23andMe, and FamilyTreeDNA provide chromosome painting AND the associated segment information so you can identify the relevant ancestors.

Ancestry is in the process of rolling out an ethnicity painting feature, BUT, it has no segment or associated matching information. While it’s interesting eye candy, it’s not terribly useful beyond the ethnicity information that Ancestry already provides. However, Jonny Perl at DNAPainter has devised a way to estimate Ancestry’s start and stop locations, here. Way to go Jonny!

Now all you need to do is convince your Ancestry matches to upload their DNA file to one of the three databases, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, and GEDMatch, that accept transfers, aka uploads. This allows matching with segment data so that you can identify who matches you on that segment, track your ancestors, and paint your ancestral segments at DNAPainter.

I provided step-by-step instructions, here, for downloading your raw DNA file from each vendor in order to upload the file to another vendor.

Ethnicity Sides

Three of the four DNA testing vendors, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, and recently, Ancestry, attempt to phase your ethnicity DNA, meaning to assign it to one parental “side” or the other – both in total and on each chromosome.

Here’s Ancestry’s SideView, where your DNA is estimated to belong to parent 1 and parent 2. I detailed how to determine which side is which, here, and while that article was written specifically pertaining to Ancestry’s SideView, the technique is relevant for all the vendors who attempt to divide your DNA into parents, a technique known as phasing.

I say “attempt” because phasing may or may not be accurate, meaning the top chromosome may not always be parent 1, and the bottom chromosome may not always be chromosome 2.

Here’s an example at 23andMe.

See the two yellow segments. They are both assigned as Native. I happen to know one is from the mother and one is from the father, yet they are both displayed on the “top” chromosome, which one would interpret to be the same parent.

I am absolutely positive this is not the case because this is a close family member, and I have the DNA of the parent who contributed the Native segment on chromosome 1, on the top chromosome. That parent does not have a Native segment on chromosome 2 to contribute. So that Native segment had to be contributed by the other parent, but it’s also shown on the top chromosome.

The DNA segments circled in purple belong together on the same “side” and were contributed to the tester by the same parent. The Native segment on chromosome 2 abuts a purple African segment, suggesting perhaps that the ancestor who contributed that segment was mixed between those ethnicities. In the US, that suggests enslavement.

The other African segments, circled, are shown on the second chromosome in each pair.

To be clear, parent 1 is not assigned by the vendors to either mother or father and will differ by person. Your parent 1, or the parent on the top chromosome may be your mother and another person’s parent 1 may be their father.

As shown in this example, parents can vary by chromosome, a phenomenon known as “strand swap.” Occasionally, the DNA can even be swapped within a chromosome assignment.

You can, however, get an idea of the division of your DNA at any specific location. As shown above, you can only have a maximum of two populations of DNA on any one chromosome location.

In our example above, this person’s majority ancestry is European (blue.) On each chromosome where we find a minority segment, the opposite chromosome in the same location is European, meaning blue.

Let’s look at another example.

At FamilyTreeDNA, the person whose ethnicity painting is shown below has a Native American (pink) ancestor on their father’s side. FamilyTreeDNA has correctly phased or identified their Native segments as all belonging to the second chromosome in each pair.

Looking at chromosome 18, for example, most of their father’s chromosome is Native American (pink). The other parent’s chromosome is European (dark blue) at those same locations.

If one of the parents was of one ethnicity, and the other parent is a completely different ethnicity, then one bar of each chromosome would be all pink, for example, and one would be entirely blue, representing the other ethnicity.

Phasing ethnicity or populations to maternal and paternal sides is not foolproof, and each chromosome is phased individually.

Ethnicity can, in some cases, give you a really good idea of what you’re dealing with in terms of heritage and endogamy.

If someone had an Ashkenazi Jewish father and European mother, for example, one copy of each chromosome would be yellow (Ashkenazi Jewish), and one would be blue (European.)

However, if each of their parents were half European Jewish and half European (not Jewish), then their different colored segments would be scattered across their entire set of chromosomes.

In this case, both of the tester’s parents are mixed – European Jewish (green) and Western Europe (blue.) We know both parents are admixed from the same two populations because in some locations, both parents contributed blue (Western Europe), and in other locations, both contributed Jewish (green) segments.

Both MyHeritage and Ancestry provide a secondary tool that’s connected to ethnicity, but different and generally in more recent times.

Ancestry’s DNA Communities

While your ethnicity may not point to anything terribly exciting in terms of endogamy, Genetic Communities might. Ancestry says that a DNA Community is a group of people who share DNA because their relatives recently lived in the same place at the same time, and that communities are much smaller than ethnicity regions and reach back only about 50-300 years.

Based on the ancestors’ locations in the trees of me and my matches, Ancestry has determined that I’m connected to two communities. In my case, the blue group is clearly my father’s line. The orange group could be either parent, or even a combination of both.

My endogamous Brethren could be showing up in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, but it’s uncertain, in part, because my father’s ancestral lines are found in Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland too.

These aren’t useful for me, but they may be more useful for fully endogamous people, especially in conjunction with ethnicity.

My Acadian cousin’s European ethnicity isn’t informative.

However, viewing his DNA Communities puts his French heritage into perspective, especially combined with his match surnames.

I wrote about DNA Communities when it was introduced with the name Genetic Communities, here.

MyHeritage’s Genetic Groups

MyHeritage also provides a similar feature that shows where my matches’ ancestors lived in the same locations as mine.

One difference, though, is that testers can adjust their ethnicity results confidence level from high, above, to low, below where one of my Genetic Groups overlaps my ethnicity in the Netherlands.

You can also sort your matches by Genetic Groups.

The results show you not only who is in the group, but how many of your matches are in that group too, which provides perspective.

I wrote about Genetic Groups, here.

Next, let’s look at how endogamy affects your matches.


The number of matches that a person has who is from an entirely endogamous community and a person with no endogamy may be quite different.

FamilyTreeDNA provides a Family Matching feature that triangulates your matches and assigns them to your paternal or maternal side by using known matches that you have linked to their profile cards in your tree. You must link people for the Family Matching feature known as “bucketing” to be enabled.

The people you link are then processed for shared matches on the same chromosome segment(s). Triangulated individuals are then deposited in your maternal, paternal, and both buckets.

Obviously, your two parents are the best people to link, but if they haven’t tested (or uploaded their DNA file from another vendor) and you have other known relatives, link them using the Family Tree tab at the top of your personal page.

I uploaded my Ancestry V4 kit to use as an example for linking. Let’s pretend that’s my sister. If I had not already linked my Ancestry V4 kit to “my sister’s” profile card, I’d want to do that and link other known individuals the same way. Just drag and drop the match to the correct profile card.

Note that a full or half sibling will be listed as such at FamilyTreeDNA, but an identical twin will show as a potential parent/child match to you. You’re much more likely to find a parent than an identical twin, but just be aware.

I’ve created a table of FamilyTreeDNA bucketed match results, by category, comparing the number of matches in endogamous categories with non-endogamous.

