Which DNA Test is Best?

If you’re reading this article, congratulations. You’re a savvy shopper and you’re doing some research before purchasing a DNA test. You’ve come to the right place.

The most common question I receive is asking which test is best to purchase. There is no one single best answer for everyone – it depends on your testing goals and your pocketbook.

Testing Goals

People who want to have their DNA tested have a goal in mind and seek results to utilize for their particular purpose. Today, in the Direct to Consumer (DTC) DNA market space, people have varied interests that fall into the general categories of genealogy and medical/health.

I’ve approached the question of “which test is best” by providing information grouped into testing goal categories.  I’ve compared the different vendors and tests from the perspective of someone who is looking to test for those purposes – and I’ve created separate sections of this article for each interest..

We will be discussing testing for:

  • Ethnicity – Who Am I? – Breakdown by Various World Regions
  • Adoption – Finding Missing Parents or Close Family
  • Genealogy – Cousin Matching and Ancestor Search/Verification
  • Medical/Health

We will be reviewing the following test types:

  • Autosomal
  • Y DNA (males only)
  • Mitochondrial DNA

I have included summary charts for each section, plus an additional chart for:

  • Additional Vendor Considerations

If you are looking to select one test, or have limited funds, or are looking to prioritize certain types of tests, you’ll want to read about each vendor, each type of test, and each testing goal category.

Each category reports information about the vendors and their products from a different perspective – and only you can decide which of these perspectives and features are most important to you.

You might want to read this short article for a quick overview of the 4 kinds of DNA used for genetic genealogy and DTC testing and how they differ.

The Big 3

Today, there are three major players in the DNA testing market, not in any particular order:

Each of these companies offers autosomal tests, but each vendor offers features that are unique. Family Tree DNA and 23andMe offer additional tests as well.

In addition to the Big 3, there are a couple of new kids on the block that I will mention where appropriate. There are also niche players for the more advanced genetic genealogist or serious researcher, and this article does not address advanced research.

In a nutshell, if you are serious genealogist, you will want to take all of the following tests to maximize your tools for solving genealogical puzzles. There is no one single test that does everything.

  • Full mitochondrial sequence that informs you about your matrilineal line (only) at Family Tree DNA. This test currently costs $199.
  • Y DNA test (for males only) that informs you about your direct paternal (surname) line (only) at Family Tree DNA. This test begins at $169 for 37 markers.
  • Family Finder, an autosomal test that provides ethnicity estimates and cousin matching at Family Tree DNA. This test currently costs $89.
  • AncestryDNA, an autosomal test at Ancestry.com that provides ethnicity estimates and cousin matching. (Do not confuse this test with Ancestry by DNA, which is not the same test and does not provide the same features.) This test currently costs $99, plus the additional cost of a subscription for full feature access. You can test without a subscription, but nonsubscribers can’t access all of the test result features provided to Ancestry subscribers.
  • 23andMe Ancestry Service test, an autosomal test that provides ethnicity estimates and cousin matching. The genealogy version of this test costs $99, the medical+genealogy version costs $199.

A Word About Third Party Tools

A number of third party tools exist, such as GedMatch and DNAGedcom.com, and while these tools are quite useful after testing, these vendors don’t provide tests. In order to use these sites, you must first take an autosomal DNA test from a testing vendor. This article focuses on selecting your DNA testing vendor based on your testing goals.

Let’s get started!

Ethnicity

Many people are drawn to DNA testing through commercials that promise to ‘tell you who you are.” While the allure is exciting, the reality is somewhat different.

Each of the major three vendors provide an ethnicity estimate based on your autosomal DNA test, and each of the three vendors will provide you with a different result.

Yep, same person, different ethnicity breakdowns.

Hopefully, the outcomes will be very similar, but that’s certainly not always the case. However, many people take one test and believe those results wholeheartedly. Please don’t. You may want to read Concepts – Calculating Ethnicity Percentages to see how varied my own ethnicity reports are at various vendors as compared to my known genealogy.

The technology for understanding “ethnicity” from a genetic perspective is still very new. Your ethnicity estimate is based on reference populations from around the world – today. People and populations move, and have moved, for hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands of years. Written history only reaches back a fraction of that time, so the estimates provided to people today are not exact.

That isn’t to criticize any individual vendor. View each vendor’s results not as gospel, but as their opinion based on their reference populations and their internal proprietary algorithm of utilizing those reference populations to produce your ethnicity results.

To read more about how ethnicity testing works, and why your results may vary between vendors or not be what you expected, click here.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from testing, only to be sure consumers understand the context of what they will be receiving. Generally speaking, these results are accurate at the continental level, and less accurate within continents, such as European regional breakdowns.

All three testing companies provide additional features or tools, in addition to your ethnicity estimates, that are relevant to ethnicity or population groups.

Let’s look at each company separately.

Ethnicity – Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA’s ethnicity tool is called myOrigins and provides three features or tools in addition to the actual ethnicity estimate and associated ethnicity map.

Please note that throughout this article you can click on any image to enlarge.

On the myOrigins ethnicity map page, above, your ethnicity percentages and map are shown, along with two additional features.

The Shared Origins box to the left shows the matching ethnic components of people on your DNA match list. This is particularly useful if you are trying to discover, for example, where a particular minority admixture comes from in your lineage. You can select different match types, for example, immediate relatives or X chromosome matches, which have special inheritance qualities.

Clicking on the apricot (mitochondrial DNA) and green (Y DNA) pins in the lower right corner drops the pins in the locations on your map of the most distant ancestral Y and mitochondrial DNA locations of the individuals in the group you have selected in the Shared Origins match box. You may or may not match these individuals on the Y or mtDNA lines, but families tend to migrate in groups, so match hints of any kind are important.

A third unique feature provided by Family Tree DNA is Ancient Origins, a tool released with little fanfare in November 2016.

Ancient Origins shows the ancient source of your European DNA, based on genome sequencing of ancient DNA from the locations shown on the map.

Additionally, Family Tree DNA hosts an Ancient DNA project where they have facilitated the upload of the ancient genomes so that customers today can determine if they match these ancient individuals.

Kits included in the Ancient DNA project are shown in the chart below, along with their age and burial location. Some have matches today, and some of these samples are included on the Ancient Origins map.

Individual Approx. Age Burial Location Matches Ancient Origins Map
Clovis Anzick 12,500 Montana (US) Yes No
Linearbandkeramik 7,500 Stuttgart, Germany Yes Yes
Loschbour 8,000 Luxembourg Yes Yes
Palaeo-Eskimo 4,000 Greenland No No
Altai Neanderthal 50,000 Altai No No
Denisova 30,000 Siberia No No
Hinxton-4 2,000 Cambridgeshire, UK No No
BR2 3,200 Hungary Yes Yes
Ust’-Ishim 45,000 Siberia Yes No
NE1 7,500 Hungary Yes Yes

Ethnicity – Ancestry

In addition to your ethnicity estimate, Ancestry also provides a feature called Genetic Communities.

Your ethnicity estimate provides percentages of DNA found in regions shown on the map by fully colored shapes – green in Europe in the example above. Genetic Communities show how your DNA clusters with other people in specific regions of the world – shown with dotted clusters in the US in this example.

In my case, my ethnicity at Ancestry shows my European roots, illustrated by the green highlighted areas, and my two Genetic Communities are shown by yellow and red dotted regions in the United States.

My assigned Genetic Communities indicate that my DNA clusters with other people whose ancestors lived in two regions; The Lower Midwest and Virginia as well as the Alleghenies and Northeast Indiana.

Testers can then view their DNA matches within that community, as well as a group of surnames common within that community.

The Genetic Communities provided for me are accurate, but don’t expect all of your genealogical regions to be represented in Genetic Communities. For example, my DNA is 25% German, and I don’t have any German communities today, although ancestry will be adding new Genetic Communities as new clusters are formed.

You can read more about Genetic Communities here and here.

Ethnicity – 23andMe

In addition to ethnicity percentage estimates, called Ancestry Composition, 23andMe offers the ability to compare your Ancestry Composition against that of your parent to see which portions of your ethnicity you inherited from each parent, although there are problems with this tool incorrectly assigning parental segments.

Additionally, 23andMe paints your chromosome segments with your ethnic heritage, as shown below.

You can see that my yellow Native American segments appear on chromosomes 1 and 2.

In January 2017, 23andMe introduced their Ancestry Timeline, which I find to be extremely misleading and inaccurate. On my timeline, shown below, they estimate that my most recent British and Irish ancestor was found in my tree between 1900 and 1930 while in reality my most recent British/Irish individual found in my tree was born in England in 1759.

I do not view 23andMe’s Ancestry Timeline as a benefit to the genealogist, having found that it causes people to draw very misleading conclusions, even to the point of questioning their parentage based on the results. I wrote about their Ancestry Timeline here.

Ethnicity Summary

All three vendors provide both ethnicity percentage estimates and maps. All three vendors provide additional tools and features relevant to ethnicity. Vendors also provide matching to other people which may or may not be of interest to people who test only for ethnicity. “Who you are” only begins with ethnicity estimates.

DNA test costs are similar, although the Family Tree DNA test is less at $89. All three vendors have sales from time to time.

Ethnicity Vendor Summary Chart

Ethnicity testing is an autosomal DNA test and is available for both males and females.

Family Tree DNA Ancestry 23andMe
Ethnicity Test Included with $89 Family Finder test Included with $99 Ancestry DNA test Included with $99 Ancestry Service
Percentages and Maps Yes Yes Yes
Shared Ethnicity with Matches Yes No Yes
Additional Feature Y and mtDNA mapping of ethnicity matches Genetic Communities Ethnicity phasing against parent (has issues)
Additional Feature Ancient Origins Ethnicity mapping by chromosome
Additional Feature Ancient DNA Project Ancestry Timeline

 

Adoption and Parental Identity

DNA testing is extremely popular among adoptees and others in search of missing parents and grandparents.

The techniques used for adoption and parental search are somewhat different than those used for more traditional genealogy, although non-adoptees may wish to continue to read this section because many of the features that are important to adoptees are important to other testers as well.

Adoptees often utilize autosomal DNA somewhat differently than traditional genealogists by using a technique called mirror trees. In essence, the adoptee utilizes the trees posted online of their closest DNA matches to search for common family lines within those trees. The common family lines will eventually lead to the individuals within those common trees that are candidates to be the parents of the searcher.

Here’s a simplified hypothetical example of my tree and a first cousin adoptee match.

The adoptee matches me at a first cousin level, meaning that we share at least one common grandparent – but which one? Looking at other people the adoptee matches, or the adoptee and I both match, we find Edith Lore (or her ancestors) in the tree of multiple matches. Since Edith Lore is my grandmother, the adoptee is predicted to be my first cousin, and Edith Lore’s ancestors appear in the trees of our common matches – that tells us that Edith Lore is also the (probable) grandmother of the adoptee.

Looking at the possibilities for how Edith Lore can fit into the tree of me and the adoptee, as first cousins, we fine the following scenario.

Testing the known child of daughter Ferverda will then provide confirmation of this relationship if the known child proves to be a half sibling to the adoptee.

Therefore, close matches, the ability to contact matches and trees are very important to adoptees. I recommend that adoptees make contact with www.dnaadoption.com. The volunteers there specialize in adoptions and adoptees, provide search angels to help people and classes to teach adoptees how to utilize the techniques unique to adoption search such as building mirror trees.

For adoptees, the first rule is to test with all 3 major vendors plus MyHeritage. Family Tree DNA allows you to test with both 23andMe and Ancestry and subsequently transfer your results to Family Tree DNA, but I would strongly suggest adoptees test on the Family Tree DNA platform instead. Your match results from transferring to Family Tree DNA from other companies, except for MyHeritage, will be fewer and less reliable because both 23andMe and Ancestry utilize different chip technology.

For most genealogists, MyHeritage is not a player, as they have only recently entered the testing arena, have a very small data base, no tools and are having matching issues. I recently wrote about MyHeritage here. However, adoptees may want to test with MyHeritage, or upload your results to MyHeritage if you tested with Family Tree DNA, because your important puzzle-solving match just might have tested there and no place else. You can read about transfer kit compatibility and who accepts which vendors’ tests here.

Adoptees can benefit from ethnicity estimates at the continental level, meaning that regional (within continent) or minority ethnicity should be taken with a very large grain of salt. However, knowing that you have 25% Jewish heritage, for example, can be a very big clue to an adoptee’s search.

Another aspect of the adoptees search that can be relevant is the number of foreign testers. For many years, neither 23andMe, nor Ancestry tested substantially (or at all) outside the US. Family Tree DNA has always tested internationally and has a very strong Jewish data base component.

Not all vendors report X chromosome matches. The X chromosome is important to genetic genealogy, because it has a unique inheritance path. Men don’t inherit an X chromosome from their fathers. Therefore, if you match someone on the X chromosome, you know the relationship, for a male, must be from their mother’s side. For a female, the relationship must be from the mother or the father’s mother’s side. You can read more about X chromosome matching here.

Neither Ancestry nor MyHeritage have chromosome browsers which allow you to view the segments of DNA on which you match other individuals, which includes the X chromosome.

Adoptee Y and Mitochondrial Testing

In addition to autosomal DNA testing, adoptees will want to test their Y DNA (males only) and mitochondrial DNA.

These tests are different from autosomal DNA which tests the DNA you receive from all of your ancestors. Y and mitochondrial DNA focus on only one specific line, respectively. Y DNA is inherited by men from their fathers and the Y chromosome is passed from father to son from time immemorial. Therefore, testing the Y chromosome provides us with the ability to match to current people as well as to use the Y chromosome as a tool to look far back in time. Adoptees tend to be most interested in matching current people, at least initially.

Working with male adoptees, I have a found that about 30% of the time a male will match strongly to a particular surname, especially at higher marker levels. That isn’t always true, but adoptees will never know if they don’t test. An adoptee’s match list is shown at 111 markers, below.

Furthermore, utilizing the Y and mitochondrial DNA test in conjunction with autosomal DNA matching at Family Tree DNA helps narrows possible relatives. The Advanced Matching feature allows you to see who you match on both the Y (or mitochondrial) DNA lines AND the autosomal test, in combination.

Mitochondrial DNA tests the matrilineal line only, as women pass their mitochondrial DNA to all of their children, but only females pass it on. Family Tree DNA provides matching and advanced combination matching/searching for mitochondrial DNA as well as Y DNA. Both genders of children carry their mother’s mitochondrial DNA. Unfortunately, mitochondrial DNA is more difficult to work with because of the surname changes in each generation, but you cannot be descended from a woman, or her direct matrilineal ancestors if you don’t substantially match her mitochondrial DNA.

Some vendors state that you receive mitochondrial DNA with your autosomal results, which is only partly accurate. At 23andMe, you receive a haplogroup but no detailed results and no matching. 23andMe does not test the entire mitochondria and therefore cannot provide either advanced haplogroup placement nor Y or mitochondrial DNA matching between testers.

For additional details on the Y and Mitochondrial DNA tests themselves and what you receive, please see the Genealogy – Y and Mitochondrial DNA section.

Adoption Summary

Adoptees should test with all 4 vendors plus Y and mitochondrial DNA testing.

  • Ancestry – due to their extensive data base size and trees
  • Family Tree DNA – due to their advanced tools, chromosome browser, Y and mitochondrial DNA tests (Ancestry and 23andMe participants can transfer autosomal raw data files and see matches for free, but advanced tools require either an unlock fee or a test on the Family Tree DNA platform)
  • 23andMe – no trees and many people don’t participate in sharing genetic information
  • MyHeritage – new kid on the block, working through what is hoped are startup issues
  • All adoptees should take the full mitochondrial sequence test.
  • Male adoptees should take the 111 marker Y DNA test, although you can start with 37 or 67 markers and upgrade later.
  • Y and mitochondrial tests are only available at Family Tree DNA.

Adoptee Vendor Feature Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA Ancestry 23andMe MyHeritage
Autosomal DNA – Males and Females
Matching Yes Yes Yes Yes – problems
Relationship Estimates* Yes – May be too close Yes – May be too distant Yes – Matches may not be sharing Yes –  problematic
International Reach Very strong Not strong but growing Not strong Small but subscriber base is European focused
Trees Yes Yes No Yes
Tree Quantity 54% have trees, 46% no tree (of my first 100 matches) 56% have trees, 44% no tree or private (of my first 100 matches) No trees ~50% don’t have trees or are private (cannot discern private tree without clicking on every tree)
Data Base Size Large Largest Large – but not all opt in to matching Very small
My # of Matches on 4-23-2017 2,421 23,750 1,809 but only 1,114 are sharing 75
Subscription Required No No for partial, Yes for full functionality including access to matches’ trees, minimal subscription for $49 by calling Ancestry No No for partial, Yes for full functionality
Other Relevant Tools New Ancestor Discoveries
Autosomal DNA Issues Many testers don’t have trees Many testers don’t have trees Matching opt-in is problematic, no trees at all Matching issues, small data base size is problematic, many testers don’t have trees
Contact Methodology E-mail address provided to matches Internal message system – known delivery issues Internal message system Internal message system
X Chromosome Matching Yes No Yes No
Y-DNA – Males Only
Y DNA STR Test Yes- 37, 67, and 111 markers No No No
Y Haplogroup Yes as part of STR test plus additional testing available No Yes, basic level but no additional testing available, outdated haplogroups No
Y Matching Yes No No No
Advanced Matching Between Y and Autosomal Yes No No No
Mitochondrial DNA- Males and Females
Test Yes, partial and full sequence No No No
Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroup Yes, included in test No Yes, basic but full haplogroup not available, haplogroup several versions behind No
Advanced Matching Between Mitochondrial and Autosomal Yes No No No

Genealogy – Cousin Matching and Ancestor Search/Verification

People who want to take a DNA test to find cousins, to learn more about their genealogy, to verify their genealogy research or to search for unknown ancestors and break down brick walls will be interested in various types of testing

Test Type Who Can Test
Y DNA – direct paternal line Males only
Mitochondrial DNA – direct matrilineal line Males and Females
Autosomal – all lines Males and Females

Let’s begin with autosomal DNA testing for genealogy which tests your DNA inherited from all ancestral lines.

Aside from ethnicity, autosomal DNA testing provides matches to other people who have tested. A combination of trees, meaning their genealogy, and their chromosome segments are used to identify (through trees) and verify (through DNA segments) common ancestor(s) and then to assign a particular DNA segment(s) to that ancestor or ancestral couple. This process, called triangulation, then allows you to assign specific segments to particular ancestors, through segment matching among multiple people. You then know that when another individual matches you and those other people on the same segment, that the DNA comes from that same lineage. Triangulation is the only autosomal methodology to confirm ancestors who are not close relatives, beyond the past 2-3 generations or so.

All three vendors provide matching, but the tools they include and their user interfaces are quite different. 

Genealogy – Autosomal –  Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA entered DNA testing years before any of the others, initially with Y and mitochondrial DNA testing.

Because of the diversity of their products, their website is somewhat busier, but they do a good job of providing areas on the tester’s personal landing page for each of the products and within each product, a link for each feature or function.

For example, the Family Finder test is Family Tree DNA’s autosomal test. Within that product, tools provided are:

  • Matching
  • Chromosome Browser
  • Linked Relationships
  • myOrigins
  • Ancient Origins
  • Matrix
  • Advanced Matching

Unique autosomal tools provided by Family Tree DNA are:

  • Linked Relationships that allows you to connect individuals that you match to their location in your tree, indicating the proper relationship. Phased Family Matching uses these relationships within your tree to indicate which side of your tree other matches originate from.
  • Phased Family Matching shows which side of your tree, maternal, paternal or both, someone descends from, based on phased DNA matching between you and linked relationship matches as distant as third cousins. This allows Family Tree DNA to tell you whether matches are paternal (blue icon), maternal (red icon) or both (purple icon) without a parent’s DNA. This is one of the best autosomal tools at Family Tree DNA, shown below.

  • In Common With and Not In Common With features allow you to sort your matches in common with another individual a number of ways, or matches not in common with that individual.
  • Filtered downloads provide the downloading of chromosome data for your filtered match list.
  • Stackable filters and searches – for example, you can select paternal matches and then search for a particular surname or ancestral surname within the paternal matches.
  • Common ethnicity matching through myOrigins allows you to see selected groups of individuals who match you and share common ethnicities.
  • Y and mtDNA locations of autosomal matches are provided on your ethnicity map through myOrigins.
  • Advanced matching tool includes Y, mtDNA and autosomal in various combinations. Also includes matches within projects where the tester is a member as well as by partial surname.
  • The matrix tool allows the tester to enter multiple people that they match in order to see if those individuals also match each other. The matrix tool is, in combination with the in-common-with tool and the chromosome browser is a form of pseudo triangulation, but does not indicate that the individuals match on the same segment.

  • Chromosome browser with the ability to select different segment match thresholds to display when comparing 5 or fewer individuals to your results.
  • Projects to join which provide group interaction and allow individuals to match only within the project, if desired.

To read more about how to utilize the various autosomal tools at Family Tree DNA, with examples, click here.

Genealogy – Autosomal – Ancestry

Ancestry only offers autosomal DNA testing to their customers, so their page is simple and straightforward.

Ancestry is the only testing vendor (other than MyHeritage who is not included in this section) to require a subscription for full functionality, although if you call the Ancestry support line, a minimal subscription is available for $49. You can see your matches without a subscription, but you cannot see your matches trees or utilize other functions, so you will not be able to tell how you connect to your matches. Many genealogists have Ancestry subscriptions, so this is minimally problematic for most people.

However, if you don’t realize you need a subscription initially, the required annual subscription raises the effective cost of the test quite substantially. If you let your subscription lapse, you no longer have access to all DNA features. The cost of testing with Ancestry is the cost of the test plus the cost of a subscription if you aren’t already a subscriber.

This chart, from the Ancestry support center, provides details on which features are included for free and which are only available with a subscription.

Unique tools provided by Ancestry include:

  • Shared Ancestor Hints (green leaves) which indicate a match with whom you share a common ancestor in your tree connected to your DNA, allowing you to display the path of you and your match to the common ancestor. In order to take advantage of this feature, testers must link their tree to their DNA test. Otherwise, Ancestry can’t do tree matching.  As far as I’m concerned, this is the single most useful DNA tool at Ancestry. Subscription required.

  • DNA Circles, example below, are created when several people whose DNA matches also share a common ancestor. Subscription required.

  • New Ancestor Discoveries (NADs), which are similar to Circles, but are formed when you match people descended from a common ancestor, but don’t have that ancestor in your tree. The majority of the time, these NADs are incorrect and are, when dissected and the source can be determined, found to be something like the spouse of a sibling of your ancestor. I do not view NADs as a benefit, more like a wild goose chase, but for some people these could be useful so long as the individual understands that these are NOT definitely ancestors and only hints for research. Subscription required.
  • Ancestry uses a proprietary algorithm called Timber to strip DNA from you and your matches that they consider to be “too matchy,” with the idea that those segments are identical by population, meaning likely to be found in large numbers within a population group – making them meaningless for genealogy. The problem is that Timber results in the removal of valid segments, especially in endogamous groups like Acadian families. This function is unique to Ancestry, but many genealogists (me included) don’t consider Timber a benefit.
  • Genetic Communities shows you groups of individuals with whom your DNA clusters. The trees of cluster members are then examined by Ancestry to determine connections from which Genetic Communities are formed. You can filter your DNA match results by Genetic Community.

Genealogy – Autosomal – 23and Me

Unfortunately, the 23andMe website is not straightforward or intuitive. They have spent the majority of the past two years transitioning to a “New Experience” which has resulted in additional confusion and complications when matching between people on multiple different platforms. You can take a spin through the New Experience by clicking here.

23andMe requires people to opt-in to sharing, even after they have selected to participate in Ancestry Services (genealogy) testing, have opted-in previously and chosen to view their DNA Relatives. Users on the “New Experience” can then either share chromosome data and results with each other individually, meaning on a one by one basis, or globally by a one-time opt-in to “open sharing” with matches. If a user does not opt-in to both DNA Relatives and open sharing, sharing requests must be made individually to each match, and they must opt-in to share with each individual user. This complexity and confusion results in an approximate sharing rate of between 50 and 60%. One individual who religiously works their matches by requesting sharing now has a share rate of about 80% of their matches in the data base who HAVE initially selected to participate in DNA Relatives. You can read more about the 23andMe experience at this link.

Various genetic genealogy reports and tools are scattered between the Reports and Tools tabs, and within those, buried in non-intuitive locations. If you are going to utilize 23andMe for matching and genealogy, in addition to the above link, I recommend Kitty Cooper’s blogs about the new DNA Relatives here and on triangulation here. Print the articles, and use them as a guide while navigating the 23andMe site.

Note that some screens (the Tools, DNA Relatives, then DNA tab) on the site do not display/work correctly utilizing Internet Explorer, but do with Edge or other browsers.

The one genealogy feature unique to 23andMe is:

  • Triangulation at 23andMe allows you to select a specific match to compare your DNA against. Several pieces of information will be displayed, the last of which, scrolling to the bottom, is a list of your common relatives with the person you selected.

In the example below, I’ve selected to see the matches I match in common with known family member, Stacy Den (surnames have been obscured for privacy reasons.)  Please note that the Roberta V4 Estes kit is a second test that I took for comparison purposes when the new V4 version of 23andMe was released.  Just ignore that match, because, of course I match myself as a twin.

If an individual does not match both you and your selected match, they will not appear on this list.

In the “relatives in common” section, each person is listed with a “shared DNA” column. For a person to be shown on this “in common” list, you obviously do share DNA with these individuals and they also share with your match, but the “shared DNA” column goes one step further. This column indicates whether or not you and your match both share a common DNA segment with the “in common” person.

I know this is confusing, so I’ve created this chart to illustrate what will appear in the “Shared DNA” column of the individuals showing on the list of matches, above, shared between me and Stacy Den.

Clicking on “Share to see” sends Sarah a sharing request for her to allow you to see her segment matches.

Let’s look at an example with “yes” in the Shared DNA column.

Clicking on the “Yes” in the Shared DNA column of Debbie takes us to the chromosome browser which shows both your selected match, Stacy in my case, and Debbie, the person whose “yes” you clicked.

All three people, meaning me, Stacy and Debbie share a common DNA segment, shown below on chromosome 17.

What 23andMe does NOT say is that these people. Stacy and Debbie, also match each other, in addition to matching me, which means all three of us triangulate.

Because I manage Stacy’s kit at 23andMe, I can check to see if Debbie is on Stacy’s match list, and indeed, Debbie is on Stacy’s match list and Stacy does match both Debbie and me on chromosome 17 in exactly the same location shown above, proving unquestionably that the three of us all match each other and therefore triangulate on this segment. In our case, it’s easy to identify our common relative whose DNA all 3 of us share.

Genealogy – Autosomal Summary

While all 3 vendors offer matching, their interfaces and tools vary widely.

I would suggest that Ancestry is the least sophisticated and has worked hard to make their tools easy for the novice working with genetic genealogy. Their green leaf DNA+Tree Matching is their best feature, easy to use and important for the novice and experienced genealogist alike.  Now, if they just had that chromosome browser so we could see how we match those people.

Ancestry’s Circles, while a nice feature, encourage testers to believe that their DNA or relationship is confirmed by finding themselves in a Circle, which is not the case.

Circles can be formed as the result of misinformation in numerous trees. For example, if I were to inaccurately list Smith as the surname for one of my ancestor’s wives, I would find myself in a Circle for Barbara Smith, when in fact, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that her surname is Smith. Yet, people think that Barbara Smith is confirmed due to a Circle having been formed and finding themselves in Barbara Smith’s Circle. Copying incorrect trees equals the formation of incorrect Circles.

