About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.

Dad’s Wisdom: Navigating This Cascade of Grief – 52 Ancestors #336

It looks like we are, hopefully, emerging from this miserable pandemic and it’s great to see people going about their lives, joyfully. Almost like nothing ever happened, or is happening. I hope they, we, aren’t engaging in risks that we will come to regret.

That said, this past 18 months, give or take, has been an utter living hellscape. It’s been a cascade of one grief event on top of another.

How do we even begin to navigate this into the future? How do we overcome what we’ve lost and will yet lose? Graduations, weddings, birthdays, holidays that will never happen? Not just stolen by death, but also by estrangement.

What does that future look like without our family members? Without closure for so many unnecessary and unexpected deaths? How do we navigate a divided country and world – cleaved clean in half not just by a virus – but the politicization of that virus and science?

And what do we do about families that are irrecoverably fractured – even if they haven’t died in the physical sense? They are still dead to us – removed and permanently alienated by irreconcilable differences. That’s an entirely different kind of pain than death – maybe even worse because it’s by unilateral choice. People and relationships tossed away, like soiled masks.

I can’t help but recall my ancestors divided by severe religious differences – think the 1755 Acadian Expulsion in Nova Scotia, the 1572 St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in France, the Holocaust in the 1940s in Europe and the edicts removing the Jews from England in 1290 and Spain in 1492. Today we marvel at these historic differences, but entire groups of people characterized the “other” as enemies. The result being that the weaker group was expelled, their property confiscated, and the people often murdered.

These last few months feel like a mass casualty event with more than 600,000 dead and that’s just in the US. It’s also not counting Long-Covid or the effects of living under lockdown and fear for 18 months. I’m positive I’m not the only one who feels this way.

That’s not considering the other, comparatively minor losses – well minor as compared to Covid. Lost jobs, school disruption, not seeing friends and family, church, weddings, missing conferences, just being able to socialize.

I’m not going to detail my personal losses, but trust me, there are many – including both close and more distant family.

In the Past

Twice before in my life, I’ve experienced what I would view as cascading grief events – defined as events that arrive so fast that you can’t recover from one or more before the next ones occur and pile on top. Think of a many-layered cake.

These layers could be deaths that happen close together or other life-altering and fork-in-the-road events.

In my case, one cascade series included the death of my sister, my (former) husband’s horrific stroke which, in addition to him of course, dramatically affected both of my children and the household income. That was followed shortly by the illness of my child and the death of my beloved step-father.

Another cascade series of grief events included the deaths of both of my brothers just a few months apart after concurrent battles with cancer, followed shortly by my nephew.

During this past 18 months, between Covid and other things, the number of family members lost is approaching 20 and that doesn’t include friends and their families. My husband lost his oldest and best friend.

I fear we aren’t finished yet. One of my close family members is gravely ill and her brother just died a month ago. My God, will this ever end?

Not to mention events that should have been celebrations have turned out to be anything but. This past month has been awful, just when I thought we were about finished.

Other people must be overwhelmed too. It’s like we’ve been in a war with a microscopic virus, then we began battling within our own ranks.

As I see other people out having fun, I want to be carefree like that too. While the pandemic is receding, at least somewhat, the grief and shock of what happened in the blink of an eye during the past 18 months have not. Someone said to me today that seeing people acting like nothing has happened just causes them to feel even more isolated in their grief.

Life will never be the same, or even close, for millions of people.

How do we cope?

WWMAD?

So, I have to ask myself, how did my ancestors deal with situations like this? Many of them buried several children and they, themselves, survived pandemics of typhoid or worse, Bubonic Plague. Many, if not most had multiple spouses due to death. The church registers are full of deaths attributed to “the Pest.”

In the 1600s, war raged for 30 consecutive years in Germany, killing millions and depopulating much of the country.

WWMAD? What would my ancestors do? It seems like I’m always looking backward for inspiration and grounding.

I mean, they managed to make it, or I wouldn’t be here. Surely I have some of their mettle in me!

Memories

I didn’t know my biological father as an adult. He passed away when I was a child.

I was very fortunate that my mother married a wonderful man who earned the name, “Dad.” He was everything a father could have been, and more.

Dad was a quiet man, which was probably a good thing because my mother and I were not. He used to tell us we chattered like chickens.

I adored him. As a late teen and young adult, he was my advocate and constant cheerleader. As I age, I grow to appreciate him and Mom even more and look back across their lives to search for parallels.

It’s not like I can ask for their opinion or advice anymore. I guess that’s why we spend as much time with family as possible, so we are able to “hear” the answers and their voice in our minds as we navigate shark-infested waters later in life.

My Mom experienced at least one cascade of grief when both of her parents died within a couple of years, and she and my biological father separated, followed by his death. As jolting as that was, it’s also normal for parents to die before children.

My Dad’s situation, on the other hand, was another matter altogether.

Dad was a Rock

Dad married his first wife in 1950. Three years later, a son joined the family, and five years later, a daughter, in July of 1958.

Everything seemed perfect on the Indiana prairie farm, but it wasn’t.

Martha gradually became ill. It started with her skin and slowly began to affect her mobility.

Linda, the baby had something “wrong” as well. Linda never learned to sit up as babies normally do, and two days after Christmas in 1959, she died of pneumonia at 17 months of age.

Dad and Martha had taken Linda to the hospital on Christmas Day. Dad was never, ever OK with Christmas after that, but he hid it well. That lasted right up until I had to take my daughter to ER on Christmas morning one year.

There were always tears at the holidays that Dad tried to hide. He spent a lot of time in the barn, alone, “checking on things.” Of course, now I know what he was doing.

Dad didn’t tell me for a very long time – and then he gave me Linda’s crib blanket when my daughter was born. I think that was his most valued possession and I will treasure it to my death. That is the language of love.

He once nonchalantly explained, passing through the kitchen, that when he married my Mom, he got his daughter back – although clearly, no one could ever replace Linda. What he meant was that he had a place for the daughter-love to go😊

And I had a father to love too.

Martha’s Decline

Over the next few years following Linda’s death, Martha became increasingly ill. Dad was very worried, and with cause. Eventually, Martha was diagnosed with a very rare, fatal disease – Schleroderma. He carried a short newspaper article about it in his wallet for years. Martha was apparently one of the early people diagnosed and they allowed research on her body after her death. Today, it’s treatable, at least somewhat, but still not curable. Then, there was no treatment or relief. Just slow progression.

Dad added an inside bathroom, built a frame around the tub, toilet, and bed to help Martha.

Dad explained to me that Martha had “turned to stone – from the outside in.” Schleroderma is a disease where the autoimmune system replaces normal tissue with thick, dense collagen. And yes, it begins on the skin and works its way inside, then slowly through the other organs until it kills you. Her death certificate says she died of renal failure and had Schleroderma for 2 years – but Dad said she had early symptoms before Linda was born.

That might well have contributed to Linda’s health problems too.

For years, Dad watched Martha suffer. He farmed, took care of their son, and increasingly, Martha too. He became an overworked, grief-stricken, caregiver. He knew Martha would never “get well,” even though he didn’t know how long she would be with him. He hoped against hope for a very long time, but eventually the inevitable became clear.

The chronic stress was taking a toll on his health too. He developed bleeding ulcers that required 8 or 9 emergency surgeries over the years to save his life. His belly looked like he had been in several sword fights – and lost.

In 1962, his mother died. By this time, Martha was only 40 years old, but in significant pain and nearly immobile. Dad bathed and fed her, propping her up and tried to keep her comfortable.

Their son was 10 years old.

Dad told me that he was “OK” so long as he could talk to Martha, but as the illness consumed her, she became less and less cognizant and eventually, she lapsed into a coma. The machines kept her going artificially, at least for a while.

Dad finally removed the machines – a final act of kindness. In his words, “she was already gone.”

On a late June day in 1968, instead of plowing and farming, Dad sat by Martha’s side as she passed from this world – only 45 years old.

He buried the second person in the family plot he had purchased a few years earlier when Linda died.

Their son did not cope well with his mother’s illness or death. In retrospect, I can’t help but wonder if Martha already had the beginning of the disease when she was pregnant with him. His life, too, was unexpectedly short.

The 1968 Cliff

Dad was 48 years old and had spent almost his entire adult life married to a spouse he loved deeply, but who would slip away from him inch by inch as he bore silent witness for someplace between 10 and 15 years of their 18-year marriage.

This is the definition of living Hell. Also of love.

Oh, the irony.

Dad was a farmer, an occupation that is a 24x7x365 job. You don’t get vacations or breaks. Ever.

He told me one time that was probably a blessing, not a curse, because it occupied his mind and forced him to go on.

He also had a son to raise who had watched his mother deteriorate for his entire life.

Other men would have succumbed someplace in that nightmare, but not Dad.

Now that Martha was gone, he had a decision to make. He chose donuts!

Donuts 

I met Dad after he joined Parents Without Partners after Martha’s death, sometime around 1969 or 1970. Dad found himself living alone and reached out for human companionship. I’m sure those walls closed in on him after a while.

Dad navigated those grief-filled waters by giving back. He fixed everything for everyone. He would finish his chores on the farm, change out of his “farm clothes” and drive to town. He bought boxes of donuts and dropped in on people with a snack and tools to fix whatever was broken.

There were enough people in the Parents Without Partner’s Club that he visited each household maybe once a month or whenever someone needed help with something. Often, the homeowner asked him to dinner in exchange. Everyone benefitted.

And – he developed a crush on Mom. I probably gained 10 donut-pounds and our house was never more well-maintained😊

Wedding

Mom and Dad’s wedding in September 1972

Mom and Dad were married in September of 1972 at Judson Baptist Church, the little neighborhood church on the corner. Before they married, Dad talked to his son who was hospitalized, and me – kind of asking our permission.

Dad got a wife and daughter, Mom got a husband and son, and I got a Dad and brother. We were all happy – our little blended family.

Life was good once again on the farm. However, there were reminders everyplace. I would ask about something, and the answer would be that Dad made it for Martha, or that baby photo was Linda. I didn’t realize how painful those questions must have been for Dad.

But I surely do now.

Every Memorial Day, as well as other times, Dad would slip away to the cemetery. I think he went to talk to Martha and Linda. I bet he talked with Martha before asking Mom to marry him. I surely am glad that she agreed😊

Dad’s Wisdom

While my losses over the past 18 months or so are different than Dad’s, grief salad is still grief salad. Dad also never had to deal with social media hatefulness or a pandemic on top of everything else, thankfully.

His Hell lasted for roughly 15 years. This has been much shorter but involves more people. Grief can’t really be compared.

Dad didn’t have the opportunity to recover from one event before the next one arrived. Those events were connected and overlapping, possibly due, at least in part, to Martha’s horrific illness.

Fifteen years of living in a constant state of grief is an overwhelming burden for anyone to bear. I still can’t believe it didn’t consume him. If his bleeding ulcers are any indication, it nearly did.

Yet, he never talked about it. I had NO IDEA of the magnitude of what that man withstood and somehow recovered from until after he was gone and I began looking back, piecing things together from tidbits in my own search for answers.

In 1993/1994, I too was incredibly overwhelmed with my spouse’s stroke, two children who were not doing well, one who left the family, Dad’s terminal illness which made Mom a wreck. I did talk with Dad from time to time, even though he was hospitalized, drifting in and out of consciousness and I was trapped in another state.

Thankfully, I was able to visit him in person towards the end. Dad was still Dad, bemoaning the fact that he was not healthy enough to help me with my situation. He was also a realist and knew exactly what was happening.

Truth be told, he helped me far more than he knew:

  • Dad told me to take care of myself – because you can’t take care of anyone else otherwise. He would surely know.
  • He told me to put one foot in front of the other every day and just keep moving forward. Some days, that defines success.
  • He told me to rebuild my life with the tools I have at hand – because no one is going to do it for me. He assured me I could do it. I wasn’t convinced.
  • He told me that this “chapter” would end and I would be happy again someday. At that moment, I seriously doubted that I would ever be alright.
  • He explained that anyone who isn’t good to me isn’t worthy of me and it doesn’t matter who in life you’re talking about. That also applies to children and animals. He was dead-on right.
  • He told me to find small things that bring joy and wonder, because they lead to more joy and wonder. I can’t help but think of him looking over his fields and sitting outside under the tree.
  • He told me not to look backward – that the future is not in that direction, the past can’t be changed, and it would only make me sad. And that is not taking care of myself.
  • He told me that either I would consume “it,” integrate “it,” and go on in spite of “it,” or “it” would consume me. I’m pretty sure “it” is grief. Although maybe “it” is generic.
  • He told me it comes down to sink or swim, and the decision is mine to do either.
  • “Don’t let the bastards get you down.” He never swore in front of Mom, so this piece of wisdom was reserved for when she was not present. I still laugh when I hear this.
  • He told me it’s OK to be tired, and discouraged, and to take a break. But DON’T GIVE UP.
  • Never give up.
  • He assured me several times that I could do anything I set my mind to.
  • The damaged places become the strong places. As a teenager, he used to show me welds on farm machinery to prove his point. He explained about iron and fire, something about the strongest steel being forged in the fires of Hell. I just rolled my eyes. He laughed and gently pecked me on the head with his finger, saying “don’t forget.” At that time, I had absolutely NO IDEA what he was really telling me. I get it now, in spades.
  • The last time I saw him, he told me he was proud of me and always had been. I felt like I was failing miserably at the cascade of grief events that I was navigating poorly. He assured me otherwise.
  • He gave me a tattered, folded copy of Invictus, also out of his billfold, folded and tucked behind my picture. I was trying not to cry in front of him, but that did me in.
  • He said, “Don’t ever forget that I love you. I’m the luckiest man on earth to have two wonderful wives and two wonderful daughters.” I wondered aloud about his miserable years watching Martha die. He told me that he had been honored to be able to care for her, that he loved Linda, and that they had gotten him to me and Mom. And he loved us beyond this lifetime.
  • Love is forever.
  • And, “I will always walk with you.”

