About Roberta Estes

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

Ollie Bolton’s Inferred Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroup – 52 Ancestors #188

Try as I might, I’ve never been able to find a second DNA tester to discern my paternal grandmother, Ollie Bolton’s mitochondrial DNA haplogroup.

Why do I need a second person tested, you might wonder?

My aunt Minnie, my father’s sister, tested back in 2004 when full sequence mitochondrial DNA testing was not yet available. She had been estimated to be haplogroup H at that time, based only on the HVR1 region.

Minnie was 96 at that time and passed away just 8 months shy of her 100th birthday. Yes, this family seems to have a longevity gene. Minnie’s sister died at 99 and her father, William George Estes, at age 98. Her great-great grandfather, John R. Estes at 98 and his father, George, at 96. Now, if I could just figure out which gene it is that confers longevity, maybe I could figure out if I have it and more effectively plan the rest of my life😊

Later, when I ordered an upgrade to the Full Mitochondrial Sequence, my aunt’s DNA was no longer viable.

Ever since, I’ve been trying to find someone, anyone, descended appropriately from this line to do a full sequence mitochondrial DNA test – without luck.

A few days ago, I received a notification from Family Tree DNA that my aunt has another HVR1 match. Normally, I don’t even bother to look anymore, but for some reason, I did that day.

What I saw amazed me, for two reasons.

First, apparently her originally estimated haplogroup H was incorrect and has since been updated. She is now haplogroup J. This happened during the upgrade to mitochondrial version 17 where many new haplogroups were introduced, including J1c1e, shown repeatedly on her match list above.

It’s very difficult to estimate a haplogroup based on just HVR1 mutations. As it turns out, haplogourp defining location T16368C is also found in haplogroup H3x. My aunt has additional mutations that aren’t haplogroup defining, but that do match people in haplogroup J1c1e, but not H3x.

Second, Minnie matches a total of 72 people at the HVR1 level. Many haven’t tested beyond that level, but a good number have taken the full sequence test. Based on the fact that she matches the following people with full sequence haplogroups, I’d say she is very probably a haplogroup J1c1e, based on this alone:

  • Haplogroup J1c1e – 28
  • Haplogroup J1c3b -1

Haplogroup “J only” matches don’t count, because they did not test at the full sequence level.

What’s the Difference?

This begs the question of the difference between haplogroup J1c1e and J1c3b. These two haplogroups have the same haplogroup defining mutations through the J1c portion, but the 1e and 3b portions of the haplogroup names signal different branches.

In the chart below, J1c1e and J1c3b both have all of the mutations listed for J1c, plus the additional mutations listed for their own individual branches.

Haplogroup HVR1 HVR2 Coding Region
J1c C16069T, C295T, T489C, C462T, A10398G!, A12612G, G13708A, G3010A,  T14798C
J1c1e T16368C T10454C T482C, T3394C
J1c3b C13934T,  C15367T

There’s a hidden gem here.

Since haplogroup J1c1e includes a haplogroup defining mutation in the HVR1 region, and haplogroup J1c3b does not, we can easily check my aunt’s results to see if she carries the mutation at location T16368C.

Look, she does.

Furthermore, the only other subgroup of haplogroup J that my aunt matches that includes this mutation is haplogroup J1c2m1 which also carried a mutation at A16235G, which she does not have. This eliminates the possibility that she is haplogroup J1c2m1.

Given the information we do have, and given that it’s extremely unlikely that I’ll ever find a tester, I’m good with inferring that Ollie Bolton’s haplogroup is J1c1e.


What can we learn about the origins of haplogroup J1c1e?

My aunt’s matches map shows the following European cluster.

The top 3 matches have taken the full sequence test.

The pattern is quite interesting. Looks like someone crossed the English Channel at some point in time, probably hundreds to thousands of years ago.

The haplogroup J project at Family Tree DNA has not yet been regrouped since the conversion to mitochondrial V17, so the J1c1e individuals are included in the J1c1 group.

Of course J1c1 is the mother haplogroup of haplogroup J1c1e, so the map above shows the distribution of people who are haplogroup J1c1. There are other subgroups of J1c1 that have their own map and would be included in this map if they didn’t have their own subgroup. I’m sure haplogroup J1c1e will have its own group as soon as the admins readjust people’s groupings based on the new haplogroup divisions.

According to the paper, A “Copernican” Reassessment of the Human Mitochondrial DNA Tree from its Root, by Behar et al, published in 2012, the age of the birth of haplogroup J1c1 is approximately 10,090 years ago, with a standard deviation of 2228 years, so a range of 7863-12319 years ago.

Of course, haplogroup J1c1e was born some time later. Unfortunately, the mitochondrial tree aging has not been updated to incorporate the new information included in the V17 migration which includes the definition of haplogroup J1c1e.

Where was haplogroup J1c1 born 7863-12319 years ago? Probably the Middle East, but we really don’t know positively.

Not Just Ollie’s Haplogroup

The great thing about mitochondrial (and Y DNA) testing is that it’s not just the haplogroup of the person who tested.  For mitochondrial DNA, it’s the haplogroup of their mother and their mother on up the mother’s direct matrilineal line.

In Ollie’s case, all of these people carry haplogroup J1c1e.  It descended to Ollie, and then to all of her children, including her son. Only her female children passed it on.


It’s amazing what we can learn from a mitochondrial DNA match – and in this case, someone who only had the HVR1 region tested. Minnie was fortunate to have a  haplogroup defining mutation in the HVR1 region along with other mutations that match J1c1e individuals. Luck of the genetic draw.

Some of those additional mutations may also be haplogroup defining in the future.

I never thought I’d unearth this information about my grandmother, Ollie Bolton, especially since I only started out with a shred of information. I’m so glad I checked one last time.

Never give up.

Never stop checking!

Note to self: Patience is a virtue! Probably even a more critical virtue if you also inherited that longevity gene.

GDPR – It’s a Train and It’s a Comin’

In the recent article about Oxford Ancestors shuttering, I briefly mentioned GDPR. I’d like to talk a little more about this today, because you’re going to hear about it, and I’d rather you hear about it from me than from a sky-is-falling perspective.

It might be rainy and there is definitely some thunder and the ground may shake a little, but the sky is not exactly falling. The storm probably isn’t going to be pleasant, however, but we’ll get through it because we have no other choice. And there is life after GDPR, although in the genetic genealogy space, it may look a little different.

And yes, one way or another, it will affect you.

What is GDPR?

GDPR, which is short for General Data Protection Regulation, is a European, meaning both EU and UK, regulation(s) by which the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, and the European Commission intend to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the European Union (EU). It also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU/UK and processing of data of residents of the EU/UK by non-EU/UK companies.

There are actually two similar, but somewhat different regulations, one for the UK and one for the EU’s 28 member states, but the regulations are collectively referred to as the GDPR regulation.

Ok, so far so good.

The regulations are directly enforceable and do not require any individual member government to pass additional legislation.

GDPR was adopted on April 27, 2016, but little notice was taken until the last few months, especially outside of Europe, when the hefty fines drew attention to the enforcement date of May 25, 2018, now just around the corner.

Those hefty fines can range from a written warning for non-intentional noncompliance to a fine of 20 million Euro or up to 4% of the annual worldwide turnover of the preceding financial year, whichever is GREATER. Yea, that’s pretty jaw-dropping.

So, GDPR has teeth and is nothing to be ignored.

Oh, and if you think this is just for EU or UK companies, it isn’t. It applies equally to any company that possesses any data of any EU or UK resident in their data base or files, providing that person isn’t dead. The law excludes dead people and makes some exceptions for law enforcement and other national security types of applications.

Otherwise, it applies to everyone in a global economy – and not just for future sales, but to already existing data for anyone who stores, transmits, sells to or processes data of any EU resident.

What Does GDPR Do?

The intent of GDPR was to strengthen privacy and data protections, but there is little latitude written into this regulation that allows for intentional sharing of data. The presumption throughout the hundreds of pages of lawyer-speak is that data is not intended to be shared, thereby requiring companies to take extraordinary measures to encrypt and anonymize data, even going so far as to force companies to store e-mail addresses separately from any data which could identify the person. Yes, like a name, or address.

Ironic that a regulation that requires vendor language be written in plainly understood simple wording is in and of itself incredibly complex, mandating legal interpretation.

Needless to say, GDPR requirements are playing havoc with every company’s data bases and file structure, because information technology goals have been to simplify and unify, not chop apart and distribute information, requiring a complex network of calls between systems.

Know who loves GDPR? Lawyers and consultants, that’s who!

In the case of intentional sharing, such as genetic genealogy, these regulations are already having unintended consequences through their extremely rigid requirements.

For example, a company must appoint a legal representative in Europe. I am not a lawyer, but my reading of this requirement suggests that European appointed individual (read, lawyer) is absorbing some level of risk and could potentially be fined as a result of their non-European client’s behavior. So tell me, who is going to incur that level of risk for anything approaching a reasonable cost?

