Concepts – Endogamy and DNA Segments

Members of endogamous populations intermarry for generations, creating many segments that match, especially at small centiMorgan levels. These matching segments occur because they are members of the same population – not because they are genealogically related in a recent or genealogical time-frame.

Said another way, endogamous people are all related to each other in some way because they descend from a small original population whose descendants continued to intermarry without introducing people outside of the community into the genetic line. In other words, the DNA segments of the original population simply keep getting passed around, because there are no new segments being introduced.

If you only have 10 segments at a specific genetic location to begin with, in the original population – then the descendants of those original people can only have some combination of the DNA of those original people until another person is introduced into the mix.

Examples of endogamous populations are Ashkenazi Jews, Native Americans, Acadians, Mennonite, Amish and so forth.

If you have some family lines from an endogamous population, you’ll match with many members of that group. If you are fully endogamous, you will have significantly more matches than people from non-endogamous groups.

I suggest that you read my article, Concepts: The Faces of Endogamy to set the stage for this article.

In this article, I want to provide you with a visual example of what endogamy looks like in a chromosome browser. It doesn’t matter which vendor you use so long as you can drop the cM count to 1, so I’m using FamilyTreeDNA for this example.

I’ve used three people as examples:

  • Non-endogamous European
  • Ashkenazi Jewish
  • Native American (Sioux)

For all testers, I selected their closest match above 200 cM total plus the following 4 for a total of 5 people to compare in the chromosome browser. I have only shown chromosomes 1-8 because I’m trying to convey the concept, not exact details of each chromosome, and 8 chromosomes fit into one screen shot.

If you’re not familiar with the terminology, you can read about cM, centiMorgans, in the article “Concepts – CentiMorgans, SNPs, and Pickin’Crab.”

Let’s take a look at our 3 examples, one at a time.

Non-Endogamous European Individual

The tester is non-endogamous. Four of the 5 individuals are known family members, although none were target tested by the tester.

Endogamy non-endogamous.png

The tester’s matches at 1 cM are shown below:

Endogamy non-endogamous 1cM.png

Note that the grey hashed regions are regions not reported, so no one matches there.

Below, the same 5 matches shown at 7 cM where roughly half of the matches will be identical by chance. Identical by descent segments include identical by population. You can read about the various types of “identical by” segments in the article, “Concepts – Identical by…Descent, State, Population and Chance”.

Endogamy non-endogamous 7cM.png

Ashkenazi Jewish Individual

The tester, along with both of their parents have tested. None of the matches are known or identified relatives.

Endogamy Jewish.png

Even though none of these individuals can be identified, two are related on both sides, maternal and paternal, of the person who tested.

In the chromosome browser, at 1cM, we see the following:

Endogamy Jewish 1cM.png

At 7cM, the following:

Endogamy 7cM.png

Native American Individual

The tester is 15/16 Native from the Sioux tribe. It’s unlikely that their matches are entirely Native, meaning they are not entirely endogamous. None of the matches are known or identified family members.

Endogamy Native.png

At 1 cM shown below:

Endogamy Native 1cM.png

At 7 cM, below:

Endogamy Native 7cM.png

Side by Side

I’ve placed the three 1 cM charts side by side with the non-endogamous to the left, the Jewish in the center and the Native, at right.

endogamy side by side.png

It’s easy to see that the Jewish tester has more 1 cM segments than the non-endogamous tester, and the Native tester more than both of the others.

Summary Comparison Chart

The chart below shows the difference in total number of segments, number of segments between 1 and 6.99 cM, and number of segments at 7 cM or larger. I downloaded these results into a spreadsheet and counted the rows.

Total Segments Total segments at 1 – 6.99 cM Total at 7 or > cM % 7 or >
Non-Endogamous 98 70 28 29
Jewish 168 139 29 17
Native American 310 295 15 5

You’ll note that the non-endogamous individual only has 58% of the number of total segments compared to the Jewish individual, and 32% compared to the Native American individual. The Jewish individual has 54% of the number of segments that the Native person has.

I was initially surprised by the magnitude of this difference, but after thinking about it, I realized that the Native people have been endogamous for a lot longer in the Americas than the Ashkenazi Jewish people in Europe. At least 12,000 years compared to roughly 2000 years, or approximately (at least) 6 times longer. Furthermore, the Native people in the Americans were entirely isolated until the 1400s, with no possibility of outside admixture. Isolation lasted even longer in the tribes that were not coastal, such as the Sioux in the Dakotas.

