About Roberta Estes

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

Baptized in Nicholas Speak’s Church – 52 Ancestors #190

It was a beautiful fall day in the mountains of Lee County, Virginia that October 10th in 2009. Basket sized fall Mums were in bloom, it was still warm and the leaves hadn’t yet begun to turn paintbrush hues that would soon cover the mountainsides.

Descendants of Nicholas Speak, founding minister of the Speak Methodist Church almost 190 years earlier gathered in Middlesboro, Kentucky, a few miles away, for a family reunion.

The highlight would be returning to worship together in the small nearly-abandoned country church NIcholas founded about 1822, as it always was when the reunion was held near the the home of our family. The humble white church sits nestled in the hollow across Speaks Branch Road from the cemetery where our Nicholas is buried with his wife, Sarah Faires, along with many of their children and grandchildren.

The Speak Cemetery isn’t much to speak of, graves marked mostly with field stones of humble settlers who probably had all they could do to clear enough land for a “burying ground.” Tombstones weren’t for poor frontier folk in the wilderness.

Field stones stand eternal sentry over beloved family members; parents, husbands, wives, children, babies – all departed too soon. They would be sorely grieved – for the rest of the lives of the people who now lay in adjacent graves. Joined together forever in the now-anonymous field of stones.

Back then, everyone knew where each person was buried. They had all dug the graves, gathered round as the final sermon was preached, first by Nicholas, and then one day – for Nicholas. Tears streaming down their faces as they sang the song that was sung for every occasion – Amazing Grace – then lowering the casket into the ground and closing the grave. Each person symbolically dropping one handful of dirt onto the coffin, full well knowing that hollow thud meant forever gone.

No one would ever forget that day. No marker with a name was needed.

Want to visit with Nicholas? Just walk across the road after church and sit a spell.

The Speak cousins, more than 100 years after Nicholas’s death in 1852 and Sarah’s in 1865, bought a memorial stone for Nicholas and Sarah, although by this time no one knew where in the cemetery they were actually buried. Their blood and that of generations of family members was scattered everyplace here.

Nicholas and Sarah’s cabin remained across the road until in the 1970s, when it was disassembled, before it fell completely down, and combined with another log cabin into a lovely log home near Middlesboro.

Nicholas and family would have walked a short distance to the church every Sunday morning for Nicholas to preach to his ever-expanding congregation of family, friends and neighbors, some of whom came quite some distance from the northern part of then-Claiborne, now-Hancock County, Tennessee.

How do we know this? Nicholas deeded the land where the church was built to church trustees, some of whom were neighbors in Claiborne County to the family of the young man, Samuel Claxton, who would marry Nicholas’s granddaughter in 1832. You can’t marry who you don’t see. In fact, Nicholas probably married the couple right in this very church, about 78 years before the picture below was taken around 1910. This building is believed to be the third church building which doubled as a school, but the first two were in the same location.

Our church service was held on Saturday during the reunion, because the volunteer minister, Tracy McPherson, worked full-time in the coal mines during the week as well as volunteered to preach in two other small churches. Speaks Chapel only had a preacher every third Sunday. With a whopping attendance of 6 people, the pews in this quaint country church were mostly empty.

They wouldn’t be today!

We filled the pews and breathed joy-filled life back into that church so cherished by our family!

The cousins who so graciously organized the reunion assembled a keepsake program.

How many remember the fans from before churches had air conditioning?  When I was a kid, they were wedged in the back of every pew, along with the hymnals. Most of us didn’t need the hymnals, but everyone needed fans!

All southern church services MUST have a program, so ours did too. Not only that, our lovely cousin, Dolores, prepared a history. Others assembled a worship service song book too. Most of us knew the words by heart anyway.

Led by Bill Hall, we began with Church in the Wildwood and ended with Amazing Grace, all sung without musical accompaniment. Our melded voices, echoing off the mountains in the distance, drifting up the hollers, were music enough. I hope Nicholas could hear the choir of his descendants, come home one last time.

Indeed, we raised our voices and made a joyful noise, well…at least noise.

How fitting this hymn, given where Nicholas decided to settle.

My wonderful cousin, Lola-Margaret Hall, twice descended from Nicholas and his wife, Sarah Faires Speaks paid us a visit in the persona of Sarah. “Sarah” mesmerized us that day with the story of her life; married to Nicholas, settling in the wilderness, carving out a home and founding the church. Her voice, transporting us all back to the early 1800s as she rocked, reminisced and read from the Bible, sitting near the pulpit where Nicholas would have preached his version of Salvation. We rode along in the wagon with “Sarah” as she and Nicholas left Washington County, crossing mountains, headed into an uncertain future and untamed frontier in Lee County, transcending time into the misty past, sharing experiences.

Although most of us were “returning home,” not all of Nicholas’s descendants left for greener pastures. Jewell Davis, now deceased, and her family lived next door and cared for the church and cemetery for many decades – including preparing a lunch for the reunion that day.

Dolores Hamm, on behalf of the family presented Jewel with a plaque and a Bible of course, what else? Jewel now rests with Nicholas.

Preacher Tracy, Bible in hand, delivered a special message.

Then, it seems that Preacher Tracy had a few questions for me.

Anyone know what the pitcher and bowl are for?

For those who aren’t aware, Methodists don’t practice full immersion baptisms. We fondly call them “sprinklings.” Or maybe that’s the Baptists that call Methodist baptisms sprinklings.

Regardless, somehow as a child I think I managed to escape being baptized, but I’m not entirely sure. For some reason, I always thought I was baptized as a child in the Methodist church my mother and grandmother attended. If so, I have no memory of the baptism, just fond memories of belting out “Jesus Loves Me” at the top of my pre-school lungs.

