About Roberta Estes

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

Family Tree DNA’s New Big Y Block Tree

Family Tree DNA just released their new very cool new Block Tree for people who have taken the Big Y DNA test. Furthermore, Family Tree DNA is working hand-in-hand with citizen scientists. At the bottom of their new tree you’ll see the credit, “Layout based on the Big Tree by Alexander R. Williamson.”

I love collaboration because it benefits everyone.

If you have taken the Big Y test, sign on to your account and follow along. If you haven’t and you’re a male, you can always upgrade and if you’re a female, you can sponsor a male with a surname of interest.

Let’s step through the new Block Tree and see what it can tell us about our ancestors and their history. There’s so much here.

After signing on to your account, look under the Big Y-500 section on your personal pge and you’ll see the new Block Tree icon. If you’ve taken this test, you receive the new Block Tree automatically.

Block Tree icon

Click on the Block Tree icon and you’ll see an introduction.

Block Tree Tutorial

block tree tutorial.png

Cool! Trees, SNPs and branches combined with countries AND myOrigins results.

By clicking on “Show Me Around” you can see the various features. Watch for is the little pink blob that expands and contracts, kind of like a heartbeat.

block tree tutorial 1.png

Full screen makes a BIG difference. Pardon the pun.

block tree tutorial 2.png

Display options controls which features you see.

block tree display options.png

You can disable some of these cool functions, but why would anyone want to do that?

Block tree tutorial 3.png

Reset, the ultimate bread crumb trail. Back to the trailhead.

Block tree tutorial 4.png

We’ll try each of these features after the tutorial.

block tree tutorial 5.png

Note that the equivalent SNPs for each branch are included too. In the future, it’s possible that branches maybe divided into two smaller branches between equivalent SNPs. At that point, they won’t be equivalent anymore, because a difference will have been found.

BLock tree tutorial 6.png

Note, at the top of the display are the parent branches of the tree above the SNP boxes shown.

BLock tree parent branches

Click to enlarge.

You can step yourself all the way back up the tree if you wish to do so. In this view, you can see R-M207, the root of haplogroup R at the upper left. Wow, look at all of those branches that are children beneath R-Z39589, the navy blue block.

If you click on R-M207, you’ll see R-M207 and then, upstream, haplogroup P-M45 which gave birth to R-M207 and brother brother branch, Q-M242.

BLock tree SNP path.png

If you get lost on this block tree trying to see major branches and how they relate, remember you can reference the main branching haplotree in pedigree format here.

By clicking on any haplogroup, you can quickly see how they relate to others. For example, here’s P showing Q-M242 and M207 underneath on the pedigree tree.

Block tree to pedigree tree.png

I wrote about how to use this tree in the article, Family Tree DNA’s PUBLIC Y DNA Haplotree.

The block tree is private, meaning not available publicly, because it’s designed to show the names of your matches who have given permission for matching and sharing.

Ok, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

You and Your Matches on the Block Tree

After you review the tutorial, you’ll see the block tree as it relates to you and your test results.

block tree main view.png

I’m using the test of a man as compared to a group of men whose tests I manage as examples. They have all granted sharing permission, but it’s just easier to blur identities for privacy than to explain repeatedly why I didn’t.

Your own branch is shown to the far left and is labeled as such. To the right, you’ll see all of the neighbor branches. Some will be brother branches, descended from the same parent SNP, like BY482 and R-ZP276, above. Others will be more distantly related.

block tree origins legend.png

Below your branch, a legend referring to the colors in the circle rings in the Origins section is provided.

Family Tree DNA has given us a lot of information  to unpack.

block tree your branch.png

What are we actually looking at?

Your SNP branch block is the one with a white background and a black border, in this case, R-ZS3700.

The teal box underneath includes the average number of private variants, meaning SNP mutations not yet named and located on the tree. Multiple occurrences of private variant mutations must be documented in different men in a reliable genome location before the SNP can be named and placed in its correct position on a branch of the haplotree.

If you hover over the teal box below your “terminal” or currently end-of-line SNP, you’ll see a pop-up box describing the variants. Different men will have different numbers of private variants based on any number of factors, including de novo (one off) mutations and read errors. Therefore, an average is used.

If you click on R-ZS3700, or any SNP, you’ll see just that branch in the display, without neighbor branches.

block tree individual branch.png

There are two people in this branch – you and your match. You have a total of 8 combined origins.

Distance, Years and SNPs

One of the questions all genealogists seek to answer is when. We want to know when and how closely we’re related to these men we match, either closely or distantly.

Unfortunately, that question, without genealogy, is very difficult to answer. Many researchers have spent approaching two decades now attempting to reliably answer that question. The key word here is reliably.

The general consensus is that a SNP generation is someplace, on average, between 80 and roughly 140 years. The topic is hotly debated, and many factors can play into SNP age calculations.

Family Tree DNA has approached this a little differently. They have provided a scale of number of SNPs on the left hand side. Each SNP represents one grey block.

block tree SNP generations.png

Here’s what I can tell you positively about the men in this example. SNP R-BY490 was born about 1600. The father who is confirmed through testing of multiple sons was positive for BY482 but not BY490 and was born in 1555.

There are a total of 5 SNPs plus Private Variants between the current tester whose account we are viewing and the birth of R-BY490.

Ancestor birth Tester birth Difference SNPs Years per SNP
1600 1928 328 5 65.6
1711 1928 217 4 54.25

A second example is equally as relevant. ZS3700 was born in 1711, proven through testing of multiple sons’ lines.

You can see that the average can vary quite a bit. Trying to calculate many generations back in time, with many branches having gone extinct along the way, with no proven genealogical lineages to help the process is fraught with landmines.

Countries

I love the view that incorporates countries and geography which shows in a very visual way where different branches of the genetic family line migrated to and settled. At least, where their descendants are clustered today.

block tree countries.png

In the wide view, above, we can see the history and birth of various SNPs in the blue box portion of the chart.

For example, the first split shown, beneath the large dark blue block including BY347 at the bottom occurred 33 SNP generations ago. If a SNP generation is 100 years, on average, then that’s 3300 years ago.

As new private variants are placed in different locations on the tree, this number of SNP generations may increase over time.

There are only two branches shown as descending from the navy blue SNP box; the largest medium blue block showing R-BY336 at the top and the turquoise Private Variant block with 27 variants, at far right.

block tree SNPS and clusters.png

The medium blue block box that includes SNP R-BY336 at the top and Y93760 at the bottom spans 16-33 SNP generations. Each SNP listed represents a SNP generation which is why each SNP is shown on a separate row equating to one grey bar at left.

Looking at the bottom of your display, you see the country of the location of the earliest known ancestor as listed by testers.

block tree flag icon.png

By hovering over the flag, you can identify the country, and by clicking on the flag, you see the detailed view of myOrigins of the testers for the SNP that flag is associated with – in this case, BY390.

block tree SNP plus origins detail view.png

Family Tree DNA has incorporated the highest combined regional myOrigins results for the testers into the display for the Big Y as a ring, plus the location of the testers’ Earliest Known Ancestor as completed in their personal information, found under their profile picture, under the genealogy tab.

Of course, as more people test, this information is subject to change, so check periodically.

block tree countries plus origins.png

The red boxes above indicate the pieces of information that are relevant for SNP R-BY490.

By hovering your mouse over the Origins box, you’ll see that the people in the group who are positive for BY490 have a total of 12 origins of which the highest two are British Isles and West and Central Europe. It just so happens that the earliest known proven ancestor of these men is found in England in the 1400s.

The US flag means that testers are stuck here. A feather indicates that the individuals identified their earliest known ancestor as Native American. I always take that with a grain of salt barring other evidence, such as a cluster (not based on oral history alone) or a known Native haplogroup.

Hint – Please note that if you have “0 Origins” showing, in order for your Origins to be included, you must enable “Origins Sharing” as well as “Project Sharing” for this information to appear on the branch. These options can be found under “Manage Personal Information” below your photo on your personal page, under Account Settings, then “Privacy and Sharing” and “Project Preferences” tabs, respectively.

My Matches

Your matches are shown below the blocks that represent the various SNPs. When you exceed the match threshold of 30 SNPs, you are no longer shown as a match to individuals, and their names will no longer show on the block tree – but the block tree SNP information will remain without their names.