Total Matches Maternal Matches Paternal Matches Both % Both % DNA Unassigned
100% Jewish 34,637 11,329 10,416 4,806 13.9 23.3
100% Jewish 32,973 10,700 9,858 4,606 14 23.7
100% Jewish 32,255 9,060 10,970 3,892 12 25.8
75% Jewish 24,232 11,846 Only mother linked Only mother linked Only mother linked
100% Acadian 8093 3826 2299 1062 13 11
100% Acadian 7828 3763 1825 923 11.8 17
Not Endogamous 6760 3845 1909 13 0.19 14.5
Not Endogamous 7723 1470 3317 6 0.08 38
100% Native American 1,115 Unlinked Unlinked Unlinked
100% Native American 885 290 Unknown Can’t calculate without at least one link on both sides

The 100% Jewish, Acadian, and Not Endogamous testers both have linked their parents, so their matches, if valid (meaning not identical by chance, which I discussed here,) will match them plus one or the other parent.

One person is 75% Jewish and has only linked their Jewish mother.

The Native people have not tested their parents, and the first Native person has not linked anyone in their tree. The second Native person has only linked a few maternal matches, but their mother has not tested. They are seeking their father.

It’s very difficult to find people who are fully Native as testers. Furthermore, Native people are under-sampled. If anyone knows of fully Native (or other endogamous) people who have tested and linked their parents or known relatives in their trees, and will allow me to use their total match numbers anonymously, please let me know.

As you can see, Jewish, Acadian, and Native people are 100% endogamous, but many more Jewish people than Native people have tested, so you CAN’T judge endogamy by the total number of matches alone.

In fact, in order:

  • Fully Jewish testers have about 4-5 times as many matches as the Acadian and Non-endogamous testers
  • Acadian and Non-endogamous testers have about 5-6 times as many matches as the Native American testers
  • Fully Jewish people have about 30 times more matches than the Native American testers

If a person’s endogamy with a particular population is only on their maternal or paternal side, they won’t have a significant number of people related to both sides, meaning few people will fall into the “Both” bucket. People that will always be found in the ”Both” bucket are full siblings and their descendants, along with descendants of the tester, assuming their match is linked to their profiles in the tester’s tree.

In the case of our Jewish testers, you can easily see that the “Both” bucket is very high. The Acadians are also higher than one would reasonably expect without endogamy. A non-endogamous person might have a few matches on both sides, assuming the parents are not related to each other.

A high number of “Both” matches is a very good indicator of endogamy within the same population on both parents’ sides.

The percentage of people who are assigned to the “Both” bucket is between 11% and 14% in the endogamous groups, and less than 1% in the non-endogamous group, so statistically not relevant.

As demonstrated by the Native people compared to the Jewish testers, the total number of matches can be deceiving.

However, being related to both parents, as indicated by the “Both” bucket, unless you have pedigree collapse, is a good indicator of endogamy.

Of course, if you don’t know who your relatives are, you can’t link them in your tree, so this type of “hunt” won’t generally help people seeking their close family members.

However, you may notice that you’re matching people PLUS both of their parents. If that’s the case, start asking questions of those matches about their heritage.

A very high number of total matches, as compared to non-endogamous people, combined with some other hints might well point to Jewish heritage.

I included the % DNA Unassigned category because this category, when both parents are linked, is the percentage of matches by chance, meaning the match doesn’t match either of the tester’s parents. All of the people with people listed in “Both” categories have linked both of their parents, not just maternal and paternal relatives.

Matching Location at MyHeritage

MyHeritage provides a matching function by location. Please note that it’s the location of the tester, but that may still be quite useful.

The locations are shown in the most-matches to least-matches order. Clicking on the location shows the people who match you who are from that location. This would be the most useful in situations where recent immigration has occurred. In my case, my great-grandfather from the Netherlands arrived in the 1860s, and my German ancestors arrived in the 1850s. Neither of those groups are endogamous, though, unless it would be on a village level.


Let’s shift to Genetic Affairs, a third-party tool available to everyone.

Using their AutoCluster function, Genetic Affairs clusters your matches together who match both each other and you.

This is an example of the first few clusters in my AutoCluster. You can see that I have several colored clusters of various sizes, but none are huge.

Compare that to the following endogamous cluster, sample courtesy of EJ Blom at Genetic Affairs.

If your AutoCluster at Genetic Affairs looks something like this, a huge orange blob in the upper left hand corner, you’re dealing with endogamy.

Please also note that the size of your cluster is also a function of both the number of testers and the match threshold you select. I always begin by using the defaults. I wrote about using Genetic Affairs, here.

If you tested at or transferred to MyHeritage, they too license AutoClusters, but have optimized the algorithm to tease out endogamous matches so that their Jewish customers, in particular, don’t wind up with a huge orange block of interrelated people.

You won’t see the “endogamy signature” huge cluster in the corner, so you’re less likely to be able to discern endogamy from a MyHeritage cluster alone.

The commonality between these Jewish clusters at MyHeritage is that they all tend to be rather uniform in size and small, with lots of grey connecting almost all the blocks.

Grey cells indicate people who match people in two colored groups. In other words, there is often no clear division in clusters between the mother’s side and the father’s side in Jewish clusters.

In non-endogamous situations, even if you can’t identify the parents, the clusters should still fall into two sides, meaning a group of clusters for each parent’s side that are not related to each other.

You can read more about Genetic Affairs clusters and their tools, here. also provides a clustering tool.

Endogamous Relationships

Endogamous estimated relationships are sometimes high. Please note the word, “sometimes.”

Using the Shared cM Project tool relationship chart, here, at DNAPainter, people with heavy endogamy will discover that estimated relationships MAY be on the high side, or the relationships may, perhaps, be estimated too “close” in time. That’s especially true for more distant relationships, but surprisingly, it’s not always true. The randomness of inheritance still comes into play, and so do potential unknown relatives. Hence, the words “may” are bolded and underscored.

Unfortunately, it’s often stated as “conventional wisdom” that Jewish matches are “always” high, and first cousins appear as siblings. Let’s see what the actual data says.

At DNAPainter, you can either enter the amount of shared DNA (cM), or the percent of shared DNA, or just use the chart provided.

I’ve assembled a compilation of close relationships in kits that I have access to or from people who were generous enough to share their results for this article.

I’ve used Jewish results, which is a highly endogamous population, compared with non-endogamous testers.

The “Jewish Actual” column reports the total amount of shared DNA with that person. In other words, someone to their grandparent. The Average Range is the average plus the range from DNAPainter. The Percent Difference is the % difference between the actual number and the DNAPainter average.

You’ll see fully Jewish testers, at left, matching with their family members, and a Non-endogamous person, at right, matching with their same relative.

Relationship Jewish Actual Percent Difference than Average Average -Range Non-endogamous Actual Percent Difference than Average
Grandparent 2141 22 1754 (984-2482) 1742 <1 lower
Grandparent 1902 8.5 1754 (984-2482) 1973 12
Sibling 3039 16 2613 (1613-3488) 2515 3.5 lower
Sibling 2724 4 2613 (1613-3488) 2761 5.5
Half-Sibling 2184 24 1759 (1160-2436) 2127 21
Half-Sibling 2128 21 1759 (1160-2436) 2352 34
Aunt/Uncle 2066 18.5 1741 (1201-2282) 1849 6
Aunt/Uncle 2031 16.5 1741 (1201-2282) 2097 20
1C 1119 29 866 (396-1397) 959 11
1C 909 5 866 (396-1397) 789 9 lower
1C1R 514 19 433 (102-980) 467 8
1C1R 459 6 433 (102-980) 395 9 lower

These totals are from FamilyTreeDNA except one from GEDMatch (one Jewish Half-sibling).