I always presumed that I had been baptized as an infant or young child, because I wasn’t baptized when I was older in a subsequent Methodist church we attended, and by the time we moved again and I attended a Baptist church, I think there was an assumption that I had previously been baptized because I was allowed to take communion.

Then, one day, many years later, someone asked me when I had been baptized? It occurred to me that I really didn’t know. It wasn’t written in mother’s Bible, or in either of the Bibles that I had received from the church, and by that time, there was no one left to ask.

Regardless of the circumstances, I felt that there was no better time or place on this earth, literally, than in the very church where Nicholas would have baptized so many, and in the embrace of my loving family. I had more relatives gathered that day with me in this small country church that I’ve had any time or place since.

Thank you to one of my wonderful cousins for this photo collage of an incredibly emotional event, for all kinds of reasons, to Preacher McPherson, and to Nicholas. Little did Nicholas know his legacy would reach 6 generations and almost 200 years into the future, and still counting.

What better way to honor Nicholas than to be baptized in his church and to share the story with you this Easter Sunday.

I have yet in my lifetime to get through Amazing Grace dry-eyed. Literally, it is the universal hymn played for every emotional event of my lifetime, including the funerals of my mother, step-father and siblings.

DNA Painter – Chromosome Sudoku for Genetic Genealogy Addicts

Not long ago, Jonny Perl introduced the free online tool, DNA Painter, designed to paint your chromosomes. I didn’t get around to trying this right away, but had I realized just how much fun I would have, I would have started sooner.

Fittingly, Jonny, pictured above, won the RootsTech Innovation award this year for DNA Painter – and I must say, it’s quite well-deserved.

Congratulations Jonny!

  • This is the first of four articles about DNA Painter. In this article, we’ll talk about how to use the tool, and how to get started.
  • The second article talks about mining your matches at the various vendors for paintable segments with instructions for how to do that accurately with each vendor.
  • In the third article, we’ll walk through an analysis of my painted segments, so you can too – and know how to spot revelations.
  • The fourth article explains how I solved a long-standing mystery that was driving me crazy. If you have a relatively close mystery person in your DNA match list that you can’t figure out quite where they fit, this article is written just for you!

I’ll tell you right now, I haven’t had this much fun in a long time!

Want to hear the best part? You don’t have to triangulate. DNA painting is “self-triangulating.” Yes, really!

Let’s get started!

Introducing DNA Painter

To begin to use DNA Painter, you’ll need to set up a free account at www.dnapainter.com.

Read the instructions and create your profile.

Jonny provides an overview.  Don’t get so excited that you skip this, or you won’t know how to paint correctly. You don’t need to be Picasso, but taking a few minutes up front will save you mistakes and frustration later.

Blaine Bettinger recorded a YouTube video discussing how to use DNA Painter to paint your chromosomes to identify and attribute particular segments to specific ancestors. It includes a mini-lesson on chromosome matching.

I strongly suggest you take time to watch Blaine’s video from the beginning. For some reason, this link drops into the video near the end, but just slide the red bar back to the beginning.

Get Started

Here’s my blank, naked chromosomes. Notice for every chromosome, you see a blue paternal “half” and a pink maternal “half.” That’s because everyone gets half of their autosomal DNA from their father, and the other half from their mother.

Looking at my own chromosome painting today, below, it’s incredibly exciting for me to see 57% of my DNA painted, attributed to 77 couples and one endogamous group, Acadians. This took me a month or so working off and on.

At the end of the day, this is often how I rewarded myself! The only problem it that it has been difficult to go to bed.

Comparatively, I’ve been working on my DNA match spreadsheet, attributing segments to ancestors now for 5 or 6 years, and I’ve never been able to see this information visually like this before. This view of my ancestrally painted chromosomes is so rewarding!

Who To Map

DNA Painter is not the kind of tool where you upload your results, it’s a tool where you selectively paint specific segments of matches – meaning segments on which you match particular people with known common ancestors.

How do you know who is a good candidate to map?

I began with painting my closest matches with whom I could identify the common ancestor.

Not only will painting your largest matches be rewarding as you harvest low-hanging-fruit, it will help you determine if you actually have identified the correct DNA for later matches being attributed to a specific genealogical line. In other words, mapping these larger known segments will help you identify false positives when you have no other yardstick.

Your First Painting

I’m opening a new profile in DNA Painter to demonstrate the steps in painting along with hints that I’ve learned along the way.

I’m going to utilize my cousin, Cheryl, whom I match closely at Family Tree DNA. If you don’t know how to use the Family Tree DNA autosomal tools, click here.

Cheryl is my first cousin once removed, so we share a significant amount of DNA.

I’ve selected Cheryl on my match list, checked her match box, and then clicked on the Chromosome Browser in order to view our segment matching information.

You can see on the chromosome browser that I share quite a bit of DNA with Cheryl.

At the top of the chromosome browser, click on “View this data in a table.”

Highlight and copy all of the segments for Cheryl. I only use 7cM segments or higher at DNA Painter, so you don’t have to copy the data in the rows below your last match at that level. DNA Painter takes care of stripping out all the extraneous stuff.

Paint a New Match

At DNA Painter, after you have your profile set up, click on “Paint a New Match.”

Simply paste the segment data into the box in the window that pops up. DNA Painter takes care of removing the header information as well as segments that are too small.

You can click on “overlay these segments” to “test” a fit, but I haven’t really found a good use for that, because I’m only painting segments I’m confident about and I know which side, maternal or paternal, the match is on based on the known relative.

Click on “save match now” in the bottom right corner.

In the Save Match popup, shown above, I utilize the fields as follows.