It’s also possible that I’m matching people on multiple lines and my DNA match to the people in any given Circle is through another common ancestor entirely.

A serious genealogist will test minimally at Ancestry and at Family Tree DNA, who provides a chromosome browser and other tools necessary to confirm relationships and shared DNA segments.

Family Tree DNA is more sophisticated, so consequently more complex to use.  They provide matching plus numerous other tools. The website and matching is certainly friendly for the novice, but to benefit fully, some experience or additional education is beneficial, not unlike traditional genealogy research itself. This is true not just for Family Tree DNA, but GedMatch and 23andMe who all three utilize chromosome browsers.

The user will want to understand what a chromosome browser is indicating about matching DNA segments, so some level of education makes life a lot easier. Fortunately, understanding chromosome browser matching is not complex. You can read an article about Match Groups and Triangulation here. I also have an entire series of Concepts articles, Family Tree DNA offers a webinar library, their Learning Center and other educational resources are available as well.

Family Tree DNA is the only vendor to provide Phased Family Matches, meaning that by connecting known relatives who have DNA tested to your tree, Family Tree DNA can then identify additional matches as maternal, paternal or both. This, in combination with pseudo-phasing are very powerful matching tools.

23andMe is the least friendly of the three companies, with several genetic genealogy unfriendly restrictions relative to matching, opt-ins, match limits and such. They have experienced problem after problem for years relative to genetic genealogy, which has always been a second-class citizen compared to their medical research, and not a priority.

23andMe has chosen to implement a business model where their customers must opt-in to share segment information with other individuals, either one by one or by opting into open sharing. Based on my match list, roughly 60% of my actual DNA matches have opted in to sharing.

Their customer base includes fewer serious genealogists and their customers often are not interested in genealogy at all.

Having said that, 23andMe is the only one of the three that provides actual triangulated matches for users on the New Experience and who have opted into sharing.

If I were entering the genetic genealogy testing space today, I would test my autosomal DNA at Ancestry and at Family Tree DNA, but I would probably not test at 23andMe. I would test both my Y DNA (if a male) and mitochondrial at Family Tree DNA.

Thank you to Kitty Cooper for assistance with parent/child matching and triangulation at 23andMe.

Genealogy Autosomal Vendor Feature Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA Ancestry 23andMe
Matching Yes Yes Yes – each person has to opt in for open sharing or authorize sharing individually, many don’t
Estimated Relationships Yes Yes Yes
Chromosome Browser Yes No – Large Issue Yes
Chromosome Browser Threshold Adjustment Yes No Chromosome Browser No
X Chromosome Matching Yes No Yes
Trees Yes Yes – subscription required so see matches’ trees No
Ability to upload Gedcom file Yes Yes No
Ability to search trees Yes Yes No
Subscription in addition to DNA test price No No for partial, Yes for full functionality, minimal subscription for $49 by calling Ancestry No
DNA + Ancestor in Tree Matches No Yes – Leaf Hints – subscription required – Best Feature No
Phased Parental Side Matching Yes – Best Feature No No
Parent Match Indicator Yes No Yes
Sort or Group by Parent Match Yes Yes Yes
In Common With Tool Yes Yes Yes
Not In Common With Tool Yes No No
Triangulated Matches No – pseudo with ICW, browser and matrix No Yes – Best Feature
Common Surnames Yes Yes – subscription required No
Ability to Link DNA Matches on Tree Yes No No
Matrix to show match grid between multiple matches Yes No No
Match Filter Tools Yes Minimal Some
Advanced Matching Tool Yes No No
Multiple Test Matching Tool Yes No multiple tests No multiple tests
Ethnicity Matching Yes No Yes
Projects Yes No No
Maximum # of Matches Restricted No No Yes – 2000 unless you are communicating with the individuals, then they are not removed from your match list
All Customers Participate Yes Yes, unless they don’t have a subscription No – between 50-60% opt-in
Accepts Transfers from Other Testing Companies Yes No No
Free Features with Transfer Matching, ICW, Matrix, Advanced Matching No transfers No transfers
Transfer Features Requiring Unlock $ Chromosome Browser, Ethnicity, Ancient Origins, Linked Relationships, Parentally Phased Matches No Transfers No transfers
Archives DNA for Later Testing Yes, 25 years No, no additional tests available No, no additional tests available
Additional Tool DNA Circles – subscription required
Additional Tool New Ancestor Discoveries – subscription required
Y DNA Not included in autosomal test but is additional test, detailed results including matching No Haplogroup only
Mitochondrial DNA Not included in autosomal test but is additional test, detailed results including matching No Haplogroup only
Advanced Testing Available Yes No No
Website Intuitive Yes, given their many tools Yes, very simple No
Data Base Size Large Largest Large but many do not test for genealogy, only test for health
Strengths Many tools, multiple types of tests, phased matching without parent DNA + Tree matching, size of data base Triangulation
Challenges Website episodically times out No chromosome browser or advanced tools Sharing is difficult to understand and many don’t, website is far from intuitive

 

Genealogy – Y and Mitochondrial DNA

Two indispensable tools for genetic genealogy that are often overlooked are Y and mitochondrial DNA.

The inheritance path for Y DNA is shown by the blue squares and the inheritance path for mitochondrial DNA is shown by the red circles for the male and female siblings shown at the bottom of the chart.

Y-DNA Testing for Males

Y DNA is inherited by males only, from their father. The Y chromosome makes males male. Women instead inherit an X chromosome from their father, which makes them female. Because the Y chromosome is not admixed with the DNA of the mother, the same Y chromosome has been passed down through time immemorial.

Given that the Y chromosome follows the typical surname path, Y DNA testing is very useful for confirming surname lineage to an expected direct paternal ancestor. In other words, an Estes male today should match, with perhaps a few mutations, to other descendants of Abraham Estes who was born in 1647 in Kent, England and immigrated to the colony of Virginia.

Furthermore, that same Y chromosome can look far back in time, thousands of years, to tell us where that English group of Estes men originated, before the advent of surnames and before the migration to England from continental Europe. I wrote about the Estes Y DNA here, so you can see an example of how Y DNA testing can be used.

Y DNA testing for matching and haplogroup identification, which indicates where in the world your ancestors were living within the past few hundred to few thousand years, is only available from Family Tree DNA. Testing can be purchased for either 37, 67 or 111 markers, with the higher marker numbers providing more granularity and specificity in matching.

Family Tree DNA provides three types of Y DNA tests.

  • STR (short tandem repeat) testing is the traditional Y DNA testing for males to match to each other in a genealogically relevant timeframe. These tests can be ordered in panels of 37, 67 or 111 markers and lower levels can be upgraded to higher levels at a later date. An accurate base haplogroup prediction is made from STR markers.
  • SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) testing is a different type of testing that tests single locations for mutations in order to confirm and further refine haplogroups. Think of a haplogroup as a type of genetic clan, meaning that haplogroups are used to track migration of humans through time and geography, and are what is utilized to determine African, European, Asian or Native heritage in the direct paternal line. SNP tests are optional and can be ordered one at a time, in groups called panels for a particular haplogroup or a comprehensive research level Y DNA test called the Big Y can be ordered after STR testing.
  • The Big Y test is a research level test that scans the entire Y chromosome to determine the most refined haplogroup possible and to report any previously unknown mutations (SNPs) that may define further branches of the Y DNA tree. This is the technique used to expand the Y haplotree.

You can read more about haplogroups here and about the difference between STR markers and SNPs here, here and here.

Customers receive the following features and tools when they purchase a Y DNA test at Family Tree DNA or the Ancestry Services test at 23andMe. The 23andMe Y DNA information is included in their Ancestry Services test. The Family Tree DNA Y DNA information requires specific tests and is not included in the Family Finder test. You can click here to read about the difference in the technology between Y DNA testing at Family Tree DNA and at 23andMe. Ancestry is not included in this comparison because they provide no Y DNA related information.

Y DNA Vendor Feature Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA 23andMe
Varying levels of STR panel marker testing Yes, in panels of 37, 67 and 111 markers No
Test panel (STR) marker results Yes Not tested
Haplogroup assignment Yes – accurate estimate with STR panels, deeper testing available Yes –base haplogroup by scan – haplogroup designations are significantly out of date, no further testing available
SNP testing to further define haplogroup Yes – can purchase individual SNPs, by SNP panels or Big Y test No
Matching to other participants Yes No
Trees available for your matches Yes No
E-mail of matches provided Yes No
Calculator tool to estimate probability of generational distance between you and a match Yes No
Earliest known ancestor information Yes No
Projects Surname, haplogroup and geographic projects No
Ability to search Y matches Yes No Y matching
Ability to search matches within projects Yes No projects
Ability to search matches by partial surname Yes No
Haplotree and customer result location on tree Yes, detailed with every branch Yes, less detailed, subset
Terminal SNP used to determine haplogroup Yes Yes, small subset available
Haplogroup Map Migration map Heat map
Ancestral Origins – summary by ancestral location of others you match, by test level Yes No
Haplogroup Origins – match ancestral location summary by haplogroup, by test level Yes No
SNP map showing worldwide locations of any selected SNP Yes No
Matches map showing mapped locations of your matches most distant ancestor in the paternal line, by test panel Yes No
Big Y – full scan of Y chromosome for known and previously unknown mutations (SNPs) Yes No
Big Y matching Yes No
Big Y matching known SNPs Yes No
Big Y matching novel variants (unknown or yet unnamed SNPs) Yes No
Filter Big Y matches Yes No
Big Y results Yes No
Advanced matching for multiple test types Yes No
DNA is archived so additional tests or upgrades can be ordered at a later date Yes, 25 years No

Mitochondrial DNA Testing for Everyone

Mitochondrial DNA is contributed to both genders of children by mothers, but only the females pass it on. Like the Y chromosome, mitochondrial DNA is not admixed with the DNA of the other parent. Therefore, anyone can test for the mitochondrial DNA of their matrilineal line, meaning their mother’s mother’s mother’s lineage.

Matching can identify family lines as well as ancient lineage.

You receive the following features and tools when you purchase a mitochondrial DNA test from Family Tree DNA or the Ancestry Services test from 23andMe. The Family Tree DNA mitochondrial DNA information requires specific tests and is not included in the Family Finder test. The 23andMe mitochondrial information is provided with the Ancestry Services test. Ancestry is omitted from this comparison because they do not provide any mitochondrial information.

Mitochondrial DNA Vendor Feature Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA 23andMe
Varying levels of testing Yes, mtPlus and Full Sequence No
Test panel marker results Yes, in two formats, CRS and RSRS No
Rare mutations, missing and extra mutations, insertions and deletions reported Yes No
Haplogroup assignment Yes, most current version, Build 17 Yes, partial and out of date version
Matching to other participants Yes No
Trees of matches available to view Yes No
E-mail address provided to matches Yes No
Earliest known ancestor information Yes No
Projects Surname, haplogroup and geographic available No
Ability to search matches Yes No
Ability to search matches within project Yes No projects
Ability to search match by partial surname Yes No
Haplotree and customer location on tree No Yes
Mutations used to determine haplogroup provided Yes No
Haplogroup Map Migration map Heat map
Ancestral Origins – summary by ancestral location of others you match, by test level Yes No
Haplogroup Origins –match ancestral location summary by haplogroup Yes No
Matches map showing mapped locations of your matches most distant ancestor in the maternal line, by test level Yes No
Advanced matching for multiple test types Yes No
DNA is archived so additional tests or upgrades can be ordered at a later date Yes, 25 years No

 

Overall Genealogy Summary

Serious genealogists should test with at least two of the three major vendors, being Family Tree DNA and Ancestry, with 23andMe coming in as a distant third.

No genetic genealogy testing regimen is complete without Y and mitochondrial DNA for as many ancestral lines as you can find to test. You don’t know what you don’t know, and you’ll never know if you don’t test.

Unfortunately, many people, especially new testers, don’t know Y and mitochondrial DNA testing for genetic genealogy exists, or how it can help their genealogy research, which is extremely ironic since these were the first tests available, back in 2000.

You can read about finding Y and mitochondrial information for various family lines and ancestors and how to assemble a DNA Pedigree Chart here.

You can also take a look at my 52 Ancestors series, where I write about an ancestor every week. Each article includes some aspect of DNA testing and knowledge gained by a test or tests, DNA tool, or comparison. The DNA aspect of these articles focuses on how to use DNA as a tool to discover more about your ancestors.

 

Testing for Medical/Health or Traits

The DTC market also includes health and medical testing, although it’s not nearly as popular as genetic genealogy.

Health/medical testing is offered by 23andMe, who also offers autosomal DNA testing for genealogy.

Some people do want to know if they have genetic predispositions to medical conditions, and some do not. Some want to know if they have certain traits that aren’t genealogically relevant, but might be interesting – such as whether they carry the Warrior gene or if they have an alcohol flush reaction.

23andMe was the first company to dip their toes into the water of Direct to Consumer medical information, although they called it “health,” not medicine, at that time. Regardless of the terminology, information regarding Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, for example, were provided for customers. 23andMe attempted to take the raw data and provide the consumer with something approaching a middle of the road analysis, because sometimes the actual studies provide conflicting information that might not be readily understood by consumers.

The FDA took issue with 23andMe back in November of 2013 when they ordered 23andMe to discontinue the “health” aspect of their testing after 23andMe ignored several deadlines. In October 2015, 23andMe obtained permission to provide customers with some information, such as carrier status, for 36 genetic disorders.

Since that time, 23andMe has divided their product into two separate tests, with two separate prices. The genealogy only test called Ancestry Service can be purchased separately for $99, or the combined Health + Ancestry Service for $199.

If you are interested in seeing what the Health + Ancestry test provides, you can click here to view additional information.

However, there is a much easier and less expensive solution.

If you have taken the autosomal test from 23andMe, Ancestry or Family Tree DNA, you can download your raw data file from the vendor and upload to Promethease to obtain a much more in-depth report than is provided by 23andMe, and much less expensively – just $5.

I reviewed the Promethease service here. I found the Promethease reports to be very informative and I like the fact that they provide information, both positive and negative for each SNP (DNA location) reported. Promethease avoids FDA problems by not providing any interpretation or analysis, simply the data and references extracted from SNPedia for you to review.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that you should be sure you really want to know before you delve into medical testing. Some mutations are simply indications that you could develop a condition that you will never develop or that is not serious. Other mutations are not so benign. Promethease provides this candid page before you upload your data.

Different files from different vendors provide different results at Promethease, because those vendors test different SNP locations in your DNA. At the Promethease webpage, you can view examples.

Traits

Traits fall someplace between genealogy and health. When you take the Health + Ancestry test at 23andMe, you do receive information about various traits, as follows:

Of course, you’ll probably already know if you have several of these traits by just taking a look in the mirror, or in the case of male back hair, by asking your wife.

At Family Tree DNA, existing customers can order tests for Factoids (by clicking on the upgrade button), noted as curiosity tests for gene variants.

Family Tree DNA provides what I feel is a great summary and explanation of what the Factoids are testing on their order page:

“Factoids” are based on studies – some of which may be controversial – and results are not intended to diagnose disease or medical conditions, and do not serve the purpose of medical advice. They are offered exclusively for curiosity purposes, i.e. to see how your result compared with what the scientific papers say. Other genetic and environmental variables may also impact these same physiological characteristics. They are merely a conversational piece, or a “cocktail party” test, as we like to call it.”

Test Price Description
Alcohol Flush Reaction $19 A condition in which the body cannot break down ingested alcohol completely. Flushing, after consuming one or two alcoholic beverages, includes a range of symptoms: nausea, headaches, light-headedness, an increased pulse, occasional extreme drowsiness, and occasional skin swelling and itchiness. These unpleasant side effects often prevent further drinking that may lead to further inebriation, but the symptoms can lead to mistaken assumption that the people affected are more easily inebriated than others.
Avoidance of Errors $29 We are often angry at ourselves because we are unable to learn from certain experiences. Numerous times we have made the wrong decision and its consequences were unfavorable. But the cause does not lie only in our thinking. A mutation in a specific gene can also be responsible, because it can cause a smaller number of dopamine receptors. They are responsible for remembering our wrong choices, which in turn enables us to make better decisions when we encounter a similar situation.
Back Pain $39 Lumbar disc disease is the drying out of the spongy interior matrix of an intervertebral disc in the spine. Many physicians and patients use the term lumbar disc disease to encompass several different causes of back pain or sciatica. A study of Asian patients with lumbar disc disease showed that a mutation in the CILP gene increases the risk of back pain.
Bitter Taste Perception $29 There are several genes that are responsible for bitter taste perception – we test 3 of them. Different variations of this gene affect ability to detect bitter compounds. About 25% of people lack ability to detect these compounds due to gene mutations. Are you like them? Maybe you don’t like broccoli, because it tastes too bitter?
Caffeine Metabolism $19 According to the results of a case-control study reported in the March 8, 2006 issue of JAMA, coffee is the most widely consumed stimulant in the world, and caffeine consumption has been associated with increased risk for non-fatal myocardial infarction. Caffeine is primarily metabolized by the cytochrome P450 1A2 in the liver, accounting for 95% of metabolism. Carriers of the gene variant *1F allele are slow caffeine metabolizers, whereas individuals homozygous for the *1A/*1A genotype are rapid caffeine metabolizers.
Earwax Type $19 Whether your earwax is wet or dry is determined by a mutation in a single gene, which scientists have discovered. Wet earwax is believed to have uses in insect trapping, self-cleaning and prevention of dryness in the external auditory canal of the ear. It also produces an odor and causes sweating, which may play a role as a pheromone.
Freckling $19 Freckles can be found on anyone no matter what the background. However, having freckles is genetic and is related to the presence of the dominant melanocortin-1 receptor MC1R gene variant.
Longevity $49 Researchers at Harvard Medical School and UC Davis have discovered a few genes that extend lifespan, suggesting that the whole family of SIR2 genes is involved in controlling lifespan. The findings were reported July 28, 2005 in the advance online edition of Science.
Male Pattern Baldness $19 Researchers at McGill University, King’s College London and GlaxoSmithKline Inc. have identified two genetic variants in Caucasians that together produce an astounding sevenfold increase of the risk of male pattern baldness. Their results were published in the October 12, 2008 issue of the Journal of Nature Genetics.
Monoamine Oxidase A (Warrior Gene) $49.50 The Warrior Gene is a variant of the gene MAO-A on the X chromosome. Recent studies have linked the Warrior Gene to increased risk-taking and aggressive behavior. Whether in sports, business, or other activities, scientists found that individuals with the Warrior Gene variant were more likely to be combative than those with the normal MAO-A gene. However, human behavior is complex and influenced by many factors, including genetics and our environment. Individuals with the Warrior Gene are not necessarily more aggressive, but according to scientific studies, are more likely to be aggressive than those without the Warrior Gene variant. This test is available for both men and women, however, there is limited research about the Warrior Gene variant amongst females. Additional details about the Warrior Gene genetic variant of MAO-A can be found in Sabol et al, 1998.
Muscle Performance $29 A team of researchers, led by scientists at Dartmouth Medical School and Dartmouth College, have identified and tested a gene that dramatically alters both muscle metabolism and performance. The researchers say that this finding could someday lead to treatment of muscle diseases, including helping the elderly who suffer from muscle deterioration and improving muscle performance in endurance athletes.
Nicotine Dependence $19 In 2008, University of Virginia Health System researchers have identified a gene associated with nicotine dependence in both Europeans and African Americans.

Many people are interested in the Warrior Gene, which I wrote about here.

At Promethease, traits are simply included with the rest of the conditions known to be associated with certain SNPs, such as baldness, for example, but I haven’t done a comparison to see which traits are included.

 

Additional Vendor Information to Consider

Before making your final decision about which test or tests to purchase, there are a few additional factors you may want to consider.

As mentioned before, Ancestry requires a subscription in addition tot he cost of the DNA test for the DNA test to be fully functional.

One of the biggest issues, in my opinion, is that both 23andMe and Ancestry sell customer’s anonymized DNA information to unknown others. Every customer authorizes the sale of their information when they purchase or activate a kit – even though very few people actually take the time to read the Terms and Conditions, Privacy statements and Security documents, including any and all links. This means most people don’t realize they are authorizing the sale of their DNA.

At both 23andMe and Ancestry, you can ALSO opt in for additional non-anonymized research or sale of your DNA, which you can later opt out of. However, you cannot opt out of the lower level sale of your anonymized DNA without removing your results from the data base and asking for your sample to be destroyed. They do tell you this, but it’s very buried in the fine print at both companies. You can read more here.

Family Tree DNA does not sell your DNA or information.

All vendors can change their terms and conditions at any time. Consumers should always thoroughly read the terms and conditions including anything having to do with privacy for any product they purchase, but especially as it relates to DNA testing.

Family Tree DNA archives your DNA for later testing, which has proven extremely beneficial when a family member has passed away and a new test is subsequently introduced or the family wants to upgrade a current test.  Had my mother’s DNA not been archived at Family Tree DNA, I would not have Family Finder results for her today – something I thank Mother and Family Tree DNA for every single day.

Family Tree DNA also accepts transfer files from 23andMe, Ancestry and very shortly, MyHeritage – although some versions work better than others. For details on which companies accept which file versions, from which vendors, and why, please read Autosomal DNA Transfers – Which Companies Accept Which Tests?

If you tested on a compatible version of the 23andMe Test (V3 between December 2010 and November 2013) or the Ancestry V1 (before May 2016) you may want to transfer your raw data file to Family Tree DNA for free and pay only $19 for full functionality, as opposed to taking the Family Finder test. Family Tree DNA does accept later versions of files from 23andMe and Ancestry, but you will receive more matches if you test on the same chip platform that Family Tree DNA utilizes instead of doing a transfer.

Additional Vendor Considerations Summary Chart

Family Tree DNA Ancestry 23andMe
Subscription required in addition to cost of DNA test No Yes for full functionality, partial functionality is included without subscription, minimum subscription is $49 by calling Ancestry No
Customer Support Good and available Available, nice but often not knowledgeable about DNA Poor
Sells customer DNA information No Yes Yes
DNA raw data file available to download Yes Yes Yes
DNA matches file available to download including match info and chromosome match locations Yes No Yes
Customers genealogically focused Yes Yes Many No
Accepts DNA raw data transfer files from other companies Yes, most, see article for specifics No No
DNA archived for later testing Yes, 25 years No No
Beneficiary provision available Yes No No

 

Which Test is Best For You?

I hope you now know the answer as to which DNA test is best for you – or maybe it’s multiple tests for you and other family members too!

DNA testing holds so much promise for genealogy. I hesitate to call DNA testing a miracle tool, but it often is when there are no records. DNA testing works best in conjunction with traditional genealogical research.

There are a lot of tests and options.  The more tests you take, the more people you match. Some people test at multiple vendors or upload their DNA to third party sites like GedMatch, but most don’t. In order to make sure you reach those matches, which may be the match you desperately need, you’ll have to test at the vendor where they tested. Otherwise, they are lost to you. That means, of course, that eventually, if you’re a serious genealogist, you’ll be testing at all 3 vendors.  Don’t forget about Y and mitochondrial tests at Family Tree DNA.

Recruit family members to test and reach out to your matches.  The more you share and learn – the more is revealed about your ancestors. You are, after all, the unique individual that resulted from the combination of all of them!

Update: Vendor prices updated June 22, 2017.

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Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure will now appear at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate. If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase. Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay. This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 850 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

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

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

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

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA.

John Iron Moccasin, The Story of a Sioux Man

Occasionally, the project administrators of the American Indian project are presented with a rare opportunity to test an individual who is either full-blooded Native or nearly so. Recently, a Native Sioux man, John Iron Moccasin, born Earl White Weasel, stepped forward.

In order to facilitate testing, project members and others contributed funds with the agreement that we could publish John’s results and story. Now that the original tests are complete and we are publishing his results, we would like to upgrade John’s Y markers to 111 (from 37) and add the Big Y test – so if you’re inclined to contribute to the American Indian Project for this advanced testing – you can do so by clicking here.

But first, perhaps you’d like to hear John’s story. The results of the research into John’s history, both genealogically and genetically are fascinating. I hope you’ll get a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy this journey. Come along – we’re going on an adventure to South Dakota and we’ll be visiting the Sioux people!

In the Beginning…

A few months ago, John Iron Moccasin was talking to his friend and told her that he would like to share not only his oral history, but his genealogy and genetic history, with his daughter. He didn’t know how to go about doing either, but that friend, Pam, did, and she turned to me.

John was born as Earl White Weasel on Eagle Butte Reservation in South Dakota. He then lived at Cherry Creek Reservation in South Dakota. After adoption, he relocated to Pine Ridge Reservation, Kyle Reservation and then Oglala Reservation.

Unlike many adoptees, John always knew the identity of his birth parents and has given permission to use both his birth and adopted surnames. He takes pride in both, as well as his heritage. However, since John’s genetic genealogy is connected only with his biological parents, that’s where this article will focus.

Both of John’s biological parents belonged to the Cheyenne Sioux tribe. His birth father was Timothy Urban White Weasel and his birth mother was Martha Hale.

John is tribally enrolled with the Cheyenne Sioux based on his birth parents. John’s card shows his “degree of blood” to be at least 15/16ths.

Let’s take a look at tracking both John’s maternal and paternal ancestry. Many people ask how to work with Native records, and this article will follow my step-by-journey with both John’s traditional genealogy as well as his genetic genealogy, tracking each line back in time. But first, let’s look at the history of the Sioux people.

The Sioux

The Sioux are groups of Native American tribes and First Nations peoples in North America. The term can refer to any ethnic group within the Great Sioux Nation or to any of the nation’s many language dialects. The Sioux comprise three major divisions based on language divisions: the Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota.

The Santee Dakota reside in the extreme east of the Dakotas, Minnesota and northern Iowa. The Yankton and Yanktonai Dakota reside in the Minnesota River area. They are considered to be the middle Sioux, and have in the past been erroneously classified as Nakota. The actual Nakota are the Assiniboine and Stoney of Western Canada and Montana. The Lakota, also called Teton are the westernmost Sioux, known for their hunting and warrior culture.

The Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868 established the Great Sioux Reservation, shown below, much of which has been whittled away today.

Today, the Sioux maintain many separate tribal governments scattered across several reservations, communities, and reserves in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Montana in the United States; and Manitoba and southern Saskatchewan in Canada.

sioux-map-today

By User:Nikater – Own work by Nikater, submitted to the public domain. Background map courtesy of Demis, http://www.demis.nl., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2309029

The Dakota are first recorded to have resided at the source of the Mississippi River during the seventeenth century. The source of the Mississippi trickled out of Lake Itasca in present day South Clearwater, Minnesota. On the map below, you can see that location as well as Eagle Butte, to the west (larger white circle in South Dakota), some 300 or more miles as the crow flies, where John Iron Moccasin was born. The third location, Wilsall, Montana, on further west (red balloon), is where the remains of the 12,500 year old Anzick Child were found with Clovis tools.

im-lake-itasca

By 1700 some Sioux had migrated to present-day South Dakota. John’s Native ancestors were born in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska and reportedly, Canada.

Late in the 17th century, the Dakota entered into an alliance with French merchants. The French were trying to gain advantage in the struggle for the North American fur trade against the English, who had recently established the Hudson’s Bay Company.

The first recorded encounter between the Sioux and the French occurred when Radisson and Groseilliers reached what is now Wisconsin during the winter of 1659-60. Later visiting French traders and missionaries included Claude-Jean Allouez, Daniel Greysolon Duluth, and Pierre-Charles Le Sueur who wintered with Dakota bands in early 1700. In 1736 a group of Sioux killed Jean Baptiste de La Vérendrye and twenty other men on an island in Lake of the Woods. However, trade with the French continued until after the French gave up North America in 1763.