Totals may vary by vendor, even when matching with the same person. 23andMe includes the X segments in the total cMs and also counts fully identical segments twice. MyHeritage imputation seems to err on the generous side.

However, in these dozen examples:

  • You can see that the Jewish actual amount of DNA shared is always more than the average in the estimate.
  • The red means the overage is more than 100 cM larger.
  • The percentage difference is probably more meaningful because 100 cM is a smaller percentage of a 1754 grandparent connection than compared to a 433 cM 1C1R.

However, you can’t tell anything about endogamy by just looking at any one sample, because:

  • Some of the Non-Endogamous matches are high too. That’s just the way of random inheritance.
  • All of the actual Jewish match numbers are within the published ranges, but on the high side.

Furthermore, it can get more complex.

Half Endogamous

I requested assistance from Jewish genealogy researchers, and a lovely lady, Sharon, reached out, compiled her segment information, and shared it with me, granting permission to share with you. A HUGE thank you to Sharon!

Sharon is half-Jewish via one parent, and her half-sibling is fully Jewish. Their half-sibling match to each other at Ancestry is 1756 cM with a longest segment of 164 cM.

How does Jewish matching vary if you’re half-Jewish versus fully Jewish? Let’s look at 21 people who match both Sharon and her fully Jewish half-sibling.

Sharon shared the differences in 21 known Jewish matches with her and her half-sibling. I’ve added the Relationship Estimate Range from DNAPainter and colorized the highest of the two matches in yellow. Bolding in the total cM column shows a value above the average range for that relationship.

Total Matching cMs is on the left, with Longest Segment on the right.

While this is clearly not a scientific study, it is a representative sample.

The fully Jewish sibling carries more Jewish DNA, which is available for other Jewish matches to match as a function of endogamy (identical by chance/population), so I would have expected the fully Jewish sibling to match most if not all Jewish testers at a higher level than the half-Jewish sibling.

However, that’s not universally what we see.

The fully Jewish sibling is not always the sibling with the highest number of matches to the other Jewish testers, although the half-Jewish tester has the larger “Longest Segment” more often than not.

Approximately two-thirds of the time (13/21), the fully Jewish person does have a higher total matching cM, but about one-third of the time (8/21), the half-Jewish sibling has a higher matching cM.

About one-fourth of the time (5/21), the fully Jewish sibling has the longest matching segment, and about two-thirds of the time (13/21), the half-Jewish sibling does. In three cases, or about 14% of the time, the longest segment is equal which may indicate that it’s the same segment.

Because of endogamy, Jewish matches are more likely to have:

  • Larger than average total cM for the specific relationship
  • More and smaller matching segments

However, as we have seen, neither of those are definitive, nor always true. Jewish matches and relationships are not always overestimated.

Ancestry and Timber

Please note that Ancestry downweights some matches by removing some segments using their Timber algorithm. Based on my matches and other accounts that I manage, Ancestry does not downweight in the 2-3rd cousin category, which is 90 cM and above, but they do begin downweighting in the 3-4th cousin category, below 90 cM, where my “Extended Family” category begins.

If you’ve tested at Ancestry, you can check for yourself.

By clicking on the amount of DNA you share with your match on your match list at Ancestry, shown above, you will be taken to another page where you will be able to view the unweighted shared DNA with that match, meaning the amount of DNA shared before the downweighting and removal of some segments, shown below.

Given the downweighting, and the information in the spreadsheet provided by Sharon, it doesn’t appear that any of those matches would have been in a category to be downweighted.

Therefore, for these and other close matches, Timber wouldn’t be a factor, but would potentially be in more distant matches.

Endogamous Segments

Endogamous matches tend to have smaller and more segments. Small amounts of matching DNA tend to skew the total DNA cM upwards.

How and why does this happen?

Ancestral DNA from further back in time tends to be broken into smaller segments.

Sometimes, especially in endogamous situations, two smaller segments, at one time separated from each other, manage to join back together again and form a match, but the match is only due to ancestral segments – not because of a recent ancestor.

Please note that different vendors have different minimum matching cM thresholds, so smaller matches may not be available at all vendors. Remember that factors like Timber and imputation can affect matching as well.

Let’s take a look at an example. I’ve created a chart where two ancestors have their blue and pink DNA broken into 4 cM segments.

They have children, a blue child and a pink child, and the two children, shown above, each inherited the same blue 4 cM segment and the same pink 4 cM segment from their respective parents. The other unlabeled pink and blue segments are not inherited by these two children, so those unlabeled segments are irrelevant in this example.

The parents may have had other children who inherited those same 4 cM labeled pink and blue segments as well, and if not, the parents’ siblings were probably passing at least some of the same DNA down to their descendants too.

The blue and pink children had children, and their children had children – for several generations.

Time passed, and their descendants became an endogamous community. Those pink and blue 4 cM segments may at some time be lost during recombination in the descendants of each of their children, shown by “Lost pink” and “Lost blue.”

However, because there is only a very limited amount of DNA within the endogamous community, their descendants may regain those same segments again from their “other parent” during recombination, downstream.

In each generation, the DNA of the descendant carrying the original blue or pink DNA segment is recombined with their partner. Given that the partners are both members of the same endogamous community, the two people may have the same pink and/or blue DNA segments. If one parent doesn’t carry the pink 4 cM segment, for example, their offspring may receive that ancestral pink segment from the other parent.

They could potentially, and sometimes do, receive that ancestral segment from both parents.

In our example, the descendants of the blue child, at left, lost the pink 4 cM segment in generation 3, but a few generations later, in generation 11, that descendant child inherited that same pink 4 cM segment from their other parent. Therefore, both the 4 cM blue and 4 cM pink segments are now available to be inherited by the descendants in that line. I’ve shown the opposite scenario in the generational inheritance at right where the blue segment is lost and regained.

Once rejoined, that pink and blue segment can be passed along together for generations.

The important part, though, is that once those two segments butt up against each other again during recombination, they aren’t just two separate 4 cM segments, but one segment that is 8 cM long – that is now equal to or above the vendors’ matching threshold.

This is why people descended from endogamous populations often have the following matching characteristics:

  • More matches
  • Many smaller segment matches
  • Their total cM is often broken into more, smaller segments

What does more, smaller segments, look like, exactly?

More, Smaller Segments

All of our vendors except Ancestry have a chromosome browser for their customers to compare their DNA to that of their matches visually.

Let’s take a look at some examples of what endogamous and non-endogamous matches look like.

For example, here’s a screen shot of a random Jewish second cousin match – 298 cM total, divided into 12 segments, with a longest segment of 58 cM,

A second Jewish 2C with 323 cM total, across 19 segments, with a 69 cM longest block.

A fully Acadian 2C match with 600 cM total, across 27 segments, with a longest segment of 69 cM.

A second Acadian 2C with 332 cM total, across 20 segments, with a longest segment of 42 cM.

Next, a non-endogamous 2C match with 217 cM, across 7 segments, with a longest segment of 72 cM.

Here’s another non-endogamous 2C example, with 169 shared cM, across 6 segments, with a longest segment of 70 cM.

Here’s the second cousin data in a summary table. The take-away from this is the proportion of total segments

Tester Population Total cM Longest Block Total Segments
Jewish 2C 298 58 12
Jewish 2C 323 69 19
Acadian 2C 600 69 27
Acadian 2C 332 42 20
Non-endogamous 2C 217 72 7
Non-endogamous 2C 169 70 6

You can see more examples and comparisons between Native American, Jewish and non-endogamous DNA individuals in the article, Concepts – Endogamy and DNA Segments.