And he has too. Like, now, for instance.

The Transition

We both knew he was leaving soon. I thought I would die. My heart was crushed, then, as it has been recently, but I kept repeating his words over and over to myself at his funeral. He gave me hope for the future, and at that moment, I had none.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that his interminable sense of humor showed through then too. He was literally late for his own funeral. I laughed and cried at the same time. How is that even possible?

After the funeral, I went back to the farm and dug up a few phlox plants and ferns that live in my yard today, having moved twice and multiplied prolifically.

Dad’s ferns have filled my garden, just as his love fills my heart.

Dad is with me every time I look at these with joy and wonder and remember his ferns beside the house at home.

These would make Dad happy. They make me happy, and I’ve passed them on as well.

Thank You Dad

Never give up, he said. I need to hear those words in the darkest of nights. Never give up doesn’t always mean staying on the same path. Sometimes it means to row steadily – but in a different direction.

Family is not always about blood, but about who we choose to spend the future with – who we choose to love and integrate into our lives. Who we choose to cherish – and those who cherish us.

Clearly, I survived what I came to call the “Decade from Hell” – the 1990s.

That’s when I began making care quilts for others with my wonderful friend Connie who had also lost a child.

I eventually moved and remarried too, a decade later, just like Dad had.

I re-immersed myself in genealogy, then genetic genealogy as my youngest child transitioned into adulthood.

Yet, here I am again, awash in an avalanche of concatenated grief events – overwhelmed by the immensity, depth, and duration of it all.

Maybe this is one of those “rhythm of life” things. Waves in the endless ocean.

Perhaps grief is a season.

The Path Forward

I find myself seeking out and following Dad’s wisdom once again. It seems timeless and ageless. I’m not at all sure that he was talking to the me of that time and place. It feels like he was talking to a future me that would need to hear his message.

I’m still making care quilts and writing articles to help people. Don’t worry, I don’t plan to stop researching my ancestors or writing anytime soon.

And I’m absolutely focused on looking forward and creating a modified future – although grief events keep rearing their ugly heads like blood-seeking sharks. I will survive this too.

Once again, I’m not going to remain where there are constant reminders. It’s time for this chapter to close and another doorway to open.

I’ve begun the process of cleaning out, purging, throwing away, giving away, and selling things. I’m finding the process cathartic even if it’s a bit overwhelming. How did I accumulate so much stuff? And what do I do with all of these genealogy files? I’ll figure it out.

I’m going to step into the next chapter, someplace else, lighter and less burdened. There are so many things I won’t be doing any more that I haven’t enjoyed for a long time. The pandemic has made me reconsider a lot. 

There will be a rebirth, a new beginning. The Phoenix rising from the ashes of the old.

One of the pandemic’s gifts has been that we now realize that we can work from just about any place with a decent internet connection. One less thing to bind us and one more avenue to free us.

Thank you, Dad, for your incredible example of courage and resilience. Your life-well-lived lessons in the face of adversity are ever so much more effective than any words could have ever been.

But mostly, thank you for choosing me as your daughter, being my forever Dad, and walking with me.

I love you.

Happy Father’s Day.

How Many Men Discover or Confirm Their Surname with Y DNA Testing?

About 15 years ago, Bennett Greenspan, founder of FamilyTreeDNA, at one of the early conferences said that about 30% of men who take a Y DNA test find a strong surname match. That number has increased now to nearly 100%, or “almost everyone.”

Exceptions

Of course, there are exceptions that fall into a number of categories:

  • Jewish families from regions where surnames weren’t adopted until in the 1800s.
  • Jewish families whose direct paternal line suffered dramatic losses during the Holocaust.
  • Dutch families who did not adopt surnames until Napoleon’s edict in 1811.
  • Cultures who have or recently had patronymic surnames that change every generation.
  • Men whose DNA is either extremely rare (and no relatives have tested) or are from under-sampled regions of the world.
  • Males whose paternal line may be recent immigrants and people in the homeland don’t participate in genealogy or don’t DNA test.
  • Males whose ancestors were enslaved. In the US, families adopted surnames after the Civil War ended slavery in the 1860s, so Y DNA testing plus autosomal is critically important to reunite these families. Please note that the Y DNA haplogroup, even an estimate provided with STR testing, will indicate whether the direct paternal lineage is European, African, Native American/Asian – all of which are found in the descendants of men who were enslaved. The Big Y-700 provides significantly more information along with placement on the haplotree.

I started writing Y DNA reports for clients in 2004 (although I no longer accept private clients) and at that time, often saw men with no matches. Today, a man with no matches is extremely unusual, and most have strong surname matches. As more men test, everyone will have more matches, of course, and the more we can learn about our ancestors.

What do matches reveal?

Matches Reveal

In essence, matches to other men with common surnames do one of two things:

  1. Confirm the surname lineage, at least to the common ancestor.
  2. Identify the surname where the tester is likely to find his ancestral roots.
  3. Provide perspective further back in time answering the question, “Where did I come from?”

Of course, this second point is crucial for males searching for the identity of their paternal lines.

While time has moved on, the number of testers in the database has dramatically increased, and almost everyone has relevant matches now – I still see the 30% metric oft-repeated. Let’s put this to the test and see what we find.

Setting Up the Experiment

I selected 20 men who have taken the Big Y test whose kits I manage or who were randomly selected from projects that I manage and who have given permission for their results to be published on public project pages.

I recorded results for the tester’s own or very similar surnames. Slightly different but recognizable spellings are counted as the same name.

I included matches at 12 markers, 111 markers, and the Big Y results. Men who purchase or upgrade to the Big Y-700 test will have all 111 STR panel markers included. Obviously, individual testers should check their results at every level.

Big Y testers actually receive 700+ STR markers, but can only easily filter for matches at 111 (or below), so that’s the number I used. Plus, males can purchase  37 and 111 panels without taking the Big Y test, so this comparative information will be valid for all Y DNA testers.

Click to enlarge image.

Additionally, I used the Advanced Matches feature to check for people who match someone on BOTH the Y DNA and their Family Finder autosomal test. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee that the reason they match on both tests is because of their common surname line – but it’s a hint and may be very useful, especially with closer Family Finder matches.

I intentionally included some men with recent European heritage who are unlikely to have matches simply because their families have been in colonial America since the 1600s or 1700s and their ancestor had a dozen sons who each had a dozen sons.

Why Did I Include 12 Marker Results?

You may wonder why I included 12 marker matches since that test is no longer sold individually and is the least granular. Truthfully, it’s too often deemed useless and overlooked.

Hear me out on this one😊

Many of the men who originally took the 12 and 25 marker tests, before the higher panels (37, 67, 111, and Big Y) were available are deceased now. Twenty years is a generation, and FamilyTreeDNA began testing the Y chromosome in the year 2000.

While these low marker tests alone are not conclusive, with additional information, such as trees, common ancestors, and other testers who match, they form pieces of evidence that can be invaluable. Some have also taken an autosomal test which can be especially important, given that they are another generation or two (or three) further back in time than the people testing today.

You won’t see these men as matches at 37, 67 or 111 markers, because they are deceased and can’t upgrade, but they may provide the nugget of information you need by matching at 12 or 25 markers. You’ll need to evaluate that match in light of other information. I’ll review that in the next two sections.

20 Men

If you’re a man or can find a male to test for each of your genealogy lines, the Y DNA is the fastest, most reliable way to identify an ancestral surname – not just in your father’s generation, but moving back in time.

Of the 20 men selected, all men had matches to their surname. However, one Smith man, #18, had a unique situation that might be very genealogically relevant.

I’ll discuss each match briefly with some commentary below the chart.

Surname Match Name 12 Marker 111 Marker Big Y Advanced – 12 + FF Both
1 Howery Howery 9 of 20 2 of 2 0 (none tested) 1
2 Graves Graves 8 of 51 2 of 8 1 Graves + others 1 – different surname
3 Perkins Perkins/McDonald 16 of 1762 1 of 63, many McDonalds 0 Perkins (no testers) but several McD names 8 – 2 McDonald
4 Napier Napier 19 of 19,217 2 of 13 2 Napier + others 1 + many others
5 Rice Rice 45 of 58 14 of 19 7 of 10 1
6 Rader Rader  13 of 18,576 7 of 7 7 3
7 Estes Estes 69 of 502 21 of 24 9 of 10 2 + 4 different surname
8 Campbell Campbell 178 of 369 61 of 103 7 of 10 4 of 5
9 Lentz Lentz 1 of 1 0 of 1 1 different name, no other Lentz Big Y testers 0
10 Bonnevie Bonnevie 1 of 1 (tested to 37) 0 0 no test
11 Vannoy Vannoy 7 of 49 2 of 4 0 of 1 0
12 Lore/Lord Lore/Lord 3 of 7 1 of 3 1 of 1 0
13 Clarkson/Claxton Clarkson/Claxton 19 of 540 1 of 1 0 of 9 (No Big Y testers) 0 of 3
14 Muncey Muncy/Muncey 9 of 155 7 of 16 1 of 4 1
15 Miller Miller 5 of 6 2 at 67, no 111 testers 0 – no Miller match testers 1 of 2
16 Speak(s) Speak(s) 9 of 9 21 of 51 4 of 17 0
17 Smith Smith/Jennings 2 of 16, 9 Jennings 0 of 2 (Jennings) 1 Jennings of 3 1 Jennings
18 Bolton Bolton 8 of 1750 2 of 2 0 of 28 0 of 12
19 Crumley Crumley 10 of 79 7 of 93 3 of 127 0 of 2
20 Harrell Harrell 81 of 17,638 3 of 7 2 of 2 0 of 119

Messages Revealed in the Results

Let’s briefly review the information we’ve discovered and extrapolate from each of these 20 matches. Analysis is the key to success.

  1. The Howery surname is rather unusual. This man had only two 111 marker matches and both were to men of the same surname. Half of his 12 marker matches are the same surname. None of his matches had taken the Big Y test, so he has no same-surname or other surname matches there. He did match one of his Y DNA matches on the Family Finder test though. This is high-quality confirmation that Howery is indeed the biological ancestral surname and our tester can set about finding and confirming his common ancestors with his matches.
  2. The Graves male had several 12-marker matches, but many 12-marker matches have not tested at the 111 marker level. He matches one Graves male on the Big Y plus some men with other surnames. The Big Y reaches back further in time, so these matches may reflect common ancestors before the advent of surnames.
  3. Our Perkins male has very interesting matches. He does have both 12 and 111 Perkins matches, but he also had a LOT of McDonald matches. More McDonald matches than Perkins matches. This suggests that indeed, his ancestors were Perkins, at least back to the earliest known ancestor (EKA), but before that, he may well be a member of the McDonald Y DNA clan. There were no Perkins Big Y testers, but if I were him, I’d ask my Perkins matches to upgrade.
  4. I can tell by looking at the huge number of 12 marker matches for our Napier man that he is haplogroup R, the most common in Europe, with an EXTREMELY common 12 marker haplotype. Note how dramatically the number of 111 marker matches drops – from 19,000+ to 13 – a perfect example of why we suggest men upgrade to at least 111 markers to refine their matches. Both of his 111 marker Napier matches have upgraded to the Big Y, and he matches them there as well. He does match one Napier on both the 12 marker test and Family Finder Advanced Matching – but he also matches MANY other men. This is because of the extremely high number of 12 marker matches. In his case, I would only use Y DNA marker panels higher than 12 markers in the Advanced Matching.
  5. Lots of Rice testers from this line confirm a common ancestor. I wonder if there is a Rice male from someplace overseas who has tested. If so, this might be that “jump the pond” event that genealogists who have European ancestors who are found in colonial America seek.
  6. Our Rader tester also has many 12 marker matches, but his only matches at 111 and on the Big Y are his Rader kinsmen. No doubt about that surname whatsoever.
  7. My Estes line has several 12 marker matches, but that gets slimmed right down at 111 markers. Using the Big Y test, we further divided those branches of Estes men. I literally could not have sorted out who was descended from whom without the Big Y test results. Way too many Johns, Williams, and Elishas in burned counties in Virginia.
  8. Our Campbell tester is unquestionably confirmed to be descended from the Clan Campbell line from Inverary, Scotland. However, the challenge in this family is which Campbell male they descend from in Virginia. The Big Y-700 test has narrowed the possibilities significantly, and the tester is currently in the process of attempting to convince his three closest Y STR 111 matches to take the Big Y test. Yes, he has offered to pay as well. Hey, in genealogy, you do what you need to do. Y DNA is likely the only way this puzzle from the 1700s will ever be unraveled.
  9. The Lentz line is German with rare DNA, but they do have a confirming match to another Lentz male.
  10. Bonnievie spelled various ways is French and has one 12 marker match who only tested to 37 markers. He has no matches above that. Not only is his Y DNA quite rare, DNA testing is illegal in France which makes additional testers few and far between. Unfortunately, his one match has not taken a Family Finder test either.
  11. Several men from the Vannoy line have tested and a Big Y test match to another man confirmed that the ancestral line is Dutch – not French as was speculated for decades. The STR tests have revealed Vannoy lines, by similar spellings, from lines we didn’t know existed.
  12. Lore or Lord is a rare Acadian family surname. Our tester does have matches to other Lore/Lord men, which confirms the line to the ancestor who arrived in Acadia in the early 1600s, but future testers will be needed before we can confirm his origins to either France or as one of the English soldiers who served at the fort.
  13. The Clarkson/Claxton testers confirm two lines, one spelled each way, from Tennessee and North Carolina line to a common ancestor in either Virginia or North Carolina in the 1770s. However, the family is still working to further assemble that puzzle. Finding a Clarkson/Claxton match on STR markers or the Big Y who descends from a male not from the two known lines would help immensely. Our hope is that a Clarkson/Claxton from an earlier line or from the British Isles will test and provide that push over the brick wall. Any Clarkson/Clarkson men out there who haven’t taken the Y DNA test yet?
  14. The Muncy/Munsey line is confirmed to a common ancestor born in England in and died on Long Island in 1674. Based on both STR and SNP results from the Big Y, we can narrow the lineages of Muncy men who test and aren’t familiar with their Muncy genealogy. Of course, the Muncy line eventually migrated through Virginia and seemingly named every man in every generation either John, Samuel or Francis – but DNA testing helps immensely to sort this out.
  15. While Miller is a very common occupation surname, DNA testing has put to rest many incorrect myths about this particular Swiss Miller line. Men with the same surname in the same location, even in the same church, does not equate to the same genetic family line. Any male with a common surname absolutely needs to do Y DNA testing and at the highest level. There’s nothing worse than spending countless hours barking up the wrong tree – especially when Y DNA testing will save you.
  16. Our Speaks man matched another Speak male who knew where his ancestors were from in Lancashire. Testing additional men living in Lancashire at the 111 marker and Big Y levels allowed the Speak line to be divided into specific lineages beginning in the 1500s, piecing together the earlier ancestors into a descendant tree. Recently, an “orphan” line in the US has been connected to his ancestors, thanks to both STR values AND Big Y testing.
  17. Smith is quite interesting because we discover that something doesn’t add up. Our Smith man matches two Smith men who have the same ancestor born in 1810 but that son, John, does not match the descendants of his brothers. There seems to be an undocumented adoption of some sort at that point in time. John Smith’s Y DNA is not the same as his brothers whose descendants match each other. Given that our Smith tester, and his two matches, do not match the other descendants of the ancestor they are supposed to descend from, we can pinpoint the generation in which the adoption event occurred. However, we have a further clue, because these Smith men match the Jennings line closely- including one advanced match where the Smith man also matches autosomally in addition to the Y DNA. This is clearly a case of “you don’t know what you don’t know” and would never have known without Y DNA testing.
  18. Our Bolton tester matches several other Bolton men who descend from a common immigrant ancestor. If the Bolton matches upgrade to the Big Y-700 test, they might be able to determine separate genetic lines branching through the various sons of the immigrant ancestor. Evaluating the surnames that the tester matches at the Big Y level may assist with evaluating deeper ancestry in England and determining where the Bolton ancestors originated before the 1600s in London.
  19. Crumley is a difficult family to research, in part because several people with the same surname are found in close proximity, but Y DNA testing has shown that these men are not related. Big Y testing has disproved that the Crumley progenitor originated in Germany, although a different Crumley family did. The Big Y matches include many Mc… surnames along with Ferguson and Gillespie. The Big Y Block Tree shows the closest matches with ancestors born in Scotland, Ireland, and Northern Ireland – which is very likely where the Crumley progenitor originated too.
  20. Harrell is another difficult surname, spelled numerous ways with several Harrell/Herrell/Harrold/Herrald families moving westward in the 1600s and 1700s from the thirteen original colonies. This Harrell line has not been able to connect to a single progenitor in the colonies, yet, but Y DNA testing and the block tree confirm that this Harrell line originated in the British Isles, very likely England.