If you want to find out the surnames, locations and ancestors of those people who have tested but aren’t shown as matches, you have a couple of options.

  • If testers have granted permission in their privacy setting to allow their information to be shown in projects, you can visit the appropriate haplogroup project to view their surname and earliest known ancestor information, if they have provided such. Fingers crossed that they did.
  • A google search with the following text string will likely be productive:

<snp ID> haplogroup family tree dna projects

For those people who you do match, by clicking on the matches option in the upper left-hand corner of the block tree page, you will see the following display:

block tree my matches.png

Your matches are shown at left. You can see in this case that all 8 of this man’s matches are shown at BY482 or below, shown in the first three SNP blocks counting from the left on the block tree. The ancestor who produced BY482 was born approximately 16 SNP generations ago. If we use 100 years as an average, that’s 1600 years ago, or about the year 400. So far, all of the men who have tested and are positive for BY482 have a known ancestor in the British Isles.

You can see your matches on the block tree by:

  • viewing this list beside the block tree
  • viewing your matches in their respective haplogroup blocks
  • by clicking on their name to view their individual profile cards

block tree match profile.png

Of course, you can always go back to your account to view the matches on the Big Y-500 matches tab.

block tree Big Y options.png

You can learn more about the Big Y-500 Block Tree here.

In Summary

For me the real power in the Block Tree isn’t just the new visual view. I love that, but I can also use the Block Tree to “see through time” a bit.

I’m clicking back (up arrow on the tree) to view the base of haplogroup Q. As you may know, subgroups of haplogroup Q are found in many locations around the world.

BLock tree hap Q.png

If there was ever a graphic to show, using science, that we are truly all related, this is it. Haplogroup Q is divided into 3 primary blocks.

People of primarily Ashkenazi Jewish origin scattered throughout the world. People of European origins, and people of Native American, Mexican, Russian and Norwegian origins.

Of course, when you look deeper at these three parent SNPs, you’ll see further breakdowns that represent migrations in time and geography.

That is, after all, how we learn about our ancestors before surnames and before genealogical records.

That history is written in our DNA and the DNA of the people to whom we are related, whether we know it or not.

If you are a male and haven’t taken the Big Y-500, please order or upgrade today. Who is waiting on you?

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the 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.

Caution: Invisible Fathers and Autosomal Matching – Who’s Hiding in Your DNA?

caution Y

Using autosomal DNA matching alone, NPEs (nonparental events,) also known as misattributed paternity or parentage (MPEs,) undocumented adoptions, and sometimes other terms, often goes completely undetected, especially a few generations back in time.

Generally, this phenomenon occurs when the believed father is not the biological father – for a variety of reasons. Using autosomal DNA alone, especially more than a couple of generations back in time, these situations often go undetected because we are lulled into complacency thinking we have proof via DNA matching, but we don’t.

Let’s look at a real life example of how I discovered and unraveled one of these mysteries. Continue reading

Hendrik Ferverda (1857-1898) and the Secret That Killed Him, 52 Ancestors #225

Sometimes, when you’re researching your family, you discover something that just doesn’t seem right.

Just doesn’t make sense.

Over time, things begin to feel odd.

Pieces that don’t fit.

heart missing piece

Or pieces that are missing…that shouldn’t be missing

That’s what happened with Hendrik Ferwerda, born to Bauke Hendrick Ferwerda and Geertje Harmens de Jong on October 5, 1857 in Eernewoude,Tietjerksteradeel, Friesland, Netherlands. Continue reading

Andreas Kirsch (1774-1819) Gets New and Improved Parents – 52 Ancestors #224

Steps up to microphone at the podium, alone, on stage (in this case, a blog article.)

The press corps is gathered (readers) and the lights are bright, white hot and glaring.  (Who turned the heat up anyway?)

Shuffles nervously.

“Ahem.” <clears throat>

From offstage someplace, “We’re live in 4, 3, 2, 1…”

“I’d like to take this opportunity to update the birth announcement of Andreas Kirsch with new and improved parents.”

Cough. Choke. Sputter.

Andreas Kirsch revised birth

Every genealogists nightmare, right?

Who is Andreas Kirsch?

As new records become available, of course genealogists want copies, and that sometimes means that we have to revisit previous conclusions based on earlier information. All genealogists know that a new piece of information can turn a previous conclusion up-side-down – or at least complicate things or cast serious doubt.

No one wants to be wrong, but I’m oh so grateful when someone finds something new or that was previously unknown or missed and points it out to me. I do admit, I always have a “well, drat” moment, but I really think these are teachable events for myself and others as well. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

I wrote about Andreas Kirsch of Fussgoenheim, Germany and in that article, I had stated that I could not find his actual baptismal record, but we did have his purported birth date from other indexed records.

Church records in Fussgoenheim, such as marriage records of Andreas’ children showed that Andreas was indeed the father of our immigrant, Philip Jacob Kirsch and his sister, Anna Margaretha Kirsch who married Johann Martin Koehler who immigrated as well. In Anna Magaretha’s 1821 marriage record, it states that she is the daughter of “the deceased Andreas Kirsch and his surviving wife Elisabeth Koehler, present and consenting.” Of course, this not only tells us who her parents are, but that her father has died and her mother is still living.

Later, Philip Jacob Kirsch’s own marriage record provided his parents’ names:

Philip Jacob Kirsch, the legitimate unmarried son of the deceased couple, Andreas Kirsch and Margaretha Koehler and Katharina Barbara Lemerth, the legitimate unmarried daughter of the deceased local citizen Jacob Lemmerth and his surviving wife Gertrude Steiger, both of protestant religion.

We’re home free, right? Yes, as far as who the parents of Philip Jacob Kirsch are, but maybe not relative to the identity of Andreas’s parents. We really do need that missing baptismal record.

New Information

My introduction to my German friend Chris was when he pointed out that additional records had become available and there was more than one Andreas Kirsch in Fussgoenheim. Not only that, but the Andreas born in 1772 might not actually be an Andreas at all!

Who was this Chris guy I’d never heard of before anyway? Was he right? Were there really two Kirsch men whose records were intermingled? I didn’t want to believe that. I didn’t even want to consider that. Do you know how many ancestors I’d have to chop off my tree if the wrong man was attached?

And yes, you’ve guessed it, I had identified the “wrong” Kirsch birth record back in the 1980s when my translator was reading and translating these records page by page. Many Fussgoenheim records are missing, and not all remaining records had been microfilmed at that time. Many had been terribly water damaged or torn and the microfilm image quality itself was poor. These factors combined prove very challenging and cause errors to occur.

Chris discovered the mistake and had the misfortune of getting to tell me. I took it pretty well, all things considered. Chris is such a nice person, but I was upset because I’d fallen in love with those families that I fully believed were mine over the past 30 years. But Chris’s information was compelling, and there was simply no ignoring his research – no consigning it to the sidelines. It was in-your-face front and center and had to be dealt with.

I was very unhappy – but not with Chris. With myself. With the genealogical “condition” in general which of course periodically includes discoveries of errors past, and with the bad fortune of the combination of missing/damaged and confusing records.

It’s like I had written my ancestors obituary some 198 years after his death with the wrong parents and now, I had to somehow straighten it out and correct the error.

Crumb! Crumb! Crumb!

Chris Unravels the Mess

I’m providing Chris’s commentary here to illustrate his meticulous (successful) search methodology. Please note that Chris was working from much better record copies obtained from Archion.de, but Archion doesn’t allow their images to be published. The one image I’ve included is from the original Fussgoenheim church book obtained many years ago from the Family History Center.

From Chris (edited slightly for readability and clarity):

For some reason today, I thought back about your post on the Kirsch family from Fussgoenheim. So, being the curious person I am, I went back to the records, with some surprise to wait for me. I think you will like it!

First, I went back to your post:

https://dna-explained.com/2017/02/19/andreas-kirsch-1772-1819-of-fussgoenheim-bayern-germany-52-ancestors-148/

I planned to have a look at the baptism record of your Andreas Kirsch on 10 August 1772. I found a baptism record for a Kirsch relative at the right date, but it was not an Andreas, but a Johannes that was baptized this day! The parents of this Johannes, however, were the ones you have listed in your article as the parents of Andreas; Johann Valentin Kirsch and Anna Margaretha Kirsch.