I enter the name of my DNA match, followed by their relationship to me, followed by the source of the match. In this case, “Cheryl <lastname>, 1C1R, FTDNA”

In the “Segment/Match Notes” I list how the match descends from the common ancestral couple, a GedMatch ID if known, and anything else pertinent including other potential ancestral lines in common. This means that I list every generation beginning with the common ancestral couple and ending with the tester.

Hiram Ferverda and Eva Miller, Roscoe, Cheryl, GedMatch Txxxxxx

You’ll wind up eventually rethinking some of your segment assignments to particular ancestors and you’ll want as much information here about this match as possible.

Moving to the next field, in the “Ancestors Name,” I utilize the couples name, because at this point, you can’t tell which of the two people actually contributed the DNA segment, or if part is from one ancestor of the couple and part is from the other. If the male ancestor is a Sr. or Jr., or is otherwise difficult to tell apart from your other ancestors, I suggest entering a birth year by his name. This is your selection list for later painting segments from the same ancestor, so you want to be sure you can tell the generations apart.

Next, you’ll select the maternal or paternal side of your family. Change the color if you don’t like the one pre-selected to assign to segments descending from that couple. Originally, I was going to have pinks or light colors for maternal, and blues or darker for paternal, but I quickly discovered that scheme didn’t work well, and I had more ancestors than I could ever have imagined whose DNA I am be able to map and paint.

Therefore, pick contrasting colors. You can use each color on each half, meaning maternal and paternal, since the segments will be painted on different halves of the chromosome.

In the “Notes for This Group,” I add more information for the couple such as birth and death dates and location if I know or am likely to forget.

Click “save.”

Here you go!  Isn’t this fun!!!! Cheryl’s segments that match mine are painted onto my chromosomes!

At the right, your ancestor key appears with each ancestor to whom you’ve assigned a color key.

So far, I only have one!

Want to paint another group of segments?

Let’s paint Cheryl’s brother.

Following the same sequence, I paint Donald’s DNA, but this time, I select “Or link these segments to an ancestor I’ve added before.”

I select Hiram Ferverda, Eva Miller and save. The segments that I have in common with Cheryl and/or Don will now be displayed on each chromosome.

Looking at chromosome 1, you can see that I match Cheryl and Don on the same segment at the beginning of the chromosome, but received two different segments of DNA on a different portion of chromosome 1, further to the right.

As one last example, I added the DNA from two known cousins, Rex and Maxine, who descend a couple generations further back in time through more distant ancestors in the same line – one maternal and one paternal.

Click on the chromosome number to expand to see all of the painted segments

You can see, looking at chromosome 3 that Cheryl and Don match me on a significant amount of the same large pink segment plus a smaller pink segment at the end

Rex (yellow) and Maxine (blue) both match me on different parts of the chromosome. It looks like there is a small amount of overlap between Rex and Maxine which is certainly feasible, because Jacob Lentz, the ancestor that Maxine descends from is ancestral to the couple that Rex descends from.

By utilizing known matches, and mapping, we can see segments that move us back in time, telling us from which ancestor that portion of the segment descends.

For example, if the blue segment was directly aligned with one of the pink segments, then we would know that the blue portion of the pink segment descended from Jacob Lentz and Fredericka Reuhl.

This is the most awesome, extremely addictive game of ancestor Sukoku ever.

Wanna play???

Here’s how to prepare for my next article where we’ll utilize the various vendor matches to begin painting.

Download and Upload Your Autosomal Files

You’ll want to have your DNA at the most vendor locations possible so you can find all your matches that can be attributed to known relatives and ancestors. You never know who is going to test at which vendor, and the only way to find out is to have your DNA there too.

For each vendor, I’ve provided a mini-tutorial on how to maximize your testing and transfers both monetarily and for maximum matching effect, or you can read an article here that explains more.

There’s also a cheat sheet for transfer strategies at the end of this article.

A technique called imputation is mentioned below, so you may want to read about imputation here. MyHeritage’s initial offering utilizing imputation was problem plagued but has since improved significantly.

Ancestry

To Ancestry – There’s no way to transfer files TO Ancestry, so you’ll need to test there to be in their database. You will also need at least a minimum subscription ($49) to utilize all of the Ancestry DNA features. You can see a with and without subscription feature comparison chart here.

From Ancestry – There is also no chromosome browser at Ancestry. In order to use DNA Painter, chromosome segment information is required, so if you test at Ancestry and want to paint your segments, you’ll need to download your DNA file to either or all of:

  • Family Tree DNA – partially compatible with the current Ancestry test chip format – transfer will provide you with your closest matches, 20-25% of the matches you would have if you tested at Family Tree DNA
  • MyHeritage – partially compatible, but uses imputation to infer additional genetic regions
  • GedMatch

My preference is to test at Ancestry, and then test at Family Tree DNA and upload the test results to MyHeritage. The Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage testing platforms are the same, so there is no incompatibility between the two.

Family Tree DNA

To Family Tree DNA – You can upload the following vendor files TO Family Tree DNA.  Matching is free, but to use the advanced tools, including ethnicity and the chromosome browser, you’ll need to pay the $19 unlock fee. That’s still significantly less than retesting, especially for files that are 100% compatible.

  • Ancestry – V1 files generated from before May 2016 are entirely compatible, V2 files from after May 2016 are partially compatible, providing between 20-25% of your matches, meaning your closest matches
  • 23andMe – V3 file from Dec 2010-Nov 2013 and V4 file from November 2013-August 2017 are compatible, the V5 platform file beginning in August 2017 is not compatible
  • MyHeritage – fully compatible

From Family Tree DNA – You can upload your Family Finder results to:

MyHeritage

To MyHeritage – You can upload the following files to MyHeritage:

  • Family Tree DNA – fully compatible
  • Ancestry – partially compatible but uses imputation to infer additional genetic regions
  • 23andMe – partially compatible but uses imputation to infer additional genetic regions

From MyHeritage – If you test at MyHeritage, you can upload your files to:

23andMe

To 23andMe – You cannot transfer TO 23andMe, so you’ll need to test there if you want to be in their database.