What Did These 20 Men Learn?

Every single one of these men benefitted from Y DNA testing, although exactly how depends to some extent on their testing goal. Other men also benefitted by matching.

One man, our Smith, #17, needs to look at the Jennings family prior to 1810. Is there a Jennings man living in close proximity, or do court records exist that might be illuminating?

If one of these 20 men had been an adoptee or otherwise searching for an unknown paternal line, they would have been able to identify a surname connection and perhaps a progenitor ancestor. I encourage everyone to either order a Family Finder autosomal test or transfer a DNA file (for free) from another vendor if they have taken an autosomal test elsewhere. Step-by-step transfer instructions are found here. Be sure that the Y DNA and autosomal tests are on the same kit/account at FamilyTreeDNA so that you can use the advanced matching tool.

With the Big Y-700 test, these men can discern or confirm lines descending from their direct paternal ancestors – sometimes within a generation or two of the tester. This test is so sensitive and granular and has such deep coverage (millions of bases) now that often we find small mutations between fathers and sons or brothers.

While STR markers, 12-111 are genealogically important, they do tend to mutate rapidly and sometimes back-mutate. SNPs, tested in the Big Y-700 test, don’t do that, and the power of STRs and SNPs together have the potential to break down brick walls and correct trees. In fact, it happens every single day.

Resources

If you’d like to watch a video about Y DNA, Y DNA-related genetic terms, and the benefits of Big Y-700 testing, you can watch a great educational video by Janine Cloud here. Be sure to note the part where she talks about why people who have previously taken the Big Y-500 might want to upgrade to the Big Y-700.

Also, check out my Y DNA Resource page, here.

What Don’t You Know?

Y DNA tests, including the Big Y-700 which includes all STR panels, and the autosomal Family Finder test are on sale at FamilyTreeDNA right now for Father’s Day.

There’s no better time to find missing pieces and discover information that you can’t find any other way.

Click here to order Y DNA tests, the Family Finder, or upgrade an existing test.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

Yes, Ancestry is Glitchy Right Now – Here’s What TO and NOT TO DO

Public Service Announcement – Ancestry has been a bit glitchy for a few days/weeks and remains so. All vendors have issues from time to time, and it seems to be Ancestry’s turn right now. I wasn’t affected at first, but these tree-based problems seem to randomly come and go. So even if you’re not affected right now, you may be soon.

Here are tips on dealing with the reported issues, and perhaps more important, what NOT to do. Trying to fix things may just cause more problems.

What’s going on?

What’s Up With Ancestry?

A few days ago I signed on to Ancestry to discover that all of my tree branches beyond the first page displayed were “gone.” At that point in time, if I clicked on the right arrow, either no ancestors appeared, just those blank boxes to add parents, or in one case, one ancestor appeared with no parents.

This was uniform for all of my tree branches.

Needless to say, it struck panic into my genealogist’s heart. The saving grace is that indeed, no one but me has edit access to my tree – so I know positively that no one but me could delete anything.

Furthermore, I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that I had not deleted or broken the links of all of those ancestral lines. I don’t do “sleepwalk-genealogy” and if I did, I’d be much more likely to add someone😊

To try to quell the panic a bit, I used the Tree Search feature in the upper right-hand corner of the Tree page and yes, those “missing” ancestors were still in my tree file. They just weren’t showing correctly.

Technology Background

I spent years in technology and I learned two things:

  • Don’t panic and jump to conclusions
  • Sometimes things fix themselves, at least from the user’s perspective

After a couple of easy noninvasive steps, I decided to LEAVE THINGS ALONE and see what happened.

1-2-3 Things to Do

Here’s the 1-2-3 of things to do, in order.

  1. Sign out and back in.
  2. Try a different browser. If you are using a mobile app, use the computer and vice versa.
  3. Go away and check again later or tomorrow.

What Worked?

In this case, number three worked. The next day, everything was back to normal again with no residual damage.

Thankfully.

Had that not been the case, I would have started searching on social media for common issues and I would have called Ancestry’s support – no matter how much I don’t like doing that.

But there’s one thing I would NOT have done.

DO NOT

DO NOT start to repair things. If you start trying to reconnect people, when the underlying problem is actually resolved by Ancestry, Heaven only knows what a mess you’ll have with people double connected.

Twins and Duplicates

Another issue reported is that people are being duplicated in trees, including the tree owner/home person who finds that they have a twin with the same information.

Again, DO NOT start deleting and correcting.

What You CAN Do

Verify that indeed, only people you trust have edit access to your tree.

Under the name of the appropriate tree at upper left, select Tree Settings.

For another person to be able to either contribute to or edit your tree, you must specifically invite them to do so. Guests can only view your tree.

While Ancestry says that all invitees are editors, that’s not the case, as shown below when I clicked to invite someone.

As you can see, the default is “Guest,” but always verify after someone accepts your invitation.

Patience

Patience is difficult, but if you’re experiencing tree problems at Ancestry, just do something else for a few hours or a couple days.

Here are four great genetic genealogy activities you can do elsewhere that are productive.

  1. Download a copy of your DNA file from Ancestry and upload to MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, or GedMatch to find additional matches. Instructions can be found here.
  2. At FamilyTreeDNA, upload your file and get matches for free. Check Family Finder, Y or mitochondrial DNA matches, or order a Big Y test or upgrade. The Father’s Day sale just started and you can sign on or order, here.
  3. At MyHeritage, if you don’t have a DNA test, upload free and get matches here. Check your DNA matches using their new Genetic Groups filter. I provided instructions, here. While you’re viewing your DNA matches, be sure to check for SmartMatches, record matches and other hints. If you’re not a records subscriber, you can subscribe with a 14-day free trial here.
  4. At 23andMe, testers are limited to 2000 matches unless you purchase an annual subscription – then you’re limited to about 5000 matches. However, 23and Me does not roll matches off your list that you’ve connected to, invited to connect, made a note about or messaged. (At least they never have and mine remain.) Go to the last page of your DNA Relatives list, which are your smallest segment matches, and start working backward to be sure you’ve initiated some type of communication that will prevent them from rolling off your match list.

These tasks aren’t just busywork. You have no idea what kind of a gold nugget you may discover.

You’ll have accomplished several things, enlarged your horizons and maybe, just maybe, by the time you’re done your tree at Ancestry will have righted itself again.

What fun things did you discover?

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

What is a Heteroplasmy and Why Do I Care?

Most people have never heard of a heteroplasmy – but you might have one.

You Might Have a Heteroplasmy If…

…You have no exact matches at the full sequence mitochondrial DNA level.

A heteroplasmy is one of the first things I think of when someone tells me they have no exact full sequence matches but several that are a genetic distance of 1, meaning one mutation difference.

That phenomenon usually means the tester has a rare mutation that no one else has, at least no one who has tested their mitochondrial DNA (yet) – and that mutation just might be a heteroplasmy.

Heteroplasmies are generally (but not always) quite recent mutations. Actually, heteroplasmies are mutations caught in the act of mutating – kind of like an insect in genetic amber – frozen in time in your generation.

By Anders L. Damgaard – http://www.amber-inclusions.dk – Baltic-amber-beetle CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16792582

Let’s say you might have a heteroplasmy. Or maybe you want to see if you do. Even if YOU don’t have a heteroplasmy, other people’s heteroplasmies can and will affect matching.

Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about heteroplasmies but didn’t know to ask😊

Heteroplasmies are Fascinating

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

This means you have two versions of a DNA sequence showing in your mitochondrial DNA at a specific location.

Said another way, at a specific genetic location, you show both of two separate nucleotides. Amounts detected of a second nucleotide greater than 20% are considered a heteroplasmy. Amounts below 20% are ignored. Generally, within a few generations, the mutation will resolve in one direction or the other – although some heteroplasmies persist for several generations and can sometimes define family branches.

If you’d like to read more about mitochondrial DNA, I wrote a series of step-by-step articles and combined them into one resource page, here.

Show Me!

You can easily check to see if you have a heteroplasmy by signing on to your FamilyTreeDNA account. Hopefully, you’ve taken the full sequence test.

Today, new testers, thankfully, can only purchase full sequence tests, so HVR1 results don’t present quite the same challenges when combined with heteroplasmies as they used to. We’ll talk about that in a minute.

If you have only taken the HVR1 or HVR1+HVR2 “Plus” test, as opposed to the Full Sequence, you can upgrade by signing on here and clicking on the “Full” button on the Maternal Ancestry section of your personal page.

These buttons will be pink if you’ve taken that test already, and grey if you need to upgrade. If you have an account at FamilyTreeDNA, you can add a mitochondrial DNA test to that same account by clicking on “Add Ons and Upgrades” at the top of your personal page. You can order a test if you’re a new customer, here.

How Do I Know if I Have a Heteroplasmy?

Your mitochondrial DNA has a total of 16,569 locations that you can think of as addresses. If your DNA at those locations is normal, meaning no mutations, they won’t be listed in your results.

Mutations are shown in your mitochondrial DNA results by a different letter at the end of the location.

For example, here are my mutations for my HVR1 region. Each of these locations in the HVR1 region has a mutation.

For locations that are shown in your results, meaning those where you have a mutation, you’ll see, in order:

  • A letter, either T, A, C or G
  • The location number
  • A different letter, typically another one of T, A, C or G, but sometimes a small d

For the first mutation, C16069T, the location address is 16069, the normal value is C, the mutation that occurred is T.

Heteroplasmies are shown in your mitochondrial DNA results by letters other than T, A, C, G or d at the end of the location.

I don’t have any heteroplasmies, so I’m switching to the results of a cousin who has a heteroplasmic mutation at location T16362Y to use as an example. The trailing Y means they have a heteroplasmy at location 16362.

But first, what do those letters mean?

The Letters

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

  • T – Thymine
  • A – Adenine
  • C – Cytosine
  • G – Guanine
  • d – a deletion has occurred. There is no nucleotide at this location.

For location T16362Y, the first letter, T, is the “normal” value found at this location. If a mutation has occurred, the second letter is the mutated value. Normally, this is one of the other nucleotides, A, C or G.

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

Note – if you have a small letter t, a, c or g, it’s not a heteroplasmy, and I wrote about small letters and what they mean in the article, Mitochondrial DNA Part 2: What Do Those Numbers Mean?

Check Your Results

On your FamilyTreeDNA personal page in the mtDNA section, click on the Mutations tab.

If you’ve taken the full sequence test, you’ll see Extra Mutations. You’re looking for any mutation that ends in any letter other than T, A, C, G or d.

If you haven’t taken the full sequence test, you don’t have “Extra” mutations listed, but you can still view your mutations for the HVR1 and HVR2 regions.

Look for any value that has any letter other than T, A, C, G or lower case d at the end of the location.

The Y tells us that this location is a heteroplasmy.