For the most part, Sioux contact with Europeans was very limited until in the 1800s, and then, it turned deadly in a series of “wars” as the Sioux tried to protect their land and way of life. Europeans were equally as determined to eradicate the Indians, take their land and eliminate their way of life – and ultimately – they succeeded by containing the Sioux on reservations.

Records, other than oral history in the Sioux tongue, didn’t begin until Europeans began keeping them, so our earliest genealogical records of the Sioux only reach back into the 1800s. Thankfully, genetic records can reach back infinitely into time.

Let’s visit John Iron Moccasin’s ancestors, beginning with John’s paternal line.

The White Weasel Line

John’s father was Timothy Urban White Weasel, born August 1, 1939 to Oscar White Weasel and his wife, Esther (also called Estella) Ward. Timothy died March 28, 2004 in Eagle Butte, Dewey County, SD, the same location where he was born.

im-white-weasel

John’s grandfather, Oscar White Weasel is listed as a farmer in the 1930 census in Ziebach County, South Dakota, in Township 8, district 59 as a full blood Sioux male with a note “74-5,” speaking Sioux, as is his wife, Esther, age 24. They have been married 5 years and have two children, Margie age 4 & 9/12 and Beatrice, age 2 & 5/12th. Oscar is a veteran.

Please note that you can click to enlarge any graphic.

im-1930-white-weasel

This means John’s grandfather was born about 1898 and his grandmother about 1906. It should be noted that many traditional Native people have only a general idea of when they were born.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs Death File shows that Oscar Weasel was born on Feb. 22, 1898 and died on February 12, 1979. His military service was from March 28, 1917 to May 12, 1919.

The 1940 census from the same location shows Oscar J. White Weasel, age 42, wife Esther M., age 38, both Indian, both born in South Dakota, both educated through 7th grade, with 5 children including baby Urban J. White Weasel, age 7/12th. They live in Cherry Creek in Ziebach County, SD in the same place they lived in 1935.

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The Rapid City, SD obituary index shows that two obituaries for Oscar exist.

Weasel, Oscar J. 80 12 Feb 1979 Fort Meade, SD BHN 14 Feb 1979 p.31

16 Feb 1979 p.5

BHN means that Oscar is buried in the Black Hills National Cemetery. Find-A-Grave shows that he is buried in Section C, site 455 and that he was a PFC in WWI.

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im-black-hillsThe Social Security Claims Index shows that Oscar’s wife was Esther Ward and their child that filed the claim is Beatrice Louise Janis.

The 1927 Indian Census of the Cheyenne River Sioux Agency provides a little more information.

Joseph, also known as Oscar White Weasel is listed as born in 1898 and with two numbers instead of an English name. 322986 and 328110. I suspect these are the governmental identification numbers assigned to his parents when they were paid from the settlement fund – although one of those numbers could he his. His wife is listed as born in 1903 and as Mrs. Joseph White Weasel, nee Esther Ward, and she has one number listed in place of English name, 359087. Their daughter Margie is listed as born in 1925 and has no number listed by her name. There are no additional White Weasel individuals listed.

The 1925 Indian Census (below) shows us that he is listed as Joseph with Oscar penciled in above the name, with the number 322986 beside his name – which is evidently his number.

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The numbers probably related to the numbers assigned to Indians on the Dawes Rolls resulting from the Dawes Act of 1887 which allotted tribal lands in severalty to individual tribal members in exchange for Native Americans becoming US citizens and giving up some forms of tribal self-government.

In the South Dakota 1925 census, Joseph White Weasel is listed as married in 1924 and as Catholic. The South Dakota Marriages lists them as having married on October 18, 1924 in Cherry Creek.

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Many of the Native people were “converted” to Catholicism by missionaries. The French were Catholic and the traders in this region and throughout the Great Lakes were French.

The 1900 federal census (below) lists Joseph White Weasel, born in 1898 as the son of Charley White Weasel born in April of 1866 in South Dakota. They are living on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, district 48 in Dewey, County, South Dakota. Joseph’s mother is “Follows” and she was born in July of 1869 in Montana, as were both children. They have been married 12 years, had 5 children, and 2 are living. Joseph’s older brother is Wakes (probably Makes) Believe his (probably he’s) Running. Charley is listed as “Indian Police” and Follows is listed as “Ration Indian.” They have not attended school, cannot read or write and do not speak English.

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The bottom of the census document includes an area called “special inquiries relating to Indians.”

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This entire family is listed as Sioux, with no white blood. The mother and father of both Charley and Follows are listed as Sioux as well. They are not polygamous and they lived in a fixed, as opposed to moveable, structure. In other words, a “house” of some sort, not a teepee.

Polygamy was considered a grave sin by most Christian religions, and clearly someone still practicing the Native ways, which includes both polygamy and living in teepees, was highly encouraged to abandon those practices.

Note in the Indian census as late as 1902, some households are still listed with wife 1 and wife 2. It’s impossible to tell which child was born to which wife.

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Also note that the Native name and English name may have nothing to do with each other. They are not always literal translations. Please also note that Follows Him, above, is not the same person as Follows.

Christianity, and specifically Catholicism, along with “civility,” meant taking English names and living in established locations in structures. These behaviors were strongly encouraged and then forced upon the Native people with the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 when their children were sent to “boarding schools” to learn the white ways, renamed, and it became illegal to practice the Native ways, including spiritual practices, powwows and speaking their own language. These restrictions lasted until the Native American Languages Act of 1990 which once again allowed Native people to speak their own language and the 1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act allowing Native people once again to hold events such as powwows and practice their own belief system.  Unfortunately, the half century plus between 1924 and 1978/1990 successfully eroded and destroyed much of the Native cultural heritage.

Follows continues to be listed in the Indian census documents. 1895 is shown below.

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The 1897 Indian census (below) shows Follows and White Weasel with Makes Believe he is Running and a new child, aged 2. This child is not yet named, which makes sense in the Indian culture because children are not named until they “earn” a name of some sort. In some tribes, names are changed as new names are earned.

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The family is also shown in the Indian Census of 1899 (below) where Joseph has been named, in 1900, in 1902 when Lucy has been born, in 1903, in 1904, in 1906 when Lucy is no longer with them, and in 1907.

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The June 30, 1909 Indian Census shows Follows, age 40, but White Weasel is gone and she is shown with both sons, below.

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The 1910 federal census shows a Louise Weasel on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, with sons Peter age 17 and Oscar, age 11. I don’t know if this is the same family with white names, or this is a different family. I suspect that Follows has been “renamed” Louise for the federal census document.

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The 1910 Indian census shows Follows with both boys again as well as in 1911, 1913, 1914, 1915, 1917.  In 1918, Follows is shown with only Joseph.

I cannot find either Follows or Joseph (Oscar) White Weasel in the 1920 census, although he was clearly living because he married in 1924. It’s unclear when Follows died.

The Ward Line

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John’s grandmother, Esther Ward is listed as Esther White Weasel born in 1904 on the 1945 South Dakota Census, with both of her parents born in South Dakota.

On the 1910 federal census, Esther Ward is 6 years old living with her father, Alfred Ward, age 32, married 13 years, and his wife Nellie age 28. They have another daughter, Mary, age 12 and (apparently) a son, Alec Chasing Hawk, age 2. Alec’s father is listed as having been born in Montana and mother South Dakota, white everyone else and their parents are listed as born in South Dakota – so Alec is a bit of an enigma. They also live with a man I would presume to be Alfred Ward’s’s father, although he could be Nellie’s father, as he is listed only as “father” but generally that is the relationship to the head of the household. Jerome Chasing Hawk, age 78, so born in about 1832, widowed, Sioux, a Ration Indian. However, we later discover that Alfred Ward’s father is Clarence “Roan Bear” Ward and his mother is Estella DuPris, so the identity of Jerome Chasing Hawk is quite a mystery.

Ration Indian means that they are receiving rations from the Bureau of Indian affairs, often in exchange for land traded by the tribe.

Alfred raises stock and both Alfred and Nellie can read and write, but Jerome cannot.

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In the special inquiries section, Alfred Ward is listed as ¾ Indian and ¼ white, married once, not living in polygamy, received an allotment in 1908 and is living on his own land.

Nellie is listed as full Indian, received an allotment in 1909 and has been married once.

Jerome Chasing Hawk is listed as full, married twice, not living in polygamy, and received an allotment in 1903. He is not living on his own land.

The 1900 federal census shows Chasing Hawk, a widower, as the father-in-law of Dirt Kettle, whose wife is Woman Eagle. Chasing Hawk is 68 and was born in May of 1832 in South Dakota. His father was born in an unknown location and his mother was born in North Dakota. He is a Ration Indian and does not read, write or speak English. In the special inquiries section, Chasing Hawk is noted with other name as “Cetan, unknown” and that he is full Native.

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I did not solve the mystery of Chasing Hawk’s relationship to this family.

If Alfred Ward is indeed ¼ white, then John Iron Moccasin is 1/32nd white, assuming all other ancestors were full Native.

The 1900 federal census shows Alfred Ward, age 22, with wife Pretty Voice, age 16 and daughter Irelia Ward, age 1.

Pretty Voice appears to be Nellie’s Native name.

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In the special inquiries section, Alfred is listed with both parents being Sioux, but listed as half white. Pretty Voice is listed as Sioux, all Indian with no white. He can speak English, she cannot. Alfred is shown in the photo below.

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On the 1925 Indian Census Roll, Alfred and Pretty Voice are both shown. He has number 246235 or 246285 next to his name and she has 248261 beside her name. They have 3 children.

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On the 1931 Indian Census Roll, Joseph White Weasel is listed with his wife, Esther, with their roll numbers and the identification numbers of their allotment, annuity and identification numbers.

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On the 1895 Indian census, Pretty Voice is listed as the child of Hump and White Calf is listed as Hump’s wife, although we will see in a minute why that may not mean that White Calf is Pretty Voice’s mother.

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This is a very interesting development, because Hump and White Calf are also in John Iron Moccasin’s mother’s line, as are Clarence Ward and Estella DuPris.

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The 1886 Indian Census shows Hump, age 45, with wife Beautiful Hail, age 26, and daughter Pretty Voice age 3 and Her Voice, age 2. This strongly suggests that Pretty Voice’s mother was Beautiful Hail and not White Calf.

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The 1891 Indian Census labeled “Sioux of different bands” shows Hump, age 43, his wife designated only as “Mrs.” age 21, With Pretty Voice, age 9, Sun age 6 and Hope or Hoop age 2.

The 1892 Indian Census shows that Hump, age 42, married to White Calf, with daughter Pretty Voice, age 11, Sun age 8 and Hope age 2. Her Voice is not with the family, so presumably has died.

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Pretty Voice is reported on another tree maintained by YanktonSiouxTribe, who indicates they are a professional genealogist, to be the daughter of Chief Hump, friend and mentor to Crazy Horse. YanktonSiouxTribe reports that Pretty Voice married Alfred Ward, son of Roan Bear also known as Clarence Ward and Estella Dupris, the daughter of Fred Dupris and Good Elk Woman whose photo is shown below.

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Good Elk Woman

In the 1895 Indian Census, Alfred Ward is shown living with his parents, Clarence Ward and Estelle Ward, ages 44 and 40, respectively. They would have been born in 1851 and 1855. Clarence and Estelle’s youngest son, Willie, is also John’s ancestor through his mother’s line, having married Hope (Dora) Hump.

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It’s interesting to note in reviewing the Indian census records that in the mid-1890s, many Native people did not have an English name. Some had both, but far less than half in this tribe. However, by the 1920 federal census, they all had white names.

The 1900 census shows us that Clarence Ward was born in July of 1850 in Nebraska and his parents were both born in South Dakota. He is listed as Missionary R and his wife is listed as a Ration Indian. The “R” is noted beside a number of occupations, so I would presume he is a missionary and the R may indicate “ration Indian” as well. They have been married 21 years and she has had 5 children, 4 of whom are living.

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In the special inquiries section, Clarence is listed as Sioux, as are his parents. Estella and her parents are also listed as Sioux, but she is listed as one half Native.

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In 1920, Clarence Ward was living, age 67, no occupation, wife Stella, age 64. Both were born in South Dakota and are living on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in SD.

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Clarence is reported to have died in 1933.

Stella, or Estella DuPris, was born in August 1854 to Frederick DuPris and Good Elk Woman and died on July 6, 1927. Stella married Clarence Ward (shown below), who was born in 1851 in Nebraska.

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In the 1886 Indian Census, Clarence is shown as 35, Estelle as 31 and Alfred as 9.

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The 1900 Federal census shows Clarence as a Missionary, Estelle as born in South Dakota, her father born in France and her mother born in South Dakota.

DuPris Line

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Stella’s father, Frederick Dupris, was born in 1813 in Quebec City, Quebec and died in 1898. He had 10 children with Good Elk Woman between 1845 and 1870. He died on June 16, 1898 in South Dakota. Good Elk Woman, also known as Mary Ann DuPris, died on February 13, 1900.

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Photo of Fred DuPris and his wife, Good Elk Woman and Son, Xavier Dupris, courtesy, South Dakota Historical Society.

In case there is any question about whether Fred DuPris was 100% white, the 1900 census lists his son, Fred Dupris as Sioux, father white, mother Sioux and he being one half Native. This, of course, indicates that Fred Sr. was all white.

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In the Indian Census of 1894, Good Elk Woman is listed as age 68 and is living with her daughter.

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Good Elk Woman was the daughter of One Iron Horn born about 1805 in South Dakota and Red Dressing born about 1810. Good Elk Woman was originally married to hereditary chief, Henry Makes Room and had a son, Henry Makes Room Junior.

The following information was provided by Calvin Dupree.

“The First Dupree Into South Dakota”

Frederick Dupuis came from Longueil, Quebec to Kaskaskia, Illinois and from there to the Cheyenne River area. One Dupuis brother, Pierre (known as Peter), went on up into Montana where he married an Assiniboin Sioux woman.

A French-Canadian, Fred Dupuis arrived at Fort Pierre in 1838 and was in employee of the American Fur Company under Pierre Choteau, Jr. Letters from the winter of 1861 were written to Charles Primeau from Fred Dupuis by M. C. Rousseau at the mouth of Cherry Creek. The letters were concerned with reports of the Indian bands and the number of buffalo robes Fred was sending in and a list of the materials he needed for trading and maintaining his small outpost at the mouth of Cherry Creek. The trader (Fred) was concerned that the buffalo were becoming scarce and that the Indians and their horses were “poor”.

By 1860, we must assume that Fred was married and busy with the affairs of a husband and father. He married a Minniconjou, Good Elk Woman, who became Mary Ann Dupuis. She had one son, Henry Makes Room, from a previous marriage who was adopted by Fred. Mary was the daughter of One Iron Horn and Red Dressing. Some elders in the family remember that Mary was from Cherry Creek. Mary and Fred had nine children. They were: Peter; Maggie (Fisherman); Esther (Ward); Edward; David Xavier; Alma (Blue Eyes); Fred, Jr.; Josephine (Vollin); Vetal; and Marcella (Carlin). “Not one of whom could speak English, with the exception of Edward, who was a student at Hampton, Va.”

After being an independent trader for some time (and probably as the buffalo dwindled and the Indians were put on reservations) Fred became a stock grower. He built the family home in a beautiful wooded flat on the north side of the Cheyenne River, thirty-five miles west of where it emptied into the Missouri. The patriarchal home was described as being 20 feet by 60 feet, and built of cottonwood logs. As each son or daughter married, a new small log house (called a tipi by the family) was built. These homes had dirt floor and gumbo roofs and were placed in a row near the main house. In addition there were usually a dozen tipis nearby, pitched by the full blood relatives of Mary Dupuis. The living arrangement was truly communal; the women had a large vegetable garden; the men worked the stock; all the cooking and eating was done in one cabin. One of the women baked all the bread, another cooked the meat and vegetables, and another made coffee and served the food. Three times a day 52 people ate together, along with any strangers or friends who might happen along.

The Dupuis home was known as a place for sharing good times and good food in the true Indian way. This was the era of government ration dispensing and all 52 of the family members collected their share which was hauled home in wagons from Fort Bennett, even though Old Fred was reputed to be wealthy with “several thousand head of cattle and 500 horses, a small herd of domesticated buffalo and a large amount of other property.”

The marriage of Marcella Dupuis, Old Fred’s youngest daughter, to Douglas F. Carlin, a non-Indian, of Pierre must have been a noteworthy event since newspapers from Deadwood and Pierre covered the event. Mr. Carlin was noted as the issue clerk at Cheyenne Agency. The ceremony was performed at the Dupuis home on the Cheyenne River with many important persons from the city, including the Pierre City Council, and unknown numbers of Sioux present. Forty fat steers were to be roasted. All the wedding gifts were put on exhibition after the supper, the most impressive being five hundred head of cattle and fifty ponies from Old Fred, father of the bride, and a decorated buffalo robe from sisters of the bride. The Sioux dancing continued for three days with the only interruption being a pause for more eating every three hours.

The Dupuis family’s contribution to saving the buffalo.

In 1883 (or possibly earlier) Old Fred and some of his sons and possibly Basil Clement (Claymore) went on a hunt for some buffalo calves in order to start a herd. By this time the great “surrounds” of the past were over and I can imagine that the desire to preserve at least a few of these animals, so necessary and so sacred to the Indian people, was strong. The group headed northwest from the Cheyenne River and was gone for many months and in Montana, or near Slim Buttes (reports differ), they located a small herd. They finally secured five calves (one report says nine), which were loaded into wagons brought along for that purpose. The calves were taken back to Cheyenne River.

By 1888 from this small start the Dupuis had nine pure-blood buffaloes. By the time of Old Fred’s death in 1898 the herd had grown considerably, and was purchased by James (Scotty) Philip of Fort Pierre. By 1918 (the herd) had increased to approximately 500 head. The State of South Dakota purchased 46 of these buffalo and transferred them to the State Game Park in Fall River County. Hearsay has it that Scotty Philip sold buffalo to other states and parks also, spreading the original Dupuis stock back into many areas where the buffalo once roamed free by the millions.

Old Fred died in 1898 at about age 80. Then, as now, a death was the occasion for sharing through a Give-Away of all the deceased’s belongings. From Aunt Molly Dupris Annis Rivers, Old Fred’s grand-daughter, I have heard the colorful story of how some of the Dupuis wealth was distributed. It is said that according to Lakota custom, any one who happened by was entitled to a gift and this even included a group of Crow Indians, traditional enemies of the Sioux since anyone can remember. The Crows were invited to join the other guests as they filed by a horse whose saddle bags had been filled with silver dollars. Each person took a silver dollar until they were gone; the next person in line was given the saddle, and the last person received the horse. And in this way, and probably by several other methods, Old Fred’s money and property were shared with the people. None of his oft mentioned wealth was inherited by any of his family.

Records indicate that Good Elk Woman, Mary Dupuis, died in 1900 at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Tom (Alma) Blue Eyes. One can only wonder about her life after Old Fred died, just as one wonders about her years of living, first as a child at Cherry Creek, then as a young wife of Makes Room and finally as Mary Ann Dupuis, mother of nine half French and half Lakota children. No stories about Mary have come down to me. Her life during the early time of tragedy and defeat for the Indian people cannot have been an easy one.

Old Fred and Mary, and many of their descendants, are buried in the Dupuis Cemetery on the hill above the river flat where their family home once was. Nearby is the old ”Buffalo Church”.

Old Fred and Mary may be gone, but South Dakota will not forget them. Dupree Creek runs into Rudy Creek and then into the Cheyenne River near the old home site, and the (town) of Dupree is located about 40 miles north of Cherry Creek where Old Fred carried on his fur trading. Just west of the Dupuis cemetery and the old church, in a draw filled with wild plums and chokecherries, the Dupree Spring (called the Circle P Spring, or Garrett Spring today) still furnishes clear, sweet water.

Imagine the hundreds of trips made to this spring, winter and summer, to haul water for the Dupuis family living down the hill by the river in the 1800’s.

The name, though changed from Dupuis to Dupris and in some cases to Dupree, has been carried all over South Dakota and to probably every state in the U.S. by their hundreds of descendants.

Calvin Dupree is the son of Adelia Fielder and Jonas E. Dupris; son of Sarah Red Horse and Frank Dupris; son of Harriet Cadotte and Xavier (David) Dupuis; son of Mary Ann Good Elk Woman and Frederick Dupuis. Calvin Dupree is presently a member of the faculty of Education at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada.

According to Suzanne DuPree, a descendant, Fred DuPris (in later generations spelled DePree), and Good Elk Woman are buried in the DuPris Memorial Cemetery on the hill above the river flat where their family one was once location, near the old “Buffalo Church.”

FindAGrave lists Fred DuPris’s birth date as September 5, 1819 and his death as July 16, 1898. His wife, Mary Ann, born as Good Elk Woman, is shown as being born in 1824 and passing over on February 13, 1900. The maps below are from FindAGrave.

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The Sioux Chief, Hump’s Line

John descends from Chief Hump twice, apparently through two different wives; Beautiful Hail and White Calf. John Iron Moccasin’s family information indicates that Hump had 4 wives: Good Voice/Good Woman, Brings Her, Stands As A Woman and Bessie/White Calf Woman. The census provides information about Beautiful Hail and White Calf, but we have no further information about Humps’s other two wives.

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Hump, also known as Thomas Hump, lived until December 11, 1908 where he died in Cherry Creek, SD.

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Photo courtesy of the South Dakota State Historical Society

Born in Montana, Hump became a leader of the Cherry Creek Band of Minneconjou Sioux. In 1876 he fought in the Battle of the Rosebud against Gen. Crook, shown below in the wood engraving below depicting the Sioux charging Colonel Royall’s attachment on June 17th.

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Hump also fought on Calhoun Hill in the Battle of the Little Big Horn with Crazy Horse, Gall and others against Custer and the 7th Calvary on June 25th where he received a bullet wound in his leg, according to the National Park Service.

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The Lakota Museum and Cultural Center tells us the following about Hump.

Etokeah, a Minniconjou Lakota war chief, was a great leader. He is especially known for his skills during the 19th Century Lakota-US Government battles. His exact birth date and facts of parentage were not recorded. However, he first came into public notice in 1866. Then, he led the charge against Captain William Fetterman’s soldiers outside Fort Phil Kearney in Wyoming.

Hump did not sign the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1866. Because of his action, he was deemed a hostile or “non-treaty” chief by the US Government. He was a comrade-in-arms of Crazy Horse, Red Cloud and other great Sioux chiefs of the period. In 1876, he led his warriors into battle against Generals George Crook and George Custer.

After the defeat of the Sioux in the 1880s, he briefly lived in Canada. He eventually returned to the United States but remained hostile to the whites. In company with most of the Sioux, his band was intrigued by the Ghost Dance religion, which culminated in the massacre at Wounded Knee Creek in 1890.

Although Hump seems never to have become a true believer, he did lead his people in the Ghost Dance raids until early December of 1890. The US Army was alarmed by the Ghost Dance, and they sent emissaries to all of the major chiefs.

Captain Ezra Ewers – an old friend – was sent to speak with Hump. Ewers convinced Hump of the futility in armed resistance. At this point, Hump separated his band from the Dancers and led them to the Pine Ridge Agency.

As Hump was breaking camp, refugees from Sitting Bull’s group arrived and related how their leader had been killed during an arrest attempt. Sitting Bull’s people were eager to find allies as they sought revenge. Hump refused to help, and the refugees set out to join Big Foot near Wounded Knee Creek.

After the infamous massacre and subsequent events in 1890, Hump and several other Sioux chiefs went to Washington, D.C. They pleaded for fair treatment of their people.

Some of their requests were honored; however, the chiefs failed to gain concessions in other important areas. Reservation confinement continued, effectively ending the old way of life.

Hump died at Cherry Creek, South Dakota on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in December 1908 at the age of 70. He is buried in the Episcopal Cemetery near there.

According to records provided by John Iron Moccasin’s family, Hump’s father was Iron Bull “TaTankaMaza”, and his mother was Ziti “Yellow Lodge”. Hump was born about 1848 when his father was 28 and his mother was 21.

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This photo was taken ca. 1879 by photographer by L.A. Huffman. The notation is that the photo is of Hump and his favorite wives. One of these women could well have been Beautiful Hail given that she appears to have had children in both 1882 and 1883 with Hump. He does look to be significantly older than the women.

Hump is shown with other Sioux leaders in this 1891 photograph.

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1891 Sioux Delegation LA-NA-DA-Kota

Front Row Seated; L to R: High Hawk, Fire Lightning, Little Wound, Two Strike, Young Man Afraid of His Horses, Spotted Elk (Oglala), Big Road; (2nd row standing) F.D. Lewis, He Dog, Spotted Horse, American Horse, Maj Gen Sword, Louis Shangreaux, Bat Pourier; (3rd row, standing) Dave Zephier, Hump, High Pipe, Fast Thunder, Rev. Charles Cook, and P.T. Johnson. Denver Public Library

In the 1900 federal census of the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, district 48 in Sterling County, SD, the last census in which Hump was alive, he is shown on the census as having been married 20 years, born in April 1850 in Montana, with both of his parents born in the same place. He is a Ration Indian and he does not read, write or speak English. In the special inquiries section, he is listed as Sioux, his father as Sioux Cheyenne and his mother as Sioux. He is listed as entirely Native and in this census, is not listed as polygamous.

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His wife is listed on the next page as White Calf to whom he has been married for 20 years, so dating back to 1880. Of course, as suggested by the picture taken circa 1879 and the 1886 census in which Hump is married to 26 year old Beautiful Hail, White Calf was not his only wife. Given that Pretty Voice appeared in the census in 1876 with Beautiful Hail as a young child, I would presume that Beautiful Hail is Pretty Voice’s mother.

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Dora, who was born in 1891, is not shown living with Hump. I cannot find her elsewhere on the census. However, remember that Native people changed their names. Hope is listed as being born in July of 1889 in Montana.

In the 1917 Indian Census, Hope Hump is also listed as Dora, age 26, married to Willie Ward who was born in 1889. This shows us that Dora is Hope or Hoop Hump on the earlier census records.

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According to the 1900 census, Hope was born in July of 1889 in Montana, as were both of her parents. She does not read, write or speak English. She is 100% Sioux.

The following information was provided by http://files.usgwarchives.org/sd/ziebach/history/chap16-2.txt

Born in Montana in 1848 or 1850, Hump became a leader of the Cherry Creek band of Minneconjou Sioux.   In 1876 he fought in the Battle of the Rose bud against General George Crook and in the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

He later joined Sitting Bull’s band and other exiles in Canada.  Being considered American Indians, the exiles received no rations from the Canadian government. By 1881 the buffalo and other game were disappearing and the exiles returned to Fort Buford where they surrendered. They were taken to Fort Yates by steamboat. Later the Minneconjou under Hump and Fool Heart and the Sans Arc, led by Spotted Eagle and Circle Bear, were taken down the Missouri River to the Cheyenne River Agency, near their traditional camping grounds along the Cherry Creek and Cheyenne River.  They arrived at the Cheyenne River by May of 1882 and many of the Minneconjou settled near Cherry Creek, 50 miles west of the agency.

Hump and Big Foot became the most influential men on the Cheyenne River.  The Cherry Creek/Hump Band greatly opposed the land agreements of 1888 and 1889.  In 1890, the Ghost Dance found its greatest following in the Cherry Creek camps.

After Sitting Bull was killed on the Grand River, many of his followers fled south and camped a few miles above the junction of the Cherry Creek and Cheyenne River.  When the army at Fort Bennett moved to suppress the Ghost Dancing, Hump used his influence against the Ghost Dance. In the dead of winter he rode with two men from the garrison and two other scouts, 40 miles to persuade the Sitting Bull camp to surrender and move to Fort Bennett.  Those who did not surrender joined Spotted Elk, also known as Big Foot. When his band later fled toward Pine Ridge, they were met by the Army at Wounded Knee.