From 23andMe – If you tested at 23andMe, you can upload your files to the following vendors:

  • Family Tree DNA – V3 file from Dec 2010-Nov 2013 and V4 file from November 2013-August 2017 are compatible, the V5 chip beginning in August 2017 is not compatible
  • MyHeritage – 23andMe – partially compatible but uses imputation to infer additional genetic regions
  • GedMatch – V3 file from Dec 2010-Nov 2013 and V4 file from November 2013-August 2017 are compatible, the V5 chip beginning in August 2017 is only compatible in the Genesis sandbox area. V5 matching is not reliable. Files from other vendors are recommended for GedMatch unless you are matching against another V5 result.

GedMatch

GedMatch is a third-party site that accepts all of these vendors’ autosomal files, with a caveat that the 23andMe V5 kit matches very poorly and requires special handling. I don’t recommend using that kit at GedMatch unless you are matching against other 23andMe V5 kits.

I upload multiple kits to GedMatch and mark all but one for research only. This allows me to use my Ancestry kit to match with other Ancestry users for more accurate matches, my Family Tree DNA kit to other Family Tree DNA kits, and so forth. Not marking multiple kits for research means that you’ll appear more than once on other people’s match lists, and only your first 2000 matches are free. Marking all kits except one as research is a courtesy to others.

Recommended Testing Strategy for New Testers

  1. Test at Ancestry and download to GedMatch.
  2. Test at Family Tree DNA and upload to MyHeritage and GedMatch.
  3. Test at 23andMe and upload to GedMatch Genesis.
  4. At GedMatch, mark all except one kit as “research,” then utilize your kits from the same vendor for one-to-one comparisons.

Recommended Transfer Strategy

Of course, where you have, and haven’t already tested will impact your transfer strategy decision. I’ve prepared the following cheat sheet to be used in combination with the information discussed above.

*Unless you can transfer a 23andMe V3/V4 or an Ancestry V1 kit to Family Tree DNA, it’s better to test at Family Tree DNA. Ancestry V2 tests are only 20-25% compatible.

A transfer from Family Tree DNA to MyHeritage is best because those vendors are on the same platform and the tools at MyHeritage are free.

In my next article, we’ll discuss how to mine your matches at the various vendors to obtain accurate segments for chromosome painting – including a strategy for how to utilize Ancestry and Gedmatch together to identify at least some Ancestry segment matches.

So, for now, get ready by transferring your matches into whichever data bases they aren’t already in. The only data base where I couldn’t identify matches that I didn’t have elsewhere was at 23andMe. The rest were all there just waiting to be harvested!

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Mom’s Joyous Springtime “Mistake” – 52 Ancestors #189

This is that week.

There’s one day every fall where I feel like I’ll never be warm again. I know that the earth is becoming dormant, gradually descending into what feels like eternal darkness, and I hate it. For months, when there is some semblance of light, it’s either snow or grey. Because I can’t hibernate, I just have to suck it up and dress like the Michelin man until the equivalent day arrives in the spring.

The spring equivalent day generally arrives sometime around the vernal equinox, generally around March 20th, when I actually FEEL hope in my soul. The days are getting longer, there’s light and blue replaces grey in the sky. The sun feels warm again instead of mocking me by peeking out for about 30 seconds per day, and part of the snow has melted. My cousins down south are already posting pictures of tulips on Facebook.

If I look hard in the garden, in polka dot areas where the snow had already melted, I can find something resembling spouts from a plant peeking up.

A robin is staring down at me from a tree branch, and the Sandhill Cranes with their squeaky-gate-hinge cries are complaining loudly because they can’t get to the grasses through the snow in the field behind the house.

Groggy raccoons, skunks and possums are waking up, VERY HUNGRY and staggering around like drunken sailors on their first shore leave. Squirrels are excitedly scampering across the porch, tails held high, retrieving last fall’s nuts.

Hope is in the air.

My body aches less and I cherish any tiny spot of color.

Yesterday, tiny red succulents, above, just an eighth of an inch across poked their heads out, and today, my daughter messaged me early crocus photos from bulbs newly planted last fall. At least there are a few that didn’t serve as chipmunk food. I’m hopeful that my bulbs will emerge shortly.

I am desperate for color and flowers like the most addicted junkie.

Yesterday’s Springs

It’s also this time of year that I harken back to my childhood and recall those long-ago springs of yesteryear. Life just seemed so much simpler and happier then.

Some of my fondest memories are of pink Easter dresses and white patent leather shoes with lacy anklets. I had to wear white gloves to church, but I didn’t care because Easter Sunday, new dresses and wearing gloves made me feel special. Sometimes, I had an Easter hat too, and a new spring coat, if it was a good year. Springtime rituals connected to the re-emergence of Mother Earth.

It was so liberating to shed those old depressing winter clothes and skip along the sidewalk once again, relishing spring green, cherry blossoms and warm breezes.

To me, spring is the most joyful time of year – when my soul sings out loud because nature is exhilaratingly beautiful and fresh. Everything comes alive in a chaotic rush of optimism. Even dandelions are welcome, because they are alive, bright and yellow. Yes, I’m just that desperate, waiting like a kid at Christmas for the first dandelion of the season.