Heteroplasmy Matching

Ok, let’s look at a heteroplasmy mutation at location 16326. A heteroplasmy can occur at any mitochondrial location. I’ve selected this location because it occurs in the HVR1 region of the mitochondrial DNA, so even people who haven’t tested at the full sequence level will see results for this location. Plus, the location at which the heteroplasmy occurs affects matching in different ways.

Using the example of T16362Y, the Y tells us that both nucleotides C and T were found. This location should match against anyone carrying the following values in the same location:

  • Y (letter indicating a C/T heteroplasmy)
  • T (standard or normal value)
  • C (mutated value)

However, currently at Family Tree DNA, the heteroplasmy only counts as a match to anyone with a Y, the specific heteroplasmy indicator, and the “normal” value of T, but not the mutated value of C.

This table shows how heteroplasmies are counted at FamilyTreeDNA. For heteroplasmy T16362Y, based on the value your potential match has at this location, you either will or will not be considered a match at that location.

Scenario Other Person’s Value Your Result – T16362Y
1 T16362Y – heteroplasmy indicator Match to you at this location
2 T16362T – normal value, not a mutation Match to you at this location
3 T16362C – mutated value Not counted as match to you at this location
  • If your match has a value of Y, the heteroplasmic C/T value, they are counted as a match to you, so no problem.
  • If your match has a value of T, the normal value, this location won’t be shown on their mutation list at all. They WILL be counted as a match to you so there’s no issue.
  • If your match has a value of C, the mutated value, in my opinion they should also be counted as a match to you, but they aren’t today. The logic, I believe, was that the most likely value is the standard or normal value and that the mutated value is much less likely to be accurate. Regardless, I’ve requested this change and am hoping for a matching adjustment in a future release for heteroplasmies.

Heteroplasmies do affect matching at the different levels.

Viewing Your Matches

Mitochondrial DNA, for testing purposes, is broken into three regions, HVR1 (hyper-variable region 1), HVR2 and the Coding Region.

At FamilyTreeDNA, you can view your matches at each level. The matches are cumulative, meaning that the HVR2 level includes the HVR1 level information, and the Coding Region level includes the HVR1 and HVR2 regions. That highest level which includes all three regions shows information from your entire your entire full mitochondrial DNA sequence.

Heteroplasmy Effects on Matching

If you otherwise match someone exactly, but one of you has a heteroplasmy and the other person carries the mutated value, you will be counted as a mismatch of 1 at the full sequence level.

A mismatch has different effects when it occurs in the HVR1, HVR2 or Coding Regions, respectively.

GD is an abbreviation for Genetic Distance which is how mutations are counted. A GD of 1 means the two people have one mutation difference between them.

In the following chart, the effects of you having a nonmatch, heteroplasmic or otherwise, in each of the regions is shown at each level. The region in which the mismatch occurs is shown in the first column, at left, and the effect the mismatch has on matching in each region is shown in columns 2-4.

The red sections are not counted as matches.

Mismatch Occurs in this Region HVR1 Level Match to Someone Else HVR2 Level Match to Someone Else Coding Region Level Match to Someone Else
HVR1 region nonmatch GD of 1 means no match GD of 1 means no match GD of 1 is a match
HVR2 region nonmatch Does not affect HVR1 – so you are a match GD of 1 means no match GD of 1 is a match
Coding Region nonmatch Does not affect HVR1 – so you are a match Does not affect HVR2 – so you are a match GD of 1 is a match

For purposes of this discussion, we’re assuming our two people being compared in the chart above match exactly on every other location so matching is not otherwise affected.

  • If your heteroplasmic nonmatch occurs in the HVR1 region – in other words, scenario 3 – you’ll fall into the HVR1 nonmatch row. That means you won’t be shown as a match at the HVR1 or HVR1+HVR2 levels, but you WILL be shown as a full sequence match.
  • If your heteroplasmic nonmatch is in the HVR2 region of addresses, it won’t affect your HVR1 matches, but it will affect your HVR2 and Coding Region matches. This means you will be shown as HVR1 match, not an HVR2 match, but will be a full sequence match.
  • If your heteroplasmic nonmatch is in the Coding Region, it won’t affect your HVR1 or HVR2 matches, but it will affect your Coding Region matches. However, it won’t preclude matches and you’ll be shown as a match in all three regions.

To be very clear, I have no issue with these match thresholds. It’s important to understand how this works, and therefore why heteroplasmic (and other) mismatches in specific regions affect our matches in the way they do.

Why Aren’t Mismatches of 1 Counted as Matches in the HVR1 or HVR2 Regions?

The match threshold at FamilyTreeDNA for the HVR1 and the HVR1+HVR2 regions, both small regions of about 1000 locations each, is that only an exact match is considered a match. Therefore, a heteroplasmic nonmatch in this region can really be confusing and sometimes misleading, especially if either or BOTH people have NOT tested at the full sequence level.

These are the match thresholds in effect today.

HVR1 GD or # of Mutations Allowed for a Match HVR2 GD or # of Mutations Allowed for a Match Coding Region GD or # of Mutations Allowed for a Match
0 – no mutations allowed 0 – no mutations allowed 3 mutations allowed

If both people match on either the heteroplasmy identified (Y in our case) or one person has the normal value – all is fine. But if one person has a heteroplasmy and the other has the mutated value – then a mismatch occurs. This is really only problematic when:

  • The heteroplasmy mismatch is in the HVR1 region and both people have only tested at that level, causing the two people to not match at all.
  • The heteroplasmy mismatch occurs in combination with other mutations that, cumulatively, push the two people over the GD 3 full sequence matching threshold.

The second scenario happens rarely, but I have seen situations where people don’t match their mothers, aunts, siblings, or other close relatives because of multiple heteroplasmic mutations occurring in different people.

And yes, this is hen’s teeth rare – but it does occasionally happen.

So, what’s the bottom line about heteroplasmies?

Heteroplasmy Bottom Line

  1. You can suspect a heteroplasmy if you have full sequence matches, but no exact matches.
  2. If you have a heteroplasmy in the HVR1 region, understand that you may not have many or any matches in the HVR1 and HVR2 regions. The remedy is to test at the full sequence level and check matches there.
  3. If you have a heteroplasmy and don’t match someone you expect to match – reach out to them and ask about their value at that specific location. If that location isn’t listed for them in their results, then they have no mutation there and your heteroplasmy is NOT the cause of you not matching with them.
  4. If you don’t match someone you expect to match, reach out to them and ask if THEY have any heteroplasmies. The easiest way to ask is, “Do you have any mutations listed that end with anything other than T, A, C, G or d?” Feel free to link to this article so that they’ll know where to look, and why you’re asking.

Do you have any heteroplasmies?

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

Two Rudolf Muellers Born on the Same Day in the Same Year in the Same Place – What? – 52 Ancestors #335

Seriously – only me. This would only happen to me. And I thought three Michael Kirsch’s living in the same village were bad.

We’ve been following Rudolph Muller’s life where we found him as an adult in Grossheppach, Germany.

click to enlarge images

In the Grossheppach records, cousin Wolfram in his one-place study of Grossheppach had discovered information indicating that Rudolph was from Switzerland, and more specifically, Stein am Rhein.

Wolfram also discovered a notation that Margretha, Rudolph’s wife, was from Kanton Zurich.

They were naturalized in 1662 and became citizens of Grossheppach.

Of course, this left us with many questions and only breadcrumbs reaching back to Switzerland.

Questions

The information in the Grossheppach records was recorded many years later. As genealogists, we’re all familiar with official records that contain incorrect information. I can’t even begin to tell you how many rabbit holes I’ve been down with those.

So, was Rudolph and Margretha’s information correct? If so, what more can we discover? Canton Zurich is a big place. Why was there no more specific information?

Before we continue to unravel this unbelievable puzzle, I need to thank several people, without whom this would NEVER have been solved:

  • My cousin, Tom
  • My cousin, Pam
  • My cousin, Wolfram
  • My village cousin, Chris (I’ll explain about village cousins in a separate article.)
  • Henry, the Stein am Rhein historian

And for the record, only Wolfram is related on this particular line. I’m just blessed with knowledgeable and generous cousins.

I’ve tried to give appropriate credit where credit is due, but there were probably 100 emails flying back and forth, so if I’ve omitted or confused credit for something, I just apologize in advance. In some cases, two people found the same thing about the same time because they are just that good!

We also unraveled more information about Margretha, Rudolph’s wife during this same exchange, but that will have to wait.

In the beginning, it looked like there wasn’t much of a mystery.

Famous last words…

It Looks Like Tom Solved the Riddle

From Tom:

I found a baptism of a Rudolf Muller, son of Jacob Muller and Ursula Muller on 8 Feb 1629 in Stein am Rhein Evangelical Church.

Hot diggity Tom. Great find. Rudolph Muller was born on February 22, 1629. From the Grossheppach records, we thought he was born about 1630 so this fits perfectly.

I sent this on to cousin Wolfram who speaks German as his native language.

From Wolfram:

Where is the baptism from?

I can translate for you the 4th entry incl. headlines. It is clearly readable:

Getauffte Kinder, im Jahr  // baptized children in the year

    1. DC. XXIX. I/ 1629

Monat und tag deß empfangenen Tauffs. / Namen. / Vatter. / Mutter. / Tester. //  Month and day of the baptism / Names. / Father. / Mother. / Godfather(&-mother)

    1. / Febr. / Rudloph. / Jacob Müller. / Ursula Müller. / H. Benedict Gulding[er]: Ellisabeth Win(t)zin. // this I do not have to translate 😉 But what is clear, the surename of the mother Ursula was also Müller. So her Father was “Müller”.

So, if this is the baptism record of Stein am Rhein, then it looks really quite good! As long there are no other Rudolph Müller in this book, either before (then the parents have to be checked or a later record Rudolph Müller (1640 latest).

Yes, we surely do need to check for another baby by the same name, but what are the chances? Rudolph isn’t a terribly common name. Plus, it’s not even preceded by Johann, so it’s even more unique.

It does bother me a bit that in the Grossheppach records, he’s mentioned, at least in some cases, as Johann Rudolph Muller. But not much. Often men were called by their middle name throughout their life, and of course, Muller and Mueller were interchangeable. Johann s the official first name of probably 90% of the German babies born during this timeframe, so he would have been called by his middle name. Even if his first name wasn’t actually Johann, the people in Grossheppach might well have assumed that it was.

A Marriage

In the meantime, Tom unearthed more:

I found a 1616 marriage also for this person’s parents.

Jacob Muller from Turbenthal

Ursula Muller from Nussbaumen

7 July 1616 in Stein am Rhein

I’ve gathered the family group: Jacob Muller and Ursula Muller, their marriage and the baptisms of their children.  There is no further evidence that they stayed in Stein am Rhein.

Perhaps they all relocated to Germany.

If this is your crew, I will translate them for you.  Let me know what you think at your convenience.  Exciting though!

I’m was happy, basking in family discovered, and I would remain happy for a few hours, right up until I checked my email again.

Pam’s Discovery

Cousin Pam who studied overseas was searching at the same time and found a transcribed record in a German local family book about Stein am Rhein. Local historians often volunteer their time to create these documents. Bless their generosity is all I can say.

click to enlarge

Rudolf Mueller born on February 22, 1629. That’s wonderful, confirmed Tom’s work, and would save Tom from translating those children’s records.

But then, Pam found another record from the same place that looked promising.

Hans (short for Johann) Rudolf Mueller.

Wait? What?

This is not the same family that Tom found?

This Johann Rudolph Mueller was born and baptized on May 22, 1629, in Stein am Rhein to different parents.

OH NO.

We really do have two babies by nearly the same name, in the same place, born three months apart – just like Wolfram mentioned. Is he psychic?

How is this even possible?

Hiccup

I skipped the hiccup which made this situation even more confusing.

The original records that Pam found showed the two babies born on the same day, but attributed to different parents. It appeared to be an erroneous entry in the family book, but as it turned out, the error was in the baptism date, not the record itself.

Yes, there were actually two babies born with the same or very similar names to two Muller/Mueller families.

I’m only showing the correct records here because I don’t want to confuse anyone else.

Trust me, we were very confused and so was the historian, Henry, who had compiled the website. He was kind enough to go back and check the original records.

Of course, since Tom had found the marriage of the parents Jacob Mueller and Ursula Mueller, I made the logical deduction that was the correct entry, and the entry for George Mueller and Magdalena Schnewlin was in error.

Wolfram Finds the Second Baptism

As it turns out, there WERE two babies by the same name, baptized in the same place, and they were both in that original record on the same page in the church book. Wolfram spotted it.

O.K. This is now really difficult and I am not sure, if we can surely say who was our Ancestor Johann Rudolph because the other baptism is below in line 13. With the parents Jörg Müller and Magdalena. This is really a pity. Furthermore according to the online family book neither the one nor the other has married. So for a definition there would be a marriage-record needed or some documents of local authorities which shows who has moved (if something like this is available at all…)

Wolfram

Tom concurred. Finding the marriage document of Rudolph Mueller or Hans Rudolph Mueller or Muller to Margretha/ Margaretha whatever her last name was would be crucial to determine which baby was our Rudolph Muller. Or was either baby our baby?

Now, I’m doubting everything.

The Census

From Wolfram:

I can’t get this topic out of my head. I checked the online family book of Stein am Rhein again. Henry Straub, who created the book included sources for the data. And on the page of the one Hans Rudolph Müller who was born in May 1629 (father: Georg Müller) he noted a “Bevölkerungsverzeichnis” as a source for the baptism, which is basically a CENSUS. And not only one but three. As I read correctly they are from 1634, 1637 and 1640. This source has not been noted with the one which was born in February 1629 (father: Jakob Müller). That indicates for me, this second one was not alive anymore even there is a minor option, that this family has moved away after 1630. So the probability seems to be high, that the first-mentioned (born in May and father Georg Müller) is the Johann Rudoph Müller we are searching for.

I think it is worthwhile and I will get in contact with Henry, the Stein am Rhein historian, and ask about his opinion. And I think he will be happy to have another connection outside of Stein am Rhein.