I was a bit puzzled, why a child named “Johann Andreas” or even only “Andreas” later on should not be written as such in the baptism entry. As you point out yourself in your article, Johann was such a common name at this time, that I thought they definitely would have written the second name “Andreas” as well. So I went on.

Further down in your article you mentioned that “your” Andreas Kirsch was buried in 1819. So I checked the burial entry.

“Am 20. May starb und am 22. ejusdem ward begraben der hiesige Bürger Andreas Kirsch, Ehemann von Margaretha Elisabetha Köhler, in einem Alter von 45 J., 3 Mon. und 14 Tag.”

My translation: “On the 20th of May died and on the 22nd of the same month was buried the local citizen Andreas Kirsch, husband of Margaretha Elisabetha Köhler, at age 45 years, 3 months and 14 days.”

Again, the listed wife of this Andreas Kirsch is the one you note in your post as well, but if you calculate back from the death date 20 May 1819 with the age at death, you do not end up in 1772, but rather on 6 February 1774.

So, again I went back to the baptism records and find one on this very day for an Andreas Kirsch. Please note that the parents (in the first column) are not the ones you have in your post, but an Elias Kirsch and his wife and Anna Elisabetha. The second column notes the child`s name Andreas, the third column the witnesses Andreas Kirsch and Maria Katharina, third column: birth date 6 February 1774, fourth column date of baptism 8 February.

Andreas Kirsch birth 1774.jpg

In summary, I think that your cousin Walter was right to link the Johannes Kirsch born in 1772 with a wife Maria Catharina Koob, while you were right linking the Andreas Kirsch born in 1774 with the wife Margaretha Elisabetha Köhler.

However, these men, Johannes and Andreas, were not one and the same. I had selected the wrong one as my ancestor, mistaking Johannes for Andreas. No, I really don’t know how, but it happened.

Andreas’ wife is confirmed as Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler but his father, based on Andreas’ death record, followed by Chris finding Andreas’ actual baptismal record, shown above, was Elias Kirsch, wife Anna Elisabetha who had no birth surname listed.

Who was Andreas’ mother?

Identifying Andreas’ Mother

My friend and cousin Tom discovered more about Andreas’ mother. Her name wasn’t exactly Anna Elisabetha.

As translated by Tom:

Taufen__Trauungen__Bestattungen__Sonstiges_1726-1798_Bild14(1)

Baptism: 17 June 1731

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

Susanna Elisabeth

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

Fussgönheim Evangelical Church Records

Susanna Elisabetha had been shortened to Anna Elisabetha during her lifetime.

Now I’m paranoid. Are we sure this is the right person?

Tom found more records that suggest strongly that yes, indeed, it was. The records of Elias Kirsch and his wife baptizing their children hold clues in terms of who the godparents were, especially the record where Emanual Koob is noted as the mother’s brother.

Translated by Tom:

Taufen_Trauungen_Bestattungen_Sonstiges_1726-1798_Bild381763

Elias KIRSCH and wife, Anna Elisabetha

A son was born, baptized and named: Emanuel

The Godparents: the mother’s brother, Emanuel Koob and wife, Maria Elisabetha

Born: 23rd of April 1763 Baptized: the 26th of the same – Entry No. 50

Taufen_Trauungen_Bestattungen_Sonstiges_1726-1798_Bild40

1766 Elias KIRSCH and wife, Susanna Elisabetha

A son was baptized and named: Georg Henrich

Godparents: Georg Henrich Koob, the juror and wife, Anna Margaretha

Born: 12th of March 1766  Baptized: the 16th of the same – Entry 73

Taufen_Trauungen_Bestattungen_Sonstiges_1726-1798_Bild48

1772 Elias KIRSCH and wife, Anna Elisabetha

A daughter was baptized and named: Maria Catharina

Godparents: Johann Theobald Koob, the juror and wife, Maria Catharina

Born: the 30th of September 1772 Baptized: the 30th of the same

Clearly, Elias and Anna Elisabetha were very close to the Koob family members.

Sawed Off Branch

It was painful, but I did it – sawed that rotten branch right off the tree and grafted the correct information. The grafting felt therapeutic after the removal.

Andreas Kirsch was born on February 6, 1774 and baptized two days later in Fussgoenheim to Elias Kirsch (1733-1804) and Susanna Elisabetha Koob (born June 1731). It feels good (now) to know I have the right ancestor. Andreas died on May 20, 1819, also in Fussgoenheim, but I don’t have a death date for Susanna.

I removed the erroneous conclusions from the first Andreas Kirsch article and will post a link to this article there as well.

A huge thank you and debt of gratitude to both Chris and Tom. I’m sure Andreas’ is resting easier now that he’s connected to the right parents.

Mitochondrial DNA Bulldozes Brick Wall

I’m doing that happy dance today – leaping for joy – and am I EVER glad I’ve sponsored so many mitochondrial DNA tests. Today, I’m incredibly thankful for one particular DNA test.

Think mitochondrial DNA doesn’t work or isn’t effective for genealogy?

Think again.

Often, when people ask on social media if they should test mitochondrial DNA, there is a chorus of Negative Nellie’s chanting, “No, don’t bother with that test, mitochondrial DNA is useless.” That’s terribly discouraging, depriving people of knowledge they can’t obtain any other way.

When people heed that advice, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When people don’t test and don’t provide genealogical information that would go along with a mitochondrial DNA test, mitochondrial DNA is much less useful than it could be if people actually tested their full sequence mitochondrial DNA at Family Tree DNA, not just for their haplogroup at 23andMe or Living DNA. There’s a huge difference.

Family Tree DNA tests the full mitochondria and provides matching to other testers which is critical for genealogical purposes. In fact, Elizabeth Shown Mills wrote about using this exact same technique here.

mtDNA not useless

And by the way, this is not an isolated outlier case either. In fact, mitochondrial DNA from this same line was used previously to prove who Phoebe Crumley’s mother was.

If people hadn’t tested, then these walls would not have fallen. Every person who doesn’t take a mitochondrial DNA test is depriving themselves, and others, of critical historical information and clues.

It’s all about CLUES and sometimes that big brick-wall-breaking boulder falls into your lap out of the blue one day.

Today was that day!

Phoebe’s Family Found

I’ll be writing a more detailed article about my ancestor, Phoebe, shortly, but for now, I’d like to share exactly how mitochondrial DNA broke through this brick wall that I truly believed was permanent. I’ll walk you through the various steps so you can follow the same path. Do you have female ancestors without families in your tree? Start thinking about the possibilities!

DNA Pedigree Chart

Let’s start with my DNA Pedigree Chart.

I know many people look at my DNA Pedigree Chart and think it’s a bit over the edge, but identifying the family of Jotham Brown’s wife, Phoebe, would absolutely NOT have been possible without this valuable tool and the fact that I’ve been “collecting” my ancestors’ DNA.

As you can see, any time I find the opportunity to test either the Y DNA line, or the mitochondrial line of any of my ancestors, I do. I’ve been quite successful in that quest over the years thanks to many cousins.

The brick wall that fell is an ancestor of Elizabeth Vannoy and her mother, Phoebe Crumley, shown on my DNA Pedigree Chart, boxed in red, with their haplogroup, J1c2c.

A Proxy Tester

Elizabeth Vannoy, being my great-grandmother on my father’s side, doesn’t’ share her mitochondrial DNA with me, so I had to find a proxy tester.

My cousin Debbie knew another cousin, David, whose mother was Lucy, granddaughter of Elizabeth Vannoy. David agreed to test, back in…are you ready for this…2006. Yes, almost 13 years ago. Sometimes DNA is a waiting game.

Cherokee?

At that time, the family rumor was that Elizabeth Vannoy was “Cherokee.” Yea, I know, everyone with ancestors who lived east of the Mississippi has that same rumor – but the best way to actually find out if this is true is to test the relevant family line members’ Y and mitochondrial DNA. Native American haplogroups are definitive and haplogroup J1c2c is unquestionably not Native, so that myth was immediately put to death. (You can read about Native American haplogroups here.)