I suspect that a savvy mathematician could predict endogamy based on longest block and total segment information.

Lara Diamond, a mathematician, who writes at Lara’s Jewnealogy might be up for this challenge. She just published compiled matching and segment information in her Ashkenazic Shared DNA Survey Results for those who are interested. You can also contribute to Laura’s data, here.

Endogamy, Segments, and Distant Relationships

While not relevant to searching for close relatives, heavily endogamous matches 3C and more distant, to quote one of my Jewish friends, “dissolve into a quagmire of endogamy and are exceedingly difficult to unravel.”

In my own Acadian endogamous line, I often simply have to label them “Acadian” because the DNA tracks back to so many ancestors in different lines. In other words, I can’t tell which ancestor the match is actually pointing to because the same DNA segments or segments is/are carried by several ancestors and their descendants due to founder effect.

The difference with the Acadians is that we can actually identify many or most of them, at least at some point in time. As my cousin, Paul LeBlanc, once said, if you’re related to one Acadian, you’re related to all Acadians. Then he proceeded to tell me that he and I are related 137 different ways. My head hurts!

It’s no wonder that endogamy is incredibly difficult beyond the first few generations when it turns into something like multi-colored jello soup.

“Are Your Parents Related?” Tool

There’s another tool that you can utilize to determine if your parents are related to each other.

To determine if your parents are related to each other, you need to know about ROH, or Runs of Homozygosity (ROH).

ROH means that the DNA on both strands or copies of the same chromosome is identical.

For a few locations in a row, ROH can easily happen just by chance, but the longer the segment, the less likely that commonality occurs simply by chance.

The good news is that you don’t need to know the identity of either of your parents. You don’t need either of your parent’s DNA tests – just your own. You’ll need to upload your DNA file to GEDmatch, which is free.

Click on “Are your parents related?”

GEDMatch analyzes your DNA to see if any of your DNA, above a reasonable matching threshold, is identical on both strands, indicating that you inherited the exact same DNA from both of your parents.

A legitimate match, meaning one that’s not by chance, will include many contiguous matching locations, generally a minimum of 500 SNPs or locations in a row. GEDmatch’s minimum threshold for identifying identical ancestral DNA (ROH) is 200 cM.

Here’s my result, including the graphic for the first two chromosomes. Notice the tiny green bars that show identical by chance tiny sliver segments.

I have no significant identical DNA, meaning my parents are not related to each other.

Next, let’s look at an endogamous example where there are small, completely identical segments across a person’s chromosome

This person’s Acadian parents are related to each other, but distantly.

Next, let’s look at a Jewish person’s results.

You’ll notice larger green matching ROH, but not over 200 contiguous SNPs and 7 cM.

GEDMatch reports that this Jewish person’s parents are probably not related within recent generations, but it’s clear that they do share DNA in common.

People whose parents are distantly related have relatively small, scattered matching segments. However, if you’re seeing larger ROH segments that would be large enough to match in a genealogical setting, meaning multiple greater than 7 cM and 500 SNPs,, you may be dealing with a different type of situation where cousins have married in recent generations. The larger the matching segments, generally, the closer in time.

Blogger Kitty Cooper wrote an article, here, about discovering that your parents are related at the first cousin level, and what their GEDMatch “Are Your Parents Related” results look like.

Let’s look for more clues.


There MAY be an endogamy clue in the surnames of the people you match.

Viewing surnames is easier if you download your match list, which you can do at every vendor except Ancestry. I’m not referring to the segment data, but the information about your matches themselves.

I provided instructions in the recent article, How to Download Your DNA Match Lists and Segment Files, here.

If you suspect endogamy for any reason, look at your closest matches and see if there is a discernable trend in the surnames, or locations, or any commonality between your matches to each other.

For example, Jewish, Acadian, and Native surnames may be recognizable, as may locations.

You can evaluate in either or both of two ways:

  • The surnames of your closest matches. Closest matches listed first will be your default match order.
  • Your most frequently occurring surnames, minus extremely common names like Smith, Jones, etc., unless they are also in your closest matches. To utilize this type of matching, sort the spreadsheet in surname order and then scan or count the number of people with each surname.

Here are some examples from our testers.

Jewish – Closest surname matches.

  • Roth
  • Weiss
  • Goldman
  • Schonwald
  • Levi
  • Cohen
  • Slavin
  • Goodman
  • Sender
  • Trebatch

Acadian – Closest surname matches.

  • Bergeron
  • Hebert
  • Bergeron
  • Marcum
  • Muise
  • Legere
  • Gaudet
  • Perry
  • Verlander
  • Trombley

Native American – Closest surname matches.

  • Ortega
  • Begay
  • Valentine
  • Hayes
  • Montoya
  • Sun Bear
  • Martin
  • Tsosie
  • Chiquito
  • Yazzie

You may recognize these categories of surnames immediately.

If not, Google is your friend. Eliminate common surnames, then Google for a few together at a time and see what emerges.

The most unusual surnames are likely your best bets.


Another way to get some idea of what groups people with these surnames might belong to is to enter the surname in the FamilyTreeDNA surname search.

Go to the main FamilyTreeDNA page, but DO NOT sign on.

Scroll down until you see this image.

Type the surname into the search box. You’ll see how many people have tested with that surname, along with projects where project administrators have included that surname indicating that the project may be of interest to at least some people with that surname.

Here’s a portion of the project list for Cohen, a traditional Jewish surname.

These results are for Muise, an Acadian surname.

Clicking through to relevant surname projects, and potentially contacting the volunteer project administrator can go a very long way in helping you gather and sift information. Clearly, they have an interest in this topic.

For example, here’s the Muise surname in the Acadian AmerIndian project. Two great hints here – Acadian heritage and Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Repeat for the balance of surnames on your list to look for commonalities, including locations on the public project pages.


Some of the vendor match files include location information. Each person on your match list will have the opportunity at the vendor where they tested to include location information in a variety of ways, either for their ancestors or themselves.

Where possible, it’s easiest to sort or scan the download file for this type of information.

Ancestry does not provide or facilitate a match list, but you can still create your own for your closest 20 or 30 matches in a spreadsheet.

MyHeritage provides common surname and ancestral location information for every match. How cool is that!

Y DNA, Mitochondrial DNA, and Endogamy

Haplogroups for both Y and mitochondrial DNA can indicate and sometimes confirm endogamy. In other cases, the haplogroup won’t help, but the matches and their location information just might.

FamilyTreeDNA is the only vendor that provides Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA tests that include highly granular haplogroups along with matches and additional tools.

23andMe provides high-level haplogroups which may or may not be adequate to pinpoint a haplogroup that indicates endogamy.

Of course, only males carry Y DNA that tracks to the direct paternal (surname) line, but everyone carries their mother’s mitochondrial DNA that represents their mother’s mother’s mother’s, or direct matrilineal line.

Some haplogroups are known to be closely associated with particular ethnicities or populations, like Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and some Jewish people.

Haplogroups reach back in time before genealogy and can give us a sense of community that’s not available by either looking in the mirror or through traditional records.