Henry Digs Deeper and Hits Paydirt

Henry, the historian replied to my email asking about the dual entries showing both baby Rudolph’s born on the same day.

Dear Roberta,

It seems that I made a serious mistake: there is only one Hans Rudolf Mueller (Müller) born/baptized in Stein am Rhein May 22, 1629, to Georg (Jörg) Mueller and Magdalena.

So far I can not say what went wrong (and might never find out).

There were two Rudolf Müller born in 1629 one “Rudolf” bapt. February 22nd and the “Hans Rudolf” bapt. May 22nd. The error was that I made a wrong connection to the parents.

The family of Jakob Müller and Ursula Müller apparently left Stein am Rhein, they were not registered in the census of 1634.

The 1634 Census

Henry provided the census record information.

Important other sources for Stein am Rhein exist, a kind of early census, made from 1634 till 1702. Georg (Jörg) Müller, his wife and children (still alive and not yet married) were last recorded in 1643:

“Das Dorf (hamlet, village) Hemishoffen

Nr. 8 Jörg Müller H
Hans – dienend
Magdalena Schnewli
Christen  –  dienend
Rudolf –  dienend
Anna

«dienend» indicates that they were not living any longer in the household of their parents. With other words that their parents had only a small farm and could not feed a larger family. The following census (1650) only contains the recently wed Hans Müller, his wife Anna Fischer(in) and their child Margret (1 year old).

Oh, this is heartbreaking. I can’t help but wonder what happened to Rudolph’s parents and where he lived. Who raised those children? Where did they go?

There are no further records in Stein am Rhein concerning Jörg Müller and any of his 3 other children.

Emigration (or immigration) were not always a one-step move; if nothing important (birth, marriage, or death) happened, no records were made. Unfortunately shortly after the 30 years’ war (1618-1648) in many of the parishes in Germany records were not kept or the precision is missing. Sometimes also the new arrivals preferred not to reveal much about their past.

If you like to have copies of the original records, please let me know, I recorded many documents with a digital camera.

Henry

And, of course, all if this is happening as the Thirty Years War raged throughout Europe. It’s amazing that there WAS a 1643 census AND that it still exists, along with church records from that timeframe.

Hemishofen

Jorg, short for George, lived in house number 8 in Hemishoften, literally, right next door to Stein am Rhein on the Rhine River.

The old buildings in Hemishofen are well-preserved today.

Hemishoften was probably just a wide spot in the road paralleling the Rhine, then as now.

This little hamlet is too small to have its own church, so the people who lived there would have traveled the mile or so to the church in Stein am Rhein.

At that time, these properties would have been the “cheap seats,” in part because they were outside of the city walls where no protection was afforded the residents. Any marauding soldiers approaching on the Rhine would have made quick pickings of isolated farmers with no protection.

It stands to reason that if they were already poor, and something happened, Jorg and Magdalena would not be able to support their children. But is this the right family?

Or, was our Rudolph the son of Jacob and Ursula?

Jacob Muller and Ursula Muller’s Family

Tom made me laugh with his next comment.

The only “saving grace” if you can call it that, is that if you find nothing else, it will make another interesting story.  THIS IS REALITY GENEALOGY AT ITS BEST!

Is that ever an understatement. How do you tell a super confusing story without it being super confusing?

Tom was already on this, unraveling the threads.

I mentioned yesterday that I gathered all of the records for the family: Jacob Muller & Ursula Muller.

The baptism of Anna Muller in 1622 indicates that Jacob Muller was then living in Biberach. An important point.

The death of Rudolf Muller, son of Jacob Muller of Biberach on 24 May 1629 (the year labeled the Pest Year), solves your problem.

Your Rudolf would seem to be this family: Georg Muller & Magdalena Schnewlin

Indeed, Tom solved this puzzle. Given that Jacob’s son, Rudolph died in 1629, five days before our Rudolph was born back in Stein am Rhein – our Rudolph must be Johann Rudolph Mueller, the son of George Muller and Magdalena Schnewlin. The couple living in Hemishofen in 1643, without their children.

Stein am Rhein

Now that we’ve confirmed that our Rudolph was indeed born ar at least baptized in Stein am Rhein, let’s bask for a minute in the beauty of this village on the Rhine River, located on the border between Switzerland and Germany.

Rudolph would have walked these very streets and seen these exact buildings as he grew up.

According to Wikipedia, in or about 1007, Stein am Rhein was a sleepy fishing village on the Rhine River. However, it occupied a strategic location where major road and river routes intersected. Emperor Henry II moved St. George’s Abbey to this location and granted the abbots extensive rights over the village and its trade so that they could develop it commercially.

This endeavor was quite successful. During the Reformation, the abbey was taken over by Zurich. Today, the abbey, 3 churches, the castle, city walls, tower, and gate along with many historic buildings remain and are extremely well cared for.

By JoachimKohlerBremen – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54243437

By JoachimKohler-HB – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87543300

Rudolph’s ancestors may have lived in this village someplace. It’s actually very unusual that they lived in the countryside, especially during the war. People were either merchants or farmers. German and Swiss farmers lived inside the city wall and tended their fields outside. The city walls provided protection from invaders.

To a poor peasant boy who probably seldom got to town, Stein am Rhein would have been a sophisticated city and full of magic. I can’t help but view this through the eyes of an awed child as he entered through the city gate, above.

By JoachimKohler-HB – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87853275

The beautiful town hall.

By JoachimKohler-HB – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87858781

These frescoes are original. Imagine what they looked like when Rudolph visited these shops.

By JoachimKohler-HB – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87852766

By JoachimKohler-HB – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87862549

I supposed it goes without saying that I desperately want to visit Stein am Rhein. Of course, I say that about all of the locations where my ancestors lived.

You can enjoy more photos, here.

By Hansueli Krapf – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7084348

The Rhine passes the quaint village of Stein am Rhein, providing lifeblood. But Rudolph wouldn’t have sailed away on the Rhine River. Instead, he would have struck out overland for Grossheppach and a new life.

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Thank you so much.

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New Genetic Groups Filter at MyHeritage

Recently MyHeritage released a new DNA match filter option for Genetic Groups.

Genetic Groups are different from ethnicity. Ethnicity looks at world founder populations and determines which populations you might be connected to genetically.

Genetic Groups, which I introduced here, is also connected to geography, but in a much more genealogically relevant way. Genetic Groups combines two things:

  • People you match and
  • Who are found in common geographics or genetic groups according to their genealogy

A genetic group might be people from Pennsylvania, where an ethnicity might be Germanic, which falls under North and West European. These two things could be derived from the same ancestor(s).

click any image to enlarge

How does that work? Well, the Pennsylvania Dutch were Germans. The Scotch-Irish, (or Scots-Irish if you prefer) were from Scotland and immigrated to Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina. These Pennsylvania groups could be either or both. You get the idea.

This is exactly why you need to be able to filter your matches by Genetic Groups.

If you shift the genetic group confidence slider level to low, you’ll see all of your genetic groups. In my case, the two genetic groups in the Netherlands are of particular interest.

My mother’s grandfather immigrated from Friesland in the 1860s as a child, so I should have Dutch cousins at roughly the fourth cousin level.

Filters

MyHeritage already includes several filters which can be used in combination with each other.

They recently added Genetic Groups.

If you click the dropdown for “All Genetic Groups,” you’ll see the group you’re looking for. Click on the group.

I selected Friesland which is the area where my Ferverda family originated.

My 1,375 pages of matches is now reduced to 26 pages, and my top three matches, other than my mother, are three Ferverda cousins. Viewing shared matches will be illuminating.

I can focus that list of matches even further by adding other filters.

In this case, let’s try the location filter and select “Netherlands” which is the location where the tester currently lives.

Because I didn’t clear the original Friesland filter and added the Netherlands location, I have two filters applied to my DNA match list.

These two filters reduce my matches to 16 pages of people who very likely match me because of our shared Dutch ancestry. I can hardly wait to sort through these.

I could hone this list even further by filtering by, maybe, a shared location or a shared surname, or maybe only people with trees. Let’s see what that does.

Selecting the following filters, in addition to the two already in place above, reduced the pages of matches accordingly:

  • Has Theory of Family Relativity – 1 match
  • Has Smart Matches – 0 matches
  • Has shared surname – 5 pages of matches (some of these are VERY interesting!)
  • Has shared place – 13 pages
  • Has tree – 15 pages

Clearly, I’m going to check the Theory of Family Relativity first, because MyHeritage has already done the heavy lifting for me by identifying candidate common ancestors.

Next, I’ll work on shared surnames and then shared places.

It helps a great deal that I have my mother’s DNA at MyHeritage too, because I can immediately see if the match is valid or by chance. A valid match on this line will match me and Mom, both. Many will also triangulate with other testers which will help me further identify people who match me on my Dutch side.

Clearing Filters

Don’t forget to clear your filters when you’re done.

Any enabled filter will be shown in darker black, but it’s still awfully easy to forget you have filters enabled. Be sure to clear them before doing something else. The Clear Filters button is at far right.

Relatives

I’m fortunate enough that my mother tested before she passed away. I can verify that my Dutch matches match her as well, confirming that they are identical by descent, not just by chance. If you can, test your parents or upload their results if they have tested elsewhere.

But what if your parent or parents aren’t available to test?

Testing or uploading tests of siblings or known close relatives like aunts, uncles or cousins are extremely useful too. You can see if the people you discover through filtering match the family members you would expect.

You can order a MyHeritage DNA test here or upload a DNA file from another vendor, for free, here. To use the advanced tools, there’s a $29 unlock fee, but that’s less than a DNA test. Need download/upload instructions – look here..

Have fun!

What are you discovering?

_____________________________________________________________

Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

Jacob Dobkins and the Battle of Kings Mountain – 52 Ancestors #334

The temperature peaked someplace in the 90s on the Friday before Memorial Day in 2012, and the humidity was stifling. No one else, except one runner, was crazy enough to be hiking on Kings Mountain that day.

If Jacob Dobkins could fight for his life here, I could certainly hike in the heat.

I hiked the Kings Mountain National Military Park battlefield trail which the park service has conveniently marked with signs. There was also a cell phone audio tour where visitors call a phone number, enter the stop number, and a recording explains what happened there.

My ancestor, Jacob Dobkins, who we think was living in Virginia at that time served at Kings Mountain.

The decisive battle occurred on October 7, 1780, and amazingly, only lasted for a single hour. For some, though, it was a lifetime.

Jacob Dobkins

Jacob Dobkins was born in 1751 in Augusta County, Virginia to Captain John Dobkins and Elizabeth. I have not been able to confirm Elizabeth’s surname.

At Kings Mountain, Jacob would have been 29 years old, married to Dorcas Johnson for just over 5 years, and had 2 or 3 small children at home.

We don’t know a lot about his early life, other than he grew up and lived on the frontier.

In 1773, Jacob was found in Fincastle, Virginia on a delinquent tax list. It’s possible that he had moved on which is why his taxes were delinquent. However, Fincastle County, Virginia included a huge territory – land surrounding the Clinch River in what would become Tennessee, part of western Virginia, and what would become the state of Kentucky. Who knows where Jacob actually lived.

When Jacob Dobkins and Dorcas Johnson married on March 11, 1775, they lived in Shenandoah Co., Virginia.

Jacob’s Revolutionary War pension application says that in 1779 he enlisted in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. After the war, he appears on the 1783 tax lists in Virginia, then in the Shenandoah Co. Virginia census in 1790. He is living in Jefferson Co., Tennessee by 1792 when he sued John Sevier, also a veteran of Kings Mountain. John was at that time a member of the House of Representatives from North Carolina and would become the Governor of Tennessee in 1796.

Jacob bought land in Jefferson County, Tennessee in 1795, but by 1802 had purchased land in Claiborne County where he spent the rest of his life.

A humble man, Jacob never owned more than a log cabin – yet he and 1000 other men collectively changed the course of history.

Jacob passed away on March 4, 1833, an old man, with a Revolutionary War pension. Jacob’s pension application does not state that he was at Kings Mountain, but he is listed in Pat Alderson’s book, The Overmountain Men as has having served in that battle.

Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive roster.

The Over Mountain Men

There’s a difference between militia units and men who enlisted to serve in the Revolutionary War. It’s certainly possible to be both and it’s clear that some men who fought at the Battle of Kings Mountain were indeed enlisted.

A depiction of the gathering of militiamen at Sycamore Shoals prior to the Battle of Kings Mountain, from 1915.

Militia units were assembled locally to protect the homes and property of the community. Militia service was unpaid. Men provided their own gun and supplies and were obligated to show up and practice on the muster field where they lived.

Sometimes men from militia units did enlist in the war but being in the militia did not necessarily equate to military service. Militiamen stayed home unless there were extraordinary circumstances where they were called to action or unless they joined the military. Men who enlisted did not stay home, but they did visit from time to time.

By Brian Stansberry – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7033099

The Over Mountain Men gathered in several locations prior to departing for King’s Mountain where they would coalesce on October 7th.

Before my trip to the Kings Mountain Battlefield Park, I didn’t realize that militia units from different locations had stayed together and fought together during that conflict. That does make sense since those men had trained together and understood their commander well. If you’re wondering about your ancestor and Kings Mountain, look for evidence of other men from his community having fought there.

I also didn’t realize that the Over Mountain Men were primarily Scotch-Irish and that they had planned to stay neutral until Patrick Ferguson, the Loyalist/British commander, threatened to “come over the mountain and lay waste their land and homes to fire and sword.” Not only did Ferguson threaten the men directly, but their wives and children. That was a very, very poor choice.

Hence, Ferguson inadvertently gave birth to their name, in part because they did indeed come from “over the mountain,” west of the Appalachians, the colonial boundary.

As the ranger said, those mountain men were born fighters and they were angered into action. Especially since the battles of Buford, known as Buford’s Massacre, and Camden had been so horrid. The British slaughtered men on the battlefield under the flag of surrender.