However, Elizabeth’ Vannoy’s mitochondrial DNA has patiently remained in the Family Tree DNA database, accumulating matches. Truthfully, I’ve been focused elsewhere, and since we had a brick wall with Jotham Brown’s wife, Phoebe (c1750-c1803), which had not yielded to traditional genealogy research, I had moved on and checked cousin David’s matches from time to time to see if anything interesting had turned up.

I thought there was nothing new…but there was! However, it would take my cousins to serve as a catalyst.

Cousin Rita

On New Year’s Eve of 2016, I received an e-mail from a previously unknown cousin, Rita, who was also descended from Jotham Brown and Phoebe. Rita was born a Brown and over the next two years, not only tested her Brown line’s Y DNA which matched Jotham Brown’s line, but also connected her family via paper trail once she knew where to look. She’s a wonderful researcher.

Cousin Stevie

Another researcher who lives in Greene County, Tennessee has doggedly researched the Brown, Crumley, Cooper and associated Johnson lines. It was rumored and pretty much believed for years, because of the very close family associations and migration routes that Phoebe was Zopher Johnson’s daughter. I worked through this mountain of information in late 2015, reaching the conclusion that I really didn’t think Phoebe was Zopher’s daughter, but since there were no known daughters and Zopher’s wife’s surname was unknown, there was no way of finding matrilineal descendants to test. That door was slammed shut. I thought permanently.

However, Stevie had previously recruited two men from the proven Jotham Brown line to Y DNA test who matched a third Brown man whose line descended from the Long Island, Sylvanus Brown family.  Wow, Long Island is a long way from Greene County, TN. Adding to the evidence, our Jotham Brown named one of his sons Sylvanus, a rather unusual name.

This revelation allowed us to track the Brown line forward in time from the Sylvanus on Long Island, providing significant pieces of evidence that Jotham indeed descended from this line.

At that point, we all congratulated ourselves on at least finding an earlier location to work with and went on about solving other mysteries.

Rita’s Theory

I think Rita must be on vacation between Christmas and New Years every year, because I heard from her again on December 28th this year. It took me a few days to reply, due to the Holiday Crud being gifted to me, but am I EVER glad that I did.

Rita, it seems, has spent the last several months sifting through records and looking for migration patterns of families from Long Island. Can you say “desperate genealogist.” I’m not going to steal her thunder, because this part of the journey is hers and hers alone, but suffice it to say she wrote me with a theory.

Joseph Cole was found in Botetourt County, VA along with many of the families that eventually settled in Frederick County, VA and then migrated on together to Greene County, TN. In other words, she’s using the Elizabeth Shown Mills FAN (friends and neighbors) concept to spread the net wider and look for people that might be somehow connected. I took this same approach in Halifax County, VA several years ago with my Estes line very successfully.

Rita discovered that Joseph’s father John Cole also migrated from Long Island through New Jersey into Virginia and settled with this same group. Hmmm, Long Island, same place as Sylvanus Brown. Interesting…

John Cole, it turns out, had a daughter Phebe, who married a Jotham Bart, according to a Presbyterian church book in New Jersey where they settled for a short time in their migration journey. The church records referenced are transcribed, not original.

Jotham Brown, who is known to connect to the Brown family found on Long Island, is found migrating with this same group, and Rita wondered if indeed, Jotham Bart was really Jotham Brown and Phoebe was actually the daughter of John Cole and wife, Mary Mercy Kent.

Still being in the grips of the Holiday Crud, I asked Rita if John Cole and his wife had any proven daughters who would be candidates to have descendants mitochondrial DNA test.

Lydia Cole

While Rita was searching for daughters of Mary Mercy Kent and John Cole, I had sufficiently escaped the grim reaper to check cousin David’s mitochondrial DNA matches, just on the off chance that some useful gem of information was buried there.

David has 16 full sequence matches, of which 7 are exact matches, meaning a genetic distance of 0, a perfect match. Keep in mind that a perfect match can still be hundreds of years in the past, but it can also be much closer in time. Just because it can be further in the past doesn’t mean that it is. You match your mother, her sisters and their children, and that’s clearly very recent.

What was waiting was shocking. Holy chimloda!

Phoebe's sister, Lydia Cole

The Earliest Known Ancestor of one of David’s exact matches is Lydia Cole, born in 1781 in Virginia and died in 1864 in Ohio. The tester, Pete (not his real name,) had a tree. Thank you, thank you!!

Pete was stuck at Lydia Cole, obviously, but his tree provided me with Lydia’s husband’s name.

Oh, and by the way, guess what our Phoebe, born about 1750, named her daughter? Yep, Lydia.

Should I have noticed this hint sooner and dug deeper. Yes, I surely should have – Pete’s test was taken in 2012 so this information was there waiting for 6 years.

Is Lydia Cole too good to be true? Perhaps. Is she related? Of course the first thing good genealogists do is try to poke holes in the story. Better me than someone else. Let’s see what we can find.

Ancestry

Desperate to find out more about Lydia Cole, I checked Ancestry’s trees, understanding just how flakey these can be. Regardless, they are great clues and some are well sourced. Other people’s trees are at least a place to start looking.

Phoebe's sister, Lydia Cole at ancestry

There was Lydia with her father, John Cole and Mary Mercy Kent, the exact same couple Rita had hypothesized as Phoebe’s parents!

Lydia’s marriage was sourced and sure enough she married William Powell Simmons in Frederick County, VA in 1801, where Jotham Brown and Phoebe, his wife lived. It appears, according to Rita, that John Cole and his entire family settled there.

What a nice little bow on this package – at least for now. Am I done? Heck no…this journey is just beginning. You know how genealogy works – when you solve one mystery, you just add two more! Plus, there’s that little issue of verification, finding the relevant documents, etc. I know, details, right?

Is it possible that Lydia Cole isn’t really Phoebe’s sister? Yes, it’s possible. There is a roughly 30 year birth difference – although we all know how fluid these early dates can be.

DNA alone this far in the past can’t prove anything without additional evidence. It’s theoretically possible that Lydia’s mother was another close relative of Phoebe’s mother, somehow – explaining why Lydia and Phoebe would match so closely on such rare mitochondrial DNA. It’s possible, but not terribly likely.

Preliminary autosomal research also shows connections to the Cole family through other descendants of John Cole – so the evidence is mounting.

There’s a lot more research to do – verifying records, discovering more about Phoebe and John Cole and Mary Mercy Kent. I think Rita is already in the car on the way to Virginia😊

We can now follow Phoebe’s family’s migration from Long Island through New Jersey to Virginia. We now know the identity, pending confirmation, of both of Phoebe’s parents and can track those lines back in time. We know roughly when and where Phoebe was born. We can put the Brown and Cole families in the same place and time on Long Island.

All, thanks to mitochondrial DNA tests at Family Tree DNA confirming Rita’s hypothesis.

What a glorious day!!!

What Can Mitochondrial DNA Do For You?

Mitochondrial DNA is anything but useless. If you’re thinking, “yes, but David only had 16 matches total, and the only possible useful ones were the 7 exact matches because the rest are too far back,” – you’d be mistaken.

One of David’s matches is a distance of 2, meaning two mutations, and that’s the match that confirmed that Clarissa Marinda Crumley was the sister of our Phoebe Crumley, proving that Lydia Brown was indeed Phoebe’s mother, NOT Elizabeth Johnson who apparently married a different William Crumley just a few months before Phoebe’s birth. I wrote about unraveling that mystery here.

If you haven’t mitochondrial DNA tested, what critical information are you missing? You don’t know what you don’t know. If everyone would test, just think how many brick walls would fall.

If you haven’t tested, please do so today. Here’s a summary of what you can learn – as if you needed any more encouragement after Phoebe’s story.

  • Matching to other testers – you can’t solve genealogical puzzles like this without matching – which is the primary and incredibly important difference between “haplogroup only” tests elsewhere and Family Tree DNA’s full sequence test.
  • Lineage identification – Native American, African, European, Asian through haplogroup assignment and matching
  • Haplogroup Origins – countries where other people’s ancestors with your haplogroup are found, much more granular than the haplogroup lineage identification
  • Migration Path – in deeper history, where your ancestor came from
  • Settlement Path – more recent history by looking at where your matches ancestors were from
  • Ancestral Matches Map – your matches Earliest Known Ancestor’s locations
  • Ancestral Origins – locations of your matches earliest known matrilineal ancestor, which is how I discovered my own matrilineal ancestors are Scandinavian even though my earliest known ancestor is found in Germany
  • Combined matching with autosomal test results through Advanced Matching

I want to thank my cousins and wonderful collaborators, Debbie, Rita, Stevie and in particular, David for testing – along with Pete, Lydia Cole’s descendant.