One of the concepts implemented in GDPR is the colloquially known “right to be forgotten.” That means that you can request that your data and files be deleted, and the company must comply within a reasonable time.

However, what does “the right to be forgotten” mean, exactly? Does it mean a company has to delete your public presence? What about their internal files that record that you WERE a customer. What about things like medical records? What about computer backups which are standard operating procedure for any responsible company? What happens when a backup needs to be restored? If the company tracks who was deleted, so they can re-delete them if they have to restore from backup, then the person isn’t deleted in the first place and they are still being tracked – even though the tracking is occurring so the person can be re-forgotten.

Did you follow that? Did it make sense? Did anyone think of these kinds of things?

Oh, and by the way, there is no case law yet, so every single European company and every single non-European company that has any customer base in Europe is scrambling to comply with an incredibly far-reaching and harsh regulation with extremely severe potential consequences.

How many companies do you think can absorb this expenditure? Who do you think will ultimately pay?

Younger people may not remember Y2K, but I assuredly do, and GDPR is Y2K on steroids and with lots of ugly teeth in the form of fines and penalties that Y2K never had. The worse scenario for Y2K was that things would stop working. GDPR can put you out of business in the blink of an eye.

Categories of “Processors”

GDPR defines multiple levels of “processors,” a primary controller and a secondary processor plus vaguely defined categories of “third party” and “joint controller.”

The “controller” is pretty well defined as the company that receives and processes the data or order, and a “processor” is any other entity, including an individual person, who further processes data on behalf of or as a result of the controller.

There appears to be no differentiation between a multi-million-dollar company and one person doing something as a volunteer at home for most requirements – and GDPR specifically says that lack of pay does not exempt someone from GDPR. The one possible exception that exists in that there is an exclusion for organizations employing less than 250 persons, ”unless processing is likely to result in a risk to the rights and freedoms of the data subject.” I’m thinking that just mentioning the word DNA is enough to eliminate this exemption.

Furthermore, GDPR states that controllers and processors must register.

Right about now, you’re probably asking yourself if this means you if you’re managing multiple DNA kits, working with genetic genealogy, either as a volunteer or professionally, or even managing a group project or Facebook group.

The answer to those questions is that but we really don’t know.

ISOGG has prepared a summary page addressing GDPR from the genetic genealogy perspective, here. The ISOGG working group has done an excellent job in summarizing the questions, requirements and potential effects of the legislation in the slide presentation, which I suggest you take the time to view.

This legislation clearly wasn’t written considering this type of industry, meaning DNA shared for genealogical purposes, and there has been no case law yet surrounding GDPR. No one wants to be the first person to discover exactly how this will be interpreted by the courts.

The requirements for controllers and processors are much the same and include very specific requirements for how data can be stored and what must be done in terms of the “right to be forgotten” requests within a reasonable time, generally mentioned as 30 days after the person who owns the data requests to be forgotten. This would clearly apply to some websites and other types of resources used and maintained by the genetic genealogy community. If you are one of the people this could affect, meaning you maintain a website displaying results of some nature, you might want to consider these requirements and how you will comply. Additionally, you are required to have explicitly given consent for every person’s results that are displayed.

For genetic genealogists, who regularly share information through various means, and the companies who enable this technology, GDPR is having what I would very generously call a wet blanket effect.

What’s Happening in the Genetic Genealogy Space?

So far, we’ve seen the following:

  • Oxford Ancestors has announced they are shuttering, although they did not say that their decision has anything to do with GDPR. The timing may be entirely coincidental.
  • Full Genomes Corporation has announced on social media that they are no longer accepting orders from EU or UK customers, stating that “the regulatory cost is too high for a small company” and is “excessive.” I would certainly agree with that.
  • Ancestry has recently made unpopular decisions relative to requiring separate e-mails to register different accounts, even if the same person is managing multiple DNA kits. Ancestry did not say this had to do with GDPR either, but in reading the GDPR requirements, I can understand why Ancestry felt compelled to make this change.
  • Family Tree DNA recently removed a search feature from their primary business page that allowed the public to search for their ancestors in trees posted to accounts at Family Tree DNA. According to an e-mail sent to project administrators, this change was the result of changes required by GDPR. They too are working on compliance.
  • MyHeritage is as well.
  • I haven’t had an opportunity to speak privately with LivingDNA or 23andMe, but I would presume both are working on compliance. LivingDNA is a UK company.

One of my goals recently when visiting RootsTech was to ask vendors about their GDPR compliance and concerns. That’s the one topic sure to wipe the smile off of everyone’s face, immediately, generally followed by grimaces, groans and eye-rolls until they managed to put their “public face” back on.

In general, vendors said they were moving towards compliance but that it was expensive, difficult and painful – especially given the ambiguity in some of the regulation verbiage. Some expressed concerns that GDPR was only a first step and would be followed by even more painful future regulations. I would presume that any vendor who is not planning to become compliant would not have spent the money to have a booth at RootsTech.

The best news about GDPR is that it requires transparency – in other words, it’s supposed to protect customers from a company selling your anonymized DNA out the back door without your explicitly given consent, for example. However, the general consensus was that any company that wanted to behave in an unethical manner would find a loophole to do so, regardless of GDPR.

In fairness, hurried consumers bring this type of thing on themselves by clicking through the “consent,” or “agree” boxes without reading what they are consenting to. All the GDPR in the world won’t help this. The company may have to disclose, but the consumer doesn’t have to read, although GDPR does attempt to help by forcing you to actively click on agree.

I’m sure we’ll all be hearing more about GDPR in the next few weeks as the deadline looms ever closer.

May 25, 2018

Now you know!

There’s nothing you can do about the effects of GDPR, except hold on tight as the vendors on which we depend do their best to navigate this maze.

Between now and May 25th, and probably for some time thereafter, I promise to be patient and not to complain about glitches in vendors’ systems as they roll out new code as seamlessly as possible.

Gluttons for Punishment

For those of you who are really gluttons for punishment, here are the actual links to the documents themselves. Of course, they are also guaranteed to put you to sleep in about 27 second flat…so a sure cure for insomnia.


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Finding George McNiel’s Brother, Thomas, Using DNA – 52 Ancestors #187

The story of the Reverend George McNiel includes the oft-repeated 3 brothers story, and one of the three brothers in this version was named Thomas, or so the legend goes.

I’m used to 3 brothers stories, sometimes used to explain men of the same surname but with no paper trail connection, and I had rather discounted this particular version. I’ve just heard this same story about different families too many times.

That is, I discounted it until droplets of doubt arrived, served up by records in Spotsylvania County where George McNiel lived. In 1754 records included Thomas McNial, then again in 1761, followed by records of one Thomas McNiel in Caswell County, NC about the same time that the Reverend George McNiel migrated from Spotsylvania County to Wilkes County, NC.

From the book, Apprentices of Virginia, 1723-1800:

James Cartwright, a white male, son of Thomas Cartwright decd, was to be apprenticed to Thomas McNial on October 1, 1754 to learn the occupation of a tailor. This is from the Spotsylvania County court order books, 1749-1755, pages 62 and 497.

James Pey, a white male, to be apprenticed to George McNeil on March 1, 1757 to learn the occupation of tailor. From Spotsylvania will book B 1749-1759, page 307.

Robert Mitchell, a white male, was apprenticed to Thomas McNeil on Sept 7, 1761 to learn the occupation of tailor. Spotsylvania County will book B, 1749- 1859, page 540.

I discovered that both George and Thomas were tailors, or at least had tailors on their plantations. Was this possibly an indicator that these men might have both been tailors themselves. With the same surname and same occupation, perhaps that they were related in some way? Was this just a coincidence, or could the “brothers” story be true?

Generally, tailors weren’t needed in the farming countryside, so that tidbit might well mean these men worked either in cities or in wealthy households before immigration. If they were tailors, they themselves would have been apprentices someplace.

More than a decade ago, I worked with another researcher who descended from Thomas McNeil who lived in Caswell Co. He made his will dated April 20, 1781 in which Thomas named his three sons; Thomas, John and Benjamin.

Thomas McNeil’s will:

In the name of God Amen I Thomas McNeil of Caswell Co NC being weak of body but sound of mind and memory do April 20th 1781make this my last will and testament in the manner following. I give unto my living wife Ann the use of all my personal estate during her life or widowhood. I give unto my son Thomas a tract of land lying on Sanderses Creek containing 200 acres which land I bought of my son John and my desire is that my said son John do make a right of said land to my son Thomas. I give unto my son Benjamin 150 acres joining the lines of Andrew Caddell and my son John Land to him and his heirs forever. I give to my daughter Mary 100 acres of land lying on Henley’s Creek joining Wilson Vermillions line to her and her heirs forever. At the death of my loving wife that my sons Thomas and Benjamin have each of them a horse and saddle and a bed which horses to be of the value of 10 pounds in specie also the plantation working tools I desire may be equally devided between them. I further give unto my daughter Mary one feather bed and furniture and two cows and calves after the death of my loving wife. All of my negroes and their increase after the death or marriage of my loving wife be by three honest men equally divided amongst my 8 children, or the survivors of them, to wit John, Thomas, Benjamin, Elizabeth Roberts, Nancy Vermilion, Mary, Patsey Hubbert and Lois to them and their heirs forever. Lastly I nominate and appoint my wife Ann , my son John and my son-in-law Wilson Vermillion and George Lea (son of William) executors of this my last will and testament revoking all other wills by me made in witness whereof I have hereunto sett my hand and seal…signed. Witnessed George Lea, Lucy Lea, John Clixby. Proved Dec court 1781.