For some reason, this time of year, I always think about spring traditions when I was a child. Perhaps spring elicits these feelings because we didn’t visit much in the winter. Roads were slick and treacherous, and the time between Christmas and warm seemed interminable and difficult.

As winter began to yield its icy grasp, I vividly remember Sunday rides to purchase maple syrup and visit my grandparents. At grandmother’s house, birds began chirping as I listened through freshly opened windows at the drip drip of melting snow splashing around the house, before houses had eavestroughs and downspouts. 

My grandparents’ house had a magical quality, and I always looked forward to some special activity with my grandmother.

Sometimes we baked cinnamon sugar pie dough in the bottom of a pie pan.

Sometimes she “let” me dust her dining room shelves. It’s amazing what you can convince a child to do if you tell them it’s a special honor. I’ve tried that tactic with my husband and kids, and it never worked!

Today, the salt shakers that I used to dust on her shelf are in my display case, chosen by my grief-stricken 4-year-old self as a memento when she suddenly died in the depths of winter-hell.

Sometimes we walked around the yard and looked for the first daffodil and the Easter Bunny. I always knew right where to look for the daffodils, but that Easter Bunny always managed to elude me! However, I did often find a basket he somehow left behind, hidden beneath the Spirea bush, along with some telltale colored eggs! I never did understand how a male rabbit could lay colored eggs, but I digress…

The best times were when my grandmother and Mom and I retrieved the old box of pictures from the attic. Sure, we had sorted through them many times before, but it was always just so much fun.

I asked questions, often the same questions I had asked before. I loved hearing the tales that made the pictures come alive. Mom or my grandmother would tell me the same story over again, sometimes each interleaving sentences with the other – often injecting some new twist or wrinkle. Of course, it was up to me to catch the change and ask a million or so questions.

One particular picture was always sure to cause peals of laughter. We all anticipated it and looked forward to it peeking out from under the pile.

Mom, with a wink, always made up a new story to go with the picture.

I couldn’t wait to find that photo under the others, but it would have been cheating to rifle through, so I tried to wait patiently until it appeared.

Early Photography

When my Mom was young, cameras had film rolls that you loaded onto a spindle. After you took a picture, you had to advance the film using a lever or knob, or you would take a second picture right over the first one. That’s called a double exposure, and it wasn’t a good thing. First, you’d ruin both photos, and you wouldn’t know until you paid to have them processed and printed, often weeks or months later.

By comparison, digital photos today are wonderful.

Mother danced – tap and ballet with some gymnastics thrown in. I think today that’s called expressive dance, and she was always practicing. Everyplace, all the time.

Even in the yard. She and a friend named Mary Lu lived in the same small town and danced together. Both eventually turned professional, as in the American Ballet Company, not exotic, in case you were wondering.

In the spring, they too felt released because they could free themselves by practicing outside.

My grandmother alleged as how spring freed her too. Incessant dance practice wasn’t exactly quiet. My grandfather spent a lot of time in the barn with the chickens.

In 1933, the family acquired their first (used) camera, in trade for chickens from someone who had nothing else to pay with. My grandfather took almost anything in trade during the Depression. In fact, if you couldn’t pay, he would give you what you needed anyway, which is why his hardware store went bankrupt.

A few years later, my mother was allowed to very occasionally use the camera. After all, film and processing was an expensive luxury, and the Great Depression was still in full swing. In fact, it never ended in their minds. Everything was always an unnecessary expense. That terrible dozen years of hardship and fear left an indelible mark on both generations.

Just the same, Mother and Mary Lu commenced taking pictures, but the number of photos they were allowed was strictly rationed.

Pictures had to be planned very carefully! There were no autofocus tools like today and any small movement caused a blurry picture.

Some weren’t entirely in focus.

While Mom had to practice the traditional tap and ballet routines, her joy came from “custom” rather “outrageous” dance routines that combined the two, plus moves and steps of her own not choreographed by either dance style. 

Mother said she and Mary Lu danced in the yard and on the sidewalks of the tiny crossroads village of Silver Lake, as well as on the porch – desperate to be released from the winter confines of a house. The Spirea is blooming in this picture, so I know it’s spring.

Much sought after dancers for their unique performances, they often practiced dual or difficult routines in the grass, because falling outside was softer than on hardwood floors. No one had carpet then and gymnastic pads simply didn’t exist.

The first photos went pretty well.

Until they forgot entirely about winding the film.

I’m not sure exactly why we thought this picture was so funny. Perhaps it was the way that Mom whispered about her doing handstands on her own “behind,” much to my amazement. Like we girls were sharing something super-secret.

Today, this photo belongs to me, and I still can’t look at it without laughing, along with bittersweet memories.

I can hear Mom’s voice in a far-away room. I can see the three of us at the table and hear the rustling of photos in that old cardboard box. I can eavesdrop on the various stories about what this picture was, and how it happened.

Maybe it was Mary Lu who had to walk on her hands, standing on Mom’s behind. Maybe it was when they performed for the circus. Maybe the story didn’t matter, just the fact that we were having so much fun together – three generations at the old wooden table with the rickety chairs, now in my attic.

Maybe it was because I lost my cherished grandmother soon after, and suddenly, there were no more days at the table, sitting in her lap.

I can hear, distantly, over the span of half a century, my grandmother admonishing mother with a smile, “Now Barbara Jean…” when mother made up a particularly good story. Then we laughed, all over again!

I think, in truth, my Mom and grandmother were just amazed at how well this silly mistake turned out. Lemonade out of a lemon. 

When I saw this picture, I always imagined my Mom daydreaming in the springtime about dancing on the big stage – which she went on to do, professionally.