Note that the Jewish person and non-endogamous person have almost as many 7cM segments as each other, but the Native person has roughly half as many when compared to the other two. That means that because I made my selection starting point based on total cM, and the Native person has a LOT more 1-6.99 cM segments than the others, at that level, there are fewer strong segment matches for the Native individual.

The Native person’s percentage of 7 cM or greater segments is a much smaller percentage of the total segments.

As a percentage, the 7 or greater cM segments are 29% of the non-endogamous person’s total, 17% of the Jewish person’s, but only 5% of the Native person’s total.

Endogamy not only makes a difference when comparing results, but the specific endogamous population along with their history, how heavily endogamous they are, and how long they have been endogamous appears to factor heavily into the comparison as well.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Full or Half Siblings?

Many people are receiving unexpected sibling matches. Everyday on social media, “surprises” are being reported so often that they are no longer surprising – unless of course you’re the people directly involved and then it’s very personal, life-altering and you’re in shock. Staring at a computer screen in stunned disbelief.

Conversely, sometimes that surprise involves people we already know, love and believe to be full siblings – but autosomal DNA testing casts doubt.

If your sibling doesn’t match at all, download your DNA files and upload to another company to verify. This step can be done quickly.

Often people will retest, from scratch, with another company just for the peace of mind of confirming that a sample didn’t get swapped. If a sample was swapped, then another unknown person will match you at the sibling level, because they would be the one with your sibling’s kit. It’s extremely rare, but it has happened.

If the two siblings aren’t biologically related at all, we need to consider that one or both might have been adopted, but if the siblings do match but are predicted as half siblings, the cold fingers of panic wrap themselves around your heart because the ramifications are immediately obvious.

Your full sibling might not be your full sibling. But how can you tell? For sure? Especially when minutes seem like an eternity and your thoughts are riveted on finding the answer.

This article focuses on two tools to resolve the question of half versus full siblingship, plus a third safeguard.

Half Siblings Versus Step-Siblings

For purposes of clarification, a half sibling is a sibling you share only one parent with, while a step-sibling is your step-parent’s child from a relationship with someone other than your parent. Your step-parent marries your parent but is not your parent. You are not genetically related to your step-siblings unless your parent is related to your step-parent.

Parental Testing

Ideally two people who would like to know if they are full or half siblings would have both parents, or both “assumed” parents to compare their results with. However, life is seldom ideal and parents aren’t always available. Not to mention that parents in a situation where there was some doubt might be reluctant to test.

Furthermore, you may elect NOT to have your parents test if your test with your sibling casts doubt on the biological connections within your family. Think long and hard before exposing family secrets that may devastate people and potentially destroy existing relationships. However, this article is about the science of confirming full versus half siblings, not the ethics of what to do with that information. Let your conscience be your guide, because there is no “undo” button.

Ranges Aren’t Perfect

The good news is that autosomal DNA testing gives us the ability to tell full from half-siblings by comparing the siblings to each other, without any parent’s involvement.

Before we have this discussion, let me be very clear that we are NOT talking about using these tools to attempt to discern a relationship between two more distant unknown people. This is only for people who know, or think they know or suspect themselves to be either full or half siblings.

Why?

Because the ranges of the amount of DNA found in people sharing close family relationships varies and can overlap. In other words, different degrees of relationships can be expected to share the same amounts of DNA. Furthermore, except for parents with whom you share exactly 50% of your autosomal DNA (except males don’t share their father’s X chromosome), there is no hard and fast amount of DNA that you share with any relative. It varies and sometimes rather dramatically.

The first few lines of this Relationship Chart, from the 2016 article Concepts – Relationship Predictions, shows both first and second degree relationships (far right column).

Sibling shared cM chart 2016.png

You can see that first degree relations can be parent/child, or full siblings. Second degree relationships can be half siblings, grandparents, aunt/uncle or niece/nephew.

Today’s article is not about how to discern an unknown relation with someone, but how to determine ONLY if two people are half or full siblings to each other. In other words, we’re only trying to discern between rows two and three, above.

As more data was submitted to Blaine Bettinger’s Shared cM Project, the ranges changed as we continued to learn. Blaine’s 2017 results were combined into a useful visual tool at DNAPainter, showing various relationships.

Sibling shared cM DNAPainter.png

Note that in the 2017 version of the Shared cM Project, the high end of the half sibling range of 2312 overlaps with the low end of the full sibling range of 2209 – and that’s before we consider that the people involved might actually be statistical outliers. Outliers, by their very definition are rare, but they do occur. I have seen them, but not often. Blaine wrote about outliers here and here.

Full or Half Siblings?