At that time, no relationship had been established between this Thomas and the McNeil’s of other counties.

That McNeil researcher was unable to recruit a male McNeil family member to DNA test, so for more than a decade, this research languished with no way to answer the question of whether George McNiel and Thomas McNeil were indeed brothers.


Beginning in Spotsylvania County, the journey to Wilkes County is about 337 miles, and the old rutted wagon road passed through Caswell County on the way. At about 10 miles per day, that’s a total of about 34 days, assuming nothing went wrong. It makes you wonder if Thomas just got tired of the wagon lurching and bumping along the trail and said, “I’m done, drop me off here” about 3 weeks into the trip.

It’s about 135 miles from Caswell County to Wilkes County, with Wilkes being in the mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway. At that time, this was the frontier, and the mountains, the barrier to the next one.

Were Thomas and George Brothers?

Today, we have an answer, or at least a probable answer, thanks to Y DNA testing.

Aside from paper documentation, which we don’t have, the only way to obtain relationship evidence is by DNA testing, specifically the Y chromosome passed from father to son in every generation and not mixed with any DNA from the mother. This means that the Y chromosome is passed intact from father to son for many generations, except for an occasional mutation. The Y DNA of men who were brothers in the 1700s should match very closely.

The Rev. George McNiel’s Y DNA line is represented by two known descendants from different sons’ lines, so we know the haplotype of his DNA, meaning the STR value numbers that cumulatively read like a DNA fingerprint.

I hadn’t checked the Y DNA results of my cousin who tested to represent the Reverend George McNiel’s line in some time, so I decided to take a quick look. What a welcome surprise was waiting.

At 67 markers, our George McNiel’s descendant’s best match is to a descendant of Thomas McNeill of Caswell County. Wooohoooo!

Unfortunately, the match has not taken the Family Finder test, which might show how closely he matches to the descendants of George utilizing autosomal DNA. Of course, given how many generations back in time those men lived, their descendants might not match autosomally. But then again, some might!

Not only that, but George’s descendant matches more closely to Thomas’s descendant than to another descendant of George. Just the way the DNA dice rolled in terms of when mutations happened.

Looking at the public McNiel project display, there are several McNeil men along with other spelling variants that fall into the Niall of the 9 Hostages grouping characterized by haplogroup R1b>L21>M222.

Please note: You can click to enlarge any graphic.

These men look to have descended from a common ancestor far back in time. You can easily see that there are specific clusters of men who match each other on particular allele values. My cousin who tested to represent George McNiel’s line is highlighted in blue.

Unfortunately, not one man in this group has taken the Big Y test for further haplogroup refinement. Hmmm, we might have to do something about this.

Matches Happen

But, there’s more information on my cousin’s McNiel match page that wasn’t there before. Much more. Each match provides clues that I’ve compiled into the following table:

GD* Ancestor Location Comments
1 – 50th percentile at 3 generations Thomas McNiell 1724-1781 Caswell Co., NC Probably George’s brother
3 – 50th percentile at 4 generations Thomas MccNiell married in 1750 Rombout, NY Ancestry shows Thomas married to Rachel Hoff, English christening records shows a Thomas Macneil born to Gilbert MacNeil in Witton Le Wear, Durham, England in 1699.
5 – 50th percentile at 6 generations Hugh Neel b 1750 Ireland Ancestry shows born Ireland, lived in Camden Co., SC, died after 1792 in KY
7 – 50th percentile at 12 generations Edward McNellis 1816-1888 Died Glennageeragh, Tyrone, Ireland Father may have been Frank who died in Glenncull, Ballygawley, County Tyrone

*GD=Genetic Distance. The percentile was calculated by using the TIP calculator which estimates the average number of years to a common ancestor. I used the 50th percentile number of generations.

The information gleaned from these matches, in closest to furthest match order, above, can yield clues to where our McNiel line was before immigration in addition to further back in time.

The oral story says that George came from Edinburg, Scotland after studying for the Presbyterian ministry which tells us that he might have traveled to Edinburgh from elsewhere. There is no evidence to either confirm or refute this historical nugget. If George left from Edinburgh, it stand to reason that Thomas probably did too.

At a genetic distance of 3, a second Thomas McNiell, was reportedly born in Witton Le Wear, which is found about 95 miles south of Coldstream, which sits right on the border of England and Scotland. As you can see on the map below, Coldstream isn’t far from Edinburgh.

This does assume the Thomas born in Witton Le Wear is the same Thomas subsequently found in New York. I have not verified that information.

The Neel line with a genetic distance of 5 was born in Ireland, but they don’t know where.

The match with a genetic distance of 7 hails from Glennageeragh. On the map below, at the blue dot, we find the location of Glennageeragh Townland in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.

County Tyrone was one of the seated plantation regions, meaning that many Scots immigrated here. However, there is much more history involving the McNiel family in County Tyrone from before the Plantation Era when displaced Scots were settled in Ireland.

The picturesque townland of Glenncull, near Glennageeragh, where Edward McNellis’s father may have died is shown in the photo below.

Interestingly, the town of Ballygawley is also known as “Errigal-Kerogue” or “Errigal-Kieran”, supposedly from the dedication of an ancient church to St. Kieran (Ciarán of Clonmacnoise). It was in the Clogher (barony), along the River Blackwater, Northern Ireland. Some of the remains of the old church were known, and an ancient Franciscan friary, founded by Conn O’Neill, 1st Earl of Tyrone. In the churchyard was a large stone cross, and a holy well.

Conn O’Neill was born in 1480 and died in 1559, both in Ireland. In 1541 he travelled to England to submit to the Henry VIII as part of the surrender and regrant that coincided with the creation of the Kingdom of Ireland and was subsequently made Earl of Tyrone.

Conn Bacach O’Neill was the son of Conn Mór O’Neill, King of Tír Eógain (Tyrone), and Lady Eleanor Fitzgerald. Con Mor O’Neill was the son of Henry Ó Néill, King of Tír Eógain. Eleanor Fitzgerald was the daughter of Thomas FitzGerald, 7th Earl of Kildare. Con Bacach O’Neill was the first of the Ó Néills whom the English, in their attempts to subjugate Ireland in the 16th century, brought to the front as leaders of the native Irish. His father, the King of Tír Eógan, was murdered in 1493 by his brother.

Conn’s grandson, Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, was born in 1550 and came to the throne in 1587, crowned in 1595, and died in 1607.

George and Thomas McNiel were born sometime around 1720. Based on oral history, it’s suggested that they came to Maryland from Scotland sometime around 1750, as adults. The story further reveals that George had studied at the University of Edinburgh for the Presbyterian ministry and that the brothers argued about religion on the ship, during the long Atlantic crossing. George reportedly “saw the light” and became Baptist, but one of the brothers was so upset about the religious discussions during this adventure that he changed the spelling of his name to McNeill.

If that’s true, then the unhappy brother must be the third missing one, possibly named John, because Thomas and George lived in the same vicinity from about 1750 to at least 1761.

My observation is that names were spelled every-which-way in records during that time, with very little consistency – so a name change without other evidence would not indicate a dispute.

So, Is Thomas George’s Brother or Not?

Unfortunately, we can’t draw an entirely 100% firm conclusion.

The first piece of evidence is that the Y DNA clearly did not rule out a relationship. In fact, it confirmed a close relationship, but we can’t say how close from Y DNA alone.

We already know that George’s descendant matches Thomas’s descendant more closely that George’s second descendant.

So, yes, it’s very, very likely that these two men were brothers or closely related.

Autosomal tests could potentially help. I’ve e-mailed and asked the McNeil matches if they would consider upgrading to a Family Finder test. However, in a situation like his, without some paper documentation, given the number of generations between now and then, there is no way to prove absolutely that George and Thomas were brothers, as opposed to cousins, or uncle/nephew, etc.

While we can’t positively prove that George and Thomas were siblings, we can potentially look a bit further back in time by determining the terminal SNP of our McNiel line. Perhaps it’s time for me to order a Big Y test for George’s descendant.

I’m hopeful that looking back in time through the lens of the Big Y test will unwrap even more about the early history of the McNiel men, before the adoption of surnames or where these men lived when surnames were adopted. From that surname-adoption location, whereever it was, it appears that the McNeil men by whatever spelling spread throughout Ireland, Scotland and to parts of England.