As the Over Mountain Men charged up the side of Kings Mountain, they shouted Buford…the leader of the massacred men.

Never underestimate the power of enraged, determined people. Not only did they win the battle, decisively, but they turned the tide of the war and showed the British that they could and would win.

The Battle of Kings Mountain was a decisive inflection point in the Revolutionary War.

Patrick Ferguson’s “Advantage”

Patrick Ferguson was so confident of his superiority over those backwoodsmen that he isolated himself on the top of the mountain with no defensive plan. He simply planned to shoot the men as they crested the hill. He did shoot a few, but what he didn’t anticipate is the sheer number – almost 1000 – men who were charging like Indians, not like the regimented English soldiers in formation.

The Over Mountain Men swarmed Ferguson with no warning, from every place all at once.

Ferguson’s hilltop “advantage” soon became a problem, and then turned into a trap from which he and his men could not escape. The British and their Tory supporters fell, and even after they surrendered, many died at the hands of the Over Mountain Men in retribution for what they had done to Buford and at Camden.

Some Tory soldiers were killed on the battlefield and others were lynched for treason. Then, within a day, the mountain men dispersed, disappearing back into the silent hills from whence they came….never to be forgotten. Names included Campbell, McDowell, Edmondson, and others.

My ancestor’s brother, Nathaniel Vannoy from Wilkes County, North Carolina was present as was his sister’s husband, Col. Benjamin Cleveland, depicted below leading the Patriot militiamen back home after battle.

By Don Troiani – Allan Jones personal collection, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=93842148

Reverend George McNiel, the “elderly” minister, age 60 or so, another ancestor, accompanied the Wilkes County men as a volunteer chaplain. Sadly, his services were needed, although there is no comprehensive list of who died on either side.

Comparatively few fatalities occurred to the Over the Mountain Men, but many Tories died that day.

The Battlefield Path

The path today at Kings Mountain is paved and circles the actual battlefield which is on top of the mountain. Locations of interest are marked. The circular path is at the base of the hill.

Come along for a walk. Bring a cold drink – it’s hot😊

Glancing up the hill, above, and along the paved pathway, below.

The ranger told us that the land has been logged since the battle and the original forest was much more mature. The soldiers reported that they could see each other clearly through the trees, so the undergrowth is a function of regrowth.

Some of the area was craggy and remind me of the pictures of the Scottish highlands. Our Scotch-Irish ancestors probably felt very much at home. Many of the Highland rebels left Scotland after the 1745 Battle of Colladen Moor. These men and their sons were born fighters, ingrained in both their blood and culture.

Men were buried on Kings Mountain where they fell if they were actually “buried” at all. Anonymous fieldstones were marked with honoring plaques later, as we see below. Paths up and down the hillsides lead to the graves. Men were killed all over the hill, not just on top.

It’s hard to believe this beautiful, tranquil location was the site of such a monumental battle. Although, I can feel their presence in the silence.

Countless men lost their lives here and many more were wounded. It’s amazing that such a decisive battle was won by only 1000 or so backwoodsmen, virtually untrained, pitted against highly-trained soldiers and their backcountry brethren.

Nooks and crannies on the walkway hold stones marking fallen soldiers.

Today, on Memorial Day, we honor these men and their service. This is the Appalachian version of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier along with many more whose graves have been lost to time.

As I proceed around the mountain, the hillside becomes significantly steeper, and the woods deepen. These signs placed along the pathway were immensely helpful.

Can you imagine seeing red-coated men charging at you with bayonets?

The Patriots were longhunters, armed only with hunting rifles. Similar men had been slaughtered just weeks before. No one really expected this to be different.

The Over the Mountain Men charged the British three times and faced those bayonets. By the time bayonets were useful, the guns themselves were not.

Were they brave or foolhardy?

That third charge was successful.

The grave below is that of Major William Chronicle.

Rain

It rained the night before the battle. Wet leaves mute and absorb sound.

The Tories were confidently waiting but didn’t expect to be ambushed in silence. The Over Mountain Men had the advantage of understanding nature. They left their horses tied a mile away and approached on foot, like Indians. They fought the Indians on the frontier, but they had also learned from them. Very effectively, it seems.

Their final approach up the hill was with full-fledged war screams. The Tories found it every bit as disconcerting as did the Europeans when the Indians descended on them with war whoops.

Today, the only sound is the slightly babbling brook.

Up this hill they ran – shooting and shouting and whooping. “Buford,” they screamed with all their might.

Today, birds chirp. But on that day, the men from Virginia, North Carolina, and the area that would become Tennessee joined forces to survive the advance and crest the top of Kings Mountain. They fought their way up that hill, tree to tree. The bark was literally shot off the trees by the Loyalist’s guns.

Yes, into that horrific assault from above, the Over Mountain Men still continued to advance.

Would these men have ever dreamed that they turned the tide of the war and therefore the fledgling nation, tree by tree, as they inched up that hill? Today, the possibility for any 1000 people to have that kind of a profound effect seems nearly impossible, but it wasn’t then.

I’m sure those men never even pondered the idea that someday this would be an honored battlefield, or that their descendants would come here to honor them, their service and sacrifice, and to be with them in whatever small way we can be. That this place would one day be peaceful was incomprehensible on that October day.

Back then, there were no honored battlefields. Only bloody farmers’ fields where men were wounded and died. Honor and commemoration would come much, much later.

The Over Mountain Men were stubborn to a fault. They didn’t take orders well, if at all. Their commanders understood this – because they too were one of those men. Each man was instructed to be his own officer and do the best he could.

Family Against Family

Not everyone agreed that the colonies should become their own country. Some believed that revolting against England was wrong, for any number of reasons. Like during the Civil War that followed some 80 years later, the populace was divided.

The hardest part of this battle was probably that it turned family members against each other. In some cases, brother against brother. It’s told that one man, a Tory, was injured and asked his brother-in-law, a Patriot, for help. The reply he received was to ask his friends.

In many ways, this battle wasn’t really about sovereignty, it was about what Buford had done, under the truce flag, to the Patriots in two earlier battles. It was about Ferguson’s threat to destroy the homes, family, and farms of the formerly neutral men of Appalachia. It was about revenge and justice.

It was not a good day to be a Tory, or Ferguson.

Colonel William Campbell

Colonel William Campbell, from Augusta County, Virginia rallied the Over Mountain Men to return after they had begun to retreat and to charge the Tories once again.

He was known to the Loyalists as the “bloody tyrant of Washington County” due to his harsh treatment of Tories, but was a hero to the mountain men. He instructed them to, “Fight like Hell and shout like devils.” He was promoted to General in 1781, but died shortly after of a heart attack.

Somehow my Campbell line is related to his line, but I have been unable to identify exactly how. It’s certainly possible that my Charles Campbell was at Kings Mountain with his kinsman, Colonel William Campbell whose father’s name was also Charles Campbell.

I ponder this possibility as I walk. I can’t help but wonder how many of my ancestors fought, here, at Kings Mountain.

This tree has grown over a large rock. Was this rock a fieldstone serving to mark the grave of a quickly-buried soldier?

The previous photos were all taken at the base of the hill and slightly ascending.

Hilltop

Beginning here, the photos are from the top of the hill. This is where Ferguson and many of his men were killed. They thought that they could simply wait there for the Over the Mountain Men and pick them off with bayonets as they crested the hill. Their bayonets were “high” and did not have the effect they wanted. Bullets travel much further than bayonets and red-coated men made great targets.

On the top of the hill, which was cleared at the time, today stand two markers.

This monument is the Centennial Monument, built in 1880 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle.

This stone does not mark a grave, but honors Colonel Asbury Coward who planned the 100th Anniversary celebration and raised the money for the commemorative statue.

We are now looking down the hill. The mountain men charged up this hill, towards Ferguson’s soldiers and Tories waiting for them, about where I’m standing.

Who Was a Tory?

It was difficult to tell who was who, well, except for the English soldiers who wore those distinctive red coats. Ninety percent of the Loyalists, known as Tories, were friends and neighbors.

Emotions ran perilously high. Family members felt betrayed and couldn’t understand how their kinsmen could feel otherwise – strongly enough to want to kill them.

The Tory Oak in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, also known as the Cleveland Oak, was the tree in which Colonel Benjamin Cleveland hung at least 5 Tory traitors in 1779, three of whom had attempted to kidnap him.

Pretty much, a Tory was someone on top of the hill trying to kill you. Once there, it was almost impossible to tell the difference.

Is an unknown soldier buried under some of these rocks?  The dead had to be buried someplace here – their graves now lost to time.

The Tories and the English soldiers were pinned on top of the mountain. Some Loyalists attempted to either escape or switch sides, but I fear their lot had already been cast given that they had already shown their true allegiance. A “conversion” under duress is likely not genuine and the Over Mountain Men knew that.

But what would those men, on either side, have done if they discovered the person they were trying to kill was a family member or neighbor?

US Obelisk Monument

This beautiful white granite monument on the top of Kings Mountain is a smaller version of the Washington Monument.

Plaques on the sides list the commanders and known dead Americans. You can read documentation about the battle, here.

The plaques honor the fallen at Kings Mountain. I was so hoping for a complete roster of all the men who participated in this battle, but no such luck. Historians have been piecing this information together for years.

This beautiful white monument is located in the center of the top of the hill.

This nearby stone honors Colonel James Hawthorne who took command after another officer was wounded. However, this is one of the LEAST remarkable things about James Hawthorne. This man was made of steel and grit.

Ferguson’s Demise

Engraving depicting the death of British Major Patrick Ferguson who was shot from his horse, but he didn’t actually fall off entirely. With his foot still in the stirrup, he was dragged to the patriot side.

According to Patriot accounts, when a militiaman approached the Major for his surrender, Ferguson drew his pistol and shot the man. Probably not a good idea.

Other soldiers reacted in kind and 7 or 8 musket holes later, Ferguson was dead. Many, many men reported that they had fired the fatal shot. Militia accounts said his body was stripped of clothing and the men urinated on him before burial, near where he died. The militiamen hated this man who had wrought so much indignity and pain.

I don’t know who marked Ferguson’s grave, or when, but initially it was marked only by a pile of stones.

Major Patrick Ferguson isn’t very likable. He recruited Tories from among the residents of the Carolina backcountry and commanded several devastating Revolutionary War battles.

He’s not a hero by any measure, but we must give the devil his due. You can’t help but respect Ferguson. He embodies all that people love about the Scotch-Irish – the same traits that the Over the Mountain Men used to defeat him.

Ferguson was bullishly stubborn. His elbow was shattered in a previous battle by a musket ball, and he learned to ride with his other hand, write with it, fence with it, and used a silver whistle to command his men since he didn’t have the second hand he needed. He had to hold on to the reins with something. Obviously, that last stubborn shot he fired, surely knowing he would be killed immediately as a result, was fired with his one good hand.

Patrick was a one-armed commander in the Battle of Kings Mountain but never considered himself in any capacity disabled.

He was also a bit of a renegade, and the more established commanders basically abandoned him to face the Over the Mountain Men alone. Maybe they thought, “so much the better,” if Ferguson were killed, but little did they dream the magnitude of that victory would also mean their defeat.

There just seems to be some karmic justice lurking in that situation.

Ferguson famously traveled with two women, both named Virginia, leading to many untoward jokes about his ability to remember the right name in the heat of the moment, so to speak. One Virginia died on the mountain with him and was buried in the same grave.

One escaped, the Over the Mountain Men parting ranks to let her through. I can’t even begin to imagine how those women wound up on that hilltop.

Some reported that it was as Virginia escaped that she told them Ferguson was wearing a red and white plaid shirt. His men could easily distinguish him, but after that prize piece of information, so could the Over Mountain Men.

The location of Ferguson’s death is marked on the top of Kings Mountain.

Ferguson’s grave is nearby in a “can’t miss it” location right beside the path.

Marked with the original cairn and now a stone as well, it’s actually quite beautiful.

You know, the great irony is that Ferguson, born in Scotland, was probably related to at least some of these men.

The Over Mountain Men are Victorious

This stone, tucked away down a little path, commemorates the service of Colonel Frederick Hambright, a German born Patriot who urged his men to continue fighting after Ferguson famously claimed that “all the Rebels from hell” would be unable to drive him away.

Clearly, Ferguson was mistaken, as proven by Hambright and his men.

That Night

Imagine the night after the Battle of Kings Mountain.

Men of both sides would have been terribly on edge.

They would have been trying to rest, as best through could, among the moans and groans of the wounded. Men probably died during the night.

Neither side knew what the morning would bring, and both sides were afraid of each other. Other than the men in red coats, it was difficult to determine who was on which side.

The Tories/ Loyalists/Redcoats knew the Whigs/Patriots/Over Mountain Men would like nothing better than to hang them. The feeling was clearly mutual, based on past behavior at previous battles.

The Over Mountain Men knew that Loyalist reinforcements couldn’t be far behind.

Neither contingent could move under the cover of darkness.

I’d wager no sentry fell asleep that night – and neither did most of the other men.

Even burying the dead would have been risky.

The Tory/Loyalist Prisoners

It was reported that the militiamen had captured more than 700 Loyalists, be they English soldiers or Tory sympathizers. By the time they reached the Moravian settlement of Bethabara, near Winston-Salem, three weeks later, they had 300 prisoners, and by early December, only 130. A month later, they had 60. What happened to the missing men?

Some were likely hung. Some found a sympathetic ear among relatives or neighbors and were paroled or simply allowed to go home. Some could have been wounded and either left behind or died someplace. The Moravians reported that some escaped. More than 200 were reported to have been consigned into the Patriot militia but had since defected and rejoined the British to fight against the Patriots another day.

Returning Home

The British clearly hated these men who would not be subdued.

Hearty, brave, and having succeeded against all odds, the Carolina backwoodsmen and the Over Mountain Men returned to their homes, crossing the high mountain range through snow.