This Native American man is a member of high-level haplogroup Q-M242. However, some men who carry this haplogroup are not Native, but are of European or Middle Eastern origin.

I entered the haplogroup in the FamilyTreeDNA Discover tool, which I wrote about, here.

Checking the information about this haplogroup reveals that their common ancestor descended from an Asian man about 30,000 years ago.

The migration path in the Americans explains why this person would have an endogamous heritage.

Our tester would receive a much more refined haplogroup if he upgraded to the Big Y test at FamilyTreeDNA, which would remove all doubt.

However, even without additional testing, information about his matches at FamilyTreeDNA may be very illuminating.

The Q-M242 Native man’s Y DNA matches men with more granular haplogroups, shown above, at left. On the Haplogroup Origins report, you can see that these people have all selected the “US (Native American)” country option.

Another useful tool would be to check the public Y haplotree, here, and the public mitochondrial tree here, for self-reported ancestor location information for a specific haplogroup.

Here’s an example of mitochondrial haplogroup A2 and a few subclades on the public mitochondrial tree. You can see that the haplogroup is found in Mexico, the US (Native,) Canada, and many additional Caribbean, South, and Central American countries.

Of course, Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) tell a laser-focused story of one specific line, each. The great news, if you’re seeking information about your mother or father, the Y is your father’s direct paternal (surname) line, and mitochondrial is your mother’s direct matrilineal line.

Y and mitochondrial DNA results combined with ethnicity, autosomal matching, and the wide range of other tools that open doors, you will be able to reveal a great deal of information about whether you have endogamous heritage or not – and if so, from where.

I’ve provided a resource for stepping through and interpreting your Y DNA results, here, and mitochondrial DNA, here.

Discover for Y DNA Only

If you’re a female, you may feel left out of Y DNA testing and what it can tell you about your heritage. However, there’s a back door.

You can utilize the Y DNA haplogroups of your closest autosomal matches at both FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe to reveal information

Haplogroup information is available in the download files for both vendors, in addition to the Family Finder table view, below, at FamilyTreeDNA, or on your individual matches profile cards at both 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA.

You can enter any Y DNA haplogroup in the FamilyTreeDNA Discover tool, here.

You’ll be treated to:

  • Your Haplogroup Story – how many testers have this haplogroup (so far), where the haplogroup is from, and the haplogroup’s age. In this case, the haplogroup was born in the Netherlands about 250 years ago, give or take 200 years. I know that it was 1806 or earlier based on the common ancestor of the men who tested.
  • Country Frequency – heat map of where the haplogroup is found in the world.
  • Notable Connections – famous and infamous (this haplogroup’s closest notable person is Leo Tolstoy).
  • Migration Map – migration path out of Africa and through the rest of the world.
  • Ancient Connections – ancient burials. His closest ancient match is from about 1000 years ago in Ukraine. Their shared ancestor lived about 2000 years ago.
  • Suggested Projects – based on the surname, projects that other matches have joined, and haplogroups.
  • Scientific Details – age estimates, confidence intervals, graphs, and the mutations that define this haplogroup.

I wrote about the Discover tool in the article, FamilyTreeDNA DISCOVER Launches – Including Y DNA Haplogroup Ages.

Endogamy Tools Summary Tables

Endogamy is a tough nut sometimes, especially if you’re starting from scratch. In order to make this topic a bit easier and to create a reference tool for you, I’ve created three summary tables.

  • Various endogamy-related tools available at each vendor which will or may assist with evaluating endogamy
  • Tools and their ability to detect endogamy in different groups
  • Tools best suited to assist people seeking information about unknown parents or grandparents

Summary of Endogamy Tools by Vendor

Please note that GEDMatch is not a DNA testing vendor, but they accept uploads and do have some tools that the testing vendors do not.

 Tool 23andMe Ancestry FamilyTreeDNA MyHeritage GEDMatch
Ethnicity Yes Yes Yes Yes Use the vendors
Ethnicity Painting Yes + segments Yes, limited Yes + segments Yes
Ethnicity Phasing Yes Partial Yes No
DNA Communities No Yes No No
Genetic Groups No No No Yes
Family Matching aka Bucketing No No Yes No
Chromosome Browser Yes No Yes Yes Yes
AutoClusters Through Genetic Affairs No Through Genetic Affairs Yes, included Yes, with subscription
Match List Download Yes, restricted # of matches No Yes Yes Yes
Projects No No Yes No
Y DNA High-level haplogroup only No Yes, full haplogroup with Big Y, matching, tools, Discover No
Mitochondrial DNA High-level haplogroup only No Yes, full haplogroup with mtFull, matching, tools No
Public Y Tree No No Yes No
Public Mito Tree No No Yes No
Discover Y DNA – public No No Yes No
ROH No No No No Yes

Summary of Endogamous Populations Identified by Each Tool

The following chart provides a guideline for which tools are useful for the following types of endogamous groups. Bolded tools require that both parents be descended from the same endogamous group, but several other tools give more definitive results with higher amounts of endogamy.

Y and mitochondrial DNA testing are not affected by admixture, autosomal DNA or anything from the “other” parent.

Tool Jewish Acadian Anabaptist Native Other/General
Ethnicity Yes No No Yes Pacific Islander
Ethnicity Painting Yes No No Yes Pacific Islander
Ethnicity Phasing Yes, if different No No Yes, if different Pacific Islander, if different
DNA Communities Yes Possibly Possibly Yes Pacific Islander
Genetic Groups Yes Possibly Possibly Yes Pacific Islander
Family Matching aka Bucketing Yes Yes Possibly Yes Pacific Islander
Chromosome Browser Possibly Possibly Yes, once segments or ancestors identified Possibly Pacific Islander, possibly
Total Matches Yes, compared to non-endogamous No No No No, unknown
AutoClusters Yes Yes Uncertain, probably Yes Pacific Islander
Estimated Relationships High Not always Sometimes No Sometimes Uncertain, probably
Relationship Range High Possibly, sometimes Possibly Possibly Possibly Pacific Islander, possibly
More, Smaller Segments Yes Yes Probably Yes Pacific Islander, probably
Parents Related Some but minimal Possibly Uncertain Probably similar to Jewish Uncertain, Possibly
Surnames Probably Probably Probably Not Possibly Possibly
Locations Possibly Probably Probably Not Probably Probably Pacific Islander
Projects Probably Probably Possibly Possibly Probably Pacific Islander
Y DNA Yes, often Yes, often No Yes Pacific Islander
Mitochondrial DNA Yes, often Sometimes No Yes Pacific Islander
Y public tree Probably not alone No No Yes Pacific Islander
MtDNA public tree Probably not No No Yes Pacific Islander
Y DNA Discover Yes Possibly Probably not, maybe projects Yes Pacific Islander

Summary of Endogamy Tools to Assist People Seeking Unknown Parents and Grandparents

This table provides a summary of when each of the various tools can be useful to:

  • People seeking unknown close relatives
  • People who already know who their close relatives are, but are seeking additional information or clues about their genealogy

I considered rating these on a 1 to 10 scale, but the relative usefulness of these tools is dependent on many factors, so different tools will be more or less useful to different people.

For example, ethnicity is very useful if someone is admixed from different populations, or even 100% of a specific endogamous population. It’s less useful if the tester is 100% European, regardless of whether they are seeking close relatives or not. Conversely, even “vanilla” ethnicity can be used to rule out majority or recent admixture with many populations.