Perhaps George and Thomas McNiel descended from a long line of adventurers.

And to think all of this information emerged from George’s descendant’s Y DNA matches. Amazing!

Oxford Ancestors Announces Closure – Plus How to Protect Your DNA

Dr. Bryan Sykes, founder of Oxford Ancestors has announced that Oxford Ancestors is withdrawing from the direct to consumer genetic marketplace as Bryan retires to live abroad.

Please note that you can click to enlarge any graphic.

Oxford Ancestors Began Testing in 1996

Oxford Ancestors was the first company to test mitochondrial DNA outside the academic environment available to the public after Dr. Sykes authored his book, Seven Daughters of Eve. Although the book is incredibly outdated today, it was at that time a groundbreaking book that introduced regular air-breathing humans, not scientists, to the DNA of their ancestors.

In essence, it started our love affair with our DNA that continues with millions having tested today.

In the back of the Seven Daughters book was an order form, and in 1999, I quickly ordered my first DNA test to find out which of Eve’s 7 daughters’ clans I belonged to. For about $900, I received a one page chart in the mail with a star placed on Jasmine’s node telling me that I was a member of Jasmine’s clan.

Such was the humble (and expensive) beginning of my two-decade fascination with genetic genealogy. It’s true that every journey of 1000 miles (or 18 years) begins with one tiny step.

Dr. Sykes later added a 10 marker Y DNA test for males along with a searchable data base that hasn’t been functional in years.

In essence Oxford Ancestors could have been the innovation force to lead the genetic genealogy revolution, but it wasn’t. Oxford Ancestors introduced a few new products here and there over the years, but seemed out of touch with the needs and desires of genetic genealogists.

One Last Time

I dug deeply into my own personal archives looking for my user name and password, hoping to check my matches at Oxford Ancestors one last time. I noted from a series of e-mails that there had been sign-in and password problems for years, and sure enough, none of my or my husband’s user names or passwords works today.

It really doesn’t matter much, given that only 400 mtDNA locations were tested, not even the full HVR1 region – compared to 16,569 locations in the full sequence test at Family Tree DNA.

My husband’s Y DNA tests are irrelevant too, with only 10 STR markers.

Hubby and I both retested years ago at Family Tree DNA, as did any other serious genealogist. I’m just incredibly, incredibly grateful that my deceased mother’s DNA was stored at Family Tree DNA who retains customers’ DNA for 25 years to afford the individual (or their legal heirs) the ability to upgrade with new tests as the technology improves. If mother’s DNA was at Oxford Ancestors, I’d probably be singing an entirely different song right now.

Sign In

If you’re interested in trying to sign in to Oxford Ancestors one last time, do so soon.  Dr. Sykes says the data base will remain online for a few months, but with the GDPR deadline looming on May 25th, I’d speculate that the data base might be taken offline just before that date.

It was difficult to find the location to sign in, but it looks to be in the green section of the Database Search Zone, (bottom option at left on the sidebar) that brings you to this page with the green sign-in box at right.

Genetic History of Early Testers Gone Forever

The saddest part of this obsolescence event is that because Dr. Sykes’ project began in 1996, he assuredly has samples from many individuals who have passed away. His data base, when no longer available in any capacity (even though it hadn’t been working correctly in years) will take with it the genetic results and genetic history of many individuals that will be irreplaceable. Never recoverable. Gone forever.

Even though only a few genetic locations were tested, in some cases, some knowledge is better than no knowledge – especially if those people didn’t test elsewhere and/or their line has died out.

I hope that some effort might be made to transfer ownership and stewardship of the database (perhaps) to a nonprofit type of entity (ISOGG?) who would strive to maintain the database in some format.

It’s heartbreaking to see 21 years of DNA samples from Oxford Ancestors join the defunct data bases of both Sorenson (purchased by Ancestry) and Ancestry’s own Y and mtDNA data bases – both of which met the same fate. Lost forever.

It’s akin to deleting the lineage stories of our long deceased ancestors. Kind of like burning the genetic library. Travesty isn’t a strong enough word.

While this may be the best answer for Dr. Sykes personally, who undoubtedly deserves to be able to retire, it remains a tragedy for mankind (not to mention the testers’ families) to lose the earliest pieces of history collected and compiled in this field.

Nothing is Forever

Nothing is forever, unfortunately.

We all need to make preparations to protect our own DNA and genetic records.  However, because the strength of genetic genealogy is not individual results in isolation, but in comparison to others’ results, we still need the ability to compare.

Unfortunately, both YSearch and MitoSearch, formed as free public entities allowing people to upload their results and compare lost their reason d’etre when other companies stopped performing Y and mtDNA tests. There’s no reason to maintain an external site to allow comparisons from multiple companies when there is only one company testing Y and mitochondrial in this field now, and you can compare directly in their own data base.

Family Tree DNA maintained those services, for free, for years. They have graciously allowed the data bases to remain available, but they have not updated them in a long time and the code is exceptionally old.

Preventative Steps to Take NOW

If you don’t have your results elsewhere, either sign in to Oxford Ancestors or contact them, NOW, to obtain and archive your results.

Be sure to update your beneficiary form at Family Tree DNA, and be sure that your family knows about your DNA results, location, sign-in user name/password and your desires.

Other vendors don’t offer a beneficiary designation, so be sure that your family knows about your DNA locations and how to sign in. Instruct your executors as to how to deal with your DNA at locations that require a subscription. You may want to include a clause in your will providing direction.

Download your DNA results and raw data files for Y, mtDNA and autosomal. Label and date them carefully. Archive in multiple locations, on multiple computers and on multiple kinds of media. Be sure at least one copy is stored outside your home in case of disaster.

Upload your Y and mitochondrial results to YSearch and Mitosearch, if possible. If you download directly from Family Tree DNA (at the bottom of your matches page,) even though an error message is returned during that process, your results are still being added to the data base. You can confirm by clicking on the “Upload to YSearch (or MitoSearch)” button at the bottom of the Y (or mito) matching page again, and your YSearch (or MitoSearch) ID will be displayed. I would not suggest depending on this resource either, given its age and the fact that it is far beyond its anticipated lifespan.

One of the best things you can do with your autosomal results to assure availability is to be sure they are stored in different locations. Fortunately, several companies facilitate uploading information from other sites, which you can later download if need be. In other words, “spread the love” in the form of your DNA file. You benefit now by fishing in multiple pools for matches and later by making sure your DNA is not just in one place.

Download and transfer autosomal raw data files from:


Of these, both Ancestry and MyHeritage either restrict the services or the size of your (free) tree utilized for matching, so unless your heirs maintain a paid subscription at some level, your results may not be able to be utilized to their full matching capacity. Both provide some level of free matching without full services.

Not every vendor accepts all results from the other vendors due to chip incompatibilities. You can see which vendors accept whose files, and versions, here.

To make your DNA results immortal and insure that they continue to reap benefits not just for you, but for your descendants and those who you match as well, transfer your results to as many (legitimate) places as possible and please, please upload or create a corresponding tree.

Genetic genealogy today and in the future relies on DNA test results compared to others AND genealogy. Preserve both!

Your DNA is the legacy that only you can provide. Don’t let a company’s data base closure rob your descendants.


Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate.  If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase.  Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay.  This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 900 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc.  In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received.  In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product.  I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community.  If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA, or one of the affiliate links below:

Affiliate links are limited to:

Facebook – Newsfeed, Page Changes, Targeted Scams and Genealogy

As you may or may not have noticed, your Facebook feed has probably changed lately.

Many people depend on social media for connectivity with family, valued groups such as genealogy and DNA, and to some extent to receive notifications from companies with whom we do business.

Facebook announced on January 11th that they would be making significant changes to their proprietary algorithm that prioritizes what is shown in your feed. You can see Mark Zukerberg’s post here.

What does that mean to you?

Let’s talk about three things today.

  • Messages that no longer appear in your news feed.
  • Why this is happening and ways to address that problem.
  • Creepy targeted scamming, what to do about it and security preventions.

Group Messages Not Appearing in Newsfeed

The first thing that happened is that the postings from several groups I am quite fond of just quietly disappeared from my newfeed. After a few days, I though it was quite odd that I hadn’t seen any activity, so I checked the group to see.

They were still quite active, but I had received nothing at all.

I then checked other groups and found the same thing.

Here’s how to fix this part of the problem.

Go to the page of the person, group or business you want to follow and see regularly.

Click on the “Following” button, where you will see the following options:

  • See First
  • Default
  • Unfollow

Click on “See First.”

You can select any number of groups, businesses and personal accounts to “see first.”  That just means that they are the items you want to see before anything else in your newsfeed, if Facebook decides to post their item to your timeline.

Unfortunately, that’s only half the problem. Tagging to “See First” doesn’t mean you’ll see everything, but you can do other things to increase the number of items from any particular group that you will see.

Facebook’s New Policy Restricting Content Delivery

Several years ago, I created a business page for DNAexplain.  That was a big mistake.  I should have simply have created a group type page.