Hump was given 500 heifers for his service to the United States Government. These he turned loose, to share with his people. The heifers wandered near Leslie and many died of pinkeye.

Hump continued to work for his tribe until his death in 1908. He is buried in Cherry Creek.

HUMP

Told by John Hump

Hump (Thomas) was born in 1850 to Mashes His Nails/Iron Bull and Ziti/Mrs. Iron Bull (1827-1917) in Montana.

Hump’s brother, Little Crow, had been born in 1844. Hump’s sister, White Cow, married Fish (d. 1919) and had a son, James Fish (b. 1889) and a daughter. They lived on Rosebud.

Hump grew up in Montana. He had three or four wives, some of whom lived in Montana and were Crow.

While the Indians still roved in bands, he started to gather them together, to settle down and become ‘civilized’. Hump came down the Missouri River when the Army brought them to the Cheyenne River on boats. Their stock were driven over land.  Bertha Lyman Hump’s mother’s family came from Montana with Hump’s band.

Hump even joined the Army to work toward settling down. He was a scout from December of 1890 until June of 1891. He was discharged at Fort Bennett.

There were three Hump Flats. One east of Bridger, one by Iron Lightning and one across from Cherry Creek. All are so named because he lived on them. On the way to Montana for a visit, Hump camped with Iron Lightning on the Moreau River. At that time they chose their allotments. Iron Lightning community was later named for Iron Lightning after he moved there.

Hump had several wives. His son, by Good Voice/Good Woman, was Samuel Helper/ Stand by of Oglala, born in 1876.

Hump’s wife, White Calf/Bessie (d. 1915) was the mother of Pretty Voice/Nellie (b. 1882: Mrs. Alfred Ward); Important Woman/Sarah (b.1884: Mrs. Silas Yellow Owl); Spotted Bear who died in infancy; Dora (b.1891: Mrs. William Ward); Didn’t Drop/Nelson Hump, born in 1898 (no issue); William Miles Hump, born in 1900 and died in 1917 at Dupree, (no issue); and John Hump, born in 1904.

JOHN HUMP

John Hump was born at Cherry Creek, four years before his father’s death in 1908. Hump is buried at the Episcopal Cemetery in Cherry Creek.  John went to Carson Day School, Pierre Indian School and Rapid City Indian School.  In 1935 or 1936, he married Bertha Lyman, daughter of Ed Lyman. John transferred his heir ship lands from the Moreau River to Red Scaffold.

John and Bertha lived on the flat south of the (Cherry) creek, on her folks’ allotments. In 1954/1957 they moved north to their present home.  John went into the cattle business on the Rehab program. John and

Bertha’s sons, Duane and Darrell, now run the ranch.

Darrell is married to Alvina Runs After and Duane is married to Doris Halfred.

im-white-calf

The 1910 census taken at Cherry Creek station shows us that White Calf’s mother was Roan Hair, age 72, so born about 1838. She shows the birth of only one child.

im-1910-census-roan-hair

The special inquiries section tells us that she is Teton Sioux, full Native, married once, not polygamous, lived in an aboriginal dwelling and received her allotment in 1903.

Roan Hair is shown in the Indian census of the Cheyenne River Sioux in 1896 as the wife of Ragged, both age 56.

im-1896-census-ragged

Four years later, in 1901, they are shown again.

im-1904-census-ragged

Hump died on December 10, 1908 and is buried in the Episcopal Cemetery in Cherry Creek, SD.

im-hump-stone

Hump’s Memorial at FindAGrave adds some additional information not found elsewhere.

Native American Chief. Sioux name “Etokeah.” Although very little is known about Hump’s early life, he eventually rose to become a Chief among the Miniconjou Sioux and was an active participant in the Red Cloud war. With Crazy Horse at the Rosebud Battle against George Crook, Hump led his Miniconjou Sioux, helping stop the column in their trek to meet Custer prior to the Little Big Horn. At the Little Big Horn, when the alarm was sounded, Hump jumped onto an unknown mount, and it which threw him to the ground. Hump rushed, mounted another horse and charged toward the soldiers. His horse was shot from under him and a bullet entered above the horse’s knee and went further into Hump’s hip. Hump was strained there due to the wound and did not participate in the main battle. Later, Hump went to Canada, and his band returned to the United States, the last of all the bands to return. On the reservation when other tribes had adopted white dress and housing, Hump’s band settled at Cherry Creek in South Dakota and maintained the old ways using lodges and traditional clothing. On the reservation when the authority of other chiefs wained, Hump continued to assert leadership over his band. Some said that Hump was feared by the whites even more than Sitting Bull. When the Ghost Dance religion surfaced among the Sioux, the military did not dare arrest Hump. Instead, they reassigned Captain Ezra Ewers, a trusted friend of the chief, to Fort Bennet in South Dakota. Ewers rode the 60 miles to Hump’s camp at Cherry Creek. Impressed with Ewer’s courage, Hump listened to his message and avoided the Ghost Dance religion. After the Wounded Knee Massacre, Hump along with other prominent Sioux went to Washington, DC pleading for a peaceful end to the tragedy. Interestingly enough, it was also Hump who taught the basic lessons of warfare to his better-known student, Crazy Horse. His grave is located on the west edge of the town of Cherry Creek.

This photo of Cherry Creek, probably in the early 1900s, shows both traditional teepees and more stationary buildings. This lends understanding to the special inquiries section of the census, and shows us what “fixed” dwellings look like as compared to “moveable.”

im-cherry-creek

The Hale Line

John’s mother was the daughter of Isabelle Ward and Robert Hale.

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South Dakota Marriage records show that Robert Clifford Hale, age 23, married Isabel Ward on May 3, 1946. Both lived in Cherry Creek, SD.

im-hale-marriage

Robert died on August 1, 2008. His photo and obituary are shown below.

im-robert-clifford-hale

Death: Aug. 1, 2008 Sturgis Meade County South Dakota, USA
Robert “Bob” Clifford Hale, who lived in Cherry Creek, had the Lakota name Min A’ Kyan, which translates to Flies Over the Sea. While he may not have flown over the sea, he did ride the sea as a sailor in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Bob, at age 85, died Friday, Aug. 1, 2008, at the Fort Meade Veterans Hospital near Sturgis. He is survived by Larry (Delia) Hale, Theresa Hale, Herbert Hale and Cleo Hale, all of Cherry Creek, Martha (Erick) Hernandez of Chicago, Ill., Richard Hale of Rapid City, Connie (James) Bear Stops of Red Scaffold and Lavinia Hale-Eagle Chasing of Eagle Butte; grandchildren, Maude Hale, Denise and Richard Crow Ghost, Dawn Kills Crow, Angelic and Willard Demery of Cherry Creek, Amber and Alton Blacktail Deer Sr. of Manderson, Timothy Jr., Earl and Mary Iron Moccasin of Rosebud, Teno, Taun and Krista Bear Stops of Red Scaffold, Rhiana, Richard Jr. and Joshua Hale of Cherry Creek, Angel Prendergast and Aberham White Weasel of Rapid City, Maxine Flying By, Marsha Eagle Chasing of Eagle Butte, Sarah, Elizabeth, Mark and Posey Garter of Albuquerque, N.M., and Clinton and Kyle Harrison of Takini. Also surviving are his great great grandchildren, Morgan and Jasmine Hale, Eric Jarvis and Dewey Kills Crow, Kyra, Danieal and Alyssa Hayes, Adrienne and Royce Jr. Marrow Bone, Eric, Jarvis, Dewey, Drake and Autumn Kills Crow, Shantay Crow Ghost, Alton Blacktail Deer Jr., La’tia, Tyree and Lashae Bear Stops, D’Nica Ducheneaux, Tretyn Red Elk, Sage Bowker, Sarah Patryas, Jordan and Sierra Iron Moccasin, and Kleigh, Dawnelle and Deaconn Garter. Robert was preceded in death by his parents, Joseph and Ellen Hale; sisters, Claira Hale-Fritz, Myrtle Hale-Little Shield, Don’ta Black Tail Bear, Drazen Black Tail Bear, Mary Isabbella Kills Crow, Clifford Merle Hale; brothers, Martin and Wilson Hale; one daughter, Charmaine Hale Harrison; and his paternal grandparents. Funeral services for Robert were Saturday, Aug. 9, at the new Community Building in Cherry Creek. Ted Knife, Erick Hernandez and Elmer Zimmerman officiated. Hernandez read Matthew 7:7. Special music was provided by Buzzy Yellow Hawk, Daryl Whipple, the Tiospaye Singers, Michelle White Wolf and the Mennonite Singers. Harvey Eagle Horse played the Honor Song. Casketbearers were Bob’s grandsons, Joshua Hale, Taun Bear Stops, Timothy White Weasel Hr., Clinton Harrison, Posey Garter, Maris Reindall, Richard Hale Jr., Teno Bear Stops, Eric V. Kills Crow, Kyle Harrison, Mark Garter and Danny Hayes Sr. Honorary bears included all military veterans and all Bob’s other friends and relatives. Burial was at the UCC Cemetery in Cherry Creek under the direction of Oster Funeral home of Mobridge. Mobridge Tribune Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The US Department of Veteran’s Affairs BIRLS Death File lists Robert Hale’s birth and death dates and his service branch as Navy from July 24, 1942 to November 27, 1942.

The Social Security death index shows that Robert was born on Sept. 7, 1922.

I cannot find this family in 1920, 1930 or 1940 in the census, nor in the Indian census. It’s possible that the parents and siblings names are incorrect or nicknames.

Robert’s parents were given as Joseph Hale and Ellen in his obituary. John’s mother reports that Joseph Hale’s name was Joseph “Blows on Himself” and that this is the end of that line because they migrated from Canada on “the big trail.” I found nothing about this family at Ancestry or utilizing Google. It’s possible that the family was not living as a nuclear family as a recognizable unit.

The 1940 census shows a Joseph Hale, age 48, widowed, an Indian, as an inmate in the Davison County, South Dakota Jail, but we don’t know if this is the same Joseph Hale.  However, this is the only Joseph Hale in South Dakota, or for that matter, in that part of the country.

im-1940-census-hale

This Joseph was widowed, an Indian and born on an Indian Reservation, so it may well be the correct Joseph. It would be interesting to see if any court records still exist relative to this case.

I found scanty information on the following individuals from the obituary listing them as siblings of Robert Clifford Hale.

  • Claira Hale – married Elmer Fritz on February 27, 1962 , born about 1926.
  • Mytrle Hale – Myrtle Faye Hale married Theophil Little Shield and died in SD at age 65.
  • Don’ta Black Tail Bear – nothing
  • Drazen Black Tail Bear – nothing
  • Mary Isabella Hale Kills Crow – nothing
  • Clifford Merle Hale – nothing
  • Martin Hale – if the same Martin, died in 1935 of appendicitis, age 20.
  • Wilson Hale born about 1921 married Eunice Eagle Horse. He died in 1950 in Ziebach County. In the 1940 census he is living with the Straight Head family which would make sense if his mother was deceased and his father was in jail.

The Second Ward Line

im-white-weasel

John Iron Moccasin’s grandmother on his mother’s side was Isabella Ward, born in 1925 or 1927.

The 1930 Federal census shows Isabella Ward, age 5, living with her parents in Ziebach County, SD. Her mother, Dora is listed as a full blood and her father, William, a mixed blood, all born in South Dakota and Sioux.

im-1930-census-ward

Her father is listed as a farmer.

We’ve already met Dora (Hope) Hump, daughter of Chief Hump and probably White Calf and William Ward, son of Clarence “Roan Bear” Ward and Estella Dupris.

DNA Results

Now for the most exciting part – the DNA results. Do John’s DNA results bear out his genealogy?

John’s tribal card says that he is at least 15/16th Native. That is accurate, given that he is 1/16th French on both his mother and father’s sides, from the same ancestor.

In percentages, for autosomal DNA, that translates into 6.25% white and 93.75% Native.

When I’m working with descendants of tribes located east of the Mississippi, I understand that they are very likely heavily admixed with (primarily) European males, and significantly so prior to 1800 and in most cases, prior to 1700. However, the Sioux are somewhat different. Except for occasional traders and missionaries, they essentially escaped the widespread influence of Europeans until the 1800s. With few exceptions, I would not expect to find earlier mixing with Europeans, meaning English, French or Spanish, or Africans.

Because of the history of the Sioux tribe, the sheer number of Sioux across a wide geography, and the lack of early European admixture, John’s DNA represents an opportunity to obtain a genetic view of a people not significantly admixed.

Endogamy

We know from John’s family tree that he shares at least 3 ancestors and possibly 4 on both his mother’s and father’s side of the family. Those ancestors are 4 generations up the tree from John.

im-white-weasel

In most cases, one’s great-great-grandparents would each contribute, on average, 6.25% of your DNA. In John’s case, he received a double dose of the DNA of each of those ancestors. If John received the exact same DNA from those ancestors, from both sides, he would still only have 6.25 % of their DNA. This is very unlikely, because normally siblings share part of their parent’s DNA, but not all of it. Conversely, it would be very unlikely for John to inherit none of the same DNA from that ancestor from both lines. Therefore, it’s most likely that instead of 6.25% of the DNA from that each ancestor who is found twice at 4 generations, he would carry about 9.38% of their DNA, or about half a generation closer than one would expect.

And that goes for all 3 common ancestors. We’re not sure which of Hump’s wives gave birth to which children, so this could also apply to Hump’s wife, a 4th ancestor.

Furthermore, these individuals in the tribes are likely already very heavily inter-married and related to each other, long before any records. There were only a limited number of people to select as mates, and all of those people also descended from the same ancestors, who were part of a very small foundation population that migrated from Asia some 10,000 to 25,000 years ago, depending on which model you subscribe to.

Therefore, endogamy and pedigree collapse where one shares common known ancestors would be a phenomenon that has occurred since the time of Anzick Child, and before.

John’s Tests

We tested John’s DNA at Family Tree DNA where his Y, mitochondrial and autosomal DNA was tested. John’s Y DNA shows us the deep ancestry of the White Weasel line. The mitochondrial shows us the deep ancestry of Dora (Hope or Hoop) Hump, daughter of Hump, presumably through wife, White Calf.

John’s autosomal DNA shows us an overall ethnicity view, plus matches to autosomal cousins. Let’s see what we have.

Autosomal Results

John’s myOrigins results show that he is roughly 17% European and the rest a combination of Native and Asian that together represents 84%.

im-myorigins

One of the aspects that I find most interesting is that the portion of Europe that shows a genetic link is Finland, not France where 6.25% of John’s paper trail ancestry is from.

Finland is particularly interesting in light of the result of the Clovis Anzick Child burial found in Montana that dates from about 12,500 years ago. We have the Anzick Child’s results in the Family Tree DNA data base, compliments of both Felix Immanuel and Family Tree DNA.

The Anzick child’s myOrigins results are shown below.

im-anzick-myorigins

The Anzick Child’s DNA ethnic results are very similar to John’s. Anzick Child matches the reference population for Finland at 11%, where John matches at 17%.

Furthermore, John Iron Moccasin is one of 110 people in the data base today that actually match the Anzick Child’s DNA at contemporary levels.

The match threshold at Family Tree DNA today is:

  • No minimum number of shared cM required, but if the cM total is less than 20, then at least one segment must be 9cM or larger.
  • If the longest block of shared DNA is greater than 9cM, the match will show regardless of total shared cM or the number of matching segments.

Lowering the match threshold to 3cM, we can see several small segments that match between John and the Anzick Child.

im-anzick-browser-5cm

I downloaded their common matching segments.

Chromosome Start Location End Location centiMorgans (cM) # of Matching SNPs
1 4282649 5290332 2.56 500
2 98863262 101324606 1.69 600
2 112439588 114460466 1.71 500
2 169362301 170609544 2.27 500
3 8964806 10632877 3.03 600
3 14230971 16121247 2.83 600
3 46655067 53174054 1.28 1000
4 12866760 14721835 1.85 500
5 78642903 80323930 1.64 500
5 158757557 162829228 3.82 1000
6 34609507 36812814 2.88 600
6 127839067 130105402 2 500
7 76597648 78055762 2.84 500
7 99319352 101758792 2.05 600
8 10455449 12975017 2.68 700
8 30301880 34206702 3.45 799
9 26018352 27374204 2.37 500
9 104470303 106854637 3.76 777
10 71258510 72644677 1.46 600
10 102514460 106018240 2.65 800
10 110936823 113553555 3.83 700
11 32265994 34530393 3.35 700
11 91619854 94670011 3.71 800
11 102068510 103853340 1.76 500
12 27332778 29165805 1.66 500
12 96875639 99784589 2.74 700
13 55048728 58723000 1.66 600
13 78707414 80906921 1.34 500
14 22564888 24752111 3.59 800
14 68418807 70225737 1.65 500
14 76767325 78038237 1.71 500
16 12528330 14375990 5.49 659
18 33126219 35069488 1.37 500
19 8284870 13355259 7.87 1278
20 45913972 47494552 3.17 500

Their largest matching segments are on chromosome 19 for 7.87 cM and on 16 for 5.49 cM.

The genetic connection between the Anzick Child and John Iron Moccasin is evident. John’s tribe is descended from the same people as the Anzick Child who was buried in present day Montana. John’s ancestors, Hump, Roan Hair and Follows were all born in Montana, and the Sioux homelands stretched across this entire region.

This begs the question of whether John is simply lucky to have inherited these segments, or if they are found widely in the Native, particularly Sioux, population as a whole.

To help answer this question, I looked at John’s closest 4 matches along with the Anzick Child in the chromosome browser, compared to John’s DNA.

im-anzick-match-compare

At 5cM there is no overlap with John’s closest matches and the Anzick Child, whose DNA is shown in green, above. However, dropping the threshold to 3, below, shows overlap with Thomas’s closest match on chromosome 19 at 4.98 cM and other chromosomes in smaller amounts. This would suggest that perhaps the DNA that is the same as the Anzick Child’s does not repose in the entire tribal population.

im-match-compare-3cm

Let’s take a look another way.

John and the Anzick Child at GedMatch

At GedMatch, John matches the Anzick Child on slightly different segments than at Family Tree DNA. It’s not unusual for different vendors to produce slightly different results. In this case, the match on chromosome 16 is absent altogether, and there are larger segment matches on chromosomes 8 and 14 using a 5cM and 500 SNP threshold.  Chromosome 22 shows a match not present at Family Tree DNA.

im-anzick-gedmatch

I was curious to see how many people matched John on his segments shared with the Anzick Child.

John matches a total of 2119 people at GedMatch at 5cM and 500 SNPs.

John’s results for his two largest segments, chromosome 16 (at FTDNA) and 19 were different. Chromosome 16, the smaller match, was generally unremarkable, but his chromosome 19 was a different story, carrying many names and surnames that I recognize.

Let’s take a look at the triangulation tool and see what we find there. We are looking for anyone who triangulates with both John and Anzick Child. This tool reports every triangulated match in excess of 5cM.

im-chr-16

Using the triangulation tool, no one triangulates, meaning matches both John and the Anzick child, on either chromosome 16 or 19. This suggests that all of John’s matches showing are on the “other” chromosome and that this chromosome segment is fairly rare.

If one of John’s parents were to test, we could identify which of John’s parents was matching Anzick, so we would know which side of John’s family these individuals are matching on these segments, assuming these matches are not identical by chance.

Out of curiosity, I triangulated Anzick Child’s kit to see if there were any triangulated groups. There were, but none that included John.

At GedMatch, let’s use the “Are Your Parents Related?” utility. We know that John’s parents are related, but are any of the segments that came from both parents the same segment that is found in John’s Anzick match? The match threshold at GedMatch for this tool is 7cM and 700 SNPs, so the only segment that would qualify would be this segment on chromosome 19, shown above in green.

19 8284870 13355259 7.87 1278

The “Are Your Parents Related?” tool at GedMatch shows the following results.

im-parents-related

im-parents-related-2

im-parents-related-3

im-parents-related-4

According to GedMatch, this segment of chromosome 19 was not contributed by both of John’s parents, so this portion of the Anzick DNA is not found universally in the entire Native population in that region.

One last look at John’s DNA by comparing to the Ancient group contributed at GedMatch shows no segments 4cM or above that match with any ancient specimen other than the Clovis (Anzick) Child, including no match to the Paleo Eskimo in Greenland from 4,000 years ago and no match to Kennewick Man. The tiny orange bars represent matching segments at 400 SNPs and 4cM.

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John’s Mitochondrial DNA

John’s mitochondrial DNA comes directly from his matrilineal line, meaning from his mother, her mother, her mother, on up the tree until you run out of direct line mothers.

im-white-weasel

In this case, that person winds up being Hump’s wife. We think that person is probably  White Calf, but it could be one of Hump’s other wives. We just don’t know for sure given that Hump was polygamous.

Mitochondrial DNA is passed intact in each generation, doesn’t get combined with the father’s DNA so it’s a direct line back in time.

Johns’s mitochondrial haplogroup is clearly Native, C4c1.

im-y-hap-q

Haplogroup C4c1 was originally reported in the Suswap by Ripan Malhi; in the Chippewa Creek and in Jasper House, Alberta Canada, in 2015 by Roberta Estes from the American Indian project.

At the HVR1 level, John has 62 exact matches, but he has no matches at the HVR2 or full sequence levels. This means that of the people who have tested at that level, he has more than 4 differences at the full sequence level. Translated, this means they don’t share common ancestors in hundreds to thousands of years.

Only 8 of John’s HVR1 matches have tested at the full sequence level, unfortunately.

Of those, the earliest ancestors are Spanish, indicating that they are probably from either the American southwest, or further south, and their haplogroup C ancestor was eventually associated with the Spanish. One is from New Mexico. One is from Michigan.

Few of John’s matches have entered the location of their most distant ancestor, but those who have provided that information are shown below at the HVR1 level, understanding that a common ancestor at that level could predate the migration into the Americas.

im-mtdna-match-map

Utilizing the information provided through the Genographic project, we find the following information about haplogroup C4c1.

im-c4c1-geno

This provides very interesting geographic distribution information, but it also begs the question of how haplogroup C4c1 was found in Germany or Sweden. Of course, we are relying on participant-reported information and it’s certainly possible that two individuals misunderstood the directions. It’s also possible that one or both are legitimate. I have wondered for a long time about a link between the northern Scandinavian populations, especially subarctic, and the Native subarctic populations in North America.

According to Dr. Doron Behar in the supplement to his paper titled, “A Copernican” Reassessment of the Human Mitochondrial DNA Tree from its Root,” haplogroup C4c1 was born about 10,095 years ago with a standard deviation of 4550 years, meaning the range of time in which C4c1 was born in likely 5,545 to 14,645 years ago. Clearly, there is enough latitude in this date range for some C4c1 to be found in either Asia or Europe, and C4c1 to be found in the Americas as well. If this is indeed the case, one would expect for the variants of C4c1 found on the differing continents to contain a significant difference in mutations, exceeding the 4 mutations allowed for genealogical matching purposes at Family Tree DNA.

To date, there has been no ancient DNA recovered bearing this haplogroup.

Other Mitochondrial Results

Individuals descending from several of John’s maternal lines would be perfect candidates to test for the mitochondrial DNA of those lines. One must descend from these women through all females to the current generation:

  • Follows
  • Esther Ward – Nellie “Pretty Voice” – Beautiful Hail or White Calf
  • Ellen (wife of Joseph Hale)

Testing a female descended through Pretty Voice, mother of Esther Ward, would determine whether or not White Calf was the mother of Pretty Voice, or if it was another woman, probably Beautiful Hail.

John’s Y DNA

John inherited his Y DNA chromosome from Charley White Weasel.

im-white-weasel

John’s Y haplogroup is Q-M242, a Native haplogroup.

im-y-hap-q

John tested to the 67 marker level, but has no matches at 67 markers. At 12, 25 and 37 markers, he matches a gentleman whose ancestor was from Fort Thomson, SD who also tested at 67 markers. That is John’s only match, so apparently John carries some unusual mutations in his Y DNA as well that are probably isolated to people from the Sioux tribe or their ancestors in the past a few hundred to thousands of years.

im-y-matches-map

On the map above, John’s match is shown and on the map below, John’s white balloon is shown where he was born in relation to that of his red balloon match.

im-y-matches-map-2

To obtain additional information about John’s Y DNA haplogroup, the Big Y test would need to be run on his sample. By running the Big Y, we could obtain a more granular haplogroup, meaning further down the tree, and we could also see who matches him more distantly, meaning further back in time. That information could well provide us with information indicating which groups of Native people John is most closely related to. That suggests a migration route or pathway and tells us about social interactions at some level hundreds to thousands of years in the past.

Anzick Child’s Y DNA haplogroup is Q-L54, a subgroup of Q-M242, shown on the haplotree below. You can also see that many subgroups below L54 have been discovered.

im-hap-q-tree

I strongly suspect that John’s haplogroup would be Q-L54 or a subgroup further downstream. I’m betting on a subgroup, meaning that mutations have occurred in John’s line that define a newer, younger haplogroup since the time that Anzick Child and John shared a common ancestor.

Other Y Line Results

I was hopeful that I would find results for John’s Ward or Hale line in the projects at Family Tree DNA, but I did not. I checked in the American Indian project for Hump, with the hope that one of his descendants has tested as well, but did not find that Hump is yet represented in the data base. Of course, anyone paternally descended from Hump’s father, Iron Bull or his father, Black Buffalo would carry the same Y DNA.

If anyone descends from these direct Y lines, please do let us know.

Summary

What we have been able to discover about John’s ancestry both through traditional genealogy and genetic genealogy has been both amazing and fascinating.

John now knows that he is connected to the Anzick Child, the Ancient One. John’s ancestors and Anzick’s were one and the same. Some 12,500 years later, John was born on the same land where his ancestors have literally lived “forever.”

Anzick has given John a wonderful gift, and John has given that gift to the rest of us. We continue to learn through both John and Anzick’s contributions. Thank you to both.

What’s Next?

I would very much like to upgrade John’s Y DNA to 111 markers and order a Big Y test while the holiday sale is in effect. If you would like to contribute to these tests of discovery, please donate to the American Indian project general fund at this link. If we raise more than we need for John’s tests, we have implemented an application process for other Native people. Every donation helps, and helps to build our knowledge base – so please contribute if you can.

Acknowledgements

My gratitude to the following people:

John Iron Moccasin for testing, providing family information and allowing us to work with and publish his results.

John’s mother, Martha Hale, for providing the original genealogical information, below.

im-original-pedigree

Johns’ friend, Pam, for bringing us this opportunity.

John’s wife, Carolyn, for coordinating information.

Family Tree DNA for testing and facilitating the Ancient DNA Project, the American Indian Project and various Native American haplogroup projects.

nat-geo-logoThe National Geographic Society Genographic Project for providing data base access to the project administrators of the American Indian Project as Affiliate Researchers

Project members and others for contributions to facilitate John’s testing.

My American Indian project co-administrators, Marie Rundquist and Dr. David Pike for their never-failing support.

Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroup Y

Pam, a lady with very interesting mitochondrial DNA, recently asked me about mitochondrial haplogroup Y1, and if it had ever been found in the Native American population. The answer, as best I knew, was a resounding “no.”

Pam told me that she had only found about 15 people who were of that haplogroup and most of them are East Asian. Her most distant matrilineal ancestor is from Slovakia as is her full sequence exact match at Family tree DNA. A more distant match’s most distant ancestor was born in Istanbul, but immigrated there from someplace in Europe, possibly the Ukraine or Slovakia. A third match’s immediate family was from the Ukraine near Belarus from the 1880s.