Sometimes it does take a village! Test those cousins.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the 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.

Top DNA Articles for 2018

2018 Top 10

It’s always interesting to look at the most popular articles at DNA-Explained at the end of each year. Out of millions of page views, these are the Top 10 in 2018, with the * indicating articles that were in the 2017 Top 10 list as well. If you missed some, now’s a good time to catch up or to share with friends.

*Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA
*Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages
*Which DNA Test is Best?
Ancestral DNA Percentages – How Much of Them is in You?
*Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum
*How Much Indian Do I Have in Me?
Autosomal DNA Transfers – Which Companies Accept Which Tests?
Concepts – Percentage of Ancestors’ DNA
X Marks the Spot
*Mythbusting – Women, Fathers and DNA

Spread the Word – What You Can do to Help!

The purpose of writing articles is to educate people who have taken genetic genealogy tests along with providing motivation for potential testers.

With more and more companies performing tests, and record numbers of people testing – there’s a lot of confusion and misinformation out there.

You can help by spreading the word.

If you see a question and know that I wrote about that topic, you can enter key words into the search box at the top of any blog page to find the article.

You can always share the links to articles on social media, with friends and at genealogy meetings. If you want to share the actual text of the article in more than a summary fashion or relatively short excerpts (with attribution), as in a reprint, please check with me first – but as for links – please share away. You don’t need to ask first. Sharing is the purpose of writing these articles.

Educating others with credible information helps all of us have a better experience.

What Would You Like in 2019?

To some extent, I maintain a list of articles that I’d like to write at any given point in time. My candidate list always seems to be longer than the time I have, but I do try to prioritize the topics based on, in no particular order:

  • Discoveries in my research
  • Industry happenings
  • The need
  • Reader requests

So, given that criteria, what topics would you like to see me cover in 2019? I’m also open to suggestions during the year as well. In fact, this article is in response to a reader’s “wish.”

Please post your suggestions in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

Edith Barbara Lore Ferverda and the Indiana Constitutional Election of 1921 – 52 Ancestors #223

Edith Barbara Lore Ferverda with son Harold Lore Ferverda about 1920 or 1921 with the crossroads “downtown” of Silver Lake, Indiana that consisted of a building on each of the 4 corners in the background.

My grandmother, Edith Barbara Lore was born on August 2, 1888 and died on January 4, 1960. Today, I’m celebrating what I feel is a landmark aspect of her life on this, the 59th anniversary of her passing over.

John and Edith Lore Ferverda, 1959

Life in Northern Indiana in 1920

The Presidential election of November 1920 marked the first time that women were provided with the right to vote (nationally) in the US. My grandmother, Edith, would celebrate her 12th wedding anniversary to John Ferverda on November 17th that year. She would have been 32 years old at the time, with a son who would turn 5 on November 24th.

Her husband, John Ferverda, owned the local hardware store in Silver Lake, Indiana, F&F, short for Ferverda and Frye. Edith and John were members of the local Methodist Church. John’s parents who lived a few miles up the road were Brethren, although apparently much less conservative than most Brethren of the time, judging by the fact that three of their sons served in WWI. Edith’s father had passed away, but her mother by 1920 had remarried and had moved to Chicago with her husband.

All in all, Edith seemed to blend in to the conservative heartland of Indiana “near-the-farm” life. While John and Edith did not own a farm, aside from chickens, they lived in a crossroads town that consisted of only 452 people in 165 households according to the 1920 census (yes, I counted), which meant that they were surrounded on all sides by farms and farm culture – which clearly flavored the atmosphere of tiny Silver Lake.

It was then and remains now a small, sleepy community where the local drive-in root-beer stand, the lake and the neighbors provided the only entertainment, outside of church of course.

At that time the B&K rootbeer stand, the drive-in on State Road 15 on the north side of town across from the Marathon Gas Station still remains. The cemetery, where virtually everyone in Silver Lake, including Edith, is buried is a block or so behind the gas station, towards the lake. I remember stopping at the rootbeer stand after visiting my grandparents’ graves. You also passed the cemetery and said a “drive-by” hello to any relatives reposing there on the way to swim at Silver Lake.

At that time, the cottages around the lake were separated from the town itself by the cemetery and a few farms which have been developed at least somewhat now. After all, the population of Silver Lake has doubled and the people have to live someplace.

It was into this community that Edith had moved from Rushville, Indiana after marrying John Ferverda. Rushville was significantly larger, with trips often to both Indianapolis and Cincinnati, vibrant centers of commerce and culture compared to Silver Lake.

Edith’s mother, Nora Kirsch Lore, started and owned a tailoring business after Edith’s father passed away, and Edith’s grandmother, Barbara Drechsel Kirsch, in 1920, hadn’t yet retired as the proprietor of the Kirsch House in Aurora, Indiana.

I’ve often wondered how Edith actually felt about settling in a small, extremely conservative town in the midst of a Brethren/Mennonite community.

Anabaptist Conservative Culture

Mennonite and Brethren wives didn’t work outside the home. They were identified with their husbands. When their names were mentioned, it was almost always as “Mrs. John Doe,” not as Jane Doe. They joined women’s church clubs of like-minded women and birthed lots of children to help with farm chores. These women worked hard on the farms, plus cooked, cleaned and took care of the ill.

I don’t know whether they liked or were happy with their lives or not. It’s doubtful that they gave that much consideration because it’s not like there were any other options, and their conservative church/family life is what they had been raised to revere. The words “obey’ were still in all wedding vows and were taken literally by both genders.

But not Edith. She had been raised in a culture of strong women, brazenly independent for their time, and had married into the Brethren culture.

I don’t know if Edith’s husband was “dismissed” from the Brethren Church for marrying an outsider, but regardless, he and Edith joined the Methodist Church in Silver Lake where they were life members.

The Methodists were somewhat less restrictive than the Brethren, but the conservative culture ran strong throughout the region.

Few women “worked,” at least outside the home, and for the most part, it was the perception and possibly the reality that the only women who worked were those who “had to,” implying that somehow their husbands weren’t manly enough or successful enough to support their families. If your wife worked, it was a slap in your face and implied some very “un-nice” things about you as a man.

In addition to their jobs, working women still had the same responsibilities at home, just much less time in which to accomplish everything. They generally didn’t garner the compassion of other women, who somehow felt that they “deserved” their fate and looked down upon them for working.

Edith worked anyway, as a bookkeeper, beginning in 1925, if not before. She literally worked from then, through the depression when there was no other family income, until just a few days before her death in 1960. Edith did what she needed to do for her family and God help anyone who got in her way.

Women’s Suffrage

This is the backdrop against which I’ve wondered how Edith felt about Women’s Suffrage. Women obtained the right to vote in August of 1920.

Did Edith vote in the 1920 Presidential election in which Republican Warren Harding won? If so, did she vote Republican or Democratic? Given how strongly Republican Kosciusko County was at that time, along with her husband’s strong political leaning, I’m guessing that I know which way she voted, assuming she voted.

I’ve speculated that indeed, she probably did vote because she was always a woman with an opinion and not afraid to speak her mind, in SPITE of where she lived and regardless of who approved, or not.

I’m not sure I’ve ever really appreciated Edith’s bravery under the circumstances. Social ostracization is a powerful deterrent, especially in a small town where it’s easy to become a minority of 1. Reading the local Indiana newspapers over the past several days as I’ve been sidelined by the winter crud has made me appreciate the life she led and the woman she chose to be.

The Election

It was in the Warsaw Union Newspaper, serving the 12,000 residents of Kosciusko County that I found clear evidence of Edith’s involvement in the election process – and the fact that she was indeed working at least episodically before 1925.

As it turns out, Edith was appointed to serve as clerk for Lake Township’s second precinct for the Special Election to be held on September 6, 1921.

Warsaw Union Newspaper, August 3, 1921, found on MyHeritage

Not only was Edith selected to serve on the Special Election board as Clerk, but Edith was NOT addressed as Mrs. John Ferverda, using her own first name. In later editions of the paper referring to the election and beyond, she was (generally) listed as Edith L. Ferverda.