Live and learn.

What I’m about to explain pertains to businesses both large and small, consulting and community pages. It may also apply to others, but these are the ones I know of for sure. The remedy for how to fix this problem applies to all Facebook pages, so read on.

On the DNAexplain page, shown below from my administrator’s view, you can see at the bottom left hand side of the posted article, it says “150 people reached” which is a small percentage of the people who follow this page. Facebook does that on purpose so I will pay to reach more people – which also means that you probably won’t see my content unless I pay.

If I click on that blue “150 people” link, then the box with the green checkmark that looks like leaves shows up, above the link. It says that I can pay $10 to boost this point to reach up to 4,000 people.

If I then click on “Boost Post,” I receive a menu.

I can then target this posting to various groups of people, in differing locations.

When you see those “Sponsored” items in your news feed, they come from a business, community or consulting page that paid to have their content more widely distributed.

For me to reach all of my page subscribers instead of about 10% of them, I have to pay for every single posting. So far, I’ve published more than 950 articles, so the total outlay at $15 per article for Facebook to deliver this content to the people who have “liked” my page would have cost me $14,250. I don’t know if the fees vary depending on the size of the business or the number of subscribers, but I do know this isn’t just painful, it’s impossible for a small business that offers a blog with free content.

This new policy doesn’t just apply to “business pages.”  For example, one of my favorite pages is Northern Michigan Wildlife Photos which is listed as a “community” and posts free wildlife photos, with nothing for sale. Before the change, they reached their subscribers with no problem, but no longer.

They were on the verge of shutting the page down because Facebook applied a “governor” to the number of subscribers their postings reached, reducing them from 31,000+ to just a few hundred. Of course, they could pay to reach more. Fortunately,  various subscribers told them how to improve the situation by having people change their feed to “see first,” but IN ADDITION also by doing the following:

  • Like every post, which means you’re more likely to see future posts, and so are others
  • Comment on posts

The more you interact with a Facebook site (person, group or business), the more often Facebook will think that you want to see their content. So, the strategy for seeing as much of a particular person or page as possible in your newsfeed is to BOTH tag to “See First” AND like and comment on every posting in that group or on that person’s page.

Scammers Directly Targeting People

The third and last thing I’d like to chat about is that scammers are directly targeting people by a type of electronic stalking. Yes, that’s really creepy.

How does this work?

A scammer often utilizes the photo of someone looking either “interesting” or “respectable” or even animals, like puppies and kittens.

They send you a friend request. You think, “looks good, what can it hurt,” especially if they are friends with someone you know, leading you to believe they are legitimate, and you accept.

The answer is that it can hurt a lot.

I am normally extremely vigilant, but I fell for this recently, because I was individually targeted.

A man whose name I had never seen before commented on a thread I was included in, on someone else’s genealogy topic feed. We chatted about the topic and common interest. Then he friended me.

I accepted, without checking further. After all, we had just been chatting.


What I didn’t realize is that someone else had quickly grabbed his photo, set up a fake account with only one letter different in the surname, and quickly friended me. So, yes, “someone” was watching and specifically targeted me.

My first actual warning was this:

Just so you know, I didn’t take this screen shot until after I had quickly unfriended Adam, so that’s why the top of the message says we’re not connected on Facebook. He tried to refriend me immediately. Adam, whose real name certainly isn’t Adam, is a pro at this game and knows exactly what to do.

A real contact would have not begun with “How are you today?” but with a continuation of the topic we were chatting about minutes before. Scammers try to chat you up and gain your confidence. I’ve seen this before, so my red internal neon danger sign was flashing bright red.

A couple years ago, my 94-year-old cousin died. About 6 weeks later, he was apparently risen from the grave, because he requested me to friend him on Facebook. Ironically, the scammer appeared to have lifted his photo either from his website (yes, he had a website at 94) or his obituary.

I’m guessing the obituary, because the next step after the “hello,” just like above, mentioned something about Sally, his daughter who was identified in the obituary. And yes, the next steps were to attempt to scam me after trying to gain my confidence with some of these exact same words.

By the way, right now one of the big scams is people attempting to get you to purchase iTunes gift cards as a form of currency.

I knew my cousin was dead, so there was no doubt in that case, barring a miracle of Biblical proportions. Although I must admit, I did tell the scammer how amazing it was that he was risen from the dead and it wasn’t even Easter.

I reported this fake account to Facebook and they took care of it within minutes, but the threat is greater than you simply being scammed.

These bad actors then friend everyone on your friend list. If you have a public friend list, they don’t even have to trick YOU into friending them to gain access to your friends.

If you have your friends list locked down, it’s better, but nothing is 100%. If you do accept their friend request, they can see, and target, all of your friends and family.

Here’s what to do to prevent this from happening.

  • With every friend request, click on the link to their page and look to see how many friends are listed, how many common friends are listed, and their activity. A barren account is a sure sign of a scammer.
  • Just because there are common friends listed doesn’t mean the scammer didn’t trick those people too.
  • Ask yourself why this person would be friending you.
  • If you still have questions, copy their Facebook profile photo, and search using Google’s reverse photo search where you drag and drop or paste a photo and Google searches for other instances of that photo. You’ll be surprised how many different people one photo may be if scammers are utilizing it heavily.

Unfriending and Blocking Scammers

If you accepted a friend request, then realized it was a mistake, quickly click on their personal page, then on the friends button, then unfriend them. That makes your page unavailable to them.  You can take it one step further by blocking them as well, which means you can’t see them and they can’t see your page at all.

Secondarily, you may need to block their private messages to you, which you can do by opening the message they sent to you, then click on the gear, then click on “block message.”

Reporting Scammers to Facebook

Lastly, you should report suspicious activity to Facebook. In my experience, Facebook has been quite prompt in addressing fake accounts and removing them once notified.

Of course, those same people will creep up again, kind of like whack-a-mole, but you’ve at least taken care of this one.

To report them to Facebook, on the scammers cover photo on their fake page in the bottom right corner, click on the little three dots.

You’ll see “Help us understand what is happening.” Click on “Report this profile.”

Then, on the next page, you can report the account as fake.

Conversely, on your own page, you can click on the question mark at the top right and click on “Report a Problem.”

While you’re there, do a privacy checkup too.


As the old proverb says, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

The best resource I’ve found about Facebook ins, outs, privacy and security is FaceCrooks whose website you can search by keyword.  You can also follow them at this link on Facebook.

Remember to “Like” their page and set your display setting to “See First.”

In particular, please read the article, How to Lock Down Your Facebook Account for Maximum Privacy and Security.

Don’t let the bad guys scam you, trick you into friending them or use you, your Facebook page and your friend list as a free ticket to friending and scamming others.

And yes, before you ask, please feel free to share this article far and wide. That’s the purpose!


Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate.  If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase.  Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay.  This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 900 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

I do not accept sponsorship for this blog, nor do I write paid articles, nor do I accept contributions of any type from any vendor in order to review any product, etc.  In fact, I pay a premium price to prevent ads from appearing on this blog.

When reviewing products, in most cases, I pay the same price and order in the same way as any other consumer. If not, I state very clearly in the article any special consideration received.  In other words, you are reading my opinions as a long-time consumer and consultant in the genetic genealogy field.

I will never link to a product about which I have reservations or qualms, either about the product or about the company offering the product.  I only recommend products that I use myself and bring value to the genetic genealogy community.  If you wonder why there aren’t more links, that’s why and that’s my commitment to you.

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA, or one of the affiliate links below:

Affiliate links are limited to:

Dear RootsTech: Let’s Make the 2019 Conference Awesome

Dear Rootstech,

I just returned home from the 2018 RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City yesterday.  And what a conference it was.

This was my first experience at RootsTech, and I’ve shared it day-by-day with my readers.

Truthfully, although I did have a lot of fun, it wasn’t BECAUSE of the conference sessions, but IN SPITE of the problems. I was intent on making lemonade out of lemons. The conference itself was very disappointing in many ways, but awesome in others – and has so much rich, unfulfilled potential.

RootsTech, I think, based on the attendance and facility, you’ve become a victim of your own success. Perhaps you need to step back, take a breath, engage in heartfelt reflection and regroup.

I’ve always told my kids and employees not to bring me a problem without potential solutions, so I’m doing the same for you. I even asked my blog followers to contribute as well and have incorporated their suggestions. So, if this kind of sounds like a “sit down and listen” mother talk, that’s because it is:)

RootsTech, I really hope you’ll read and listen carefully and thoughtfully – and then retool to make the necessary changes.

In a nutshell:

A $2000+ trip to visit with people when you planned to attend educational sessions that were full beyond capacity and be repeatedly refused admission after standing in very long lines is simply not acceptable!

Let’s fix the problems going forward.