Somehow seeing my beautiful mother’s dreamy young face gave me permission as well, along with the courage to risk making mistakes. I had no idea then how courageous mother actually was.

Afterwards, I would always run outside and dance in the yard. Spinning, doing pirouettes, falling down. I was terrible, but it didn’t matter, because I was doing it with all of my heart and inspiration, unafraid and entirely unphased by potential failure. Failure was only in not dancing.

I still approach life that way today.

We got so much mileage out of that “mistake.”

Whoever would have thought that it would transcend 5 generations.

I’ll be sharing this picture and story with my granddaughters this weekend. Hope and inspiration in this season of renewal seem appropriate attributes to infuse into future generations. One could even argue that perhaps this is the most important legacy my mother could have left – all through a “mistake.”

Clearly, it was no mistake. I’d rather call it divine inspiration or unrecognized potential. Mistakes are often only a matter of perception.

What is your favorite joyful family photo that makes you laugh or inspires you, and why?

Facebook and Psychographic Warfare – You ARE the Product

And I thought the Equifax security breach last year was bad.

The situation exposed this past week with Facebook is not a breach, it’s intentional, has lasted for years and it’s called “psychographic research.” If you are a Facebook user, and what genealogist isn’t today, it has already affected, read targeted, you. Facebook intentionally collected and allowed the collection of various types of information from their user’s profiles that enabled “others” to construct an extremely accurate psychological personality profile for each Facebook user. Those profiles allowed bad actors to tailor content intended to manipulate each individual Facebook user for their own nefarious purposes.

Facebook exploited the trust of every single one of their 1.8 billion users. Yes, that’s billion, with a B. Of those, 214 million are located in the US.

Most genealogists use Facebook routinely to maintain links to family, share photos and participate in various groups that support our genealogy addiction. Unfortunately, while Facebook users receive camaraderie and social media makes our world smaller – we have been being used as unwitting pawns in a heinous psychological experiment.

I’ve always said there is no such thing as “free,” and I know full well that Facebook supports the “free” platform with advertising revenue from advertisers hoping to reach people who like cats, for example, are in my age group or perhaps my geography. I never knew that they were stealthily gathering my information and selling it to unethical companies and organizations whose intention was to manipulate me psychologically and more specifically, attempting to manipulate my vote.

The full intention of these manipulators is to do whatever is necessary to mold your mind, including distribution of incorrect information, remaining blind to infiltration by “bots” and allowing Facebook users to be targeted with the intention of sewing divisiveness. As a result, we have the most polarized, hate-filled and divided country I’ve known in my lifetime.

This wasn’t an accidental security breach, nor even a security breach due to negligence. This was a planned act, sanctioned and even abetted by Facebook. They are complicit.

Without allowing this article to dip into the toxic brew of politics, suffice it to say that the intention of various “bad actors” was full well to sway our election and undermine our democratic system by whatever methods worked, regardless of ethics or morality, and Facebook was a full-on willing partner. User information was sold not just to the highest bidder, but every bidder, who just happen to be the devil(s) incarnate. Not one of the people who did this had “your” best interest at heart, which in and of itself is enough to tell me whatever they want is a bad idea.

What Happened?

If you’re unaware, please educate yourself on what has happened and fully understand that this DOES affect you. Even if you personally have never played a seemingly innocent Facebook game, like Farmville, or clicked on one of those “personality profiles,” “what is your movie star name” links or answered those “tell me 10 things about yourself” postings, one of your Facebook friends surely has…and your data has been collected and used both against you and the underpinnings of our very democracy. While I’m an American, there is evidence that these same shady characters were also involved with manipulating the highly volatile Brexit vote in the UK along with elections elsewhere in the world.

Even more unfortunate, many of the people on Facebook, especially those focused on genealogy, are of or near retirement age. 26% are age 55-64 and 21% are over 65. These people tend to be the most trusting, the least technologically savvy and the most likely to click on those fun links or answer those “20 questions” challenges posted by friends – never suspecting that they are exposing themselves to targeted psychological manipulation by people who are willing to pay to have their poison information planted in your newsfeed.

That total of 47% means that the private data of over 100 million US people of AARP age has been gathered. In 2017, the entire population of the US was 325 million, including children, so roughly 30% of the entire US population has been targeted and unknowingly manipulated by God-knows-who-all.

Think about this for a minute. Look at the things you’ve “Liked” on Facebook over the past few days. For me, it’s been cats, quilts, wildlife, photos, genetic genealogy, DNA articles and my friends and cousins’ feeds. To many Facebook users, a “like” is the online equivalent of waving at your neighbor when you see them drive by.

Nothing revealing in what I “liked”, you might say, but that’s not true. You can tell that I’m both empathetic and science focused. You can tell by looking at the race of my friends along with articles that I “like” that I’m certainly not prejudiced. Combine those things together, along with whatever else Facebook has collected by reading my posts and private messages, and you can easily tell what kinds of propaganda to plant in my news feed to upset me.

Think not?

Post just one article about animal abuse in my feed, and I’m on the phone calling someone to emphatically demand change. For example, the dog last week who died on a United Airlines flight. I’m certainly not flying United if I have any choice whatsoever.

Racism, discrimination, domestic violence or child abuse…same reaction. Now, do you still think you’re not predictable by the trail of psychological breadcrumbs you’re leaving behind?

Ever forward one of those, “If you love Jesus, you’ll forward this” pictures because you certainly didn’t want anyone to think you didn’t love Jesus, or felt obligated or guilty if you didn’t forward?  Well, you were psychologically manipulated and you just told the exploiters about your religious beliefs so you can be targeted and so can everyone of your downstream friends and family members.

Up until now, the viruses we worried about were viruses implanted on your computer.  What Facebook did was to pave the way for these exploiters to plant viruses in your brain without your knowledge.