When she married, Edith replaced her middle name of Barbara with her maiden name of Lore. For 1908, that was a radical way to preserve your birth surname and make a subtle statement. I think she would be proud of her granddaughter who retains her birth surname as well.

One of the ballot issues, as you might have guessed, had to do with women’s rights to vote.

On JStor, the Journal Article “Amendments to State Constitutions 1919-21”, pages 251 and 252, provides the following information about the special Indiana Constitutional Election:

And lastly, this…

Indiana ratified the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, giving women the right to vote on January 16, 1920, following the proposal for the 19th Amendment proposed in Congress on June 4, 1919. The amendment didn’t become federal law until August 18, 1920 with Tennessee being the deciding state to ratify the constitutional amendment.

So, how did the 1921 Indiana Special Election go?

Early returns on September 6th weren’t very positive.

At 2:30 on election day, it seemed that few voted. Women seemed indifferent, but perhaps those who didn’t want to vote, wouldn’t regardless of the Constitution, and those who did care had already gained that right.

Certainly, in Kosciusko County, there were very few non-naturalized females, if any. The topic probably wasn’t terribly relevant. The legislation was apparently in response to the recent war – or perhaps it was an attempt to limit the number of women voters. It would be interesting to understand why a separate amendment would be required if the law regarding citizenship was already in place for men. In 1851, in Indiana, section 2 of the Indiana Constitution read:

Section 2. In all elections, not otherwise provided for by this Constitution, every white male citizen of the United States, of the age of twenty-one years and upwards, who shall have resided in the State during the six months immediately preceding such election; and every white male, of foreign birth, of the age of twenty-one years and upwards, who shall have resided in the United States one year, and shall have resided in the State during the six months immediately preceding such election, and shall have declared his intention to become a citizen of the United States, conformably to the laws of the United States on the subject of naturalization; shall be entitled to vote, in the township or precinct where he may reside.

Regardless of disparity, if any in 1921, between males and females, the amendment was passed, but county-wide interest seemed light, according to the Sept. 7th paper.

Only about 2.5% of the county population voted. The “tax amendment” was the least popular of any.

Today, here’s how Article 2, regarding Suffrage and voting qualifications reads in the Constitution of the State of Indiana.

On a national level, today, noncitizens cannot vote in federal elections, but states control who can vote in state and local elections. Back in the 1700s and 1800s, vast tracts of land were available for homesteading and voting rights had been extended to immigrants who had filed their intention to become citizens in order to attract people by letting them know they could have a hand in deciding their own future. Territories needed to attract people to settle those lands in order to have sufficient population to become states, and states needed to have their land settled and cultivated as well, producing taxable revenue.

Edith, Leadership by Example

We will never know how Edith voted in the privacy of the voting booth, but her involvement in 1921, so soon after women obtained the right to vote tells me one thing positively. Edith was no wall-flower.

I imagine Edith walking up to the voting booth on that first election day in November of 1920, perhaps amid disproving stares, maybe with her child in tow, among all men, and voting anyway. A small but tiny act of protest. Then deciding that SHE would be the woman there to welcome future women and sealing the legitimacy of women in the polling place. Edith perhaps knew that the best was to effect permanent and positive change was through encouragement – that old honey versus vinegar adage.

Edith’s immediate involvement in the electoral process almost assures us that she DID vote, and DID care, and DID what she could in the time and place she lived to make a difference. Her name was in the newspaper, so EVERYBODY knew. She was the face of women in the polling place, the silent, or maybe not-so-silent, example for others. Encouraging participation. Encouraging involvement. Encouraging women to step out and step up to the polling booth – and to vote. They knew at least one woman, Edith Lore Ferverda, would be there to greet them with a warm reassuring smile and show them what to do – how to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

Women setting examples and encouraging other women was critically important, with the small steps of thousands paving the way 98 years later for the swearing in this week of the 116th class of Congress, the most diverse we’ve ever seen as a country.

I like to think that in some small way, in the tiny community of Silver Lake, where Edith was front and center in Indiana’s 1921 Special Constitutional Election, willing to be present in the polling location, and the voting booth, seen and heard, that she in some way helped with the forward, positive momentum that set the stage for the day when women didn’t just serve as clerks, but in elected positions. Currently, 23.7% of the members of Congress are women, with 25% in the Senate and 23.4% of the House of Representatives.

Nearly a century is a long time, but I think Edith would be proud to watch the swearing in ceremony that just occurred. What a wonderful way to celebrate her passing-over anniversary. I’m incredibly proud to be her granddaughter and thankful for those old newspapers that revealed a previously unknown chapter in my grandmother’s life.

The journey of 1000 miles (or a hundred years) begins with a single step.

Edith, your small steps and public example were not in vain. Thank you!

Combined DNA Matches + Tree Matches at MyHeritage

In the 2018 year in review article I wrote a couple days ago, a reader commented that they didn’t realize that MyHeritage had combined DNA matching with tree matching.

They have and it’s super easy.

DNA and Tree Matching in 4 Easy Steps

Here’s how to see your combined matches in 4 short steps.

  1. Sign on and click on DNA Matches.

  1. Click on the little filter icon.

  1. Click on “All tree details.”

  1. Then, click on “Has Smart Matches.”

That’s it!

DNA Matches Plus SmartMatches

Voila – using this filter setting, the only matches you will see are your DNA matches that are also SmartMatches, meaning the other person shares a common ancestor (or more) in a tree with you. You’ll see a combination of both features. We’ll use my match with Michael as an example.

Scroll down to review all of your information in common with this match including:

  • Summary Information (estimated relationship, % match, shared cM match, number of shared segments, largest segment in cM,)

  • Shared Ancestors

  • Shared Ancestral Surnames

  • Shared Ancestral Places

  • Shared DNA Matches, including triangulation indicated by the purple circled segment icon at right

MIchael matches my mother too, so if I didn’t already know which parental side Michael matched me on, I do now. Triangulating with multiple other relatives assures me of a valid match.

  • Pedigree charts

  • Shared Ethnicities

  • Chromosome Browser – Shared DNA Segments

Who do you match, share ancestors and triangulate with?

Testing at or Transferring to MyHeritage

You can either test at MyHeritage or transfer a DNA file from other vendors to MyHeritage.

To order a DNA test, click here.

To transfer a DNA file to MyHeritage, click here.

The article, MyHeritage Step by Step Guide: How to Upload-Download Files provides you with easy to follow instructions.

Have fun😊

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the 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.

2018 – The Year of the Segment

Looking in the rear view mirror, what a year! Some days it’s been hard to catch your breath things have been moving so fast.

What were the major happenings, how did they affect genetic genealogy and what’s coming in 2019?

The SNiPPY Award

First of all, I’m giving an award this year. The SNiPPY.

Yea, I know it’s kinda hokey, but it’s my way of saying a huge thank you to someone in this field who has made a remarkable contribution and that deserves special recognition.

Who will it be this year?

Drum roll…….

The 2018 SNiPPY goes to…

DNAPainter – The 2018 SNiPPY award goes to DNAPainter, without question. Applause, everyone, applause! And congratulations to Jonny Perl, pictured below at Rootstech!

Jonny Perl created this wonderful, visual tool that allows you to paint your matches with people on your chromosomes, assigning the match to specific ancestors.

I’ve written about how to use the tool  with different vendors results and have discovered many different ways to utilize the painted segments. The DNA Painter User Group is here on Facebook. I use DNAPainter EVERY SINGLE DAY to solve a wide variety of challenges.

What else has happened this year? A lot!

Ancient DNA – Academic research seldom reports on Y and mitochondrial DNA today and is firmly focused on sequencing ancient DNA. Ancient genome sequencing has only recently been developed to a state where at least some remains can be successfully sequenced, but it’s going great guns now. Take a look at Jennifer Raff’s article in Forbes that discusses ancient DNA findings in the Americas, Europe, Southeast Asia and perhaps most surprising, a first generation descendant of a Neanderthal and a Denisovan.

From Early human dispersals within the Americas by Moreno-Mayer et al, Science 07 Dec 2018

Inroads were made into deeper understanding of human migration in the Americas as well in the paper Early human dispersals within the Americas by Moreno-Mayer et al.