  • An apology goes a long way. You screwed up, plain and simple. Acknowledge the problem. At least a partial refund to the attendees because we all were significantly impacted, along with a statement that you are going to address this issue by next year, and possibly how, would go a very long way. Many people plan for next year’s conference now – and I can tell you from talking with many attendees that they aren’t planning to attend next year.
  • Extremely long registration lines – Find a way to eliminate the two and a half hour wait to register. That too is unacceptable and without justification. No, I don’t care WHY it happened. Period. Full stop. For the amount of money that this conference plus trip costs, if you need to charge an extra $10 to mail the badge and bag in advance, then do it. Please hear this loud and clear. The registration line was full of people old enough for senior discounts, in pain. No excuses – just fix the problem.
  • Sessions unavailable due to being overfull. The sessions (especially DNA sessions) were so popular that they were often filled to capacity long before the session began. On the first day, NONE of the ballrooms had empty seats, and people who had just finished standing in line for two and a half hours couldn’t get into the sessions they wanted. Perhaps having people pre-register for the session they are most interested in would help with sizing rooms adequately. Having to stand in line for an hour and a half, or more, to get into a session means that you can’t attend a previous session, and in many cases, the people in line were STILL not able to get into the session.
  • Standing in very long line for every session, and still not getting in. Many people simply cannot stand in line for hours, repeatedly, and this should not be required in order to attend the conference sessions. Otherwise, you should state before registration that the conference requires that level of physical ability multiple times daily AND that after standing in long lines for an extended period, you’re still not going to get into several sessions. Many people would not have attended had they known what they faced and those who did attend would have had their expectations set correctly.
  • Reach out to planners of other large conferences outside of the genealogy sphere that utilize electronic registration much more effectively and do not encounter these issues.
  • Handicapped Access – There are not enough elevators for effective handicapped access, especially since an exorbitant amount of standing/walking was required. More people in the future will avail themselves of scooters, because many people simply cannot stand for the required lengths of time, which will compound this problem. Additionally, several times the escalators were not functional.
  • Layout of session rooms combined with turning people away meant that many were frustrated and unable to attend sessions. Trying to find a second session that wasn’t full, especially with the rooms distant from each other, meant that you simply couldn’t attend any session for that timeslot. I attended a grand total of 1 session, and that was because I volunteered to help the speaker. In essence, I finally gave up trying due to the long lines and repeated frustration.
  • Many people simply gave up trying to get into sessions they wanted and looked for the session they felt would be least popular and tried to attend that session. It’s absolutely unacceptable for conference attendees to have to devise strategies such as this to attend sessions.
  • Spillover rooms with large screen monitors would be helpful for incredibly popular sessions, even if they were in scattered among adjacent hotels. I don’t care if I see the speaker physically – I want to hear the message and without standing in line outside of every room.
  • Capacity and facility – Determine what your capacity actually is before the problems on this list emerge, and close registration when your capacity has been reached.
  • Expo Hall – The flip side is that the expo hall was very popular, because people couldn’t get into sessions, so the vendors weren’t nearly as unhappy as the attendees. This isn’t a competition between the classes and vendors. I like the idea of scheduling some time where there aren’t sessions so that attendees don’t have to choose between seeing the expo hall and attending (or missing) sessions. This is, of course, assuming that you address the capacity problem and attendees actually can attend sessions.
  • Beginner sessions focused on Saturday – Consider making the main RootsTech conference Tuesday through Friday for intermediate and advanced, with Saturday fully open with only beginner classes. More advanced attendees can plan accordingly.
  • Signage would be a huge help. For example, multiple “you are here” signs throughout the building with room names and numbers indicating the location you are trying to find.
  • Vendor map – A large map/sign enabling attendees to find vendors in the expo hall would be very useful. You provided a “map” but other than the largest vendors, it only showed booth numbers. Finding specific vendors was a challenge.
  • Announce luncheon and keynote speakers well in advance. Other major conferences do, and RootsTech should be able to follow suit.
  • Adding on paid sessions – After a ticket is purchased, in the conference schedule application, if you discover that you want to attend a lab or sponsored meal, there is no way to add that onto your schedule. Or, if there was, I couldn’t find it. When I click on that event and star that I’d like to attend, either indicate that it’s full, or allow me to pay.
  • Track capacity – Conversely, on the schedule, don’t allow me to select a session or event that is already full to capacity.
  • Pay the speakers – Compensate the non-vendor speakers, meaning people who are not speaking for an employer who has a booth at the conference. I’m not referring to keynotes either, who, given what I know about (some of) their speaking fees, are compensated. Not compensating speakers (other than a pass to a conference) sends the wrong message that genealogists are expected to provide free services and have no or little value or worth. Not OK. Really NOT OK. Don’t egotistically presume that speakers are going to be “attending the conference anyway.” RootsTech needs to step up and be a leader instead of building the conference on the back of unpaid others. This is not how ethical leaders in any industry treat other people, let alone people of the talent and caliber that speak at RootsTech. This would also allow RootsTech to select from all speakers, not just ones that are willing to work for free or token compensation. Being expected to work for free is a demeaning message.
  • Vendor demo agenda – Provide a secondary agenda listing the locations of vendors providing sessions in the expo area. I realize you may see these as “competing” with the larger sessions, but in this case, that might be the only way for an attendee to see a speaker or a topic of interest – given that the general sessions were full and required standing in long lines, best case. I only discovered the vendor sessions quite by accident.
  • Subscription virtual conference – Since attending the conference doesn’t mean you can see the sessions you would like, consider a subscription “conference” where purchasers can see the livestreamed sessions, but also receive access to the other sessions as well. This might be popular with people who do attend, as part of a conference package because there are often multiple sessions in the same time slot that attendees would like to see, but can’t. Sending a thumb drive to all of this year’s attendees with all of the recorded sessions would go a long way towards that apology.
  • Luncheon timing and space – Given the distances between rooms, the luncheon sessions were packed too tightly against before and after sessions. Some luncheons were too full, with long lines and no place in the room to sit.
  • Scanning badges upon entering rooms was a significant bottleneck. Requiring attendees to leave the room after the previous session and go to the back of the line simply assured that if you were actually in the previous session, you certainly weren’t going to be in line in time to be admitted to the next one in that room. Additionally, some people felt that scanning badges was an invasion of privacy.

It’s understandable that snafus happen, but these issues together combined to create a rather miserable experience if an attendee wanted to do much of anything except visit the expo area.

Things I Liked:

  • The teal-shirted volunteers were absolutely amazing, especially given that the attendees were often extremely unhappy about the situation in which they found themselves.
  • The variety of speakers and sessions was great – which is also why the sessions were so popular and filled beyond capacity.
  • I loved seeing and visiting with the vendors, large to small.
  • Meeting other attendees, my blog followers and cousins.
  • Livestreamed sessions. I’ll be watching those now that I’m back home.

Readers – Please Help!

If you know anyone with any influence at RootsTech or FamilySearch, please forward this article or link. Let’s make sure RootsTech actually sees this article and addresses these issues in a positive manner so Rootstech can be a totally awesome conference in 2019!

The Ferverda Bible – 52 Ancestors #186

Hiram B. (probably Bauke, “Baker” in English) Ferverda (1854-1925) married Evaline Louise Miller (1857-1939) on March 10, 1876 in Goshen. Indiana. At least, that’s where their marriage license was filed.

Beyond that, and knowing that they were both Brethren, until 2010, we knew absolutely nothing more about their wedding, except that Brethren weddings, like Brethren anything, tended to be very humble and austere. No color, no decorations, and maybe even no ceremony at all. Just you, your parents perhaps, the minister, a couple of required witnesses (dang those manmade laws anyway) and the Lord.

In October 2010, my cousin, Cheryl, arranged to have a family reunion in a church in northern Indiana, not far from where the Ferverda and Miller families lived.  Cheryl’s father was Roscoe Ferverda, brother to my grandfather, John Whitney Ferverda.

I was looking forward the reunion because I had never met any Ferverda cousins except for Cheryl, her sons and her brother Don. My mother had moved away from the area as a young adult.

Upon arrival at the church that beautiful fall day, Cheryl said, rather nonchalantly, that she hoped that the person with the Ferverda Bible attended.


Had Cheryl been holding out on me?

No, Cheryl said, when she called some of the distant cousins to invite them, someone mentioned that someone had a family Bible.

Notice the number of “someones” in that sentence. I had been down this road before on other family lines. If in fact “someone” did have a Bible, it almost was never the right family line. It was almost always someone’s wife’s second cousin’s half sister’s Bible that was purchased at an estate sale.

Never, almost never, my line.

So when I heard Cheryl’s comment, I didn’t have much hope and went back to covering tables with white plastic lace covers and placing edible center pieces.  This was, after all, the “sweet-tooth” Ferverda family, and “edible” is important.

People began arriving and chattering. I felt rather like a stranger in my own family, because while everyone else greeted people they recognized, I knew absolutely no one.

I introduced myself and told people who I was. Everyone was kind and cordial, but there was no spark of even remote recognition.

After all, it was 2010 and my mother had died 4 years earlier and moved away some 70 years before that. 