They would wait for the next volley from the British, prepared to meet them once again where they must. But the tide had turned, thanks to the incredible bravery of 1000 out-gunned, untrained, angry, Patriots.

The Battlefield Today

In order to protect the battlefield, it had to be purchased and then designated a National Historic Landmark. This occurred in 1930 when President Herbert Hoover, along with 70,000 people, visited Kings Mountain.

From the location above, marked by a rock, Hoover gave a speech that set the wheels in motion for the park today.

Hoover’s speech, above, marked the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Kings Mountain.

I can’t even begin to imagine 70,000 people gathered at Kings Mountain. Seventy times as many people as there were 150 years earlier on that same day.

Kings Mountain

This then is the story of Kings Mountain, a narrative not only of military victory but the tale of a vendetta “paid” as well.

After winning this battle, these mountain men, not soldiers, but fathers, husbands, and brothers turned around, returned home, and resumed their life on the frontier. It was fall – time to lay in meat for the winter and chop wood for the stove.

They needed to tell the wives and mothers of the men who would not be returning – those who remain on Kings Mountain. The community would help those widows and families survive.

This make-shift army of volunteer men changed the course of history and shaped this country in a way no others ever would, vanquishing their enemies who laid waste to their kinsmen under the flag of truce.

It’s ironic that we don’t even know the names of the men largely responsible for America becoming a democracy as opposed to continuing as subjects of the British crown.

Had the British and their Tory compatriots not angered these men into a boiling rage, who knows, we might live under the British flag yet today. That trajectory changed, thanks to the utter bravery and sheer stubbornness of a few hardy backwoodsmen, the Over Mountain Men, brandishing axes, knives, and hunting rifles in the face of soldiers with bayonets.

Jacob Dobkins was probably among those stalwart men. Perhaps your ancestor was too.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

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Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

Camstra Burials: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way – 52 Ancestors #333

In last week’s article, The Camstra Trail, I was gifted with the beautiful miniature photo of Douwe Baukes Camstra and his wife and subsequently found the burial location of the couple, at least in general terms.

It’s interesting how publishing something like that opens the floodgates. Well, maybe not floodgates in this case, but definitely the faucet.

Three things happened.

  • Another photo of Douwe surfaced
  • We found the burial locations of Douwe Bauke Camstra who died in 1869
  • We found the burial location of his father, Bauke Douwe Camstra who died in 1866

Douwe’s Actual Burial Plot

As it turns out, I actually HAD more information about Douwe that had been previously provided by Yvette Hoitink. Of course, I made this discovery right AFTER I hit the publish button.

Yvette unearthed a letter written almost a century ago.

Ybeltje Camstra – a granddaughter of Douwe Bauke Camstra wrote in May 1923:

“My grandfather was somebody of fairly large mental gifts. He appears to have been a good mathematician, in that we had in our family an antique silver tobacco jar with an inscription, which read that this tobacco jar was given to him for important services, rendered to the City of Leeuwarden; these services were regarding calculations that he was required to do. This tobacco jar disappeared during the theft that took place in Maartensdijk around 1895, which is a shame.”

On 12 May 1846 the family Camstra settled in Leeuwarden. For years, the family lived in the house at the Grote Kerkstraat nr. 262. From this marriage were born six children, while the family Camstra-Kijlstra also took care to raise a niece Anna Elisabeth Camstra.

Also in the house lived Catharina Proost, school teacher, charged with teaching the children. Servant was Berbertje Koopal.

The couple Camstra-Kijlstra lies buried on the old Cemetery at the Spanjaardslaan in Leeuwarden, section 3, row 26, nr. 11.

There you have it. If I were Douwe’s direct descendant, I’d be placing a FindAGrave request for a photo – even if there is no marker and even if he’s currently sharing a grave with a few of his neighbors.

Yvette provided additional information about Douwe too.

After he married, Douwe B. Camstra was first head teacher in Drachten for several years, but was later appointed arrondissementsijker [district calibrator].

He was joint founder of the “Selskip foar Fryske Tael en Skrifekennisse [Society for Frisian language and writing knowledge]” and for many years was a member as “earste skriuwer [first writer]”. Douwe also wrote Frisian novellas, of which 12 were published in “Idu[…]” and “De Swanneblom.”

In regards to his appointment as district calibrator in Leeuwarden we find the following in the Resolutiën van Burgemeesteren der Stad Leeuwarden [Resolutions of the City Leeuwarden]:

28 February 1846 – Was read a resolution of the Provincial Executives of Friesland of 24 February 1846 nr. 29 regarding information about the transfer of district calibrator D.B. Camstra from Heerenveen to Leeuwarden, to replace the fired assistant calibrator G.M. Cahais, as well as determining the time for the calibration of the measures and weights, over 1846 and all the Cities and Municipalities of the province etc. This resolution has already had the required effect, so was decided to consider as notification.

By C messier – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51124679

Douwes Bauke Camstra would have been very familiar with “The Waag,” or weigh house in Leeuwarden where all types of goods were weighed, located on the canal center city, a few blocks from where Douwe was born.

Speaking of a Descendant

My cousin, a descendant of Douwe, dropped me a note immediately after he read last week’s article. He had been gifted with a copy of the same photo in 2013 along with another one of Douwe apparently taken a few years later.

Courtesy of cousin Glenn

Douwe looked to be a bit older and his black eye seemed to have healed. So my speculation that Douwe might have been blind was clearly wrong. Now I wonder if what we thought was a black eye was an artifact of very early photography.

These two photos provide secondary confirmation of the identity of this man.

Burial Location of Bauke Douwes Camstra (1779-1866) and Anna Elizabeth Jonker (1778-1856) 

I surmised in the article that since Douwe Bauke Camstra and his wife were buried in the Spanjaardslaan cemetery in 1869, that his parents were surely buried there too. That seemed reasonable, given that his father only died three years before Douwe and since there was no other cemetery in Leeuwarden following the 1827 edict that burials could no longer occur in churches and churchyards for sanitation reasons.

Then, I received this from Yvette:

About Bauke’s burial place, all the way back in 2013, I did a research report for you with the inventory of the estate of Bauke Douwes Camstra, created on 21 July 1866, after his death.

Among the estate was:

“Graves: Four graves at the churchyard in Goutum, the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh grave from the church in row 18, with the two grave stones, valued at fl. 20 Deducted for maintenance and prohibition to open the two graves in which the deceased will be buried within 20 years.”

So Bauke was buried in Goutum just south of Leeuwarden. I once had a McDonald’s picnic dinner there and sent you a photo.

Yvette to the rescue once again, and my bad for not rereading the Camstra reports. The great irony here is that I was very excited about receiving that picnic photo from Yvette at the time and remember it well.

Courtesy Yvette Hoitink

I even managed to find the photo on my computer.

Yvette continues:

They owned 4 graves on the churchyard in Goutum, a small hamlet just south of Leeuwarden. They owned graves 4, 5, 6 and 7 in row 18.

Of course, this begs the question of who was intended to be buried in the other two graves, and if anyone in the Camstra family actually was ever buried there. I also thought his wife predeceased Bauke. I need to do some more reading and digging. Actually, what I need to do is write their own individual ancestor articles where I review everything.

That has to be on the north side since the south side doesn’t have 18 rows. I made a guess that they started counting the rows from the tower and indicated the location of these graves on the Google Map.

Yvette even marked their grave locations.

Google Streetview drove by the churchyard as well, but the trees were so full of leaves you can hardly see anything.

The estate bill included a provision for maintenance of the graves of Bauke and Anna Elisabeth for 20 years, so that’s long gone by now as many graves are cleared in the Netherlands after 20 years, I do not think these graves are still there. There is a small chance that they still exist because this was an owned grave, not a rented grave.

The graves at the Goutum cemetery are listed at Graftombe but the Camstra grave is not among them so it was probably cleared.

You can see the area where they are/were buried from the street beside the church. They are near the rear of the church, just the other side of the trees.

Why Was Bauke Buried in Goutham?

OK, so my logic was sound, but it was also wrong.

It made perfect sense that Bauke was buried in the only cemetery in Leeuwarden when he died. It made sense, especially since his son was buried there three years later.

In fact, now I wonder why Douwe wasn’t buried in Goutum with Bauke.

Furthermore, why WAS Bauke buried in Goutum?

After all, Bauke was a deacon in the Grote of Jacobijnerkerk Dutch Reformed church in Leeuwarden, just down the street from his home. He didn’t attend church in Goutum.

The beautiful new Leeuwarden cemetery park was just across the bridge, outside the city wall, much closer than Goutum.

This doesn’t make sense, at least not at first glance.

The church in Goutum (Buorren 23) is just south of Leeuwarden, about 3 miles as the crow flies from Bauke’s home church. Bauke would certainly have been familiar with the churches surrounding Leeuwarden.

My bet, at this point, is that Bauke was NOT in favor of being buried in a grave outside of a churchyard. There were gravesites available at the church in Goutum, and Bauke took advantage of the opportunity to purchase four. I think this comes under the category of, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Bauke found a way to be buried in a churchyard, even if it wasn’t his home church or even inside the city of Leeuwarden. It didn’t matter. The churchyard in Goutum is where he rested until at least 1886 when his 20 years was up.

Were it not for the purchase noted in Bauke Douwe Camstra’s estate record, we would never have known.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

Be Sure Your DNA Tests Are Connected to Trees at MyHeritage

As I’ve been preparing for the free seminar, “Turning AutoClusters into Solutions at MyHeritage” on Monday, May 24th at 2 PM EDT (US), I realized something VERY important that I’d like to share with you – in advance.

By the way, to watch the presentation live, just click on the Facebook MyHeritage page, here a few minutes before 2. If you’re busy, MyHeritage will record the session and you can watch at your convenience.

Upload Family Tests

It’s always important to test family members, or upload DNA files to MyHeritage if they have already tested elsewhere. You can easily upload additional tests from other vendors to MyHeritage, here.

Need instructions for downloading from other vendors or uploading to MyHeritage? You can find step-by-step instructions, here.

One of your best clues will be who else your cluster members match. Known relatives are a huge clue!

I did all that, but I <ahem> neglected a really important step after the upload.

Connect the DNA Test to the Right Person in the Appropriate Tree

I have no idea how I managed to NOT do this, but I didn’t and I made this discovery while working on my clusters.

  • As I checked the DNA tests that I manage at MyHeritage, I realized that none of them had Theories of Family Relativity. Hmmm, that’s odd, because some of them are my close relatives, and I have Theories of Family Relativity. They should too, given that we are using the same tree.
  • Then, I verified that all of these tests were connected to my tree. Good, right?

Those two facts, together, didn’t make sense, so I investigated further and realized that somehow, I had managed to create a single entry for each person, disconnected from everyone else in my tree. That lone person is who the DNA kit was connected to, but not to anyone else in my tree.

How did I make that discovery?

More importantly, how can you check each of the tests that you manage to be sure they are connected appropriately?

Even if you’re SURE you’ve connected them, please check. I discovered that I had connected them, kind of. But not properly.

Let’s look at each step so you can check too.

Are Your Tests Connected?

Click to enlarge images

At the top of your account page, select Family Tree.

If you have uploaded multiple family trees, be sure to select the CORRECT family tree where the person should be connected.

If you are related to that person by blood, then connecting them to the proper place in YOUR family tree is best. If you are not related to them by blood, such as an in-law or spouse or someone else entirely, then you can either connect them to the proper place in your tree or upload a separate tree for them. For example, my spouse and I do not have children together, so there will never be anyone who shares both of our DNA or ancestors. I uploaded a separate tree for his family so his family can see tree members that are only relevant to him.

After you click on Family Tree, on the left side, you’ll see the tree name and down arrow. If you click on the down arrow, the active tree is displayed as orange, and the other trees you have uploaded are grey.

Be SURE the tree the person should be connected in is the active tree by clicking the appropriate tree.

Find the Person

At the far right-hand side of your tree page, type the name of the person whose test you’re managing, by the name listed on the test.

If the person is NOT connected to a family in your tree, you’ll see something like the view above that shows their name but no appropriate relationship. The item blurred out below Charlene’s name is the year she was born based on what was entered when the kit was uploaded.

If the person IS connected appropriately, you’ll see the correct relationship to you.

If your relative’s relationship is shown appropriately to you, next, click on that person’s name to be SURE you’ve connected the DNA kit to that person.

When you click on that person, you’ll see their name displayed in their position in the tree, along with the DNA symbol.

If you DON’T see a DNA symbol on their tree placard, this may mean you’re in the wrong tree. It definitely means there is no DNA kit attached to this person’s profile in this tree.

For example, my husband is in my tree and in his own tree, but his DNA is connected to him in his own tree, not “him” in my tree. His name in his tree has a DNA icon and his name in my tree does not. If I accidentally connected him to his name in my tree, he would have no genetic tree-based tools because his ancestors aren’t in my tree.

DNA Symbol But No Family

If you see a DNA symbol on their placard in the tree, but no parents or family members, you’ve probably done what I did. Poor Charlene was connected to her own card in my tree, but not the Charlene where she belonged. I had apparently created a quick placeholder for her and then forgot what I had done.

When I saw that Charlene had no family, the light bulb popped on and I immediately knew what had happened. Of course, that means you need to build your tree out to that cousin in order to connect them appropriately.

Connect Up

It’s easy to connect a DNA test kit to a profile in a tree.

Under DNA, click on “Manage DNA Kits.”

Click to enlarge images

You’ll see that the person has been assigned to a name. This is what threw me off, because they were connected to a name, but I had NOT connected that profile properly to her parents (and family) in the tree. I’m guessing I was in a hurry and figured I’d connect them properly later.

Again, be sure you’re displaying the appropriate tree before you complete this next step.

Click on the three little dots and you’ll see “Re-assign kit to a different person.” Click on that link.

Begin typing the name of the person whose DNA test kit you wish to attach to a profile.

You’ll see the right person, assuming you’ve added that person in your tree. Click on that person and then Save.