Even worse, Facebook recently made changes in their algorithm to limit the things you see in your feed, and the ONLY way for you to increase the things you like to see is to “like” even more, or tag the page or account to “show first,” providing Facebook with even more information about you to sell to whomever.

I feel somewhat responsible at this point, because I wrote an article just 10 days ago telling you exactly how to do just that – never suspecting the clandestine information collection that was occurring, or why. So yes, I’ve been exploited too. And I’m furious.

If you thought “Big Brother” was the government all along, you’re wrong. It’s Facebook who will apparently sell to anyone including the devil himself.

Is Psychographic Profiling Accurate?

If you’re doubting the accuracy of psychographic profiling, as I was, take into account the compiled research information about Facebook “likes” by a grad student at Cambridge University. The inspiration for this whole debacle was inspired by this research which indicated that by gathering:

  • only 68 Facebook “likes,” your skin color could be predicted with 95% accuracy
  • 68 likes – your sexual orientation predicted with 85% accuracy
  • 70 likes – they would “know you” better than your friends
  • 150 likes – know you better than your parents
  • 300 likes – know you better than your partner

Massive surveillance designed to capitalize on your emotional and psychological vulnerabilities in the hands of those who do not have your best interest at heart.

Take this one step further and imagine that if it’s obvious that you are strongly opposed to sex trafficking of children, someone who wanted to deter you from voting for a particular candidate might make up a story about that candidate engaged in a sex ring trafficking children. Would you dislike that candidate? If you were on the fence, would it knock you right off? If your answer is yes, then psychographic profiling and manipulation worked. Does it matter whether the information is true? No, not as long as it works. A vote now is worth being caught in a lie later – or at least that’s the theory.

And we were worried about what our DNA might divulge. Absolutely nothing, comparatively speaking.

Educate Yourself

I’m listing a few articles here that describe, in horrifying detail, the inside workings of the stealth Facebook operations by shady operators and the companies, like Cambridge Analytica. They utilized harvested user data by collaborating with Facebook to control what users see and targeting users through their emotionally vulnerabilities. In other words, you were fed information specifically aimed at making you feel one way or another.

Former Facebook operations manager, Sandy Parakilas, yesterday, in a Newsweek article stated that most of Facebook’s users likely had their information acquired by companies exploiting the same terms and conditions that allowed Cambridge Analytica’s data gathering through an app called “thisisyourdigitallife.” While only 270,000 people had played that game on Facebook,” the data of over 50 million was collected from the friends (and friends of friends) of those 270,000 people through exposures exploited by that app with Facebook’s full knowledge and consent – in just 3 months time.

This is both terrifying and nauseating.

The NYT podcast is especially enlightening and explains the timeline and methodology of how a bright young man devised a methodology to harvest Facebook data with the explicit intention of influencing voting behavior to reshape American politics. Realizing his discoveries had become a monster out of control, he resigned in 2014. Now he has become the whistleblower that blew the lid off of this scandal of unprecedented scope and scale, a magnitude undreamed of…at least by most of us. This is the most detailed of all of the resources I’ve found and explains the path from what seemed a relatively innocent and interesting discovery initially to a weaponized massively deployed fear-based political exploitation tool just three years later.

Protect Yourself

Ok, now that you know what’s happening, what can you do?

Many people are leaving Facebook and deleting their accounts. The #DeleteFacebook movement is growing.

Be aware that this doesn’t mean that what you’ve already done is gone. Your postings and comments on people’s pages and in other groups will still exist. It’s just your own account that is removed. At least you can’t be manipulated by what is fed to you anymore, but you also won’t be able to connect with family members. For many, and especially older people, Facebook is where friends are and connections make people feel a lot less isolated, especially when mobility or distance is an issue.

Furthermore, the cow has already left the barn, and “they” already have a psychological profile of you, meaning whoever has gathered or purchased your data. Believing “they” will delete that information and never use it is foolhardy.

Yes, you can leave Facebook. That’s clearly the easiest and most direct approach and I’ll show you how to do that in the next section.

If you don’t want to leave Facebook, there are precautionary steps you can take.

First, stop interacting, meaning “liking” things. Yea, I know. Double edged sword.

Second, don’t take any quizzes or post any personal information, at all. Ever. There’s a reason why people with high level security clearances aren’t allowed to have Facebook accounts.

Third, do not, EVER click on those “clickbait” things that give you something interesting for free. I don’t care how great you’ll look airbrushed and all glamoured up on the cover of a fashion magazine, and yes, my friend did look fantastic, BUT – DON’T DO IT! It’s an entryway for the rats. Same with “what would you look like as a woman?” or man, or bald, etc.

Ask yourself when you see something like this – why would someone want to give you something for “free?” Free is often a clandestine trap for the unsuspecting. The more interesting it looks, the more suspicious you should be.

Just. Don’t. Click.

Fourth, take steps through Facebook settings to protect yourself from application platform sharing. Of course, this does nothing to affect what Facebook itself is collecting in order to target you with focused ads. Ever wonder why something you googled outside of Facebook now appears in your Facebook ad feed almost immediately? It’s not coincidence. It’s your digital trail of breadcrumbs.

Here are some great articles about Facebook security and privacy, and how to shore yours up.

I strongly recommend the following FaceCrooks article that not only tells you what to do to protect yourself, but why.

Fifth – do not sign in to applications through Facebook, which provides your Facebook user data to that application, potentially exposing your friends’ data too. These articles explain how to get rid of those pesky apps, including an article by Facebook itself.

Strengthening or Deleting Your Account

I’m going to check my own privacy settings, so come along and then use this same technique to check your own.