Nonetheless, people brought photos with them and told stories, and we had a wonderful time eating and (no drinking) and sharing family stories. The Ferverda family certainly doesn’t lack in that capacity, either eating or storytelling. They may have been Brethren, but they were neither dead nor boring. In fact, they weren’t always terribly compliant, it turns out.

About half way through the reunion, I asked Cheryl who was supposed to bring the Bible. She found the person, and asked if they had remembered.

“Oh,” they said, “I forgot.  Would you like me to run home and get it?” 

“Well, no, you don’t need to do that…” Cheryl began, “but I quickly interrupted her with, “Oh, would you please?????”

The gentleman was perfectly willing, and off he went, returning a few minutes later with said Bible in hand. It was far more beautiful than I had expected. Given their Brethren faith, I was prepared for plain black and no decoration except for the words, “Holy Bible” in small gold letters. That’s certainly not what appeared.

Let me share with you the way we the story unfold that day. Cheryl and I, sitting side by side at the table after clearing the plates, on a beautiful fall day in Indiana, not far from where Hiram and Eva lived their entire lives, opened the cover and began turning the pages, one by one.

Hiram and Eva were Cheryl’s grandparents and my great-grandparents.

I’d wager Hiram and Eva were never more than an hour or so from home, maybe 2 hours on a long trip. Transportation was by horse and buggy.

Look at that beautiful leather tooling. Cheryl opened the cover of the Bible, not knowing what to expect.

Opening their Bible transported me to another time and place. But, was it actually their Bible?  We held our breath!

Glory be!  It IS!  How did we never know this Bible existed?

What a lovely gift from Hiram to his wife. I surely wish he, or she had added a date. Was this gift for a birthday, Easter, Christmas perhaps? Is this his writing, or hers? Looking at the shape of the letters, in particular, after 1925 when he died, I believe that this is Eva’s writing, not Hiram’s.

Genealogists always look for the Bible’s copyright date because you know the Bible wasn’t in use before that date.

This page is interesting, because we always thought her name was Evaline Louise Miller. Imagine that…all these years we’ve all had ner name backwards!

This writing is clearly Eva’s, based on the shape of the Ms, compared to the entries after Hiram died.

Furthermore, they were married at 6 in the evening. Their witnesses were Mrs. Bigler and Miss Bigler, and the minister was Reverend Bigler of Goshen, Indiana.

According to the History of the Church of the Brethren in Indiana, there were two early churches, one called Union Center (which is where Hiram’s father is buried,) and the other in Elkhart, founded in 1830 as the first Brethren Church in Indiana. 

The Elkhart church later became known as “West Goshen.”  The Bigler name appears in both churches as deacons, but the Goshen Church also shows Andrew Bigler as an elder, serving with Daniel Stutsman who died in 1887. The book indicates that Andrew served as elder during the later years of Elder Stutsman. The Stutzman and Miller families immigrated from Switzerland to Germany together in the 1600s, and then from Germany to Pennsylvania in the 1720s, then on to Maryland before 1750, then to Ohio around 1800 and Indiana about 1830. 

It’s very likely that the marrying minister was indeed Andrew Bigler, shown in the 1880 census with his wife Lydia and daughter Elizabeth. The Bigler family had been migrating with this same family group since they were first noted together in 1738 in the Little Conewago Church in Pennsylvania.

The church today probably incorporates the original building.

Eva and Hiram would have traveled about 5 miles from where Eva’s parents lived, together in the buggy. Was it cold that early of March day, or was it a glorious spring day? Where did the newlywed couple go from there? Were they married in the actual church building, or in the pastor’s home?

I do wonder why they were married in this church, because we know that there once stood a church in the cemetery on the land where Eva’s Miller grandparents lived, although her grandfather, David Miller, died in 1851.

Perhaps that church was too small to have a minister licensed to marry. Brethren ministers were generally farmers who preached “on the side.”

We know from the deed of Edward Clark who bought the land where the cemetery now stands from the estate of David Miller that the church existed in 1877 when he executed a deed to “Trustees, German Baptist Church” and stated that when the property was no longer needed for that purpose, that it be turned over to the cemetery trustees. By 1931, the Miller church was no longer in existence.   

The next page in the Bible is a record of marriages, apparently overflowed from the marriage page of the Bible. When you have 11 children who all lived to adulthood, there are lots of marriages to record. 

Next, we find births.

This Bible was given to Eva in 1895, so either she was pregnant for her 9th child, or she had an infant, plus children ages 18, 16, 14, 13, 11, 9, 4 and 2.  This list makes me wonder what happened between 1886 and 1891.  Did Eva have a couple of miscarriages, or did they bury a baby whose birth is not recorded?

Eva would have recopied her children’s births from an earlier Bible, pages probably worn thin and now long gone.

With 11 children, not to mention siblings and their children, Eva probably did a lot of praying.

This page is indeed sad, but all things considered, it’s actually amazing that it’s the shortest page. Although I have noticed that Eva did not record grandchildrens’ information. 

I’m glad the deaths page was blank for 30 years, but I can see Eva saddened and tearful, slumped and slowly writing Hiram’s name into the book. Did she pause as she wrote the word, died? Did she sit and recall the day he had given her the Bible, those three decades before? How long after his death did it take until she was able to bring herself to write those words.

Was she with Hiram as he died from a heat stroke.  His death certificate says he also had chronic bronchitis, so his end would have been quite difficult, that 3rd of June on a hot Indiana day.

The deaths of two of Eva’s children would follow, before her own.

Irvin, a farmer, died at age 52 of cardio-renal disease, according to his death certificate. He was buried just down the road in the Salem cemetery, probably close to his father.

Donald, a bank cashier, died at age 37 of cancer of the kidney and lung.  Two months before his death, surgery had removed his cancerous kidney, but without chemo, there was no chance and it was too late. He too was buried in the Salem Cemetery, beside the Brethren Church.

Finally, in the early fall of 1939, Eva joined her family in the Salem cemetery, succumbing to what would earlier have been called old age. Her death certificate says she died at 82 of acute myocarditis nephritis and hypertension, along with arteriosclerosis. We all have to die of something. I wonder who recorded her death in the Bible, closing that final door after Eva took up residence on the other side. 

Eva lived a long and full life. My mother remembers her arriving, in someone else’s car, as she never drove, to take care of her grandchildren when they were ill. Eva had enough grandchildren that she was busy all of the time. 

The fact that no further deaths were recorded after Eva herself died confirms that indeed, this was her Bible, and it was probably retired and kept as a keepsake after this. Her children and grandchildren would have wanted her record of life events recorded in this Bible in her own hand for almost 45 years. Nearly half a century.

Eva recorded the deaths of her parents, John David Miller and Margaret Elizabeth Lentz here as well. I’m sure she visited their graves often in the little cemetery where her grandfather’s church used to be. This also tells us that her mother’s middle name was Elizabeth, another tidbit we never knew.

What Eva didn’t tell us is that her mother was also married to Valentine Whitehead who died before Margaret Elizabeth Lentz Whitehead married John David Miller almost 5 years later, on March 30, 1856 and had 3 more children.


Next, we find a paper enclosed in the Bible noted as “Mother’s half sisters.”  

What? One of Grandpa Miller’s sons was in the Civil War? Say what? A Brethren man fighting in the Civil War?

Ok, who is whom where? Mother Miller would be Eva, so Grandpa Miller was John David Miller, and his sons by his second wife were born in 1859 and 1862, so it’s clearly not them in the Civil War. John David Miller’s sons by his first wife, Mary Baker who were old enough to serve were:

  •  John N. Miller, in the cemetery, but not in the 1850 or 1860 census
  • Samuel Miller in the cemetery, but not in the 1850 or 1860 census)
  • David B. Miller born in 1838 and died in 1922 (probably not him because nothing is stated about him serving in the Civil War the local history) age 12 in the 1850 census, was clearly Brethren
  • Aaron B. Miller born in 1843 and died in 1923 (Chicago, Illinois), age 7 in the 1850 census, 18 in 1860 census, moved to Chicago later in life

No Millers by these names are shown as having enlisted in Elkhart County. 

I’m unable to find any record of either David or Aaron serving in the Civil War. That doesn’t mean they didn’t serve. It only means I can’t find the record.  Perhaps as pensions are eventually scanned, indexed and brought online through the National Archives, this mystery will be solved.

That said, I can only imagine the dissention a son serving in the Civil War would have sewn among the family and the Brethren church family as well. Perhaps this is a clue as to why Eva and Hiram were married in the Elkhart church instead of Union Center church.

A Secret Family Tragedy

The family had another secret, however. A hint was found in Ira Ferverda’s obituary, obviously tucked into the Bible after his death in 1950. 

It’s interesting that Ira wasn’t Brethren. Of Eva’s children, I know John was Methodist and I don’t think Roscoe was Brethren either.  

Ira’s obituary states that he had been ill for 20 years and died in an institution, not at home. Why would that be?

Well, this is a bit delicate.