I look for 2019 and on into the future to hold many more revelations thanks to ancient DNA sequencing as well as using those sequences to assist in understanding the migration patterns of ancient people that eventually became us.

Barbara Rae-Venter and the Golden State Killer Case

Using techniques that adoptees use to identify their close relatives and eventually, their parents, Barbara Rae-Venter assisted law enforcement with identifying the man, Joseph DeAngelo, accused (not yet convicted) of being the Golden State Killer (GSK).

A very large congratulations to Barbara, a retired patent attorney who is also a genealogist. Nature recognized Ms. Rae-Venter as one of 2018’s 10 People Who Mattered in Science.

DNA in the News

DNA is also represented on the 2018 Nature list by Viviane Slon, a palaeogeneticist who discovered an ancient half Neanderthal, half Denisovan individual and sequenced their DNA and He JianKui, a Chinese scientist who claims to have created a gene-edited baby which has sparked widespread controversy. As of the end of the year, He Jiankui’s research activities have been suspended and he is reportedly sequestered in his apartment, under guard, although the details are far from clear.

In 2013, 23andMe patented the technology for designer babies and I removed my kit from their research program. I was concerned at the time that this technology knife could cut two ways, both for good, eliminating fatal disease-causing mutations and also for ethically questionable practices, such as eugenics. I was told at the time that my fears were unfounded, because that “couldn’t be done.” Well, 5 years later, here we are. I expect the debate about the ethics and eventual regulation of gene-editing will rage globally for years to come.

Elizabeth Warren’s DNA was also in the news when she took a DNA test in response to political challenges. I wrote about what those results meant scientifically, here. This topic became highly volatile and politicized, with everyone seeming to have a very strongly held opinion. Regardless of where you fall on that opinion spectrum (and no, please do not post political comments as they will not be approved), the topic is likely to surface again in 2019 due to the fact that Elizabeth Warren has just today announced her intention to run for President. The good news is that DNA testing will likely be discussed, sparking curiosity in some people, perhaps encouraging them to test. The bad news is that some of the discussion may be unpleasant at best, and incorrect click-bait at worst. We’ve already had a rather unpleasant sampling of this.

Law Enforcement and Genetic Genealogy

The Golden State Killer case sparked widespread controversy about using GedMatch and potentially other genetic genealogy data bases to assist in catching people who have committed violent crimes, such as rape and murder.

GedMatch, the database used for the GSK case has made it very clear in their terms and conditions that DNA matches may be used for both adoptees seeking their families and for other uses, such as law enforcement seeking matches to DNA sequenced during a criminal investigation. Since April 2018, more than 15 cold case investigations have been solved using the same technique and results at GedMatch. Initially some people removed their DNA from GedMatch, but it appears that the overwhelming sentiment, based on uploads, is that people either aren’t concerned or welcome the opportunity for their DNA matches to assist apprehending criminals.

Parabon Nanolabs in May established a genetic genealogy division headed by CeCe Moore who has worked in the adoptee community for the past several years. The division specializes in DNA testing forensic samples and then assisting law enforcement with the associated genetic genealogy.

Currently, GedMatch is the only vendor supporting the use of forensic sample matching. Neither 23anMe nor Ancestry allow uploaded data, and MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA’s terms of service currently preclude this type of use.

MyHeritage

Wow talk about coming onto the DNA world stage with a boom.

MyHeritage went from a somewhat wobbly DNA start about 2 years ago to rolling out a chromosome browser at the end of January and adding important features such as SmartMatching which matches your DNA and your family trees. Add triangulation to this mixture, along with record matching, and you’re got a #1 winning combination.

It was Gilad Japhet, the MyHeritage CEO who at Rootstech who christened 2018 “The Year of the Segment,” and I do believe he was right. Additionally, he announced that MyHeritage partnered with the adoption community by offering 15,000 free kits to adoptees.

In November, MyHeritage hosted MyHeritage LIVE, their first user conference in Oslo, Norway which focused on both their genealogical records offerings as well as DNA. This was a resounding success and I hope MyHeritage will continue to sponsor conferences and invest in DNA. You can test your DNA at MyHeritage or upload your results from other vendors (instructions here). You can follow my journey and the conference in Olso here, here, here, here and here.

GDPR

GDPR caused a lot of misery, and I’m glad the implementation is behind us, but the the ripples will be affecting everyone for years to come.

GDPR, the European Data Protection Regulation which went into effect on May 25,  2018 has been a mixed and confusing bag for genetic genealogy. I think the concept of users being in charge and understanding what is happened with their data, and in this case, their data plus their DNA, is absolutely sound. The requirements however, were created without any consideration to this industry – which is small by comparison to the Googles and Facebooks of the world. However, the Googles and Facebooks of the world along with many larger vendors seem to have skated, at least somewhat.

Other companies shut their doors or restricted their offerings in other ways, such as World Families Network and Oxford Ancestors. Vendors such as Ancestry and Family Tree DNA had to make unpopular changes in how their users interface with their software – in essence making genetic genealogy more difficult without any corresponding positive return. The potential fines, 20 million plus Euro for any company holding data for EU residents made it unwise to ignore the mandates.

In the genetic genealogy space, the shuttering of both YSearch and MitoSearch was heartbreaking, because that was the only location where you could actually compare Y STR and mitochondrial HVR1/2 results. Not everyone uploaded their results, and the sites had not been updated in a number of years, but the closure due to GDPR was still a community loss.

Today, mitoydna.org, a nonprofit comprised of genetic genealogists, is making strides in replacing that lost functionality, plus, hopefully more.

On to more positive events.

Family Tree DNA

In April, Family Tree DNA announced a new version of the Big Y test, the Big Y-500 in which at least 389 additional STR markers are included with the Big Y test, for free. If you’re lucky, you’ll receive between 389 and 439 new markers, depending on how many STR markers above 111 have quality reads. All customers are guaranteed a minimum of 500 STR markers in total. Matching was implemented in December.

These additional STR markers allow genealogists to assemble additional line marker mutations to more granularly identify specific male lineages. In other words, maybe I can finally figure out a line marker mutation that will differentiate my ancestor’s line from other sons of my founding ancestor😊

In June, Family Tree DNA announced that they had named more than 100,000 SNPs which means many haplogroup additions to the Y tree. Then, in September, Family Tree DNA published their Y haplotree, with locations, publicly for all to reference.

I was very pleased to see this development, because Family Tree DNA clearly has the largest Y database in the industry, by far, and now everyone can reap the benefits.

In October, Family Tree DNA published their mitochondrial tree publicly as well, with corresponding haplogroup locations. It’s nice that Family Tree DNA continues to be the science company.

You can test your Y DNA, mitochondrial or autosomal (Family Finder) at Family Tree DNA. They are the only vendor offering full Y and mitochondrial services complete with matching.

2018 Conferences

Of course, there are always the national conferences we’re familiar with, but more and more, online conferences are becoming available, as well as some sessions from the more traditional conferences.

I attended Rootstech in Salt Lake City in February (brrrr), which was lots of fun because I got to meet and visit with so many people including Mags Gaulden, above, who is a WikiTree volunteer and writes at Grandma’s Genes, but as a relatively expensive conference to attend, Rootstech was pretty miserable. Rootstech has reportedly made changes and I hope it’s much better for attendees in 2019. My attendance is very doubtful, although I vacillate back and forth.

On the other hand, the MyHeritage LIVE conference was amazing with both livestreamed and recorded sessions which are now available free here along with many others at Legacy Family Tree Webinars.

Family Tree University held a Virtual DNA Conference in June and those sessions, along with others, are available for subscribers to view.

The Virtual Genealogical Association was formed for those who find it difficult or impossible to participate in local associations. They too are focused on education via webinars.

Genetic Genealogy Ireland continues to provide their yearly conference sessions both livestreamed and recorded for free. These aren’t just for people with Irish genealogy. Everyone can benefit and I enjoy them immensely.

Bottom line, you can sit at home and educate yourself now. Technology is wonderful!

2019 Conferences

In 2019, I’ll be speaking at the National Genealogical Society Family History Conference, Journey of Discovery, in St. Charles, providing the Special Thursday Session titled “DNA: King Arthur’s Mighty Genetic Lightsaber” about how to use DNA to break through brick walls. I’ll also see attendees at Saturday lunch when I’ll be providing a fun session titled “Twists and Turns in the Genetic Road.” This is going to be a great conference with a wonderful lineup of speakers. Hope to see you there.