The migration map provided by Family Tree DNA tells us the following about haplogroup Y:

ftdna-mtdna-y

Given that this haplogroup is primarily eastern Asian, Pam wondered if there was any possibility that this was a “sleeper” haplogroup and had been found in the Native American population since the most recent papers had been published.

Good question. Let’s take a look.

The History of Mitochondrial Haplogroup Y

Haplogroup Y evolved from haplogroup N9 that evolved from haplogroup N that evolved from haplogroup L3, which was African.

  • L3
  • N
  • N9
  • Y
  • Y1

As a National Geographic Genographic Affiliate Researcher, I decided to take a look at what information the Genographic Project might reveal about mtDNA haplogroup Y. For starters, the Genographic project provides a nice compact tree in their research database.

nat-geo-mtdna-y

I created a chart combining the subgroups of haplogroup Y, the age of each group, the standard deviation for each subgroup, the defining mutations as provided by the Genographic project (Phylotree Version 16) and the oldest maternal birth locations for haplogroup Y subgroup participants in the Genographic Project. The age should be read as “most likely 24,576 but the range would be from 17,493-31,659 years ago.” I would simply say that haplogroup Y was born about 25,000 years ago. If you think of a bell shaped curve, 24,576 would be the top of the bell and the tails, which are increasingly less likely would extend 7,083 years in both directions.

Haplogroup Age per Dr. Doron Behar Standard Deviation (+-) RSRS Defining Mutations (Genographic V 16) Genographic Oldest Maternal Birth Locations Other
Y 24,576 7,083 G8392A, A10398G!, T14178C, A14693G, T16126C, T16223C, T16231C China (2)
Y1 14,689 5,264 T146C!, G3834A, (C16266T) Slovakia, Czech, Poland, China, Korea (2)
Y1a 7,467 5526 A7933G, T16189C! None
Y1b 9,222 4,967 A10097G, C15460T

 

None
Y1b1 G15221A Russia, Korea
Y1b1a C9278T none
Y2 7,279 2,894 T482C, G5147A, T6941C, F7859A, A14914G, A15244G, T16311C! Simonstown, Western Cape, South Africa “coloured”
Y2a 4,929 2,789 T12161C Philippines
Y2a1 2.488 2,658 T11299C Philippines (8), Sumatra Indonesia, Spain, Malaysia, China, Ireland
Y2a1a C2856T, G13135A none
Y2b 1,741 3,454 C338T none

Unfortunately, there is no mitochondrial haplogroup Y project at Family Tree DNA, so I can’t do any comparisons there.

This article at WikiPedia provides a chart of where mtDNA haplogroup Y has been found in academic studies, along with the following verbiage:

Haplogroup Y has been found with high frequency in many indigenous populations who live around the Sea of Okhotsk, including approximately 66% of Nivkhs, approximately 38% of Ulchs, approximately 21% of Negidals, and approximately 20% of Ainus. It is also fairly common among indigenous peoples of the Kamchatka Peninsula (Koryaks, Itelmens) and Maritime Southeast Asia.

The distribution of haplogroup Y in populations of the Malay Archipelago contrasts starkly with the absence or extreme rarity of this haplogroup in populations of continental Southeast Asia in a manner reminiscent of haplogroup E. However, the frequency of haplogroup Y fades more smoothly away from its maximum around the Sea of Okhotsk in Northeast Asia, being found in approximately 2% of Koreans and in South Siberian and Central Asian populations with an average frequency of 1%.

Its subclade Y2 has been observed in 40% (176/440) of a large pool of samples from Nias in western Indonesia, ranging from a low of 25% (3/12) among the Zalukhu subpopulation to a high of 52% (11/21) among the Ho subpopulation.

Summary

Given that the Native people migrated from far eastern Asia, in Siberia, sometime between 12,000 and 15,000 years ago, we can see that Y1a, for example, is too young to be among that group – given that this haplogroup was born in Asia only around 7,500 years ago. However, it could be possible to find Y1 or Y or even a subgroup of Y not found in Asia or Europe in the Americas, but alas, to date, that has not materialized, nor have any pre-contact burials been found in the Americas that include mitochondrial haplogroup Y or of any subgroup.

How did haplogroup Y, an East Asian haplogroup, come to be found in eastern Europe?  Probably the same way my Lentz male Y DNA came to be found in Germany, as well as within the Yamnaya ancient remains found north of the Black Sea in Russia from some 3,500 years ago.  We can very probably thank the repeated invasions of what is now Europe from what is now Asia for bringing many of the haplogroups found in present day Eastern Europe – including Y1.  This map of the Genghis Kahn empire and troop movements in the 1200s might provide clues.

genghis khan map

By derivative work: Bkkbrad (talk)Gengis_Khan_empire-fr.svg: historicair 17:01, 8 October 2007 (UTC) – Gengis_Khan_empire-fr.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4534962

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank:

Jakob Lenz (1748-1821), Vinedresser, 52 Ancestors #128

Today, I get to write the article I thought I’d never ever write. For a genealogist, this is red letter day!  Not only the fact THAT I get to write about this person that I never thought I’d identify, but WHAT I get to write about him just defies any hope or expectation I could ever have had.  I could never have dreamed this big.  I’m really not exaggerating.  You’ll see!!!

Jakob’s story begins like all genealogy stories, but it ends very, very uniquely with information that was unknown to even Jakob himself!  No cheating and peeking ahead.

Jakob Lenz is the father of Jakob Lenz, or Jacob Lentz as he was known here in the States. The younger Jacob, Jacob Lentz, my ancestor, is the man who immigrated to America.

Until just recently, with the help of Tom, a retired genealogist who specialized in German records, no one had ever been able to determine where Jacob Lentz, the immigrant, was from, or who his parents were.  It wasn’t for lack of trying.  It was for lack of being lucky.

Partly, as you can see, it was because the first and last names were spelled differently in Germany, and partly because his wife’s name was remembered incorrectly, so I was looking for a marriage that didn’t exist, and partly because there were no online records until recently, so searching was a needle-in-a-haystrack proposition.

In the blink of an eye, that all changed with Tom’s discovery and opened the door into the world of my ancestors in the beautiful village of Beutelbach in Germany. Along with finding Jakob Lenz came several generations of ancestors, literally until the church records run out. Jakob and his ancestors were firmly planted in Beutelsbach and had probably been living there “forever” as far as they were concerned.

That’s what people in Europe often say when you ask where their family was from before where they live now. “We’ve lived here forever.” While that’s true from their perspective, which generally reaches back a couple to a few generations, sometimes, forever isn’t really ”forever,” as we’ll discover.

Jakob Enters the World

Jakob Lenz was born on February 1, 1748 in Beutelsbach to Johann Jakob Lenz and Katharina Haag.

JakobLenzbaptism

Jakob’s baptism is shown here in the original church records, now available, albeit poorly indexed, at Ancestry. Genealogists must possess the minds of sleuths, and an intimate knowledge of German customs and records was critical for this process as well – skills I didn’t and don’t have and thankfully, Tom does.

His translation tells us that Jakob was born on February 1st and baptized the next day, on the 2nd and that his father was a vinedresser.

Godparents:

  1. Gottfried Jacob Bechtel, baker’s helper
  2. Maria Catharina, wife of Johann Reinhold surgeon (for minor wounds) here
  3. Anna Katharina, wife of Johann George Dobler, citizen and vinedresser, here

We don’t know how the godparents are related to the Lenz or Haag families, but they likely were.  The child was generally named after godparents, with the idea being that if something happened to both parents, the godparents would raise the child and assure their religious education.  In other words, without a will, this is how Germans universally provided for the possibility that both parents would die, a situation that happened all too often.

The records at Family Search originally discovered by Tom provided us with his birth information, and lists the source as well. We therefore knew this information was taken from the church records – we just needed to obtain that church record.

JakobLenz1

Beutelsbach has provided an invaluable service to genealogists seeking their family by reassembling the historical families from church and other records and providing the information online, and for free.

JakobLenz2

Here we find the records for Jacob with his parents listed at the bottom of the page, his siblings, his wife and his children, along with any notes found in the records.

In genealogy parlance, this kind of information is “to die for.” I had struck gold again on this line!  Twice in a month – I’m definitely on a roll!

Jakob’s Marriage

Jakob Lenz married Maria Margaretha Grubler or Gribler on November 3, 1772 in the church in Beutelsbach when he was 24 years old.

JakobLenzmarriage

The document above, from the Lutheran church in Beutelsbach shows his marriage record.  It says they were “married the 18th Sunday after Trinity and that Jacob Lenz was the legitimate unmarried son of the citizen and vinedresser, Jacob Lentz from here.  Maria Margaretha is the legitimate unmarried daughter of the late Johann George Gr_bler, citizen and vinedresser from here.”

It’s interesting that his first name is spelled both Jacob and Jakob in various records and Lenz as both Lenz and Lentz.  No wonder we are confused today!  German spelling wasn’t any more standardized than it was in America during the same timeframe.

Maria Margaretha was the daughter of Johann George Gribler (as it is spelled in the Beutelsbach heritage book) and Katharina Nopp, also of Beutelsbach.

JakobLenzchurch

You can see the church spire in the center of Beutelsbach, like all European villages where the original church still exists. It is here that Jakob and Maria Margaretha sealed the union that lasted just 16 months shy of 50 years. A half century marriage in a time without antibiotics and where early death was far more common than elder years, is truly remarkable. They both, individually and together, certainly beat the odds.

Jakob’s Children

Jakob Lenz would not have been allowed to marry were he not financially stable and able to support a family. The last thing Germans wanted was people that the church and villages had to support, so they assured that people were truly financially “ready for marriage” before the marriage was authorized. Of course, that just meant that some children were born before the official marriage took place. Most people weren’t thwarted by administrative details.

Jakob Lenz and Maria Margaretha Gribler had 9 children, their first child being born just days after their first wedding anniversary.

  • Katharina Barbara Lenz was born November 17, 1773 and died September 4, 1817 in Beutelsbach of epilepsy. She never married. This makes me wonder if she was epileptic for her entire life. I expect she lived with her parents. Perhaps it was a blessing she died before they did.
  • Jakob Lenz was born July 12, 1775 and died less than 2 months later on September 1, 1775 in Beutelsbach.
  • Maria Magdalena Lenz was born October 1, 1776 and died November 1, 1849 in Beutelsback of old age. She never married.
  • Johannes Lenz was born January 16, 1779 in Beutelsbach and died October 29, 1813 at 34 years of age in Beutelsback, single, cause of death stickfluss (bronchitis or pneumonia). Occupation not given.
  • Philipp Jakob Lenz was born April 30, 1781 and died March 1, 1789 in Beutelsbach, just a few weeks before his 8th birthday.
  • Jakob Lenz was born March 15, 1783 and emigrated to America. This is my ancestor whose story is absolutely incredible. So incredible, in fact, that we had to tell the story in two parts, plus one for his wife, Johanna Friedericka Ruhle whom he married on May 25, 1808 in Beutelsbach. The church records tell us that Jakob left with his family to immigrate on February 12, 1817.

Wandert mit K. Erlaubnis vom 12.Februar 1817 mit seiner Familie nach Nordamerika aus.

Translated as:
Emigrated with children permission from the 12th February 1817 with his family to North America.

  • Katharina Margaretha Lenz was born November 2, 1785 and died January 6, 1858 in Beutelsbach at age 73 of old age. She married Johann Conrad Gos on April 21, 1807 in Beutelsbach and had 5 children. Johann Conrad immigrated to Russia in 1817 where he eventually died, but Katharina’s last child, Jakob Freidrich Gos, was born in 1823. Son Jakob Freidrich died in the poorhouse of emaciation and “wasting” in 1857, the year before his mother. Occupation: hafner (potter). It’s unclear whether Jakob Freidrich was the son of Johann Conrad Goss, perhaps home for a visit, or the son of a different father. We’ll never know, because Jakob Freidrich Gos never married, so never had children, at least none that we know about. If he had produced sons, we would have the possibility of Y DNA testing to see if his sons’ descendants match Gos men or men by some other surname. Katharina Margaretha’s secret has already gone to the grave.
  • Johanna was born July 2, 1788 and died October 10, 1788 at 3 months of age in Beutelsbach.
  • Christina was born January 1, 1793 and died “8-13” but no year given, probably 1793 at about 7 months of age.

Of their nine children:

  • 4, 2 boys and 2 girls, died as children at 2 months, 3 months, 7 months and just under 8 years of age, respectively
  • 2 died as adults, but before their parents, having never married
  • 2 married and had children
  • The son who had children immigrated to America in 1817
  • The husband of the daughter who had children left for Russia in 1817
  • 1 additional daughter lived to adulthood but never married
  • Only 3 children outlived their parents

Vinedresser

Based on multiple church records, we know that Jakob’s occupation was that of a vinedresser in the vineyards surrounding Beutelsbach, the center of the wine region in Germany. The ancient vineyards on the sides of the hills, as you can see below, have been carefully pruned and lovingly cared for by generations of vinedressers, an occupation proudly passed from father to son.

Lentz Beutelsbach photo

In fact, according to the church records, we know that Jakob learned this occupation from his father and passed this occupation to his son Jakob who was also a vinedresser before he emigrated.

I can see the two Jakobs, father and son, working in the vineyard together, talking, making small talk, but the kind of small talk that sustains one’s soul after the other person is gone. Those are the moments that are bonding forever, even though at the time they seem routine and mundane. Like plowing the fields in Indiana or picking green beans on a hot summer morning when the grass was still slippery with dew. What I wouldn’t give today to pick a day, any day, to return back in time to visit the farm in Indiana – and I’m sure that Jakob Lenz, the son, especially during his hellish immigration to America, felt the same way.

War – The End of the Political World

In 1803, the Napoleonic War threatened and for the next 12 years, the Germans lived under constant threat of upheaval as Europe fought internal wars and redefined itself.  The French empire, led by Napoleon was pitted against an array of other European powers formed into various coalitions.

waterloo

The battles were bloody and devastating, and the countryside was often laid to waste.  This History of the Kingdom of Wurttemberg tells us the following:

Once a Duchy within the Holy Roman Empire, on 1 January 1806, Duke Frederick II assumed the title of king Frederick I. He abrogated the constitution and united old and new Württemberg. Subsequently, he placed the property of the church under the control of the kingdom, whose boundaries were also greatly extended by the process of “mediatisation,” the loss of immediacy. Immediacy is the status of persons not subject to local lords, but only to a higher authority directly, such as the Holy Roman Emperor.

In 1806, Frederick joined the Confederation of the Rhine and received further additions of territory with 160,000 inhabitants. Later, by the Peace of Vienna of October 1809, about 110,000 more people came under his rule. In return for these favors, Frederick joined French Emperor Napoleon in his campaigns against Prussia, Austria and Russia. Of the 16,000 of his subjects who marched to Moscow, only a few hundred returned.

After the Battle of Leipzig in October 1813, King Frederick deserted the French emperor, and by a treaty with Metternich at Fulda in November 1813, he secured the confirmation of his royal title and of his recent acquisitions of territory, while his troops marched with those of the allies into France.

In 1815, the King joined the German Confederation, but the Congress of Vienna made no change to the extent of his lands. In the same year, he laid before the representatives of his people the outline of a new constitution, but they rejected it, and in the midst of the commotion that ensued, Frederick died on 30 October 1816.

The End of Jakob’s Personal World

For the decade beginning when Jakob was 55, war and the threat of war was ever present.  That alone would be enough to cause a great deal of stress in the life of a German citizen who lived not far from the French border.  Furthermore, many Germans lost their lives and Germany switched sides late in the war.  I’m sure the populace was both confused and disenchanted, not to mention, afraid for themselves, their children and the future.  Germany’s army was fueled by mass conscriptions and many Germans had already died in Napoleon’s war.

Beginning in 1813, when he was 65, Jacob’s personal world began to unravel as well. In October of 1813, his 34 year old son died of pneumonia.

In 1814, Jakob would have stood by the grave while his grandson was buried.

Towards the sunset of Jakob’s life, he would have lived through the year with no summer, as 1816 was called. Jakob had been born during what was termed the “Little Ice Age” in which Western Europe experienced a general cooling of the climate between the years 1150 and 1460 and a very cold climate between 1560 and 1850 that brought dire consequences to its peoples.

The colder weather caused social strife impacting agriculture, health, economics, emigration, and even art and literature. The eruption of Mt. Tambora in April 1815 in Indonesia propelled ashes into the atmosphere, blocking the sun, reducing temperatures even further – although at the time, no one could have put 2 and 2 together to deduce cause and effect. The Tambora eruption caused a particularly cold year in 1816 in which crops failed throughout both America and Europe, forcing prices for what little food did exist in Germany and other parts of Europe into record high territory. Riots ensued.

Additionally, this famine was added onto the effects of the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars which lasted from 1803-1815.

JakobLenz1812

Notice on this map of 1812, Germany really doesn’t exist, although it would by 1815 with Napoleon’s defeat.

From Jakob’s point of view, it probably seemed like the world he knew was coming to an end, between the wars, the cold weather and finally, 1816 with no summer.

It was reported that many people in 1816 spent the summer around a fire. The grape vines in many places died and few, if any, produced grapes. If Jacob loved those vines and vineyards, knowing each one personally as most vinedressers did, he would have grieved for them and been sickened at the pathetic sight of his beloved vineyards, always within view, on the hillsides.

Jakob practiced his craft as a vinedresser probably for more than half a century – and maybe longer if his health held. He probably began working in the vineyards when he was perhaps 15, or maybe younger, joining his father.  He probably worked at long as he could. He died at age 73, so it’s conceivable that he walked to work in the vineyards every day for 58 years or so. I would wager that he found the hillsides and vineyards both beautiful and peaceful.

If Jakob had not already retired, perhaps it was the year of 1816 that prompted him to do so. He would have been 68 years old and may have wondered what the world was coming to. Many people interpreted the climate change as a whole, and 1816 in particular, in Biblical terms.

Furthermore, Jakob may have had tuberculosis.

Jakob, his only surviving son, left in 1817 for America in the springtime, the year after the worst of the famine and when his father was 69 years old. Both men knew they would never see each other again. This must have been a gut-wrenching goodbye.

Jakob, the father, must surely have been terribly torn – wanting a better life for his namesake son and family, but also wanting Jakob’s company and help in his final years. Perhaps Jakob walked up the hills into the vineyard to watch his son’s wagon disappear into the distance so that no one would witness the hot tears he surely cried.  With his only son gone, he must have felt terribly alone and vulnerable in the face of an  uncertain future combined with old age.

Jakob the son would likely have been terribly torn between providing for his future and that of his wife and children by immigrating to a land with more opportunity, and staying in Germany to care for his aging parents. Not knowing if 1817 was going to repeat the agricultural devastation of 1816, not to mention the political unrest, made the decision particularly difficult, but it’s obvious that Jakob wasn’t taking a “wait and see” approach, since he had clearly made and acted upon his decision by February and probably departed Beutelsbach shortly thereafter, perhaps looking back one last time to see if his father was in sight and to sear the vineyards on the hillsides above the village that he would never see again in his memory forever.

Jakob, the father, would say a different kind of goodbye to yet another child a few months later on September 4, 1817 when his firstborn, Katharina Barbara, would die of an epileptic seizure. Given that she never married, she very likely lived with her parents. At 45 years of age, if she had been epileptic for her entire life, perhaps her death was a release. Still for an aging parent, Katharina Barbara’s decline and death must have been utterly devastating and horribly traumatic to witness. Watching your children suffer and being powerless to help is its own special kind of hell on earth.  Your worst nightmare come true.

Having witnessed seizures where the person stopped breathing, I can only imagine with horror watching your child seize and die.  How many times had they literally held their breath as she seized, but eventually resumed breathing.  This time, she didn’t.  I shudder to even think.  My heart just breaks for them, almost 200 years later.

Yet another catastrophe visited this family in 1817, which Jakob may have come to regard as the year from Hell. Katharina Margaretha Lenz’s husband, Conrad Gos, emigrated to Russia, leaving his wife and children behind.  Their support may have fallen to Jakob.

Jakob may have wondered just how much more he could take.

Jakob’s Death

JakobLenz death

Jakob Lenz died July 2, 1821 at 6AM in Beutelsbach and was buried two days later, July 4th, at 10 AM, as shown in the church record, above. Jakob’s death entry in the church records, according to the Beutelsbach website is as follows:

  • Ist hier geschult und aufgezogen worden.
  • Todesursache: Zehrfieber
  • Beruf: Weingärtner

Translated, this means:

  • Has been trained here and raised.
  • Cause of death: Zehren fever
  • Occupation: Vinedresser or liternally, wine gardener

It also gives his parents names and his father’s occupation as a vinedresser.  The record gives Jakob’s age at death as 73 years and 5 months.

Zehren fever translates as “hectic fever,” which, according to the dictionary, is described as a remittent fever, with stages of chilliness, heat, and sweat, variously intermixed, usually present in wasting diseases, in particular pulmonary consumption or tuberculosis.

Jakob’s body may have died, but his absolutely incredible Y DNA lives on in his male Lentz descendants who carry his Y chromosome.  The Y DNA is passed from father to son and follows the surname path, so all Lentz males today who descend from this line through son Jakob/Jacob who immigrated to America, barring an adoption of some sort, carry Jakob’s Y DNA signature.  Let’s take a look!

Jakob’s DNA, Another Chapter

Several weeks ago, cousin C. Lentz, a descendant of son Jacob Lentz, agreed to test his Y DNA. Never, in my wildest dreams did I expect results so unbelievably unique. C. Lentz was not the first Lentz male to test, but my previous Lentz cousin who tested is now deceased, and if we wanted to test additional markers, and order additional tests, we needed to have a new candidate.

Am I ever glad cousin C. Lentz agreed, because the information forthcoming that was not available at the time the previous Lentz cousin tested is nothing short of phenomenal. As in jaw-dropping fall-off-your-chair incredible.

The last chapter, at least as of today, in the epic journey back in time comes from Dr. Sergey Malyshev, a geneticist at the Institute of Genetics and Cytology of Belarus National Academy of Sciences who specializes in plant genetics. Plant or human, genetics is genetics and the underlying foundation is the same. As Dr. Malyshev said, the methods of DNA analysis are universal. There are no big differences in the methodology between the DNA analysis for plants or humans.

Dr. Malyshev is one of the volunteer project administrators for the R1b Basal Subclades project at Family Tree DNA. Cousin C. Lentz is a member of that project. Dr. Malyshev asked me to request the BAM file for cousin C. so that he could analyze the results. I want to emphasize that Dr. Malyshev is not affiliated with any other company or organization, and the information went no place other than to Dr. Malyshev.

I received an e-mail from Dr. Malyshev detailing the SNPs, or mutations, and the order they are found on the Y DNA tree, grouped by the older haplogroup designations, in bold below.  Underneath the headings are the SNPS that must be found positive (+) to indicate the individual is a member of that sub-haplogroup.

R1b1a1a2a2

  • CTS1078/Z2103+
  • Z8128/Y4371+
  • Z2105+
  • S20902/Z8130+
  • CTS9416+

R1b1a1a2a2c

  • Z2106+

R1b1a1a2a2c1

  • Z2108+
  • CTS1843/Z2109+

The exciting part was yet to come.

Dr. Malyshev said:

Under Z2109, Mr. Lentz’s haplotype (his personal results) and 2 other kits form the new branch, KMS67:

  • 442223 (Lentz)
  • 181183
  • 329335

Unlike Lentz, kits 181183 and 329335 are much more closely related to each other. They have 45 common SNPs. Thus, they form an additional subclade of R-KMS67 which is KMS75. The R-KMS67 branch is probably a very rare subclade. 181183 and 329335 belong to Burzyan Bashkir people. The relationships between Lentz and these Burzyan Bashkir men is very ancient. For example, the KMS75 marker was found in ancient DNA samples of the Yamnaya culture.

Ok, now I’m sitting bolt upright and wide awake. And not believing my ears.

The Yamnaya culture, as in 5,000 years ago?? Seriously? This ancient DNA was only recovered about a year ago! In fact, ironically, I wrote an article about the Yamnaya discovery because I found it utterly fascinating. Now that just seems like an uncanny coincidence.

Dr. Malyshev continues:

Thus, the separation of Lentz’s line from the Bashkir line could have occurred even before the Yamnaya culture appearance. At the moment, the distribution of R-KMS67 line in Europe is completely unknown. It will take time to understand it. It is clear that this line is very rare. Germany could be an important place for the Z2109+ people because several different subclades of R-Z2109 were found here. It will be important to check the 14168106 (A/G) marker that was also observed in samples from the Yamnaya culture. This is only possible by using the BAM file.

I ordered the BAM file, sent it to Dr. Malyshev and attempted to wait patiently, which was no small feat, let me tell you. Not being a carrier of the patience gene, I wrote to Dr. Malyshev and asked if he had been able to discern anything in cousin C. Lentz’s BAM file relative to marker 14168106 and the Yamnaya culture?

Dr Malyshev replied:

Yes, 14168106 (a change from nucleotide A to G) is positive for Lentz. I have prepared a special chart combining all data for the R-KMS67 branch.

Next, I had to know if the mutation at 14168106 preceded the Yamnaya culture or did it emerge during the Yamnaya culture, or can’t we tell for sure? In other words, is there any way to know if our Lentz ancestor was part of the Yamnaya, or did his common ancestor with the Yamnaya reach perhaps further back in time?

Dr. Malyshev again:

I think the correct answer on your question is we can’t tell for sure. The problem is that we do not have ancient DNA samples from the Western Yamnaya culture. It occupied a very big territory from the Balkan peninsula to the Severski Donietz and Don rivers in steppes near the Black Sea. We have only ancient DNA samples from the Eastern Yamnaya culture that occupied a territory to East from the Volga river in steppes near the Caspian Sea. At the moment we can only speculate that the Western Yamnaya culture was a source of R-Z2109 for both Europe and Asia. In such case the R-KMS67 branch has appeared in the Black Sea steppes, and then a main part of this branch has migrated in the Eastern direction to the Caspian Sea and formed the Eastern Yamnaya culture. Its descendants can be found around the Caspian Sea in Bashkortostan or even Iraq. However, a second small group of the R-KMS67 branch (including Lentz’s ancestor) could stay near the Black Sea for a while and then migrated to Europe together with the R-CTS7822 and R-Y14414 lines. This is only hypothesis, of course.

Dr. Malyshev mentioned the extensive area covered by the Yamnaya culture, which is shown on the map below, from Eupedia.

JakobLenz yamna culture

Dr. Malyshev is kind enough to allow me to include the chart he created that shows the branch of haplogroup R that our Lentz ancestor belongs to. As you can see, so far, our Lentz family is the only one found in Europe but we distantly match two men from the Burzyan Bashkirs in Russia and one man from Iraq.

JakobLenz Malyshev chart

I wrote about the Bashkir and the Yamnaya and events in history which could have propelled these cultures into the part of Europe that would one day become Germany in the first article about Jacob Lentz, the immigrant.

You can see the region where the Yamnaya people are found, and the Yamna culture. The river transecting the middle of the yellow region North to South, passing between the n and the a on the map below, is the Volga.

JakobLenz Yamna

Now that we know a little more about the Yamnaya as a whole, I had to ask where, in Russia, are the excavations that produced the remains that match our Lentz ancestors? On the map above, the locations are just above the last a in Yamna, on the Volga.

However, we can be much more specific in terms of the locations of the Yamnaya burials.

JakobLenz Samara

The burials were found in close proximity to the city of Samara in Russia. Samara, today Russia’s 6th largest city, was home to “nests of pirates” before 1586, at the bend around the island on the map above. Samara was a frontier post that began with a fortress on the island that protected the eastern-most boundaries of Russia from forays of nomads. Samara was the gateway between east and west, a crossroads of many trade routes. The Yamnaya were likely early inhabitants and could have been traders as well, some 3500 years before the first written records of Samara appear.