I wonder if the family knew why Ira was ill. Death certificates are now online, and Ira’s reveals what I suspect was a family secret. Ira died of gangrene of the left foot…caused by untreated syphilis. Obviously, this document wasn’t found in the Bible.

Neurosyphilis is an infection of the brain or spinal cord caused by the spirochete Treponema pallidum. It usually occurs in people who have had chronic, untreated syphilis, usually about 10 to 20 years after first infection and develops in about 25%–40% of persons who are not treated. Syphilis can be dormant for 10-20 years. Given that Ira married in June of 1904, it was either dormant at that time, or he hadn’t yet contracted the disease.

My suspicion is that Ira probably contracted the disease while serving in the Philippines during Spanish American War where he rescued General John Pershing from drowning, according to newspaper accounts. Ira was subsequently promoted to the rank of quarter-master-sergeant by Pershing, but his military career ended in March 1904 after he suffered a broken leg. Ira enlisted in the Spanish American War in March of 1901 and didn’t die until 1950.

If that’s when Ira contracted the disease, he lived with syphilis for half a century, and miserably, I’m sure. Ira married in June 1904, three months after he was discharged from the service, and by 1910, had moved with his wife and 3 year old child to Wyoming. 

However, by 1918, Ira and family were back in Kosciusko County where be both signed up for the draft and filed for an invalid pension based on his prior service.

In 1920, a child born to Ira and his wife died of toxemia a few hours after birth as a result of “Bright’s disease of the mother.” Bright’s disease was a polite name used in some earlier records for syphilis. By 1920, according to the census, Ira was a salesman selling “home products” and in 1930, had a chicken hatchery.

I can’t find the family in the 1940 census, but in 1938, the Lafayette Courier reports in an article that Mr. and Mrs. Ferverda were among 5 persons from the “Soldiers Home” that were injured in an automobile accident. In 1940, “Mrs. Ira Ferverda received word that her brother died suddenly and she has gone to Leesburg,” followed in 1944 by an article indicating that Mr. and Mrs. Ira Ferverda were on furlough. In 1945, the same newspaper reported that they had gone home to Leesburg for the summer. Of course, Ira died in 1950 and the death certificate gave his wife’s address as Leesburg. For all the world, it looks like both Ira and his wife were resident at the “camp” at the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Home in Lafayette for many years.

Ira’s wife’s death in 1972 at age 89 indicates that she had chronic nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys, but says nothing about syphilis. Perhaps she was treated after the introduction of penicillin in the 1930s, but Ira was not. Or perhaps his disease had progressed too far by that time.

Eva may or may not have known that her son had contracted syphilis. Given the death of Ira’s daughter in 1920, I’m guessing that Eva knew something, or perhaps the cause of his illness and the cause of the child’s death was carefully hidden from her.

Regardless, I’m sure Ira, along with the rest of the family, had many regrets and a great deal of shame, pain and sorrow.  Today, I have only compassion for Ira and this family, no shame necessary. People are human, after all. Ira paid a terribly dear price for his humanness. 

It’s amazing the history that this detour caused by an interesting sentence in an obituary revealed. 

Pictures in the Bible

Next, Cheryl and I find photographs tucked safely into the Bible pages. 

Thank goodness there’s a name on the back!

Robert Dean Ferverda, son of Gerald Dean Ferverda (Ira’s son born in 1907) and Dorothy E. Lloyd was born on April 6, 1932. Love these first baby pictures.

The next photo of Eva at left is both charming and mystifying.

Imagine my disappointment to turn this photo over and discover….nothing.  I suspect, but don’t know, that this was Eva’s sister. Two of her half-sisters lived into the 1930s. Matilda “Tillie” Miller married John Dubbs and died in 1939, just a few months before Eva. Martha Jane Miller married David Blough and died in 1935. Eva’s half sister, Mary Jane Whitehead married John D. Ulery and died in 1930.

I love the wheel to wench the bucket up from the well on this farm, along with what looks like a school bell behind Eva. I do wonder where this was taken. The stone on the ground beside the bell looks like a millstone.

If I could read the city of the photographer, on the back below, I might be able to at least find a hint of who might be in the photo. I bet the photographer never dreamed someone 85 years in the future would be trying to find them!


Below, Eva on the porch of the home in Leesburg, on the farm, with the three crosses in the window indicating three sons serving in WWI.  Extremely unusual for a Brethren family.

Eva’s sons who served in WWI were George, Donald and Roscoe.  Eva was clearly proud of her sons and their service.

The article in the Fort Wayne paper, above, identifies the 3 Ferverda sons. 

This photograph was taken during WWI. One son is in uniform, in the back row.  Eva is standing at left, with Hiram behind her.  Their children are identified in this photo, but neither their children nor grandchildren are identified in the photo  (above) in the Bible, and the spouses are absent as well. My mother’s brother was born in 1915, so he could have been one of the small boys, but I don’t recognize him, and he’s not with my grandfather in the back row, third from right. 

Again, nothing on the back of the photo.

There were a few items in the Bible at the reunion that weren’t scanned at the library.

Who is Henry P. Lentz?

Not one person at the reunion had any idea who Henry P. Lentz was, but a little sleuthing tells the story. 

Henry P. Lentz died on January 3, 1915 in Adrian, Bates Co., MO. Clearly, Eva’s mother, Elizabeth Lentz Miller had kept in touch with family members, because there would be no other way for this obituary to have been in Eva’s Bible. Henry’s FindAGrave Memorial is here.

Henry’s father was Johann Adam Lentz, born on August 30, 1819 in Cumberland Co., PA and died on August 4, 1906 in Bates County, MO.  Adam was Elizabeth Lentz’s brother, so Eva’s uncle. Henry would have been Eva’s first cousin.

According to FindAGrave, Adam married Margaret Whitehead, the sister of Valentine Whitehead. Margaret Elizabeth Lentz’s first husband was Valentine Whitehead, Margaret Whitehead’s brother. Adam Lentz, Margaret Elizabeth Lentz’s brother, migrated with the Whitehead/Miller group to Elkhart County, Indiana. Adam’s wife, Margaret Whitehead, died the following year, probably in the “malarial fevers” outbreak that also killed Elizabeth Miller, David Miller’s wife.  Adam Lentz remarried and then migrated to Illinois and on to Missouri, the next frontier.

Mystery solved – and according to FindAGrave, one more piece of information as to where in Pennsylvania Margaret Lentz may have been born.

More Reunion Pictures

Other goodies from the reunion include photos and items that Cheryl and I had never seen before.

Photo of George Miller Ferverda with daughter Peg at the gas station where he worked.

No one had any idea whatsoever who this is and true to form, nothing on the back. The family does not look Brethren. The man has no beard and the woman no prayer bonnet. If you know who this family is, please let me know. I would think they are somehow connected.  

Death of Ira’s daughter, Mary Evelyn. I can only imagine the words that passed between Ira and his wife on this terrible day.

Three Ferverda brothers serving in WWI.

Eva in an out-of-focus photo in 1936 with her daughter, Margaret Ferverda Glant.

And with that, we leave the reunion and close Eva’s Bible, with much gratitude to Eva for preserving these memories and those family members who have been stewards of her Bible for the past 79 years.

Eva’s Mitochondrial DNA Legacy  

It’s somehow ironic that while we have Eva’s Bible, one single item with no copies, often very difficult to find, we don’t have her mitochondrial DNA, passed by mothers to all of their children, but only passed on my daughters. In order to find Eva’s mitochondrial DNA, we need to look to Eva’s daughters and those of her sister’s on her mother’s side, or, her mother’s sister’s offspring.

Eva’s mother, Margaret Elizabeth Lentz had three sisters:

  • Mary Lentz (1829-1918) who married Henry Overlease
  • Fredericka “Fanny” Lentz (1809-1897) who married Daniel Brusman
  • Maria Barbara Lentz (1816-1899) who married Henry Yost  

Eva had only one half-sister by her mother, Margaret Elizabeth Lentz, who had a daughter:

  • Mary Jane Whitehead  (1852-1930) married John D. Ulery and had daughter Margaret Elizabeth Ulery.

Eva had 4 daughters:

  • Edith Estella Ferverda (1879-1955) who married Tom Dye
  • Elizabeth Gertrude Ferverda (1884-1966) who married Louis Hartman
  • Chloe Evaline Ferverda (1886-1984) who married Rolland Robinson
  • Margaret Ferverda (1902-1984) who married Chester Glant

If you descend from any of these women through all females to the current generation, which can be male or female, I have a free DNA test for you. 


I was thrilled to discover that Eva’s Bible still existed, to be allowed to touch it, open and lovingly caress the very pages she turned, garnering the gems of family history she recorded for the future there. We are that future. 

A debt of gratitude to the Ferverda family member who allowed this Bible to be borrowed, scanned and repaired.

Thanks to Cheryl Ferverda, now retired from the Allen County Public Library, and the Allen County Public Library for scanning the Bible before returning it to the family.