There may be more speaking engagements at conferences on my 2019 schedule, so stay tuned!

The Leeds Method

In September, Dana Leeds publicized The Leeds Method, another way of grouping your matches that clusters matches in a way that indicates your four grandparents.

I combine the Leeds method with DNAPainter. Great job Dana!

Genetic Affairs

In December, Genetic Affairs introduced an inexpensive subscription reporting and visual clustering methodology, but you can try it for free.

I love this grouping tool. I have already found connections I didn’t know existed previously. I suggest joining the Genetic Affairs User Group on Facebook.

DNAGedcom.com

I wrote an article in January about how to use the DNAGedcom.com client to download the trees of all of your matches and sort to find specific surnames or locations of their ancestors.

However, in December, DNAGedcom.com added another feature with their new DNAGedcom client just released that downloads your match information from all vendors, compiles it and then forms clusters. They have worked with Dana Leeds on this, so it’s a combination of the various methodologies discussed above. I have not worked with the new tool yet, as it has just been released, but Kitty Cooper has and writes about it here.  If you are interested in this approach, I would suggest joining the Facebook DNAGedcom User Group.

Rootsfinder

I have not had a chance to work with Rootsfinder beyond the very basics, but Rootsfinder provides genetic network displays for people that you match, as well as triangulated views. Genetic networks visualizations are great ways to discern patterns. The tool creates match or triangulation groups automatically for you.

Training videos are available at the website and you can join the Rootsfinder DNA Tools group at Facebook.

Chips and Imputation

Illumina, the chip maker that provides the DNA chips that most vendors use to test changed from the OmniExpress to the GSA chip during the past year. Older chips have been available, but won’t be forever.

The newer GSA chip is only partially compatible with the OmniExpress chip, providing limited overlap between the older and the new results. This has forced the vendors to use imputation to equalize the playing field between the chips, so to speak.

This has also caused a significant hardship for GedMatch who is now in the position of trying to match reasonably between many different chips that sometimes overlap minimally. GedMatch introduced Genesis as a sandbox beta version previously, but are now in the process of combining regular GedMatch and Genesis into one. Yes, there are problems and matching challenges. Patience is the key word as the various vendors and GedMatch adapt and improve their required migration to imputation.

DNA Central

In June Blaine Bettinger announced DNACentral, an online monthly or yearly subscription site as well as a monthly newsletter that covers news in the genetic genealogy industry.

Many educators in the industry have created seminars for DNACentral. I just finished recording “Getting the Most out of Y DNA” for Blaine.

Even though I work in this industry, I still subscribed – initially to show support for Blaine, thinking I might not get much out of the newsletter. I’m pleased to say that I was wrong. I enjoy the newsletter and will be watching sessions in the Course Library and the Monthly Webinars soon.

If you or someone you know is looking for “how to” videos for each vendor, DNACentral offers “Now What” courses for Ancestry, MyHeritage, 23andMe, Family Tree DNA and Living DNA in addition to topic specific sessions like the X chromosome, for example.

Social Media

2018 has seen a huge jump in social media usage which is both bad and good. The good news is that many new people are engaged. The bad news is that people often given faulty advice and for new people, it’s very difficult (nigh on impossible) to tell who is credible and who isn’t. I created a Help page for just this reason.

You can help with this issue by recommending subscribing to these three blogs, not just reading an article, to newbies or people seeking answers.

Always feel free to post links to my articles on any social media platform. Share, retweet, whatever it takes to get the words out!

The general genetic genealogy social media group I would recommend if I were to select only one would be Genetic Genealogy Tips and Techniques. It’s quite large but well-managed and remains positive.

I’m a member of many additional groups, several of which are vendor or interest specific.

Genetic Snakeoil

Now the bad news. Everyone had noticed the popularity of DNA testing – including shady characters.

Be careful, very VERY careful who you purchase products from and where you upload your DNA data.

If something is free, and you’re not within a well-known community, then YOU ARE THE PRODUCT. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If it sounds shady or questionable, it’s probably that and more, or less.

If reputable people and vendors tell you that no, they really can’t determine your Native American tribe, for example, no other vendor can either. Just yesterday, a cousin sent me a link to a “tribe” in Canada that will, “for $50, we find one of your aboriginal ancestors and the nation stamps it.” On their list of aboriginal people we find one of my ancestors who, based on mitochondrial DNA tests, is clearly NOT aboriginal. Snake oil comes in lots of flavors with snake oil salesmen looking to prey on other people’s desires.

When considering DNA testing or transfers, make sure you fully understand the terms and conditions, where your DNA is going, who is doing what with it, and your recourse. Yes, read every single word of those terms and conditions. For more about legalities, check out Judy Russell’s blog.

Recommended Vendors

All those DNA tests look yummy-good, but in terms of vendors, I heartily recommend staying within the known credible vendors, as follows (in alphabetical order).

For genetic genealogy for ethnicity AND matching:

  • 23andMe
  • Ancestry
  • Family Tree DNA
  • GedMatch (not a vendor because they don’t test DNA, but a reputable third party)
  • MyHeritage

You can read about Which DNA Test is Best here although I need to update this article to reflect the 2018 additions by MyHeritage.

Understand that both 23andMe and Ancestry will sell your DNA if you consent and if you consent, you will not know who is using your DNA, where, or for what purposes. Neither Family Tree DNA, GedMatch, MyHeritage, Genographic Project, Insitome, Promethease nor LivingDNA sell your DNA.

The next group of vendors offers ethnicity without matching:

  • Genographic Project by National Geographic Society
  • Insitome
  • LivingDNA (currently working on matching, but not released yet)

Health (as a consumer, meaning you receive the results)

Medical (as a contributor, meaning you are contributing your DNA for research)

  • 23andMe
  • Ancestry
  • DNA.Land (not a testing vendor, doesn’t test DNA)

There are a few other niche vendors known for specific things within the genetic genealogy community, many of whom are mentioned in this article, but other than known vendors, buyer beware. If you don’t see them listed or discussed on my blog, there’s probably a reason.

What’s Coming in 2019

Just like we couldn’t have foreseen much of what happened in 2018, we don’t have access to a 2019 crystal ball, but it looks like 2019 is taking off like a rocket. We do know about a few things to look for:

  • MyHeritage is waiting to see if envelope and stamp DNA extractions are successful so that they can be added to their database.
  • www.totheletterDNA.com is extracting (attempting to) and processing DNA from stamps and envelopes for several people in the community. Hopefully they will be successful.
  • LivingDNA has been working on matching since before I met with their representative in October of 2017 in Dublin. They are now in Beta testing for a few individuals, but they have also just changed their DNA processing chip – so how that will affect things and how soon they will have matching ready to roll out the door is unknown.
  • Ancestry did a 2018 ethnicity update, integrating ethnicity more tightly with Genetic Communities, offered genetic traits and made some minor improvements this year, along with adding one questionable feature – showing your matches the location where you live as recorded in your profile. (23andMe subsequently added the same feature.) Ancestry recently said that they are promising exciting new tools for 2019, but somehow I doubt that the chromosome browser that’s been on my Christmas list for years will be forthcoming. Fingers crossed for something new and really useful. In the mean time, we can download our DNA results and upload to MyHeritage, Family Tree DNA and GedMatch for segment matching, as well as utilize Ancestry’s internal matching tools. DNA+tree matching, those green leaf shared ancestor hints, is still their strongest feature.
  • The Family Tree DNA Conference for Project Administrators will be held March 22-24 in Houston this year, and I’m hopeful that they will have new tools and announcements at that event. I’m looking forward to seeing many old friends in Houston in March.

Here’s what I know for sure about 2019 – it’s going to be an amazing year. We as a community and also as individual genealogists will be making incredible discoveries and moving the ball forward. I can hardly wait to see what quandaries I’ve solved a year from now.

What mysteries do you want to unravel?

I’d like to offer a big thank you to everyone who made 2018 wonderful and a big toast to finding lots of new ancestors and breaking down those brick walls in 2019.

Happy New Year!!!

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on the link to one of the 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.