Maybe our ancestors were early pirates or perhaps the equivalent of toll takers, assuring safe passage for traders needing to cross the Volga or pass by the island on the waterway. Maybe they were soldiers or traders, or all of the above at different times.

This website tracks the locations where ancient DNA has been retrieved, and the maps below show the locations of the ancient burials from this website.

Three of the 4 Yamnaya burials are found on this map and all were from about 5,000 years ago, or about 3,000 BC.

JakobLenz ancient 1

The first burial was located just above the curve in the Volga River, above the island, on the River Sok, shown above.  The mileage legend on the maps is in the lower left hand corner.

JakobLenz ancient 2

The second burial is shown just east of the Volga River bend, above.

JakobLenz ancient 3

The third burial is shown just below the bend in the Volga River, just below the island. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there’s a theme here. I surely wonder about the importance of that island, perhaps a neutral ground for trade or a fortified island that was easy to defend? A settlement site perhaps, or a village maybe? All of the above at one time or another?

JakobLenz ancient4

There were additional burials found on the River Sok, above, but the quality of the DNA recovered wasn’t sufficient to determine if they are a match to our Lentz line and to the other burials.

JakobLenz ancient 5

Dr. Malyshev indicates that site 370 (above) can’t be eliminated either, although it is a bit further south and east.

JakobLenz ancient 6

Looking at the region as a whole, we can see the cluster of burials, above.

JakobLenz Stuttgart

Our Lentz line eventually settled in Beutelsbach, near Stuttgart, Germany, shown above on the same ancient burial map. Need I mention that Stuttgart is no place close to Samara, Russia? In fact, it’s more than half way across the entire Eurasian continent, as you can see on the map below.  That’s a massive distance interrupted by mountain ranges and inhospitable territory.

JakobLenz Eurasia

Looking at Google maps, you can see that it’s nearly an 8 hour plane ride.

JakobLenz Samara to Beutelsbach

This trip translates into about 3,500 miles, or the distance across the US diagonally from Key West, Florida, the furthest Southeastern point to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada which is in essence the end of the driving road in the Northwest.

jakobLenz Key West to Vancouver

I don’t know about you, but I have no desire whatsoever to make either one of those journeys, let alone by horseback, or chariot, or even perhaps on foot. If armies of that day and time moved at the same rate wagon trains did in the early US, they covered about 10 miles a day, on average. Of course, armies may well have stopped to fight and hunt and pillage and such – so their progress may have been much more sporadic and slower. One could not expect to travel for 3,500 miles through unknown terrain unimpeded and without being challenged by whomever the current residents were. People are funny that way – they don’t take kindly to invaders – especially not invaders that might have their eye on either their food or their women – or both. And an army has to eat!

That epic migration might not have been a single event, but a series of migration events separated by a significant amount of time, even generations.

Genetics and genetic genealogy, even though with our Yamnaya discovery we’re far beyond lineages we can track through paperwork back in time, isn’t much different than regular genealogy. You find one answer and it opens the door to hundreds of new questions. Genealogy and genetic genealogy are the pursuits that never end.

Now, of course, I want to know more about the Yamnaya and more about ancient Yamnaya burials with their ceremonial red ochre.

JakobLenz Yamnaya skull

More about these mysterious tall steppe-dwelling people who may well have developed the gene for and introduced lactose tolerance into the European population as they migrated westward, probably as unwelcome invaders.

More about men who will be found in eastern Europe who will carry our terminal SNP of KMS67, shared with the current day Burzyan Bashkirs and one man in Iran.

More about that intriguing DNA location 14168106, the location of an unnamed SNP just waiting to be named. Our SNP, our very own SNP, the one that belongs to us and some, but not all, of the Yamnaya, our relatives for sure and our probable ancestors. So far, that unnamed SNP belongs to no one else! No other living person so far discovered. No one else in the world except for our Lentz men and the ancient Yamnaya – reaching back some 5,000 years into the mists of time on the Volga River.

By Eternal Sledopyt – ru:Файл:Волга у Жигулей осенью.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19028715

 

Native American Haplogroup X2a – Solutrean, Hebrew or Beringian?

I was very pleased to see the article, “Does Mitochondrial Haplogroup X Indicate Ancient Trans-Atlantic Migration to the Americas? A Critical Re-Evaluation” by Jennifer Raff and Deborah Bolnick.

This is one of those topics that gets brought up over and over again and is often presented in the form of an urban legend with some level of bias based up on the agenda, exuberance or opinion of the person who is presenting the evidence. In other words, it makes for good click-bait.

Personally, I don’t have a horse in this race. I care about the truth, whatever it is, being discovered and unraveled.  I think the authors of this paper have done a good job of presenting the evidence in both directions then drawing conclusions based on scientific data as we know it.  There has been new evidence emerge in the recent past and there is likely to be more in the future which, depending on the evidence, could cause a re-evaluation of this topic.

Why has haplogroup X2 been so contentious and controversial when the other Native American haplogroups have not?

There are two primary reasons:

  1. There is no clear-cut genetic path across Beringia to the New World for X2a, meaning that X2a is not found in Siberia in the areas bordering Beringia. The ancestral form of the other Native American haplogroups are found there, indicating a clear migration path. Having said that, haplogroup X2a and subgroups is very clearly the rarest of the Native American mitochondrial DNA haplogroups and it’s certainly feasible that not enough testing has been performed on living or ancestral people to discover X2 or X2a directly ancestral individuals. It is also possible that line has died out, but hopefully we will still find examples in skeletal remains as more are DNA typed.
  2. Many of the early carriers of haplogroup X2a were found in eastern maritime Canada, a prime theoretical landing location for Solutreans.  This certainly fanned the Solutrean flame.  However, more recent discoveries of haplogroup X2a and subgroups have been more widely geographically dispersed.  Neither is there a path or ancestral form of X2a found in Europe or the Middle East.

Looking at the X2a subgroups (X2a, X2a1, X2a1a, X2a1b, X2a1c, plus three forms of X2a2) in the haplogroup X project at Family Tree DNA, the American Indian project, GenBank and various academic papers, we find the following locations identified for X2a and subgroups, moving west to east:

  • Saskatchewan
  • Pasadena, California
  • Chihuahua, Mexico
  • Edmonton, Alberta
  • Selkirk, Manitoba
  • Manitoba (2)
  • La Pointe, Wisconsin
  • Ontario
  • Ontario border with Michgan (Manitoulin Island)
  • St. Ignace, Michigan (near border with Ontario)
  • Manawan, Quebec
  • Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Newfoundland (Island) 2
  • Cape Breton, Canada
  • Nova Scotia, Canada

Although not in the haplogroup X project, X2a2 has also been found among the Navajo and Jemez in the American Southwest and in Kennewick Man found in Kennewick, Washington. Other tribal affiliations include the Chippewa, Ojibwa and Sioux.  Given the Newfoundland and Canadian seaboard locations, the Algonquian speaking Micmac and Beothuk populations would clearly be involved as well.

X2a map

Note on the X2a map above reflecting the oldest known ancestral locations, that no locations appear outside of North America.

Haplogroup X2a is believed to have developed in Beringia during the period of isolation of approximately 8,000 years experienced by the people who were to become the “First Nations” and “Native Americans” in North America. This is the reason, not just for X2a, but for other haplogroups as well, that some subgroups exist only in Native people in the New World and not in Asia from whence they came.  Those haplogroup identifying mutations occurred during their long stay in Beringia.

We know from archaeological excavations along with genetic analysis in some cases that the Native people by roughly 14,000 years ago had emerged from Beringia, trekked southward and were in Monte Verde in Chile. The Native population seems to have diverged into two groups, one in South America who likely arrived via a western coastal route, and one who migrated more eastwardly, the ancestors of Anzick Child who lived about 12,500 years ago in Montana and whose DNA has been tested.

Kennewick Man who carries the oldest form of haplogroup X2a yet found in the Americas was dated to be about 9,000 years old and was found in Washington State, so clearly X2a was present in the Native population 9,000 years ago and on the western side of the continent.

You will note that in the list of X2a results given above, none of the locations are any further south than Chichuhua, Mexico.  Based on the locations of these most distant ancestors, a primary west to east migration path just north of the present day border between the US and Canada is suggested, along with a secondary path southward along the Pacific coast or western corridor.

Here are the salient points listed by Raff and Bolnick in support of haplogroup X2a and subgroups originating in Asia, along with the other Native American haplogroups, and arriving together in the same settlement wave:

  1. Haplogroup X2a is present in the Americas in pre-European contact skeletal remains confirming is it not a result of post-contact admixture.
  2. While the Altai, considered to be the original Asian homeland of today’s Native American people, do carry haplogroup X2, the linking mutations between X2 and X2a have not been found in that or any other population group today. Haplogroup X itself originated in the Middle East before X2 evolved, but that is not indicative of Hebrew or European ancestry.
  3. X2a is not found in the Middle East, and therefore could not have been part of a theoretical Hebrew migration from the Middle East 2500 years ago. Haplogroup X2a was found in Kennewick man who lived 9000 years ago, in Washington State, so X2a in the Americas predates the proposed Hebrew migration by some 6,500 years.
  4. The oldest and deepest rooted X2a result, relative to the haplotree, is Kennewick man whose remains were found in the western US. If X2a was the result of a Solutrean migration during the Pleistocene 23,500 to 18,000 years ago with a landing base in Newfoundland or someplace on the east coast, the oldest and deepest lineages should be found in the eastern population, not on the west coast.
  5. Based on coalescence dates and demographic history, X2a is likely to have originated in the same population as the other American founder haplogroups.
  6. Kennewick Man was explicitly tested for his affinity with European and Polynesian populations and that hypothesis was rejected.
  7. Studies have indicated that a population found in central Asia contributed strongly to both the Native American population and the European population by moving from central Asia into both Europe and Siberia, but that does not equate to Europeans being ancestral to Native Americans. Instead, a common ancestral population often referred to as the “ghost population” was part of the founding group of both Europeans and Native Americans as described here and here. This means that later European populations, such as Germanic people who do show small amounts of “Native American” admixture are probably more closely related to Native Americans than earlier populations from before the central Asian people arrived and settled en masse in Europe.
  8. No Solutrean skeletal remains have been recovered in Europe in order to facilitate a direct comparison. However, if Solutrean people did arrive in the New World on the east coast, one would not expect to find a European/Solutrean signature equally distributed among all native people, but instead distributed in a gradient pattern with the highest levels closest to where the Solutrean people lived, meaning their landing point.  In other words, it would radiate outward like ripples from a rock thrown into water.  However, the genetic signature of West Eurasian ancestry in Native American people is found equally in all Native American genomes tested to date, and as such, predates the evolution of regional genetic structure within North and South America as reflected in migration patterns.

The Best and Worst of 2015 – Genetic Genealogy Year in Review

2015 Best and Worst

For the past three years I’ve written a year-in-review article. You can see just how much the landscape has changed in the 2012, 2013 and 2014 versions.

This year, I’ve added a few specific “award” categories for people or firms that I feel need to be specially recognized as outstanding in one direction or the other.

In past years, some news items, announcements and innovations turned out to be very important like the Genographic Project and GedMatch, and others, well, not so much. Who among us has tested their full genome today, for example, or even their exome?  And would you do with that information if you did?

And then there are the deaths, like the Sorenson database and Ancestry’s own Y and mitochondrial data base. I still shudder to think how much we’ve lost at the corporate hands of Ancestry.

In past years, there have often been big new announcements facilitated by new technology. In many ways, the big fish have been caught in a technology sense.  Those big fish are autosomal DNA and the Big Y types of tests.  Both of these have created an avalanche of data and we, personally and as a community, are still trying to sort through what all of this means genealogically and how to best utilize the information.  Now we need tools.

This is probably illustrated most aptly by the expansion of the Y tree.

The SNP Tsunami Growing Pains Continue

2015 snp tsunami

Going from 800+ SNPs in 2012 to more than 35,000 SNPs today has introduced its own set of problems. First, there are multiple trees in existence, completely or partially maintained by different organizations for different purposes.  Needless to say, these trees are not in sync with each other.  The criteria for adding a SNP to the tree is decided by the owner or steward of that tree, and there is no agreement as to the definition of a valid SNP or how many instances of that SNP need to be in existence to be added to the tree.

This angst has been taking place for the most part outside of the public view, but it exists just the same.

For example, 23andMe still uses the old haplogroup names like R1b which have not been used in years elsewhere. Family Tree DNA is catching up with updating their tree, working with haplogroup administrators to be sure only high quality, proven SNPs are added to branches.  ISOGG maintains another tree (one branch shown above) that’s publicly available, utilizing volunteers per haplogroup and sometimes per subgroup.  Other individuals and organizations maintain other trees, or branches of trees, some very accurate and some adding a new “branch” with as little as one result.

The good news is that this will shake itself out. Personally, I’m voting for the more conservative approach for public reference trees to avoid “pollution” and a lot of shifting and changing downstream when it’s discovered that the single instance of a SNP is either invalid or in a different branch location.  However, you have to start with an experimental or speculative tree before you can prove that a SNP is where it belongs or needs to be moved, so each of the trees has its own purpose.

The full trees I utilize are the Family Tree DNA tree, available for customers, the ISOGG tree and Ray Banks’ tree which includes locations where the SNPs are found when the geographic location is localized. Within haplogroup projects, I tend to use a speculative tree assembled by the administrators, if one is available.  The haplogroup admins generally know more about their haplogroup or branch than anyone else.

The bad news is that this situation hasn’t shaken itself out yet, and due to the magnitude of the elephant at hand, I don’t think it will anytime soon. As this shuffling and shaking occurs, we learn more about where the SNPs are found today in the world, where they aren’t found, which SNPs are “family” or “clan” SNPs and the timeframes in which they were born.

In other words, this is a learning process for all involved – albeit a slow and frustrating one. However, we are making progress and the tree becomes more robust and accurate every year.

We may be having growing pains, but growing pains aren’t necessarily a bad thing and are necessary for growth.

Thank you to the hundreds of volunteers who work on these trees, and in particular, to Alice Fairhurst who has spearheaded the ISOGG tree for the past nine years. Alice retired from that volunteer position this year and is shown below after receiving two much-deserved awards for her service at the Family Tree DNA Conference in November.

2015 ftdna fairhurst 2

Best Innovative Use of Integrated Data

2015 smileDr. Maurice Gleeson receives an award this year for the best genealogical use of integrated types of data. He has utilized just about every tool he can find to wring as much information as possible out of Y DNA results.  Not only that, but he has taken great pains to share that information with us in presentations in the US and overseas, and by creating a video, noted in the article below.  Thanks so much Maurice.

Making Sense of Y Data

Estes pedigree

The advent of massive amounts of Y DNA data has been both wonderful and perplexing. We as genetic genealogists want to know as much about our family as possible, including what the combination of STR and SNP markers means to us.  In other words, we don’t want two separate “test results” but a genealogical marriage of the two.

I took a look at this from the perspective of the Estes DNA project. Of course, everyone else will view those results through the lens of their own surname or haplogroup project.

Estes Big Y DNA Results
https://dna-explained.com/2015/03/26/estes-big-y-dna-results/

At the Family Tree DNA Conference in November, James Irvine and Maurice Gleeson both presented sessions on utilizing a combination of STR and SNP data and various tools in analyzing their individual projects.

Maurice’s presentation was titled “Combining SNPs, STRs and Genealogy to build a Surname Origins Tree.”
http://www.slideshare.net/FamilyTreeDNA/building-a-mutation-history-tree

Maurice created a wonderful video that includes a lot of information about working with Y DNA results. I would consider this one of the very best Y DNA presentations I’ve ever seen, and thanks to Maurice, it’s available as a video here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvyHY4R6DwE&feature=youtu.be

You can view more of Maurice’s work at:
http://gleesondna.blogspot.com/2015/08/genetic-distance-genetic-families.html

James Irvine’s presentation was titled “Surname Projects – Some Fresh Ideas.” http://www.slideshare.net/FamilyTreeDNA/y-dna-surname-projects-some-fresh-ideas

Another excellent presentation discussing Y DNA results was “YDNA maps Scandinavian Family Trees from Medieval Times and the Viking Age” by Peter Sjolund.
http://www.slideshare.net/FamilyTreeDNA/ydna-maps-scandinavian-family-trees-from-medieval-times-and-the-viking-age

Peter’s session at the genealogy conference in Sweden this year was packed. This photo, compliments of Katherine Borges, shows the room and the level of interest in Y-DNA and the messages it holds for genetic genealogists.

sweden 2015

This type of work is the wave of the future, although hopefully it won’t be so manually intensive. However, the process of discovery is by definition laborious.  From this early work will one day emerge reproducible methodologies, the fruits of which we will all enjoy.

Haplogroup Definitions and Discoveries Continue

A4 mutations

Often, haplogroup work flies under the radar today and gets dwarfed by some of the larger citizen science projects, but this work is fundamentally important. In 2015, we made discoveries about haplogroups A4 and C, for example.

Haplogroup A4 Unpeeled – European, Jewish, Asian and Native American
https://dna-explained.com/2015/03/05/haplogroup-a4-unpeeled-european-jewish-asian-and-native-american/

New Haplogroup C Native American Subgroups
https://dna-explained.com/2015/03/11/new-haplogroup-c-native-american-subgroups/

Native American Haplogroup C Update – Progress
https://dna-explained.com/2015/08/25/native-american-haplogroup-c-update-progress/

These aren’t the only discoveries, by any stretch of the imagination. For example, Mike Wadna, administrator for the Haplogroup R1b Project reports that there are now over 1500 SNPs on the R1b tree at Family Tree DNA – which is just about twice as many as were known in total for the entire Y tree in 2012 before the Genographic project was introduced.

The new Y DNA SNP Packs being introduced by Family Tree DNA which test more than 100 SNPs for about $100 will go a very long way in helping participants obtain haplogroup assignments further down the tree without doing the significantly more expensive Big Y test. For example, the R1b-DF49XM222 SNP Pack tests 157 SNPs for $109.  Of course, if you want to discover your own private line of SNPs, you’ll have to take the Big Y.  SNP Packs can only test what is already known and the Big Y is a test of discovery.

                       Best Blog2015 smile

Jim Bartlett, hands down, receives this award for his new and wonderful blog, Segmentology.

                             Making Sense of Autosomal DNA

segmentology

Our autosomal DNA results provide us with matches at each of the vendors and at GedMatch, but what do we DO with all those matches and how to we utilize the genetic match information? How to we translate those matches into ancestral information.  And once we’ve assigned a common ancestor to a match with an individual, how does that match affect other matches on that same segment?

2015 has been the year of sorting through the pieces and defining terms like IBS (identical by state, which covers both identical by population and identical by chance) and IBD (identical by descent). There has been a lot written this year.

Jim Bartlett, a long-time autosomal researcher has introduced his new blog, Segmentology, to discuss his journey through mapping ancestors to his DNA segments. To the best of my knowledge, Jim has mapped more of his chromosomes than any other researcher, more than 80% to specific ancestors – and all of us can leverage Jim’s lessons learned.

Segmentology.org by Jim Bartlett
https://dna-explained.com/2015/05/12/segmentology-org-by-jim-bartlett/

When you visit Jim’s site, please take a look at all of his articles. He and I and others may differ slightly in the details our approach, but the basics are the same and his examples are wonderful.

Autosomal DNA Testing – What Now?
https://dna-explained.com/2015/08/07/autosomal-dna-testing-101-what-now/

Autosomal DNA Testing 101 – Tips and Tricks for Contact Success
https://dna-explained.com/2015/08/11/autosomal-dna-testing-101-tips-and-tricks-for-contact-success/

How Phasing Works and Determining IBS vs IBD Matches
https://dna-explained.com/2015/01/02/how-phasing-works-and-determining-ibd-versus-ibs-matches/

Just One Cousin
https://dna-explained.com/2015/01/11/just-one-cousin/

Demystifying Autosomal DNA Matching
https://dna-explained.com/2015/01/17/demystifying-autosomal-dna-matching/

A Study Using Small Segment Matching
https://dna-explained.com/2015/01/21/a-study-utilizing-small-segment-matching/

Finally, A How-To Class for Working with Autosomal Results
https://dna-explained.com/2015/02/10/finally-a-how-to-class-for-working-with-autosomal-dna-results/

Parent-Child Non-Matching Autosomal DNA Segments
https://dna-explained.com/2015/05/14/parent-child-non-matching-autosomal-dna-segments/

A Match List Does Not an Ancestor Make
https://dna-explained.com/2015/05/19/a-match-list-does-not-an-ancestor-make/

4 Generation Inheritance Study
https://dna-explained.com/2015/08/23/4-generation-inheritance-study/

Phasing Yourself
https://dna-explained.com/2015/08/27/phasing-yourself/

Autosomal DNA Matching Confidence Spectrum
https://dna-explained.com/2015/09/25/autosomal-dna-matching-confidence-spectrum/

Earlier in the year, there was a lot of discussion and dissention about the definition of and use of small segments. I utilize them, carefully, generally in conjunction with larger segments.  Others don’t.  Here’s my advice.  Don’t get yourself hung up on this.  You probably won’t need or use small segments until you get done with the larger segments, meaning low-hanging fruit, or unless you are doing a very specific research project.  By the time you get to that point, you’ll understand this topic and you’ll realize that the various researchers agree about far more than they disagree, and you can make your own decision based on your individual circumstances. If you’re entirely endogamous, small segments may just make you crazy.  However, if you’re chasing a colonial American ancestor, then you may need those small segments to identify or confirm that ancestor.

It is unfortunate, however, that all of the relevant articles are not represented in the ISOGG wiki, allowing people to fully educate themselves. Hopefully this can be updated shortly with the additional articles, listed above and from Jim Bartlett’s blog, published during this past year.

Recreating the Dead

James Crumley overlapping segments

James and Catherne Crumley segments above, compliments of Kitty Cooper’s tools

As we learn more about how to use autosomal DNA, we have begun to reconstruct our ancestors from the DNA of their descendants. Not as in cloning, but as in attributing DNA found in multiple descendants that originate from a common ancestor, or ancestral couple.  The first foray into this arena was GedMatch with their Lazarus tool.

Lazarus – Putting Humpty Dumpty Back Together Again
https://dna-explained.com/2015/01/14/lazarus-putting-humpty-dumpty-back-together-again/

I have taken a bit of a different proof approach wherein I recreated an ancestor, James Crumley, born in 1712 from the matching DNA of roughly 30 of his descendants.
http://www.slideshare.net/FamilyTreeDNA/roberta-estes-crumley-y-dna

I did the same thing, on an experimental smaller scale about a year ago with my ancestor, Henry Bolton.
https://dna-explained.com/2014/11/10/henry-bolton-c1759-1846-kidnapped-revolutionary-war-veteran-52-ancestors-45/

This is the way of the future in genetic genealogy, and I’ll be writing more about the Crumley project and the reconstruction of James Crumley in 2016.

                         Lump Of Coal Award(s)2015 frown

This category is a “special category” that is exactly what you think it is. Yep, this is the award no one wants.  We have a tie for the Lump of Coal Award this year between Ancestry and 23andMe.

               Ancestry Becomes the J.R. Ewing of the Genealogy World

2015 Larry Hagman

Attribution : © Glenn Francis, http://www.PacificProDigital.com

Some of you may remember J.R. Ewing on the television show called Dallas that ran from 1978 through 1991. J.R. Ewing, a greedy and unethical oil tycoon was one of the main characters.  The series was utterly mesmerizing, and literally everyone tuned in.  We all, and I mean universally, hated J.R. Ewing for what he unfeelingly and selfishly did to his family and others.  Finally, in a cliffhanger end of the season episode, someone shot J.R. Ewing.  OMG!!!  We didn’t know who.  We didn’t know if J.R. lived or died.  Speculation was rampant.  “Who shot JR?” was the theme on t-shirts everyplace that summer.  J.R. Ewing, over time, became the man all of America loved to hate.

Ancestry has become the J.R. Ewing of the genealogy world for the same reasons.

In essence, in the genetic genealogy world, Ancestry introduced a substandard DNA product, which remains substandard years later with no chromosome browser or comparison tools that we need….and they have the unmitigated audacity to try to convince us we really don’t need those tools anyway. Kind of like trying to convince someone with a car that they don’t need tires.

Worse, yet, they’ve introduced “better” tools (New Ancestor Discoveries), as in tools that were going to be better than a chromosome browser.  New Ancestor Discoveries “gives us” ancestors that aren’t ours. Sadly, there are many genealogists being led down the wrong path with no compass available.

Ancestry’s history of corporate stewardship is abysmal and continues with the obsolescence of various products and services including the Sorenson DNA database, their own Y and mtDNA database, MyFamily and most recently, Family Tree Maker. While the Family Tree Maker announcement has been met with great gnashing of teeth and angst among their customers, there are other software programs available.  Ancestry’s choices to obsolete the DNA data bases is irrecoverable and a huge loss to the genetic genealogy community.  That information is lost forever and not available elsewhere – a priceless, irreplaceable international treasure intentionally trashed.

If Ancestry had not bought up nearly all of the competing resources, people would be cancelling their subscriptions in droves to use another company – any other company. But there really is no one else anymore.  Ancestry knows this, so they have become the J.R. Ewing of the genealogy world – uncaring about the effects of their decisions on their customers or the community as a whole.  It’s hard for me to believe they have knowingly created such wholesale animosity within their own customer base.  I think having a job as a customer service rep at Ancestry would be an extremely undesirable job right now.  Many customers are furious and Ancestry has managed to upset pretty much everyone one way or another in 2015.

AncestryDNA Has Now Thoroughly Lost Its Mind
https://digginupgraves.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/ancestrydna-has-now-thoroughly-lost-its-mind/

Kenny, Kenny, Kenny
https://digginupgraves.wordpress.com/2015/04/10/kenny-kenny-kenny/

Dear Kenny – Any Suggestions for our New Ancestor Discoveries?
https://digginupgraves.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/dear-kenny-any-suggestions-for-our-new-ancestor-discoveries/

RIP Sorenson – A Crushing Loss
https://dna-explained.com/2015/05/15/rip-sorenson-a-crushing-loss/

Of Babies and Bathwater
http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/05/17/of-babies-and-bathwater/

Facts Matter
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/05/03/facts-matter/

Getting the Most Out of AncestryDNA
https://dna-explained.com/2015/02/02/getting-the-most-out-of-ancestrydna/

Ancestry Gave Me a New DNA Ancestor and It’s Wrong
https://dna-explained.com/2015/04/03/ancestry-gave-me-a-new-dna-ancestor-and-its-wrong/

Testing Ancestry’s Amazing New Ancestor DNA Claim
https://dna-explained.com/2015/04/07/testing-ancestrys-amazing-new-ancestor-dna-claim/

Dissecting AncestryDNA Circles and New Ancestors
https://dna-explained.com/2015/04/09/dissecting-ancestrydna-circles-and-new-ancestors/

Squaring the Circle
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/03/29/squaring-the-circle/

Still Waiting for the Holy Grail
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/04/05/still-waiting-for-the-holy-grail/

A Dozen Ancestors That Aren’t aka Bad NADs
https://dna-explained.com/2015/04/14/a-dozen-ancestors-that-arent-aka-bad-nads/

The Logic and Birth of a Bad NAD (New Ancestor Discovery)
https://dna-explained.com/2015/08/12/the-logic-and-birth-of-a-bad-nad-new-ancestor-discovery/

Circling the Shews
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/05/24/circling-the-shews/

Naughty Bad NADs Sneak Home Under Cover of Darkness
https://dna-explained.com/2015/08/24/naughty-bad-nads-sneak-home-under-cover-of-darkness/

Ancestry Shared Matches Combined with New Ancestor Discoveries
https://dna-explained.com/2015/08/28/ancestry-shared-matches-combined-with-new-ancestor-discoveries/

Ancestry Shakey Leaf Disappearing Matches: Now You See Them – Now You Don’t
https://dna-explained.com/2015/09/24/ancestry-shakey-leaf-disappearing-matches-now-you-see-them-now-you-dont/

Ancestry’s New Amount of Shared DNA – What Does It Really Mean?
https://dna-explained.com/2015/11/06/ancestrys-new-amount-of-shared-dna-what-does-it-really-mean/

The Winds of Change
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/11/08/the-winds-of-change/

Confusion – Family Tree Maker, Family Tree DNA and Ancestry.com
https://dna-explained.com/2015/12/13/confusion-family-tree-maker-family-tree-dna-and-ancestry-com/

DNA: good news, bad news
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/01/11/dna-good-news-bad-news/

Check out the Alternatives
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/12/09/check-out-the-alternatives/

GeneAwards 2015
http://www.tamurajones.net/GeneAwards2015.xhtml

23andMe Betrays Genealogists

2015 broken heart

In October, 23andMe announced that it has reached an agreement with the FDA about reporting some health information such as carrier status and traits to their clients. As a part of or perhaps as a result of that agreement, 23andMe is dramatically changing the user experience.