All done.

Easy peasy.

If the correct person isn’t in your tree yet, just build the tree from Charlene’s stand-alone profile to the proper ancestor.

Reap the Harvest!

Now, you’ll begin to reap ALL the rewards of having your relatives test. Their kits will receive matches, hints, Theories of Family Relativity and AutoClusters that you won’t, because they will match different people that you don’t.

You’ll be able to utilize their clusters from your side of their tree just as effectively as your own. In some cases, their tests will be more valuable than your own because they have DNA from your common ancestors that you didn’t inherit. This is especially true for people who are a generation or two closer to your common ancestor.

Whose tests can you upload, with permission of course?

Be sure those kits are properly connected.

See you all tomorrow on MyHeritage Facebook LIVE to learn about Turning AutoClusters into Solutions.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

The Camstra Trail: A Little Box with a Photo – 52 Ancestors #332

The day started out just like any other day, but THIS day would hold something very special.

Hi Roberta,

I’m writing you from the Netherlands. I don’t know where you live. Your name came up in my search for the offspring of Douwe Baukes Camstra. I think you are offspring of his sister Lijsbeth. I have a little box with a photo of Douwe and his wife Iebeltje Egberts Kijlstra taken on their silver wedding in 1856! I want to give it back to their relatives.

This is a picture of it:

Can you help me? Do you know other relatives? If not, you can have it. Do you want it?

Do I Want It?

Is the Pope Catholic?

Of COURSE I want it – assuming it’s my relative.

First, I had to scurry off and search my genealogy software. Was this, indeed my family member?

Could I possibly be this lucky?

Holding my breath…

Oh my gosh – this IS the brother of my ancestor! I didn’t know his middle name, and I have a different spelling for his wife’s name, but it’s definitely the same couple.

This is so exciting!!!

I asked Marga where she found this treasure.

The little box belongs to my mother, but she doesn’t know where it comes from. We don’t have any family in the north of the Netherlands. I put a picture of it on Facebook and it is many times shared, but no reactions at all. I found on the internet that there are not many people left in our country with the name Camstra…

In the box there is a little paper. It says: “Ybeltje Kielstra en Douwe Baukes Camstra beiden geboren +/- 1810 bij hun zilveren huwelijksfeest in 1862.” Which means: Ybeltje Kielstra and Douwe Baukes Camstra both born +/- 1810 at their silver weddings party in 1862.

The date 1862 is wrong because it was in 1856.

Marga took this scrap of information and began searching, trying to find if they were related to Douwe. She fleshed out his vital information, including his parents.

Marga had clearly done her homework. I just have to say this – it’s incredibly confusing when Bauke Douwe Camstra names his first and second sons both Douwe Bauke Camstra. The first son died, but I digress.

I replied to Marga, then I tried to wait patiently for her response.

The internet/Facebook somehow bollixed things up and my reply to Marga went AWOL. Even though I could see it from my end, Marga couldn’t.

Two days later, she queried, “You’re not interested?”

You’re Not Interested?

OMG YES I’M INTERESTED!!!!!!

Thankfully, Marga received this second message and posted the envelope.

Longest 3 weeks of my life.

What if it got lost in the international mail? The mail here in the US has been taking weeks to months for some items mailed in the same county – let alone from across the ocean.

Where was it?

Would it EVER arrive?

“Be patient,” I told myself, over and over.

I did not receive the patience gene.

One Cold February Day

Finally, one cold mid-February day, almost a month later, a small envelope arrived.

I mention the envelope was small for two reasons.

First, I laid it aside in the pile of junk mail because I was expecting something larger. Who wants to sort through junk mail when you’re impatiently waiting for something VERY precious?

Second, truthfully, I didn’t expect something THAT small. It’s miniature.

Did I mention that I adore miniatures???

The little box itself is about 2.5 by 3 inches and it’s less than half an inch thick. Maybe closer to a quarter inch.

When I was sorting through the mail later, I squealed with excitement, because there it was.

I opened the envelope carefully and saw a face that looked at least vaguely familiar. Was my ancestor a female version of him, minus the beard? They shared the same parents.

Lijsbeth Bauke Camstra married Hendrik Jans Ferwerda on February 19, 1829 in Leeuwarden. Hendrik was a school teacher and they lived their married life in Blija, about 13 miles (22 km) away, near the sea.

Their first child was Bauke Hendrick Ferwerda, born January 26, 1830. He married Geertje Harmens DeJong who passed away before Bauke remarried and the family immigrated to America, settling in Indiana.

Some siblings don’t look at all alike and others are dead-ringers for each other. Did my ancestor, Lijsbert Baukes Camstra, born March 13, 1806 look anything like her younger brother, Douwe Baukes Camstra, born on May 15th of the following year? If so, did she pass it on?

I don’t know. You can be the judge.

Douwe Bauke Camstra pictured beside his great-nephew, Hiram Bauke Ferverda, at right. Hiram was about 15 years older than Douwe in this photo and his hair is not grey. It looks like Douwe might have been blind in his left eye.

Douwe would be my great-great-great-great-uncle. I believe this is also the earliest photo of any family member.

The Camstra Home

Douwe and his sister Lijsbeth, both with the middle name of Bauke, Camstra were born in this home, in Leeuwarden.

Camstra home in 2014

Yvette Hoitink, Dutch genealogist extraordinaire, located this property for me in 2012. In fact, you can see my very first glimpse for yourself in this short YouTube video that Yvette recorded while walking down the street. You can hear the church bells ringing in the background.

I’ve since been to Leeuwarden myself, but there’s nothing like that first glimpse on the other side of what you believed to be an insurmountable brick wall.

Whoever would have guessed that another 9 years later, a Camstra family photo would surface in an unrelated family in the south of the Netherlands and make its way to me in America.

Of course, I had to find out more.

What Happened to Douwe Bauke Camstra?

Douwe died in Leeuwarden on August 20, 1869.

We don’t know where he lived, but it certainly could have been in the very house where he was born.

The clock tower and the gardens were at the end of the block, quite conveniently located. In fact, the Camstra home was convenient to pretty much everything in Leeuwarden.

The Camstra home was located at Grote Kerkstraat 33, shown below on Google maps today.

Tresoar, the present-day regional archives where Douwe’s father’s Pleasure Garden was located was just a couple blocks down this street in the direction we’re looking, and what turns out to be Douwe’s final resting place was across the moat ringing the old city.

Yvette also filmed the location of the Pleasure Gardens in this video.

Cemeteries

Cemeteries work differently in the Netherlands (and the rest of Europe) than they do in the US, even back then.  Real estate is at a premium, especially dry land. You really didn’t want to dig a hole and have it fill with water. Coffins aren’t supposed to splash.

People were buried on the terps, raised areas built for churches, then the plots were reused a few years later. How long? Well, that depends on the location and the circumstances. In many cases, family members shared grave spaces with other family members. If the grave was abandoned, then some years later, often roughly 20, someone else was buried in the same space.

If the original inhabitant hadn’t entirely returned to “dust” yet, no problem.

A small ossuary building allowed whatever remains remained to visit with their neighbors and continue their degradation stacked, respectfully, together. Most cemeteries in the Netherlands have an inobtrusive little building for just this purpose. No one thinks anything of it.

This little Ossuary is found in the church cemetery in Wolsum where Hiram Ferwerda lived for a few years.

Originally, the Leeuwarden cemetery would have been inside the fortified city walls, of course, beside that church tower in what is today the parking lot.

This map from 1612 shows the church and detached church tower at far left, although other records tell us that the decrepit church was demolished in 1595 or 1596. The “yard” surrounding the church would have been the cemetery.

It’s also worth noting that the Dutch Reformed Protestant church is shown at right, at the other end of “Grote Kerkstraat,” or Great Church Street.

This 1664 map shows the remains of the church, along with the churchyard in front of the bell tower. I can’t help but wonder if the little house at the base of the tower is either the caretaker’s home, or the ossuary, or both.

The red arrow points to the Camstra home. You found a church or a cemetery no matter which direction you walked. Churches, old or contemporaneous, at either end of the street.

By Ymblanter – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40571285

The Protestant church, already several hundred years old by that time was a couple blocks east of the Camstra home. There were burials inside the Protestant church, Grote of Jacobijnerkerk, in crypts and in the floor, but I find no record of external burials. Surely they existed. People had to be buried someplace and churchyards were where cemeteries were located. Only the wealthy were buried inside the church, in the floor. There is space around the church on the old maps. Precious space inside the city walls was never wasted.

A royal interdiction in 1827 put an end to the unhygienic burials in and beside churches. Communities had to seek more suitable locations to bury outside the cities. In Leeuwarden, the “new” cemetery at the Spanjaardslaan opened in 1833. Of course, it’s now called the “Old City Graveyard,” but it certainly wasn’t the oldest. The churchyards were far older.

The residents were reluctant to give up their churchyard burial practices, but a Dutch landscape gardener designed a beautiful cemetery that would function as a park in addition to being a cemetery. Located on the old dwelling mound, Fiswerd, once a monastery, the beautiful, quiet cemetery allows visitors, then and now, to leave the busy city behind.

Entering these gates, between the skulls on the top of the fence, the park doesn’t much resemble a cemetery as we perceive them today.

The peaceful essence that the landscaper had in mind to lure those Frisians away from their church graveyard can still be felt today.

Trees, grass, and landscaping are found everyplace.

But where is Douwe?

The cemetery was designed in 5 “departments.” The first was for the rich middle-class and nobles. Many graves had impressive monuments which remain today. Needless to say, those graves weren’t reused. The second department burials weren’t quite as dignified but still wealthy. The third area consisted of people we would probably consider middle class, but no nobles. The fences in this area are the most ornate though. Go figure.

The fourth area is the furthest from the entrance. Many people buried here could not afford stones, so they had a simple wooden cross, or perhaps a common, uninscribed stone for several burials. The fifth is the most recent and the cemetery is now closed to new burials.

You can feast your eyes on beautiful photos, here.

As you might gather, the Camstra family was relatively wealthy. Douwe and Lijsbeth’s father, Bauke Camstra owned that beautiful home, just a few doors from the ducal residence, as in Duke of Orange, now a museum. Plus Bauke owned another property AND the Pleasure Gardens.

I fully expected Douwe to have a memorial stone, perhaps a large one.

The known burials are searchable, here.

There are indeed four Camstra burials, but not Douwe☹

This was the ONLY cemetery in Leeuwarden at that time, so Douwe is assuredly, or was, buried here. Maybe in one of those unmarked, or shared, graves., although that seems odd, given what we know about the family.

Perhaps his grave is one that had a monument that, over time, sunk.

Perhaps Douwe was not as wealthy as his father.

Wait? What?

Wait….his father.

Was Douwe buried in the grave previously occupied by his father?

As it turns out, no, Bauke Douwes Camstra, his father, died on May 24, 1866, not quite three years before his son, which means he’s buried someplace here too. Bauke’s wife, Anna Elizabeth Jonker, Douwe and Lijsbeth’s mother died in 1856, so she’s nearby as well.

Bauke Douwes Camstra was unquestionably wealthy, so there is really no question that he was not buried in section 4 of the cemetery. I can’t help but wonder if, somehow, he obtained special dispensation to be buried in the old churchyard beside his Pleasure Garden. But then again, the Dutch are sticklers for rules and organization – so I’d bet not. If they let Bauke do that, then they’d have to let everyone do that. Besides that, Bauke worked, at least for a time, for the municipality.

Well, then, what about Douwe’s grandparents? Was he buried in their graves?

Nope, the last one of his 4 grandparents died in August of 1830, so they aren’t buried in this lovely park. They probably rest beneath the parking lot in front of the clock tower, today, or maybe in the churchyard of the Dutch Reformed church down the street.

My ancestor Lijsbert Baukes Camstra, probably carrying her son, Bauke Hendrick Ferwerda, about 9 months old, would have stood here too, with her parents and siblings as she buried her last grandparent. I was probably standing not only on their graves, but walking in their footsteps.

If they are buried at the protestant church a few blocks away, that’s OK, I visited there too.

Because the grandparents were the last generation of burials before the new cemetery was opened, they would never have been removed. They were, however, eventually bricked over if in fact they are buried in either location.

Good Heavens, I walked on them, probably ate fair food on top of them, without giving it even a thought. Because we don’t “reuse” cemeteries here, I should have, but never realized I was literally “visiting” their graves as I celebrated “Orange Day” when I visited the Netherlands.

Talk about oblivious. Also, talk about perfect. I hope they have a sense of humor!

My DNA is all over Leeuwarden, or maybe I should say in the earth surrounding the old churches and cemeteries in Leeuwarden.

Lighting the Way

We don’t know exactly where my ancestors Bauke Douwes Camstra (Dec. 28, 1779 – May 24, 1866) and his wife, Anna Elizabeth Jonker (Dec. 30, 1878 – 1856) are buried in this lovely cemetery park in Leeuwarden, but they are unquestionably there.

We can, however, trace their life’s path.

We can start at their home at the red arrow, walk west to the cemetery, now a parking lot (red star) in front of the clock and bell tower where they may have buried their parents. We can visit Bauke’s Pleasure Garden (red star), now the pristine City Gardens and Tresoar archives, and walk to the Durch Reformed church (red star) to the east of their home where they worshiped and Bauke Camstra was a deacon.

This church is where their lives were celebrated at their funerals.

Ironically, 152 years after Douwe Bauke Camstra died, in 1869, it was the “little box with a photo” that allowed me to find him, and his parents, in the beautiful old cemetery.

Come along for a stroll in this video and visit the final resting place of the Camstra family.

Update: I family note records that the Camstra-Kijlstra couple is buried in section 3, row 26, number 11 of the cemetery.

Thank You!

A huge thank you to Marga, her mother, and Yvette.

None of this could have happened without Yvette’s original discovery and subsequent research or Marga’s determination to return the photo to a family member, combined with her and her mother’s generosity.

Thank you! Thank you!

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