Tools Unknown Close Relative Seekers Known Close Relatives – Enhance Genealogy
Ethnicity Yes, to identify or rule out populations Yes
Ethnicity Painting Yes, possibly, depending on population Yes, possibly, depending on population
Ethnicity Phasing Yes, possibly, depending on population Yes, possibly, depending on population
DNA Communities Yes, possibly, depending on population Yes, possibly, depending on population
Genetic Groups Possibly, depending on population Possibly, depending on population
Family Matching aka Bucketing Not if parents are entirely unknown, but yes if one parent is known Yes
Chromosome Browser Unlikely Yes
AutoClusters Yes Yes, especially at MyHeritage if Jewish
Estimated Relationships High Not No
Relationship Range High Not reliably No
More, Smaller Segments Unlikely Unlikely other than confirmation
Match List Download Yes Yes
Surnames Yes Yes
Locations Yes Yes
Projects Yes Yes
Y DNA Yes, males only, direct paternal line, identifies surname lineage Yes, males only, direct paternal line, identifies and correctly places surname lineage
Mitochondrial DNA Yes, both sexes, direct matrilineal line only Yes, both sexes, direct matrilineal line only
Public Y Tree Yes for locations Yes for locations
Public Mito Tree Yes for locations Yes for locations
Discover Y DNA Yes, for heritage information Yes, for heritage information
Parents Related – ROH Possibly Less useful


A HUGE thank you to several people who contributed images and information in order to provide accurate and expanded information on the topic of endogamy. Many did not want to be mentioned by name, but you know who you are!!!

If you have information to add, please post in the comments.


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Katharina Gockeler (1612-1677), One Child Survived – 52 Ancestors #369

Catharina or Katharina Gockeler was born in Schnait, Germany on October 9, 1612, to Hans Gockeler and his wife, Katharina, whose surname is unknown.

(Update – her parents were Wolff Gockeler and wife, Barbara, not Hans and Katherina. See the Wolff Gockeler article.)

For some time, Katharina’s surname was recorded as Lenz. She did marry a Lenz man, but in a small German village, it certainly wouldn’t be unheard of for the bride’s surname to be the same since families had resided in that area for generations. Martin Goll, the local historian, discovered that her surname was Gockeler, not Lenz, and provided me with updated information. A HUGE thank you to Martin for this and all of his other research which he has generously shared.

Katharina’s Childhood

Photo courtesy of cousin Wolfram.

Katharina’s parents and godparents stood beside the minister at the baptismal font before the alter in St. Wendelin Church as baby Katharina was baptized.

Hans Lenz, the baker, would have been attending church that day too. He lived where the red star is located, just a few feet away, across the market square from the church in Schnait.

Hans Lenz had a son, also named Hans Lenz, who was born on January 24, 1602. Hans the younger would have been ten years old at the time and was likely attending church with his parents. During Katharina’s baptism, he was probably squirming and fidgeting in that hard wooden pew, the way 10-year-old boys do, not very patiently waiting for church to be over.

I wonder if Hans remembered being present at Katharina‘s baptism. If Hans was a normal boy, he was probably either annoyed at having to stay late for the baptism, or distracted by a bug, leaf, or some such. However, 23 years later, Hans Lenz would marry that baby girl.

A lot would happen during that 23 years, though.


Schnait, shown here in 1685, was a beautiful, quaint, village, nestled between hills, just a block or two in either direction.

Most residents were vinedressers, tending the vineyards on the rolling hillsides outside town, except for the obligatory butcher, baker, and candlestick maker in every village, plus the minister, of course.

The Gockelers had family in neighboring Beutelsbach, as did most families in Schnait, according to early records. Prior to 1570, Schnait was too small to have its own church, so the families in Schnait worshipped in Beutelsbach and were quite intertwined.

The War Begins

In 1618, the 30 Years‘ War changed everyone‘s life – causing terror for the next three decades. Nothing would ever be the same.

Of course, when the war began, no one knew how long it would last, or if Schnait and this part of Germany would be directly involved.

Katherina would have been six years old. Perhaps her parents tried, at least at first, to shield her from what was going on so she wouldn’t be afraid. Soon enough, though, everyone knew. And everyone was afraid.

Unfortunately, the war came to their doorstep and barged into their homes as an unwelcome guest. Catholic and Protestant Princes faced off against one another, their armies battling for decades on German soil. Wurttemberg was a central battlefield of the war, with its population declining by 57% during that time.

Starvation, illness, displacement, and the actual war itself, of course – all took a terrible toll.

The Plague

In 1626, a plague swept through the region, fueled by military conditions, battles, troop movements, and the behavior of the soldiers. Plague and illness were rampant in the camps, and the soldiers moved from place to place, marching across the countryside, again and again.

Celebrations and rituals of normalcy would have been most welcome.


It’s likely that, a few years later, Katharina attended the wedding of Hans Lenz the younger when he married the Schnait church minister’s daughter, Agnes Eyb, about 1627. The girls certainly knew each other, even though Agnes was older than Katharina by 11 years. Perhaps Katharina looked up to Agnes as the Reverend’s daughter. They had known each other all of their lives and may have been related in one way or another, or many.

At 13, Katharina may have sat during weddings imagining herself as the beautiful blushing bride, one day marrying the love of her life.

God willing, and the war didn’t interfere, one day, it would be her turn.

The war, and thoughts of the war, permeated everything. Even a young girl’s daydreams.

That damned war.


Hans Lenz, the baker, and his bride settled up the road in Beutelsbach, while Katherina continued to live in Schnait with her parents.

Infant mortality hovered around 50% during normal times when a war was not taking place, but lack of food, marauding soldiers, pillaging, burning, and the destruction of homes and sometimes entire villages caused the infant mortality rate to rise steeply.

The war dragged on, with soldiers coming and going, taking whatever they wanted, and laying waste to wide swaths of the countryside. Everyone was in danger, all of the time, no matter which side the soldiers were on.

Pressure began to build leading up to the horrific Battle of Nordlingen, arguably the most important battle of the war, fought in September of 1634 not far from Beutelsbach, involving 58,000 soldiers.

Someplace between 12,000 and 16,000 were killed, mostly Protestants, with another 4,000 Protestant soldiers taken captive. How does anyone even begin to bury that many bodies?

The Protestant troops lost that battle, soundly beaten, routed, defeated, making the situation infinitely worse for the German Protestant towns, now occupied by angry, emboldened Catholic soldiers in direct, daily conflict with villagers.

What could possibly go wrong in that pressure-cooker?

By 1634, soldiers were quartered in Beutelsbach. After the Battle of Nordlingen, citizens and village authorities alike were reduced to either begging or bribing soldiers NOT to burn their homes – meaning that in most cases, the pitiful residents had literally nothing of any value left, and no food. Soldiers on both sides took everything.

Until that time, because Hans was a baker and vintner, his property was probably spared because the soldiers enjoyed eating and drinking. Armies run on their stomachs. In other words, Hans was useful to them, but after Nordlingen, that wouldn’t matter anymore.


On December 6, 1634, three months after Nordlingen fell, the anger boiled over, and their greatest fear was realized.

Beutelsbach was torched by the soldiers. Anyone who resisted was brutally killed.

Katharina would have watched from Schnait, a mile or so away, as flames rose up and licked the sky. Black smoke billowed over the landscape, for hours, and pretty much everything, save the walled and fortified church, was consumed.