In some aspects, the process will be simplified for genealogists with a universal opt-in. However, other functions are being removed and the price has doubled.  New advertising says little or nothing about genealogy and is entirely medically focused.  That combined with the move of the trees offsite to MyHeritage seems to signal that 23andMe has lost any commitment they had to the genetic genealogy community, effectively abandoning the group entirely that pulled their collective bacon out of the fire. This is somehow greatly ironic in light of the fact that it was the genetic genealogy community through their testing recommendations that kept 23andMe in business for the two years, from November of 2013 through October of 2015 when the FDA had the health portion of their testing shut down.  This is a mighty fine thank you.

As a result of the changes at 23andMe relative to genealogy, the genetic genealogy community has largely withdrawn their support and recommendations to test at 23andMe in favor of Ancestry and Family Tree DNA.

Kelly Wheaton, writing on the Facebook ISOGG group along with other places has very succinctly summed up the situation:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/isogg/permalink/10153873250057922/

You can also view Kelly’s related posts from earlier in December and their comments at:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/isogg/permalink/10153830929022922/
and…
https://www.facebook.com/groups/isogg/permalink/10153828722587922/

My account at 23andMe has not yet been converted to the new format, so I cannot personally comment on the format changes yet, but I will write about the experience in 2016 after my account is converted.

Furthermore, I will also be writing a new autosomal vendor testing comparison article after their new platform is released.

I Hate 23andMe
https://digginupgraves.wordpress.com/2015/06/14/i-hate-23andme/

23andMe to Get Makeover After Agreement With FDA
https://dna-explained.com/2015/10/21/23andme-to-get-a-makeover-after-agreement-with-fda/

23andMe Metamorphosis
http://throughthetreesblog.tumblr.com/post/131724191762/the-23andme-metamorphosis

The Changes at 23andMe
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/10/25/the-changes-at-23andme/

The 23and Me Transition – The First Step
https://dna-explained.com/2015/11/05/the-23andme-transition-first-step-november-11th/

The Winds of Change
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/11/08/the-winds-of-change/

Why Autosomal Response Rate Really Does Matter
https://dna-explained.com/2015/02/24/why-autosomal-response-rate-really-does-matter/

Heads Up About the 23andMe Meltdown
https://dna-explained.com/2015/12/04/heads-up-about-the-23andme-meltdown/

Now…and not now
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/12/06/now-and-not-now/

                             Cone of Shame Award 2015 frown

Another award this year is the Cone of Shame award which is also awarded to both Ancestry and 23andMe for their methodology of obtaining “consent” to sell their customers’, meaning our, DNA and associated information.

Genetic Genealogy Data Gets Sold

2015 shame

Unfortunately, 2015 has been the year that the goals of both 23andMe and Ancestry have become clear in terms of our DNA data. While 23andMe has always been at least somewhat focused on health, Ancestry never was previously, but has now hired a health officer and teamed with Calico for medical genetics research.

Now, both Ancestry and 23andMe have made research arrangements and state in their release and privacy verbiage that all customers must electronically sign (or click through) when purchasing their DNA tests that they can sell, at minimum, your anonymized DNA data, without any further consent.  And there is no opt-out at that level.

They can also use our DNA and data internally, meaning that 23andMe’s dream of creating and patenting new drugs can come true based on your DNA that you submitted for genealogical purposes, even if they never sell it to anyone else.

In an interview in November, 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki said the following:

23andMe is now looking at expanding beyond the development of DNA testing and exploring the possibility of developing its own medications. In July, the company raised $79 million to partly fund that effort. Additionally, the funding will likely help the company continue with the development of its new therapeutics division. In March, 23andMe began to delve into the therapeutics market, to create a third pillar behind the company’s personal genetics tests and sales of genetic data to pharmaceutical companies.

Given that the future of genetic genealogy at these two companies seems to be tied to the sale of their customer’s genetic and other information, which, based on the above, is very clearly worth big bucks, I feel that the fact that these companies are selling and utilizing their customer’s information in this manner should be fully disclosed. Even more appropriate, the DNA information should not be sold or utilized for research without an informed consent that would traditionally be used for research subjects.

Within the past few days, I wrote an article, providing specifics and calling on both companies to do the following.

  1. To minimally create transparent, understandable verbiage that informs their customers before the end of the purchase process that their DNA will be sold or utilized for unspecified research with the intention of financial gain and that there is no opt-out. However, a preferred plan of action would be a combination of 2 and 3, below.
  2. Implement a plan where customer DNA can never be utilized for anything other than to deliver the services to the consumers that they purchased unless a separate, fully informed consent authorization is signed for each research project, without coercion, meaning that the client does not have to sign the consent to obtain any of the DNA testing or services.
  3. To immediately stop utilizing the DNA information and results from customers who have already tested until they have signed an appropriate informed consent form for each research project in which their DNA or other information will be utilized.

And Now Ancestry Health
https://dna-explained.com/2015/06/06/and-now-ancestry-health/

Opting Out
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/07/26/opting-out/

Ancestry Terms of Use Updated
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/07/07/ancestry-terms-of-use-updated/

AncestryDNA Doings
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/07/05/ancestrydna-doings/

Heads Up About the 23andMe Meltdown
https://dna-explained.com/2015/12/04/heads-up-about-the-23andme-meltdown/

23andMe and Ancestry and Selling Your DNA Information
https://dna-explained.com/2015/12/30/23andme-ancestry-and-selling-your-dna-information/

                      Citizen Science Leadership Award   2015 smile

The Citizen Science Leadership Award this year goes to Blaine Bettinger for initiating the Shared cM Project, a crowdsourced project which benefits everyone.

Citizen Scientists Continue to Push the Edges of the Envelope with the Shared cM Project

Citizen scientists, in the words of Dr. Doron Behar, “are not amateurs.” In fact, citizen scientists have been contributing mightily and pushing the edge of the genetic genealogy frontier consistently now for 15 years.  This trend continues, with new discoveries and new ways of viewing and utilizing information we already have.

For example, Blaine Bettinger’s Shared cM Project was begun in March and continues today. This important project has provided real life information as to the real matching amounts and ranges between people of different relationships, such as first cousins, for example, as compared to theoretical match amounts.  This wonderful project produced results such as this:

2015 shared cM

I don’t think Blaine initially expected this project to continue, but it has and you can read about it, see the rest of the results, and contribute your own data here. Blaine has written several other articles on this topic as well, available at the same link.

Am I Weird or What?
https://dna-explained.com/2015/03/07/am-i-weird-or-what/

Jim Owston analyzed fourth cousins and other near distant relationships in his Owston one-name study:
https://owston.wordpress.com/2015/08/10/an-analysis-of-fourth-cousins-and-other-near-distant-relatives/

I provided distant cousin information in the Crumley surname study:
http://www.slideshare.net/FamilyTreeDNA/roberta-estes-crumley-y-dna

I hope more genetic genealogists will compile and contribute this type of real world data as we move forward. If you have compiled something like this, the Surname DNA Journal is peer reviewed and always looking for quality articles for publication.

Privacy, Law Enforcement and DNA

2015 privacy

Unfortunately, in May, a situation by which Y DNA was utilized in a murder investigation was reported in a sensationalist “scare” type fashion.  This action provided cause, ammunition or an excuse for Ancestry to remove the Sorenson data base from public view.

I find this exceedingly, exceedingly unfortunate. Given Ancestry’s history with obsoleting older data bases instead of updating them, I’m suspecting this was an opportune moment for Ancestry to be able to withdraw this database, removing a support or upgrade problem from their plate and blame the problem on either law enforcement or the associated reporting.

I haven’t said much about this situation, in part because I’m not a lawyer and in part because the topic is so controversial and there is no possible benefit since the damage has already been done. Unfortunately, nothing anyone can say or has said will bring back the Sorenson (or Ancestry) data bases and arguments would be for naught.  We already beat this dead horse a year ago when Ancestry obsoleted their own data base.  On this topic, be sure to read Judy Russell’s articles and her sources as well for the “rest of the story.”

Privacy, the Police and DNA
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/02/08/privacy-the-police-and-dna/

Big Easy DNA Not So Easy
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/03/15/big-easy-dna-not-so-easy/

Of Babies and Bathwater
http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/05/17/of-babies-and-bathwater/

Facts Matter
http://legalgenealogist.com/blog/2015/05/03/facts-matter/

Genetic genealogy standards from within the community were already in the works prior to the Idaho case, referenced above, and were subsequently published as guidelines.

Announcing Genetic Genealogy Standards
http://thegeneticgenealogist.com/2015/01/10/announcing-genetic-genealogy-standards/

The standards themselves:
http://www.thegeneticgenealogist.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Genetic-Genealogy-Standards.pdf

Ancient DNA Results Continue to Amass

“Moorleiche3-Schloss-Gottorf” by Commander-pirx at de.wikipedia – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Ancient DNA is difficult to recover and even more difficult to sequence, reassembling tiny little blocks of broken apart DNA into an ancient human genome.

However, each year we see a few more samples and we are beginning to repaint the picture of human population movement, which is different than we thought it would be.

One of the best summaries of the ancient ancestry field was Michael Hammer’s presentation at the Family Tree DNA Conference in November titled “R1B and the Peopling of Europe: an Ancient DNA Update.” His slides are available here:
http://www.slideshare.net/FamilyTreeDNA/r1b-and-the-people-of-europe-an-ancient-dna-update

One of the best ongoing sources for this information is Dienekes’ Anthropology Blog. He covered most of the new articles and there have been several.  That’s the good news and the bad news, all rolled into one. http://dienekes.blogspot.com/

I have covered several that were of particular interest to the evolution of Europeans and Native Americans.

Yamnaya, Light Skinned Brown Eyed….Ancestors?
https://dna-explained.com/2015/06/15/yamnaya-light-skinned-brown-eyed-ancestors/

Kennewick Man is Native American
https://dna-explained.com/2015/06/18/kennewick-man-is-native-american/

Botocudo – Ancient Remains from Brazil
https://dna-explained.com/2015/07/02/botocudo-ancient-remains-from-brazil/

Some Native had Oceanic Ancestors
https://dna-explained.com/2015/07/22/some-native-americans-had-oceanic-ancestors/

Homo Naledi – A New Species Discovered
https://dna-explained.com/2015/09/11/homo-naledi-a-new-species-discovered/

Massive Pre-Contact Grave in California Yields Disappointing Results
https://dna-explained.com/2015/10/20/mass-pre-contact-native-grave-in-california-yields-disappointing-results/

I know of several projects involving ancient DNA that are in process now, so 2016 promises to be a wonderful ancient DNA year!

Education

2015 education

Many, many new people discover genetic genealogy every day and education continues to be an ongoing and increasing need. It’s a wonderful sign that all major conferences now include genetic genealogy, many with a specific track.

The European conferences have done a great deal to bring genetic genealogy testing to Europeans. European testing benefits those of us whose ancestors were European before immigrating to North America.  This year, ISOGG volunteers staffed booths and gave presentations at genealogy conferences in Birmingham, England, Dublin, Ireland and in Nyköping, Sweden, shown below, photo compliments of Catherine Borges.

ISOGG volunteers

Several great new online educational opportunities arose this year, outside of conferences, for which I’m very grateful.

DNA Lectures YouTube Channel
https://dna-explained.com/2015/04/26/dna-lectures-youtube-channel/

Allen County Public Library Online Resources
https://dna-explained.com/2015/06/03/allen-county-public-library-online-resources/

DNA Data Organization Tools and Who’s on First
https://dna-explained.com/2015/09/08/dna-data-organization-tools-and-whos-on-first/

Genetic Genealogy Educational Resource List
https://dna-explained.com/2015/12/03/genetic-genealogy-educational-resource-list/

Genetic Genealogy Ireland Videos
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHnW2NAfPIA2KUipZ_PlUlw

DNA Lectures – Who Do You Think You Are
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7HQSiSkiy7ujlkgQER1FYw

Ongoing and Online Classes in how to utilize both Y and autosomal DNA
http://www.dnaadoption.com/index.php?page=online-classes

Education Award

2015 smile Family Tree DNA receives the Education Award this year along with a huge vote of gratitude for their 11 years of genetic genealogy conferences. They are the only testing or genealogy company to hold a conference of this type and they do a fantastic job.  Furthermore, they sponsor additional educational events by providing the “theater” for DNA presentations at international events such as the Who Do You Think You Are conference in England.  Thank you Family Tree DNA.

Family Tree DNA Conference

ftdna 2015

The Family Tree DNA Conference, held in November, was a hit once again. I’m not a typical genealogy conference person.  My focus is on genetic genealogy, so I want to attend a conference where I can learn something new, something leading edge about the science of genetic genealogy – and that conference is definitely the Family Tree DNA conference.

Furthermore, Family Tree DNA offers tours of their lab on the Monday following the conference for attendees, and actively solicits input on their products and features from conference attendees and project administrators.

2015 FTDNA lab

Family Tree DNA 11th International Conference – The Best Yet
https://dna-explained.com/2015/11/18/2015-family-tree-dna-11th-international-conference-the-best-yet/

All of the conference presentations that were provided by the presenters have been made available by Family Tree DNA at:
http://www.slideshare.net/FamilyTreeDNA?utm_campaign=website&utm_source=sendgrid.com&utm_medium=email

2016 Genetic Genealogy Wish List

2015 wish list

In 2014, I presented a wish list for 2015 and it didn’t do very well.  Will my 2015 list for 2016 fare any better?

  • Ancestry restores Sorenson and their own Y and mtDNA data bases in some format or contributes to an independent organization like ISOGG.
  • Ancestry provides chromosome browser.
  • Ancestry removes or revamps Timber in order to restore legitimate matches removed by Timber algorithm.
  • Fully informed consent (per research project) implemented by 23andMe and Ancestry, and any other vendor who might aspire to sell consumer DNA or related information, without coercion, and not as a prerequisite for purchasing a DNA testing product. DNA and information will not be shared or utilized internally or externally without informed consent and current DNA information will cease being used in this fashion until informed consent is granted by customers who have already tested.
  • Improved ethnicity reporting at all vendors including ancient samples and additional reference samples for Native Americans.
  • Autosomal Triangulation tools at all vendors.
  • Big Y and STR integration and analysis enhancement at Family Tree DNA.
  • Ancestor Reconstruction
  • Mitochondrial and Y DNA search tools by ancestor and ancestral line at Family Tree DNA.
  • Improved tree at Family Tree DNA – along with new search capabilities.
  • 23andMe restores lost capabilities, drops price, makes changes and adds features previously submitted as suggestions by community ambassadors.
  • More tools (This is equivalent to “bring me some surprises” on my Santa list as a kid.)

My own goals haven’t changed much over the years. I still just want to be able to confirm my genealogy, to learn as much as I can about each ancestor, and to break down brick walls and fill in gaps.

I’m very hopeful each year as more tools and methodologies emerge.  More people test, each one providing a unique opportunity to match and to understand our past, individually and collectively.  Every year genetic genealogy gets better!  I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store.

Here’s wishing you a very Happy and Ancestrally Prosperous New Year!

2015 happy new year

Charlemagne (742/748-814), Holy Roman Emperor, 52 Ancestors #103

Charlemagne statue

“Charlemagne Agostino Cornacchini Vatican 2” by Photo: Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Above, a 1725 statue representing Charlemagne housed in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Wow, do I ever have a lot of cousins.  According to Graham Coop, everyone in Europe today is descended from Charlemagne.  Which either means I’m special and so is everyone else, or we’re all just normal.  National Geographic wrote an article about the results of the Coop study in more easily readable verbiage, here.  The Coop team also wrote a nontechnical FAQ, here.

In 2002, Steven Olson wrote this verbiage in the Atlantic magazine about the work of statistician Joseph Chang:

The most recent common ancestor of every European today (except for recent immigrants to the Continent) was someone who lived in Europe in the surprisingly recent past—only about 600 years ago. In other words, all Europeans alive today have among their ancestors the same man or woman who lived around 1400. Before that date, according to Chang’s model, the number of ancestors common to all Europeans today increased, until, about a thousand years ago, a peculiar situation prevailed: 20 percent of the adult Europeans alive in 1000 would turn out to be the ancestors of no one living today (that is, they had no children or all their descendants eventually died childless); each of the remaining 80 percent would turn out to be a direct ancestor of every European living today.

Now, granted, Charlemagne was indeed prolific, siring 18 known children.  I guess I’m just lucky in that I descend from two known children, one who was the King of Italy and one who was the King of France.  I must tell you, all this king stuff sounds very surreal to me.

Charlemagne chart crop

Now, the bad news.  In spite of all of these children, it appears that none of Charlemagne’s male lines survived more than a dozen or so generations.  In generation 8, only two descendants produced a male child, so that severely limited the possibilities for his Y DNA to reproduce – and it didn’t.  It apparently died out in 1122 with the death of the last male in an illegitimate line through Charlemagne’s son, Pepin of Italy.  This means that today, we don’t know what Charlemagne’s Y DNA looked like.  That’s very disappointing.

By the same token, Charlemagne could not pass on his own mtDNA.  To find that information, we’d have to find a female sibling or someone from his mother’s line who descends from a matrilineal female through all females to the current generation.  We don’t have that either.

And as for autosomal DNA…well, we have two problems.  The first is that Charlemagne is so far back in my or anyone else’s lineage – between 40 and 49 generations roughly – that we would carry very little if any of his DNA today…and there is no way to assure that we don’t have other common lines too.  In fact, at that distant point, it far more likely that we do share other common lines that we don’t, especially given what Graham Coop’s paper indicates.

So, Charlemagne’s autosomal DNA hasn’t been identified either.  Short of digging him up, I’m doubting we’ll know much more.  Actually, poor Charlemagne has been dug up, several times in fact, and parts of him given away as religious relics.  In 1988 scientists tried to reassemble him, and their report was delivered 26 years later, without DNA unfortunately, but confirming as best they can that the remains they have, shown in the photo below, are indeed Charlemagne.  I must say, it’s a very odd feeling to look at the bones of my ancestor, reassembled during the study.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the bones or even one bone of any of my ancestors before now.  I’m not exactly sure what I think of this.

Charlemagne bones

I’m striking out here genetically, although I’m hopeful for the future since his bones are already exhumed.  To begin with, DNA could tell us if all of those bones are really from the same person.  If they are, or most of them are from the same person, it’s more likely to be Charlemagne.  We could potentially tell when and where this skeletal person lived from isotope testing as well, which could help us confirm or eliminate the possibility that these skeletal remains are Charlemagne.  Y and mitochondrial DNA would tell us a lot about his ancestors, and therefore, ours too.  I hope this avenue is being pursued.

Let’s see what we can discover about Charlemagne outside of genetic genealogy.

Charlemagne’s Birth and Ascent to Power

Charlemagne was born on April 2, in either 742, 747 or 748 and died on January 28, 814.  No, those aren’t typos, they are genuinely three digit years.  It’s hard for me to come to grips with the fact that I have ancestors that I can identify that were born 1270 years ago.

Charlemagne’s father was Pepin the Short and his mother, Bertrada of Laon.  He was of the Carolingian dynasty and was, of course, Catholic. In fact, Charlemagne was DEVOUTLY Catholic, which plays a big part in the decisions he made in his lifetime.  Either that, or he used his religious fervor as an excuse for his invasions of other non-Christian domains.  It’s much easier to track the history of what he did rather than to discern his motivations.

The Carolingian dynasty was a Frankish noble family with origins in the Arnulfing and Pippinid clans of the 7th century AD.

Charlemagne Carolingian chart

This Carolingian family tree, above, dates from the Chronicon Universale of Ekkehard of Aura from the 12th century, but reflects earlier generations.  The Carolingian empire came to a close not long after after Charlemagne’s rule, about 888.

The name “Carolingian” was in Medieval Latin, karolingi, an altered form of an unattested Old High German karling or kerling, meaning “descendant of Charles.”

Charlemagne’s birth year remains uncertain.  The most likely year of Charlemagne’s birth is reconstructed from several sources. The date of 742, calculated from Einhard’s date of death of January 814 at age 72, predates the marriage of his parents in 744.  Einhard was a Frankish scholar and servant of Charlemagne (and his son) who also served as Charlemagne’s biographer – thankfully.

The year given in the Annales Petaviani, a year by year history of the Carolingina empire, 747, would be more likely, except that it contradicts Einhard and a few other sources in making Charlemagne seventy years old at his death. The month and day of April 2 is established by a calendar from Lorsch Abbey.

In 747, that day fell on Easter, a coincidence that likely would have been remarked upon by chroniclers but was not. If Easter was being used as the beginning of the calendar year, then April 2, 747 could have been, by modern reckoning, April 2, 748 (not on Easter). The date favored by the preponderance of evidence is April 2, 742, based on Charlemagne’s being a septuagenarian at the time of his death. This date would appear to suggest that Charlemagne was born illegitimately, which is not mentioned by Einhard.

Einhard said the following:

It would be folly, I think, to write a word concerning Charles’ birth and infancy, or even his boyhood, for nothing has ever been written on the subject, and there is no one alive now who can give information on it. Accordingly, I determined to pass that by as unknown, and to proceed at once to treat of his character, his deeds, and such other facts of his life as are worth telling and setting forth, and shall first give an account of his deeds at home and abroad, then of his character and pursuits, and lastly of his administration and death, omitting nothing worth knowing or necessary to know.

We also don’t know where Charlemagne was born, but Aachen in today’s Germany has been suggested.

Charlemagne became king in 768 following the death of his father. He was initially co-ruler with his brother Carloman I. Carloman’s sudden death in 771 under unexplained circumstances, left Charlemagne as the undisputed ruler of the Frankish Kingdom. Charlemagne continued his father’s policy towards the papacy and became its protector, removing the Lombards from power in northern Italy, and leading an incursion into Muslim Spain. He also campaigned against the Saxons to his east, Christianizing them upon penalty of death, leading to events such as the Massacre of Verden in which 4500 captive Saxons were slaughtered.  Charlemagne was not always a kind man – but history remembers him as an exceedingly effective ruler.

Charlemagne and Pipin the Hunchback

Above, Charlemagne on the left and his son, Pepin the Hunchback, who revolted against his father.  Pepin the Hunchback was subsequently censured and exiled to a monastery instead of put to death after his father commuted his death sentence.

We don’t know how much this drawing actually looks like Charlemagne since it is a 10th century copy of a lost original from about 830.

In this next drawing, Charlemagne instructs his son, Louis the Pious.

Charlemagne and Louis the Pious

Charlemagne was also known as both Charles the Great (Carolus Magnus) or Charles the First.  He became the King of the Franks beginning in 768 with the death of his father and King of Italy beginning in 774.  He was crowned Holy Roman Emperor (Imperator Augustus) in the now demolished Old St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome (shown sketched below between 1483-1506) on Christmas Day in the year 800 and he ruled in that position until his death.

Charlemagne Old St. Peters

This fresco below shows a cutaway view of the Old St. Peter’s from the 4th century, so it looked much like it would have to Charlemagne.  This basilica is built over the location believed to be the burial site of St. Peter.

Charlemagne St Peters cutaway

Today, a new St. Peter’s Basilica stands on this site, the dome visible from the Ponte Umberto I on the Tiber River, below.

"Vatican City at Large" by Sébastien Bertrand from Paris, France - Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons

“Vatican City at Large” by Sébastien Bertrand from Paris, France – Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons

Although he already ruled both Italy and France, becoming the Holy Roman Emperor bestowed upon him divine grace and a Godly legitimacy sanctioned by the Pope.

This painting from 1516-1517 by Raphael by depicts Charlemagne’s coronation.

"Raphael Charlemagne" by Raphael - Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

“Raphael Charlemagne” by Raphael – Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

Charlemagne’s Rule

Charlemagne map 800

Called the “Father of Europe” (pater Europae), Charlemagne united most of Western Europe for the first time since the Roman Empire and laid the foundations for both modern France and Germany. His rule spurred the Carolingian Renaissance, a period of energetic cultural and intellectual activity within the Church. Both the French and German monarchies considered their kingdoms to be descendants of Charlemagne’s empire.

Charlemagne didn’t seem to stay home much.  In fact, this military and political history reads like a soap opera, with intrigue, betrayals, a brother who died in unexplained circumstances, but apparently of natural causes, invasions, rebellions and saving an injured Pope.  His life was assuredly interesting and it’s nothing short of amazing that he managed to live past 70 and did not die on the battlefield.

Charlemagne was engaged in almost constant warfare throughout his reign, often at the head of his elite scara bodyguard squadrons, with his legendary sword Joyeuse in hand.

Charlemagne sword

“Épée de charlemagne” by Chatsam – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Joyeuse is stunningly beautiful and is on display in the Louvre today.

"Epée Joyeuse" by Siren-Com - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

“Epée Joyeuse” by Siren-Com – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

It just kills me that I have been in this building with this sword but didn’t know at that time that Charlemagne was my ancestor.

The 11th century “Song of Roland” describes the sword:

[Charlemagne] was wearing his fine white coat of mail and his helmet with gold-studded stones; by his side hung Joyeuse, and never was there a sword to match it; its colour changed thirty times a day.

Some seven hundred years later, Bulfinch’s Mythology described Charlemagne using Joyeuse to behead the Saracen commander Corsuble as well as to knight his comrade Ogier the Dane.

The town of Joyeuse, in Ardèche, is supposedly named after the sword.  Joyeuse was allegedly lost in a battle and retrieved by one of the knights of Charlemagne; to thank him, Charlemagne granted him an appanage (estate) named Joyeuse.

Today, Joyeuse is used as the French coronation sword.

Charlemagne’s Additions to His Empire

Charlemagne spent his entire life increasing the size and power of his empire, some of which was done under the banner of expanding Christianity to the Muslim world and to the pagan Saxons as well.

The map below shows the land that Charlemagne added to the Frankish Kingdom.

"Frankish Empire 481 to 814-en" by Sémhur - Own work, from Image:Frankish empire.jpg, itself from File:Growth of Frankish Power, 481-814.jpg, from the Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd (Shepherd, William. Historical Atlas. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1911.). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

“Frankish Empire 481 to 814-en” by Sémhur – Own work, from Image:Frankish empire.jpg, itself from File:Growth of Frankish Power, 481-814.jpg, from the Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd (Shepherd, William. Historical Atlas. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1911.). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Charlemagne’s reign of Aquitaine began in 768 with the death of his father, although it was initially a joint reign with his brother, Carloman, with whom he had, at best, lukewarm relations fostered by his mother.