Go to Settings by clicking on the down arrow on the top right of your blue bar. You’ll see a dropdown list that includes “Settings.”

Click on Settings.

If you are going to leave Facebook, you can download a copy of your data through the “Download a copy of your Facebook data” link, at the bottom of the list.

By clicking on “Manage Account,” you can delete your account.  Note that delete means permanently.

Don’t want to delete your account and leave Facebook?  Then let’s improve your privacy.

On the left hand side, click on “Privacy” which shows your various selections.  Lock this down to only your friends and allow “only me” to see your friends list.

Next, on the left hand sidebar, click on “Apps.” At the top, you’ll see which applications have access to your Facebook account. I didn’t think there would be any other than WeRelate, the Ancestry app, but I was wrong.

It appears that I have indeed logged into a few sites through Facebook.

Most of these I at least recognize, except one. Who the devil is Hub One and why are they in my account?

Clicking on the pencil icon by the app shows you your options, below.

Looking at what the apps have access to is enlightening. Apps have access to both my profile photo and other public profile information, plus my e-mail address.

Neither the link titled “Choose the Info This App Can Use” nor “Learn How Apps Can Use Your Info” tell me what this app is doing or even “who” this app is.  Both just link to an article. Not useful.

The “Remove Info Collected by the App” simply tells me to contact the developer by clicking the X in the bottom right corner after opening the app. Three strikes, Facebook.

I still don’t know who Hub One is, nor what they are doing, nor any way to find out what data they’ve collected. I couldn’t contact them if I wanted to, because I don’t know who they are.

I resorted to Google and discovered that a company called Hub One says they are a document management company, but Googling a little further, look what I found.

Interesting, a company that says they are an “integrator of mobile and tracking solutions for 4500 enterprises” shows up on my Facebook account and I have no idea why.

Of course, this might not be the same company. The logos don’t look the same, and I have absolutely no way to know. Facebook certainly isn’t telling.

Furthermore, how does one figure out HOW to contact the company that has weaseled their way into my Facebook account. Clearly Facebook knows, because they approved this app for their platform, but they aren’t divulging AND they are putting the onus back on you to figure out who they’ve allowed to weasel in.

Hub One, whoever you are, you’re gone!

I certainly don’t want Bing collecting data about me from Facebook either, which probably explains about those ads mysteriously appearing on Facebook right after I googled “witch costumes” for my granddaughter. To delete, I click on the little X by their app, then continue in the box in the corner.

I use Skype, but why would it want access to my Facebook account? Same question for Norton Safe Web.

Next, click on the square box labeled “Apps, Websites and Plugins.”

You can disable all of the applications. I would suggest doing so by clicking on the bottom right on “disable platform.” That means no application can interact with Facebook by effectively shutting the door entirely. If you’re a blogger, and your blogging platform interacts with your Facebook account to post, you might not want to do this.

Next, click on the square box “Apps Others Use.”

By now, it should be pretty obvious that you’re really only as safe as your most exposed friend – same concept as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

I suspect I’ve disabled some of these options in the past, but look at what’s exposed now. This is the data that can be (and probably has been) scraped from my account through the accounts of my friends who use those apps that allow me to be targeted.

Not anymore, they are all gone now. Don’t forget to “Save.” For some reason, I had to repeat this process two or three times to get it to “take,” so check your selections afterwards. I’ll be generous and call it a glitch or a bug and not cynically suggest that maybe Facebook is trying to retain my “open door” settings.

Dear Facebook

Bottom line.

There is no excuse. Period.

You knew and intentionally betrayed every single one of the people who trusted you by luring your subscribers into a false sense of security. You never told us that WE, our minds, are the commodity that you are selling. You never disclosed the truth. Your behavior is utterly reprehensible, especially given that your small act of contrition in your Facebook posting today only occurred after you were called onto the carpet, very publicly, years into this deceptive behavior.

Kind of reminds me of the unfaithful spouse who has been sleeping with half the town for several years. Finally caught, they’re very sorry, of course. Much like the betrayed spouse, I have lots of questions.

  • I want to know what has been harvested from me.
  • I want the history of what apps, if any, I interacted with, ever, that gathered or might have gathered my information. Don’t make me hunt for it like you made me hunt for the Russian bot information. Put it right there in my feed where I can’t miss it, you know, like you put the other articles you planted for me to read.
  • I want to know who exposed my data.
  • I want to know the identity of the apps on my account. You owe that much to your users, instead of making the victims attempt to figure out who that app is and how to contact them.
  • I want a list of which apps you’ve determined to be acceptable for any Facebook user, who they are and what they are really doing. I want full transparency. Now.
  • I want you to stop manipulating me either through ads or targeted psychological profiling as a result of surveillance designed to determine what to “serve” me in my newsfeed. Stop making me the unwilling victim in your information meat-market.
  • I want to know what you’re doing for your users to right this wrong?

Just like I used to tell my kids, remorse after getting caught isn’t remorse about your behavior, it’s only remorse that you got caught.

Kindergarten rules:

  • Just because you can doesn’t mean you should!
  • Integrity is what you do when no one else is looking.

I guess Facebook and their compatriots in this psychographic war have removed any question about integrity. Now all that’s left is the cleanup, or divorce, your choice.

As for genealogists, make your decision about Facebook. If you stay, spruce up your privacy, protect yourself and one way or another, continue with your valuable genealogical research.

Please feel free to share the link to this article with anyone; friends and family, groups, and especially any Facebook page!

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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.

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.

Summary

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. Update; On 3-31-2018 Justin Loe, CEO of Full Genomes says that they “will continue to sell into the EU via manual process.”
  • 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.

Migration

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!