Residents in both locations were cousins probably hundreds of ways. In other words, there wasn’t anyone you weren’t related to, and often, closely.

There was nothing they could do in Schnait while Beutelsbach burned, except to gather as safely as possible, probably in the church, pray, and prepare to shelter any survivors.

God, let there be survivors.

The Schnait minister’s sister was Hans Lenz’s wife, Agnes, living in Beutelsbach.

Agnes was severely burned and was brought to her brother’s home in Schnait. Three days, later, on November 9th, she died and was buried in the Schnait churchyard the following day after her brother preached her funeral. Her brother scribed an agonizing entry in the church “Book of the Dead“ about his “dear sister“ who was burned in the great fire set by the soldiers. His grief-stricken entry is how we know what happened, and when Beutelsbach burned.

Agnes left behind her husband, Hans, and probably young children, if any survived.

Agnes and Hans had been married about seven years, so she would have given birth to at least 3 or 4 children in Beutelsbach, where they lived, although Beutelsbach church records don’t exist for this timeframe.

It’s likely that Hans and Agnes’s children either died as babies, children, or during that horrific fire.

It’s also possible that one of their children outlived Agnes. Martin Goll believes that Georg Lenz (1627-1663), who became a barber-surgeon in Beutelsbach was their child.

If that’s the case, then when Katharina Gockler married the widower, Hans Lenz, sometime about 1635, she would have raised her friend, Agnes’s child or perhaps children as well.

Katharina Marries Hans

As Katharina sat in the church watching Hans and Agnes exchange wedding vows when she was 13 years old, never in her wildest dreams would she have imagined for one minute that SHE would one day marry Hans.

In fact, if Katharina were dreaming about someone as her eventual groom, it would have been some cute boy closer to her age, sitting a pew or two over, thinking about frogs, not a man a decade older at 23.

Yet, it would come to be. Rising from the ashes.

A few months after the fire, sometime about 1635, Katharina Gockler married the widower, Hans Lenz. Again, we have no church records.

Given the circumstances when they began their married life, they did surprisingly well. The war was in its 17th year, give or take, and must have seemed “normal” in a terrible way. They had known nothing else as adults, and war had been a fact of life for most of Katharina’s lifetime – since she was six years old.

Katharina moved to Beutelsbach, where Hans was the baker and vintner, and, as a team, they started over.

Martin believes that a good portion of Hans Lenz‘s wealth came in some way from his wife, Katherina. During his lifetime, Hans built a new house at Siftstrasse 17, pictured above, which still stands today. Additionally, he had at least eight vineyards with just under one hectare, or about 2.5 acres. Most families made do with about one-tenth of that, or a quarter-acre vineyard.


We know that Katharina had four children, based on either records after the war or their church death records as adults, where her name is spelled both Catharina and Katharina. We have no records of children who were born and died during the war, except inferences by silent, vacant spaces in the too-large gap years between births of known children, all of whom were born and died in Beutelsbach. If they died elsewhere after the war, we have no record of them.

  • If Hans and Katherina were married about 1635, they would have had about five children, every 18 months to two years, before having the first child who lived. How soul-crushing for Katharina. I wonder if she dreaded each pregnancy, fearing the death of yet another baby.

Finally, finally, a son was born and survived. Katharina must have been ecstatic and held her breath daily, praying for the best, but fearing the worst.

  • Hans Lenz, my ancestor, also a baker who became a vintner, was born in 1645, during the war, and died on January 22, 1725. He married Barbara Sing in 1669 in Beutelsbach and had 11 children, 6 of which survived to adulthood. Barbara was living for the births of her first six grandchildren, which must have brought her immense joy.
  • Daughter, Katharina Lenz was born on October 26, 1646, and died on October 13, 1689, outliving her mother. She was described as “simple“ in the church records. After her parents’ deaths, she lived with her brother, Hans, who utilized her share of their inheritance to care for her.
  • Another child would have been born in 1648, the year the war finally ended.
  • Maria Lenz was born on January 5, 1650, and died a week later. Another small wooden cross in the churchyard.
  • Another child was probably born in 1652.
  • A daughter, born on March 9, 1654, was also named Maria. She died in 1677 at the age of 23. Martin Goll found no spouse or children for her.

By 1654, Katharina would have been 42. Her childbearing years were over.

Only one of her children would live to reproduce. Lucky for me!

After the War

After the war ended in 1648, Katharina and Hans did quite well for themselves. By the time Hans died 19 years later, in 1667, he had accumulated a significant legacy to leave to his children and grandchildren – a total of 5 houses, ten vineyards, and over 15,000 liters of wine in his cellars. No, that’s not a typo.

Katharina died in Beutelsbach on October 25, 1677, outliving Hans by two months shy of a decade.

Given that her daughter, Maria, died in the same year, although we don’t have a date, I wonder if the plague or pestilence, as epidemics were then known, savaged Beutelsbach once again. Katharina’s granddaughter was born on July 27, 1677, and we have no further entry. I wonder if she died as well. Two additional grandchildren, ages 6 and 7, died two days apart in July of 1678.

This war was with an unseen organism, a germ of some description. One they couldn’t see and probably didn’t know how to fight.

Final Rest

Katharina would have been laid to rest just a few feet from their home in Beutelsbach, probably in the churchyard following her funeral service inside, near her husband and children. Hopefully, it was a beautiful fall day.

Early graves always surrounded the church, but this 1825 map shows that a second cemetery was in use by then, a block or so away from the church and where Katharina Gockeler lived for more than 40 years.

The Beutelsbach church cemetery had been in use since at least 1321 and probably since about 1080, when we know the collegiate church was formed. Given the early date, many regular and plague burials existed in the churchyard. Were graves being reused in Europe at that time, or would villagers have been unwilling or superstitious about digging up plague or smallpox victims, perhaps?

Was the new cemetery utilized because the old one was full, or maybe there were just too many people to bury at one time at some point – like possibly the 1634 fire?

Red stars mark the churchyard, the home where Hans and Katharina lived, and the cemetery. Martin Goll’s red border shows the properties owned by Hans Lenz at his death that were inherited by his son, Hans.

The individual “farms“ and garden plots adjacent to homes are marked with tiny trees, so it’s easy to miss the subtle crosses in the cemetery if you don’t look closely. It appears that today, the cemetery is expanded as needed where those trees used to stand.

As you can see on the map above, the cemetery on the 1825 map is still in use. It’s unknown exactly where Katharina rests, in that cemetery or the churchyard, but we‘re within a few feet, either way.

I can’t help but look at those two burial locations, and in my mind’s eye, view bits of my DNA dotting the landscape, like twinkling stars, if the DNA of those ancestors that I carry today could fluoresce.

Part of me is there with them, and I carry part of them in me today.


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How to Download Your DNA Match Lists & Segment Files

If you’ve taken an autosomal DNA test and you’re working to determine how your matches are related to you, meaning which ancestors you share, you’ll want to download your DNA match list.

There are three types of files that you can potentially download from each of the major autosomal DNA testing vendors.

Raw DNA file – If you want to upload your DNA file to another vendor for matching at their site (MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA,) you’ll need to download your raw data file from the vendor where you tested. I provided step-by-step instructions for this process at each of the vendors, here.