It didn’t take long after Charlemagne’s father death for trouble to brew.

In 769, a small uprising in the Basque region was subdued, but that region was unstable for years, a constant thorn in Charlemagne’s side.  Finally, in 781, Charlemagne proclaimed his son, Louis the Pious, then a young child, the first Frankish king of the area, assuring loyalty and displacing those whose loyalty he had reason to doubt.

In 770 Charlemagne married the daughter, Desiderada, of a Lombard King as a political move to form an alliance with her father and in doing so, surround  brother Carloman with Charlemagne’s allies.  However, by the end of 771, Carloman was dead and Charlemagne no longer needed the marriage with Desiderada, so he repudiated her and set her aside to marry 13 year old Hildegard.

In rejecting Desiderada, Charlemagne incurred the wrath of her father, the Italian King Desiderius.  Carloman’s widow and children took refuge in King Desiderius’ court at Pavia for protection.

This drawing is of the Carolingian cavalry from that timeframe.

"Karolingische-reiterei-st-gallen-stiftsbibliothek 1-330x400". Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

“Karolingische-reiterei-st-gallen-stiftsbibliothek 1-330×400”. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

Sometimes Charlemagne’s military campaigns overlapped each other.  In the Saxon Wars, spanning thirty years and eighteen battles, Charlemagne eventually conquered and subdued Saxonia.  The conquering part wasn’t terribly difficult, most of the time, but the subdueing part proved nearly impossible.  Charlemagne proceeded to convert the conquered to Christianity, beginning in 773 with his campaign against the Engrians where he cut down the Saxon pagan pillar of Irminsul.  However, trouble in Italy caused that campaign to be cut short.

In 773, Charlemagne and his uncle crossed the Alps, chasing the Lombards back to Pavia which he then besieged.

Charlemagne met the Lombards at the pass in Susa Valley, shown below.

Charlemagne Susa Valley

“Susatal” by Fotogian from it. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

By 774, the siege of Pavia was over and Charlemagne had himself declared King of the Franks and Lombards and crowned with the traditional “Iron Crown of the Lombards.”

"Iron Crown" by James Steakley - photographed in the Theodelinda Chapel of the cathedral of Monza. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

“Iron Crown” by James Steakley – photographed in the Theodelinda Chapel of the cathedral of Monza. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

This crown is called “The Iron Crown” because of the narrow band of iron within the crown said to have been beaten out of the nail used at the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

In 776, Charlemagne was back in Saxony, having subdued the Saxons and causing their leader, Widukind, to seek refuge in Denmark.  Many Saxons were baptized as Christians.

Although the Lombards surrendered, all was not quiet on that front.  In 776, Charlemagne rushed back from Saxony to squelch a rebellion in Lombardy.

In 778, Charlemagne turned back southwards and tried to overpower the Muslim Saracen rulers of Barcelona and nearby areas.  He marched to face them, meeting them at Saragossa.  He received homage from them, but their cities did not fall.

Charlemagne was facing the toughest battle of his career where the Muslims had the upper hand and forced him to retreat. He decided to go home, since he could not trust the Basques, whom he had subdued by conquering Pamplona. He turned to leave Iberia, but as he was passing through the Pass of Roncesvalles (shown below) one of the most famous events of his long reign occurred.

Charlemagne Roncesvalles

The Basques fell on his rearguard and baggage train, utterly destroying it. The Battle of Roncevaux Pass, though less a battle than a mere skirmish, left many famous dead, including the seneschal Eggihard, the count of the palace Anselm, and the warden of the Breton March, Roland, inspiring the subsequent creation of the Song of Roland (La Chanson de Roland).

Charlemagne battle tapestry

This tapestry portraying the Battle of Roncevaux Pass was woven between 1475 and 1500.

In 779, while Charlemagne was focused elsewhere, Saxony again revolted and he again invaded and reconquered.  I’m sure by now he wondered how many times he had to do this.  He divided the land into missionary districts and personally assisted with the baptisms of masses at Lippe.

From 780-782, Saxony was quiet.  Charlemagne was back in Italy during this time.

In 782, Charlemagne returned to Saxony and was not pleased that the majority of the population was still pagan.  He implemented draconian laws prescribing death to Saxon pagans who refused to convert to Christianity.  This spurred the return of their leader, Widukind, and was followed by three years of bloody battles precipitated by the Massacre of Verden wherein Charlemagne executed 4500 trapped Saxon soldiers.  Three long years later, Widukind, defeated, accepted baptism.  At this time, the Frisians were also brought to heel.

In 787, Charlemagne focused on bringing southern Italy into the fold.  He besieged Salerno where Arechis who reigned independently submitted to vassalage.  However, upon his death in 792, Arechis’ son proclaimed independence and Charlemagne never personally returned, and was never able to bring this region fully under his control.

In 788, Charlemagne was back in Gascony trying to once again reign in a rebellion.  He had appointed his son “King” in that region and replaced Gascon individuals in power with his Frankish officers.

In 788, the pagan Asian Avars (Einhard called them Huns) had settled in Hungary and invaded Fruili and Bavaria.  Charlemagne was busy elsewhere until 790, but at the time he marched down the Danube and ravaged Avar territory.  A Lombard army did the same to Pannonia.

In 789, Charlemagne seeing an opportunity, marched into the Slavic Obotrite territory north of the Elbe, encountered little resistance, and subdued the Obotrites, sending in missionaries to convert them.  They became loyal allies, fighting alongside Charlemagne in 795 when the Saxons broke the peace.

In 792, the Saxons rebelled again in Westphalia, breaking several years of peace and distracted Charlemagne from the Avars, occupying him instead with those relentless Saxons.

However, Charlemagne’s troops continued to assault the Avars’ ring-shaped strongholds.  The great Ring of the Avars, their capital fortress, was taken twice. The booty was sent to Charlemagne at his capital, Aachen, and redistributed to all his followers and even to foreign rulers, including King Offa of Mercia. Soon the Avars had lost the will to fight and traveled to Aachen to subject themselves to Charlemagne as vassals and Christians. Charlemagne accepted their surrender and sent one native chief, baptized as Abraham, back to Avaria with the ancient title of khagan, meaning someone who rules an empire. Abraham kept his people in line, but in 800, the Bulgarians under Khan Krum also attacked the remains of Avar state.

Charlemagne Ring of Avars

From time to time, rebellions would flare up in the conquered Saxon territory.  In 793 a rebellion erupted in Eastplania and Bordalbingia, but that uprising was over by 794.  In 796, an Engrian rebellion followed.

In 794, Charlemagne set his eye upon Bavaria and was shortly thereafter dividing the land into Frankish counties, as he had done with Saxony.

From 791 to 806, Charlemagne was focused on taking the County of Toulouse for a power base and asserting his authority over the Pyrenees, making those counties vassals.

In 797, Barcelona, the greatest city of the region, previously held by the Moors, fell to Charlemagne, but was retaken in 799.  However, Louis of Aquitaine marched the entire army of his kingdom over the Pyrenees and besieged it for two years, wintering there from 800 to 801, when it capitulated.  Today, the Moorish influence can be seen in Barcelona in the architecture of the buildings.

Barcelona building

The Medieval influence can be felt in any portion of the old city and in the plazas.

barcelona plaza

I absolutely loved Barcelona when I visited in 2011, having no idea that I had ancestral history here.

Barcelona 2011

Charlemagne viewed his battle with the Muslim Moors as the battle of and for Christianity.  He wanted to convert the Muslims to Christianity.

In 799, Charlemagne conquered the Balaeric Islands, often attacked by Saracen (Moorish and Muladi) pirates.

In either 797 or 801, Charlemagne send a delegation to Baghdad where the caliph of Baghdad presented Charlemagne with an Asian elephant and a clock.  The elephant, Abul-Abbas, was transported to Charlemagne’s headquarters in Aachen where his life was chronicled.  He died in 810, possibly a war elephant, although others report that the elephant was more than 40 years old, had rheumatism, developed pneumonia while on campaign with Charlemagne, and died suddenly.  I don’t think any of my other ancestors had a pet elephant.

In 799, Pope Leo III had been mistreated by the Romans, who tried to put out his eyes and tear out his tongue.  Pope Leo escaped and fled to Charlemagne at Paderborn, asking Charlemagne to intervene in Rome and restore him. Charlemagne, advised by scholar Alcuin of York, agreed to travel to Rome, doing so in November 800 and holding a council on December 1.  On December 23, Leo swore an oath of innocence relative to the charges brought against him, and his accusers were exiled.  Two days later, at Mass, on Christmas Day, December 25th, when Charlemagne knelt at the altar to pray, the Pope crowned him Imperator Romanorum, “Emperor of the Romans,” in Saint Peter’s Basilica.  It is unclear whether Charlemagne knew this was going to happen or if the coronation was unexpected, a point debated by historians for hundreds of years.

Charlemagne coronation

Miniature of Charlemagne crowned emperor by Pope Leo III, from Chroniques de France ou de Saint Denis, vol. 1; France, second quarter of 14th century.

In 803, Charlemagne sent a Bavarian army into Pannonia ending the Avar confederation.

In 804, one last rebellion occurred in Saxony, but by this time, 30 years after being conquered, most of the original inhabitants were dead and the rest had never known anything but Charlemagne’s rule and warfare.  They were tired of fighting in their homeland.

Einhard tells us:

The war that had lasted so many years was at length ended by their acceding to the terms offered by the King; which were renunciation of their national religious customs and the worship of devils, acceptance of the sacraments of the Christian faith and religion, and union with the Franks to form one people.

In 808, an attack arrived from an unexpected source, the pagan Danes, “a race almost unknown to his ancestors, but destined to be only too well known to his sons,” as Charles Oman described them.  Wikukind, whose wife was Danish, and his allies had taken refuge among the Danes.  The king of the Danes, Godfred, built the vast Danevirke (shown below) across the isthmus of Schleswig. This defense was at its beginning a 30 km (19 mi) long defensive earthenwork rampart. The Danevirke protected Danish land and gave Godfred the opportunity to harass Frisia and Flanders with pirate raids.

Charlemagne danevirke

Godfred invaded Frisia, joked of visiting Aachen, but was murdered before he could do any more, either by a Frankish assassin or by one of his own men. Godfred was succeeded by his nephew Hemming, who concluded the Treaty of Heiligen with Charlemagne in late 811.

Europe at the end of Charlemagne’s rein looked a lot different than it did at the beginning.  The balance of power had shifted dramatically.

"Europe in 814, Charlemagne, Krum, Nicephorus I" by Stolichanin - Europe_plain_rivers.pngThe map is made according to:"World Atlas", part 3: Europe in Middle Ages, Larrouse, Paris, 2002, O. RenieAtlas "History of Bulgaria", Sofia, 1988, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, V. Kamburova"World Atlas", N. Ostrovski, Rome, 1992, p.55Атлас "История на средните векове", Sofia, 1982, G. Gavrilov"History in maps", Johannes Herder, Berlin, 1999, p. 20"European Historical Globus", R. Rusev, 2006, p.117. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

“Europe in 814, Charlemagne, Krum, Nicephorus I” by Stolichanin – Europe_plain_rivers.pngThe map is made according to:”World Atlas”, part 3: Europe in Middle Ages, Larrouse, Paris, 2002, O. RenieAtlas “History of Bulgaria”, Sofia, 1988, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, V. Kamburova”World Atlas”, N. Ostrovski, Rome, 1992, p.55Атлас “История на средните векове”, Sofia, 1982, G. Gavrilov”History in maps”, Johannes Herder, Berlin, 1999, p. 20″European Historical Globus”, R. Rusev, 2006, p.117. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Education

Charlemagne was determined to have his children educated, including his daughters, as he himself was not. Below, we see Charlemagne’s monogram from the subscription of a royal diploma.  Signum Karolvs Karoli gloriosissimi regis.

Charlemagne signum

For an uneducated man, he made amazing changes, including the standardization of the monetary system and instituting principles of accounting practice.

Charlemagne’s children were taught all the arts, and his daughters were learned in the “ways of being a woman.” whatever that meant at the time. His sons participated in archery, horsemanship, and other outdoor activities.  This renaissance of education was referred to as the Carolingian Renaissance because it ushered in a new cultural era in which scholarship, literature and art thrived.

Charlemagne was brought into contact with the culture and learning of other countries (especially Moorish Spain, Anglo-Saxon England, and Lombard Italy) as a result of his vast conquests.  He greatly increased the provision of monastic schools and scriptoria (centres for book-copying) in Francia.

Most of the presently surviving works of classical Latin were copied and preserved by Carolingian scholars. Indeed, the earliest manuscripts available for many ancient texts are Carolingian. It is almost certain that a text which survived to the Carolingian age survives still, thanks to Charlemagne.

Charlemagne took a serious interest in scholarship, promoting the liberal arts at the court, ordering that his children and grandchildren be well-educated.  In a time when even leaders who promoted education did not take time to learn, Charlemagne studied.  Under the tutelage of Peter of Pisa, Charlemagne learned grammar; with Alcuin, he studied rhetoric, dialectic (logic), and astronomy (he was particularly interested in the movements of the stars); and Einhard assisted him in his studies of arithmetic.

Charlemagne’s great scholarly failure, as Einhard relates, was his inability to write: when in his old age he began attempts to learn – practicing the formation of letters in his bed during his free time on books and wax tablets he hid under his pillow – “his effort came too late in life and achieved little success.”  Charlemagne’s ability to read – which Einhard is silent about, and which no contemporary source supports – has also been called into question.

It appears that the man who was personally responsible for the salvation of so much literature was, himself, illiterate.  Charlemagne was however very foresighted and progressive.  What an amazing legacy.

Children and Heirs

Charlemagne had eighteen children over the course of his life with eight of his ten known wives or concubines.  Nonetheless, he only had four legitimate grandsons, the four sons of his fourth son, Louis. In addition, he had a grandson (Bernard of Italy, the only son of his third son, Pippin of Italy), who was born illegitimate, but included in the line of inheritance. So, despite eighteen children, the claimants to his inheritance were few.

Charlemagne’s personal life is somewhat colorful for a devout Catholic, although maybe the cultural aspect of the church at that time was different.  Then again, being the protector of the Pope may have gained Charlemagne special favors or caused some behaviors to be overlooked.Charlemagne children

As I look at the dates, I have to wonder if these women and children all lived in one place and knew each other.  Did the wife and concubine glare at each other when they met in the hallway, or were they more like compatriot sisters?  Did they live in different locations?  Did they consider themselves sucky to be Charlemagne’s partner, or did they wish things were different and that he was monogamous, as they had surely be raised in the Catholic church to expect of a husband.

I found the many references to Charlemagne’s concubines confusing, given his Catholicism and marriages at the same time, so I turned to the Catholic encyclopedia for clarification:

The Council of Toledo, held in 400, in its seventeenth canon legislates as follows for laymen (for ecclesiastical regulations on this head with regard to clerics see Celibacy): after pronouncing sentence of excommunication against any who in addition to a wife keep a concubine, it says: “But if a man has no wife, but a concubine instead of a wife, let him not be refused communion; only let him be content to be united with one woman, whether wife or concubine” (Can. “Is qui”, dist. xxxiv; Mansi, III, col. 1001). The refractory are to be excommunicated until such time as they shall obey and do penance.

It would appear, based on that edict, that Charlemagne’s concubines and extra-curricular activities were overlooked by the church, although many of his children were very active within the church as abbots and abbesses.  Charlemagne recognized and provided in some way for all of his children, legitimate or otherwise.

Charlemagne’s sons fought many wars on behalf of their father when they came of age.

Charles was mostly preoccupied with the Bretons, whose border he shared and who insurrected on at least two occasions and were easily put down, but he was also sent against the Saxons on multiple occasions. In 805 and 806, he was sent into the Böhmerwald (modern Bohemia) to deal with the Slavs living there (Bohemian tribes, ancestors of the modern Czechs). He subjected them to Frankish authority and devastated the valley of the Elbe, forcing a tribute on them.

Pippin had to hold the Avar and Beneventan borders but also fought the Slavs to his north. He was uniquely poised to fight the Byzantine Empire when finally that conflict arose after Charlemagne’s imperial coronation and a Venetian rebellion.

Finally, Louis was in charge of the Spanish March and also went to southern Italy to fight the duke of Benevento on at least one occasion. He took Barcelona in a great siege in 797.

Charlemagne’s attitude toward his daughters has been the subject of much discussion. He kept them at home with him and refused to allow them to contract sacramental marriages – possibly to prevent the creation of cadet branches of the family to challenge the main line, as had been the case with Tassilo of Bavaria – yet he tolerated their extramarital relationships, even rewarding their common-law husbands, and treasured the illegitimate grandchildren they produced for him.  At least one of them, Bertha, had a recognized relationship, if not a marriage, with Angilbert, a member of Charlemagne’s court circle.

Charlemagne also refused to believe stories of their wild behavior. He’s certainly not the first father to do that!

After Charlemagne’s death the surviving daughters were banished from the court by their brother, Louis, to take up residence in the convents they had been bequeathed by their father.  That’s what happens when you are a bit rowdy and your brother who is known as Louis the Pious becomes king.

Charlemagne’s Death

In 806, Charlemagne first made provision for the traditional division of the empire on his death. For Charles the Younger he designated Austrasia and Neustria, Saxony, Burgundy, and Thuringia. To Pippin he gave Italy, Bavaria, and Swabia. Louis received Aquitaine, the Spanish March, and Provence. There was no mention of the imperial title however, which has led to the suggestion that, at that particular time, Charlemagne regarded the title as an honorary achievement which held no hereditary significance.

This division might have worked, but it was never to be tested. Pippin died in 810 and Charles in 811. Charlemagne then reconsidered the matter, and in 813, called Louis the Pious, king of Aquitaine, his only surviving legitimate son, to his court. There Charlemagne crowned his son with his own hands as co-emperor, granting him a half-share of the empire with the rest to follow up on Charlemagne’s death.  Louis the Pious then returned to Aquitaine.  The only part of the Empire which Louis was not promised was Italy, which Charlemagne specifically bestowed upon Pippin’s illegitimate son Bernard.

Charlemagne then spent the autumn hunting before returning to Aachen on November 1st.  In January, he fell ill with pleurisy.  In a deep depression (mostly because many of his plans were not yet realized), he took to his bed on January 21st.  With all Charlemagne did achieve, I can’t imagine what he yet wanted that was severe enough to induce a depression of that magnitude.  Historians attribute his depression to his plans not being realized, but I have to wonder if the deaths of his three sons and two daughters in two years (810-811) didn’t contribute to his depression.  Another daughter had died in 808.  That’s a lot of death in a short time.

Einhard tells us:

He died January twenty-eighth, the seventh day from the time that he took to his bed, at nine o’clock in the morning, after partaking of the Holy Communion, in the seventy-second year of his age and the forty-seventh of his reign.

Charlemagne was buried the same day as his death, in Aachen Cathedral, although the cold weather and the nature of his illness made such a hurried burial unnecessary.  This causes me to wonder why he was buried so quickly.

Charlemagne Aachen Cathedral

Above, the Aachen Cathedral today.

Charlemagne is buried in the Palatine Chapel.  He commissioned its construction in 792 and it was consecrated in 805 by Pope Leo III in honor of the Virgin Mary.

"Aachener Dom Pfalzkapelle vom Münsterplatz 2014" by CaS2000 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

“Aachener Dom Pfalzkapelle vom Münsterplatz 2014” by CaS2000 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Charlemagne’s floor plan, below, includes a sixteen-sided ambulatory with a gallery overhead encircling the central octagonal dome.

Charlemagne Aachen floor plan

The plan and decoration owe much to the sixth-century Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna. Indeed, Charlemagne visited Ravenna three times, the first in 787. In that year he wrote to Pope Hadrian I and requested “mosaic, marbles, and other materials from floors and walls” in Rome and Ravenna, for his palace.

"Aix dom int vue cote" by Velvet - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

“Aix dom int vue cote” by Velvet – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Interior view of the chapel.  Charlemagne was buried someplace here, although the exact location evades detection.  Theories abound and I have to believe that Charlemagne enjoys every minute of this mystery that his bones visit upon his descendants – which remember, includes all or most of Europe today.

"Königsthron Aachener Dom" by ​German Wikipedia user Holger Weinandt. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

“Königsthron Aachener Dom” by ​German Wikipedia user Holger Weinandt. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Charlemagne’s throne, above, resides in the chapel as well.

Charlemagne shroud Aachen

This piece of fabric is part of Charlemagne’s death shroud, manufactured in Constantinople (present day Istanbul), and represents a quadriga, a cart or chariot that was drawn by 4 horses abreast.  Typically Gods were depicted in this manner.

A later story, told by Otho of Lomello, Count of the Palace at Aachen in the time of Otto III, about the year 1000, would claim that he and Emperor Otto had discovered Charlemagne’s tomb.  They claimed that Charlemagne was seated upon a throne, wearing a crown and holding a sceptre, his flesh almost entirely incorrupt.

In 1165, Frederick I re-opened the tomb again and placed the emperor in a sarcophagus beneath the floor of the cathedral.

Charlemagne sarcophagus

Sarcophagus, above and below.

"Karl Martell" by J. Patrick Fischer - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Commons

“Karl Martell” by J. Patrick Fischer – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Commons

In 1215 Frederick II re-interred him in a casket made of gold and silver.

Charlemagne casket

Charlemagne’s death greatly affected many of his subjects, particularly those of the literary clique who had surrounded him at Aachen.  An anonymous monk of Bobbio lamented:

From the lands where the sun rises to western shores, people are crying and wailing … the Franks, the Romans, all Christians, are stung with mourning and great worry … the young and old, glorious nobles, all lament the loss of their Caesar … the world laments the death of Charles … O Christ, you who govern the heavenly host, grant a peaceful place to Charles in your kingdom. Alas for miserable me.

Charlemagne was succeeded by his surviving son, Louis, who had been crowned the previous year.  Charlemagne’s empire lasted only another generation in its entirety; its division, according to custom, between Louis’s own sons after their father’s death laid the foundation for the modern states of Germany and France.

Below, the mask reliquary of Charlemagne.  If this is a death mask of the man, he was in wonderful shape for 72 years of age and the battles he had been through.

"Aachen Domschatz Bueste1" by Beckstet - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

“Aachen Domschatz Bueste1” by Beckstet – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Reliquary’s were and remain very popular in the Catholic Church.  Below, Charlemagne’s arm reliquary.

"Charlemagne arm at Cathedral Treasury Aachen Germany" by Prof-Declercq - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons

“Charlemagne arm at Cathedral Treasury Aachen Germany” by Prof-Declercq – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons

Charlemagne’s throne remains today in the Achen Cathedral as well.

Charlemagne throne

“AachenerDomKarlsthron 1661a” by Bojin. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Below, the interior of Charlemagne’s chapel in the Aachen Cathedral.

"Aachen-cathedral-inside". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

“Aachen-cathedral-inside”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

What Was Charlemagne Like?

We’re exceedingly lucky that Einhard was Charlemagne’s biographer.  Otherwise we would know very little about him.

Charlemagne spoke French and German in addition to Latin and understood some Greek but spoke it very poorly.  He mandated that sermons be preached in either “Romance” (French) or “Theotiscan” (German) and not in Latin so that the common person could understand the lessons being imparted.

How Did He Look?

Charlemagne’s personal appearance is known from a description by Einhard in his biography of Charlemagne titled “Vita Karoli Magni.” Einhard describes in his twenty-second chapter:

He was heavily built, sturdy, and of considerable stature, although not exceptionally so, since his height was seven times the length of his own foot. He had a round head, large and lively eyes, a slightly larger nose than usual, white but still attractive hair, a bright and cheerful expression, a short and fat neck, and he enjoyed good health, except for the fevers that affected him in the last few years of his life. Toward the end, he dragged one leg. Even then, he stubbornly did what he wanted and refused to listen to doctors, indeed he detested them, because they wanted to persuade him to stop eating roast meat, as was his wont, and to be content with boiled meat.

The physical portrait provided by Einhard is confirmed by contemporary depictions of the emperor, such as coins and his 8-inch (20 cm) bronze statue kept in the Louvre.

"Charlemagne denier Mayence 812 814" by PHGCOM - Own work by uploader, photographed at Cabinet des Médailles, Paris.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

“Charlemagne denier Mayence 812 814” by PHGCOM – Own work by uploader, photographed at Cabinet des Médailles, Paris.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

It’s uncertain whether this bronze statue from the Louvre depicts Charlemagne or his grandson, Charles the Bald, who reportedly favored his grandfather, Charlemagne.

Charlemagne at Louvre

Photographs credited © RMN, Musée du Louvre / [etc.] are the property of the RMN. Non-commercial re-use is authorized, provided the source and author are acknowledged. Photo by Jean-Giles Berizzi

In 1861, Charlemagne’s tomb was opened by scientists who reconstructed his skeleton and estimated it to be measured 1.95 metres (6 ft 5 in).  A later estimate of his height from a X-ray and CT scan of his tibia performed in 2010 is 1.84 metres (6 ft 0 in). This puts him in the 99th percentile of tall people of his period, given that average male height of his time was 1.69 metres (5 ft 7 in). The width of the bone suggested he was gracile but not robust in body build.

Charlemagne wore the traditional costume of the Frankish people, described by Einhard thus:

He used to wear the national, that is to say, the Frank, dress—next his skin a linen shirt and linen breeches, and above these a tunic fringed with silk; while hose fastened by bands covered his lower limbs, and shoes his feet, and he protected his shoulders and chest in winter by a close-fitting coat of otter or marten skins.

He wore a blue cloak and always carried a sword with him. The typical sword was of a golden or silver hilt. He wore fancy jeweled swords to banquets or ambassadorial receptions.  To Charlemagne, a sword was his ever-present and indispensable weapon, just in case, and sometimes a fine piece of jewelry too.

Charlemagne robes

Nevertheless:

He despised foreign costumes, however handsome, and never allowed himself to be robed in them, except twice in Rome, when he donned the Roman tunic, chlamys, and shoes; the first time at the request of Pope Hadrian, the second to gratify Leo, Hadrian’s successor.

He could rise to the occasion when necessary. On great feast days, he wore embroidery and jewels on his clothing and shoes. He had a golden buckle for his cloak on such occasions and would appear with his great diadem, but he despised such apparel, according to Einhard, and usually dressed like the common people.

The Beautification of the Blessed Charles Augustus

Charlemagne was accorded sainthood inside the Holy Roman Empire after the twelfth century. His canonization by Antipope Paschal III, to gain the favor of Frederick Barbarossa in 1165, was never recognized by the Holy See, which annulled all of Paschal’s ordinances at the Third Lateran Council in 1179. Charlemagne’s name does not appear among the 28 saints named Charles who are listed in the Roman Martyrology. However, his beatification has been acknowledged as cultus confirmed and is celebrated on 28 January.  Even in death, Charlemagne was contentious and deeply involved in the politics of religion.

Ummmm…so how does one act appropriately if one is twice descended from a King who was also a Saint???  Do I need to learn how to curtsey or do that Queen wave maybe?  No one prepared me for this when I was learning proper manners.  I had no idea how proper “proper” was!

Afterlife

Charlemagne, being a model knight as one of the Nine Worthies, enjoyed an important afterlife in European culture.

The Nine Worthies are nine historical, scriptural and legendary personages who personify the ideals of chivalry as were established in the Middle Ages.

The Nine Worthies include three good pagans: Hector, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar, three good Jews: Joshua, David, and Judas Maccabeus, and three good Christians: King Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Bouillon.

Gateway Ancestors

If you’d like to see if you too are descended from Charlemagne through known gateway ancestors, please click here for a list.  But beware, you just might have to learn how to behave “properly.”  If you figure out exactly what that means, let me know.