DNA Segment File – This file contains the segment information with each of your matches, including the start and end locations of your matching segment(s), the total number of matching (shared) centiMorgans (cM) above the vendor’s matching threshold, and sometimes the longest segment.

If you want to sort a spreadsheet to look for all of your matches on specific areas of chromosomes, this is the best way to achieve that goal. I use this information at DNAPainter when painting the segments of matches with whom I can identify a common ancestor.

You may be able to download filtered lists or individual match data as well, as opposed to an entire match list spreadsheet, but the methodology varies at each vendor.

Ancestry does not provide segment information at all. 23and Me combines this information with the next file.

Match List – This file will contain your list of matches along with other information about the matches which you will find genealogically helpful. I find using this file easier than viewing each match separately at the vendors when trying to obtain an overview or when searching for a particular surname in either my match list or their ancestral surnames.

I can also sort by haplogroup, for example, which can sometimes help immensely if that information is available.

Ancestry does not facilitate or allow downloading your match list. 23andMe combines this information with your matching DNA segments in one file.

Here’s a handy-dandy summary by testing vendor.

Vendor Raw DNA File DNA Segment File Match List
23andMe Yes, instructions here Yes, instructions in this article Yes, instructions in this article
FamilyTreeDNA Yes, instructions here Yes, instructions in this article Yes, instructions in this article
MyHeritage Yes, instructions here Yes, instructions in this article Yes, instructions in this article
Ancestry Yes, instructions here No, does not provide No, does not provide

I’ve written step-by-step instructions for how to download your Match List and DNA Segment file(s) at each vendor.


Please note that 23and Me is the only vendor to limit your matches, which means you will only receive a file containing:

  • 1500 matches if you tested before the V5 chip, so before August 9, 2017, and have not established communications with matches that would have rolled off of your list otherwise. (I have 1805 matches, so have established contact with 305 that would otherwise have rolled off the end.)
  • 1500 if you tested on the V5 chip, so beginning August 9, 2017, but did not establish communications OR did not purchase the health option, OR did not purchase the yearly membership. If you established communications, those matches won’t roll off, and if you purchase the membership, the match threshold is raised. You may still need to establish contact to keep people from rolling off the larger list as well.
  • 5000-ish (23andMe doesn’t say exactly) if you tested on the V5 chip for BOTH ancestry and healthy AND purchased the yearly membership.

You will only receive match information for people who are listed on your restricted match list, not people who have rolled off as closer matches arrived. Therefore, I encourage you to retain your old match lists because some of your matches will be gone each time you download.

23andMe combines your match list with your segment file.

Sign on and select DNA Relatives on the toolbar.

Next, select “See all relatives.”

Scroll to the very bottom and click on Request DNA Relatives Data Download.

Your file will be prepared, and you’ll receive an email when the file is ready to be downloaded. Mine only took a minute or two, and I simply waited on my 23andMe page until the message appeared.

Save and open the downloaded file, and you’ll see a variety of information about each of your matches, in closest-match-first order, including:

  • Match name
  • Chromosome segment match information, including start and end locations, genetic distance (centiMorgans cMs,) and SNPs
  • Maternal and paternal sides if your parent or parents have tested
  • Number of matching segments
  • Relationship information
  • Birth year
  • Percent shared DNA
  • Haplogroups
  • Notes you’ve made
  • Family surnames
  • Family locations
  • 4 Grandparents’ birth country
  • Family Tree URL, external to 23andMe, if provided by tester


At FamilyTreeDNA, your match list and segment information are contained in two separate files.

Sign on and click on Family Finder Matches under Autosomal DNA Results and Tools.

You’ll see your matches. At the top of your match list, on the right side, click on “Export CSV.”

You can select “All Matches” or “Filtered Matches.”

If you haven’t selected a filter, you won’t be able to make that selection. Generally, you want the entire match list.

Your match list will be prepared and downloaded.

You’ll find:

  • Match name
  • Relationship information
  • Shared DNA total
  • Longest segment
  • Linked relationship if you have linked that person to their profile card in your tree
  • Ancestral surnames
  • Haplogroups if tested
  • Notes you’ve made
  • Bucketing – Paternal, maternal, both, none
  • X-Match amount

Note – If you’re a male, valid X matches (meaning matches that are not identical by chance,) will always be on your maternal side because you received your Y chromosome from your father instead of a copy of his X. I wrote about X matching, here.

If your match is a male, an X match will always be through his mother’s line.

Segment information is available in a separate download on the chromosome browser page.

Under Autosomal DNA Results and Tools, click on the Chromosome Browser.

You’ll be able to select people to compare in the chromosome browser, but to download all of your matching segments to all of your matches, click on “Download All Segments.”

If you select people to compare your relationship, and then click on “Download Segments,” you’ll only be downloading the segments for the people you are comparing.

To download all of your segments, be sure the “All” is showing in the link and download before selecting anyone for comparison.


MyHeritage also provides two separate files for matches and chromosome segment information.

Select DNA matches, then the 3-dot menu, then “Export DNA Matches.”

If you also want your individual segment information for your matches, also order the second file on that menu, “Export shared DNA segment info for shared DNA matches.”.

You’ll see a message that your report is being prepared and will be sent to the email address on file.

If your file doesn’t appear in your email box, check your spam folder.

Your match list provides:

  • Match name
  • Age
  • Country
  • Contact link
  • DNA managed by (if not the tester)
  • Contact link for DNA manager
  • Relationship information
  • Total cM
  • Percent of matching DNA
  • Number of matching segments
  • Largest segment
  • Has tree and tree manager
  • Number of people in their tree
  • Tree link and link to contact tree manager
  • Number of SmartMatches
  • Shared ancestral surnames
  • All ancestral surnames
  • Notes you’ve made
  • Has Theory of Family Relativity

Now that you have these files, what do you do with them?


Is there anything that stands out as remarkable, perhaps that you didn’t know or notice before? Patterns that might be informative?

I had a huge brick wall on my mother’s side that has since fallen, but retrospectively, had I reviewed these lists when that wall was still standing firm, there was a huge hint just waiting for me.

My mother has a very unexpected Acadian line through her great-grandfather, Anthony Lore, so 12.5% of her heritage.

On my match list, I see a large number of French surnames, but I didn’t know of any French ancestors on either side of my tree. Many surnames repeat, such as LeBlanc, d’Entremont (which is really unusual), Landry, and deForest. Why were these people on my match list? This is definitely smoke, and there must be fire someplace, but where?

Looking at the locations associated with these matches’ ancestors would have provided additional clues.

However, simply googling my great-grandfather’s surname in combination with those French surnames I listed above produced these 3 top search results.

Yes, you guessed it. Anthony turned out to be “Antoine” and Lore is spelled in a variety of ways, including Lord. His family is Acadian.

That’s Anthony Lore, which is how he was listed on the death certificate of his son, in the software on my computer, above, and here is Antoine Lore at WikiTree, below.

As you can see, that brick wall falling opened a whole new group of ancestors, and along with it, my appreciation of endogamy😊

Match lists facilitate viewing the big picture and can be a very useful tool for people seeking unknowns or trying to group people together in a variety of ways.

Do you have any brick walls that need to fall?

How can or do you utilize your match lists?


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Share the Love!

You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

If you haven’t already subscribed (it’s free,) you can receive an email whenever I publish by clicking the “follow” button on the main blog page, here.

You Can Help Keep This Blog Free

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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

My Book

Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research