So, how to we tell the difference, genetically, between full and half siblings?

There are two parts to this equation, plus an optional third safeguard:

  1. Total number of shared cM (centiMorgans)
  2. Fully Identical Regions (FIR) versus Half Identical Regions (HIR)

You can generally get a good idea just from the first part of the equation, but if there is any question, I prefer to download the results to GedMatch so I can confirm using the second part of the equation too.

The answer to this question is NOT something you want to be wrong about.

Total Number of Shared cM

Each child inherits half of each parent’s DNA, but not the same half. Therefore, full siblings will share approximately 50% of the same DNA, and half siblings will share approximately 25% when compared to each other.

You can see the differences on these charts where percentages are converted into cM (centiMorgans) and on the 2017 combined chart here.

I’ve summarized full and half siblings’ shared cMs of DNA from the 2017 chart, below.

Relationship Average Shared cM Range of Shared cM
Half Siblings 1,783 1,317 – 2,312
Full Siblings 2,629 2,209 – 3,394

Fully Identical and Half Identical Regions

Part of the DNA that full siblings inherit will be the exact same DNA from Mom and Dad, meaning that the siblings will match at the same location on their DNA on both Mom’s strand of DNA and Dad’s strand of DNA. These sections are called Fully Identical Regions, or FIR.

Half siblings won’t fully match, except for very small slivers where the nucleotides just happen to be the same (identical by chance) and that will only be for very short segments.

Half siblings will match each other, but only one parent’s side, called Half Identical Regions or HIR.

Roughly, we expect to see about 25% of the DNA of full siblings be fully identical, which means roughly half of their shared DNA is inherited identically from both parents.

Understanding the Concept of Half Identical Versus Fully Identical

To help understand this concept, every person has two strands of DNA, one from each parent. Think of two sides of a street but with the same addresses on both sides. A segment can “live” from 100-150 Main Street, er, I mean chromosome 1 – but you can’t tell just from the address if it’s on Mom’s side of the street or Dad’s.

However, when you match other people, you’ll be able to differentiate which side is which based on family members from that line and who you match in common with your sibling. This an example of why it’s so important to have close family members test.

Any one segment on either strand being compared between between full siblings can:

  • Not match at all, meaning the siblings inherited different DNA from both parents at this location
  • Match on one strand but not the other, meaning the siblings inherited the same DNA from one parent, but different DNA from the other. (Half identical.)
  • Match identically on both, meaning the siblings inherited exactly the same DNA in that location from both parents. (Fully identical.)

I created this chart to show this concept visually, reflecting the random “heads and tails” combination of DNA segments by comparing 4 sets of full siblings with one another.

Sibling full vs half 8 siblings arrows

This chart illustrates the concept of matching where siblings share:

  • No DNA on this segment (red arrow for child 1 and 2, for example)
  • Half identical regions (HIR) where siblings share the DNA from one parent OR the other (green arrow for child 1 and 2, for example, where the siblings share brown from mother)
  • Fully identical regions (FIR) where they share the same segment from BOTH parents so their DNA matches exactly on both strands (black boxed regions)

If a region isn’t either half or fully identical, it means the siblings don’t match on that piece of DNA at all. That’s to be expected in roughly 50% of the time for full siblings, and 75% of the time for half siblings. That’s no problem, unless the siblings don’t match at all, and that’s entirely different, of course.

Let’s look at how the various vendors address half versus full siblings and what tools we have to determine which is which.

Ancestry

Ancestry predicts a relationship range and provides the amount of shared DNA, but offers no tools for customers to differentiate between half versus full siblings. Ancestry has no chromosome browser to facilitate viewing DNA matches but shared matches can sometimes be useful, especially if other close family members have tested.

Sibling Ancestry.png

Update 4-4-2019 – I was contacted by a colleague who works for an Ancestry company, who provided this information: Ancestry is using “Close Family” to designate avuncular, grandparent/grandchild and half-sibling relationships. If you see “Immediate Family “the relationship is a full sibling.

Customers are not able to view the results for ourselves, but according to my colleague, Ancestry is using FIRs and HIRs behind the scenes to make this designation. The Ancestry Matching White Paper is here, dating from 2016.

If Ancestry changes their current labeling in the future, this may not longer be exactly accurate. Hopefully new labeling would provide more clarity. The good news is that you can verify for yourself at GedMatch.

A big thank you to my colleague!

MyHeritage

MyHeritage provides estimated relationships, a chromosome browser and the amount of shared DNA along with triangulation but no specific tool to determine whether another tester is a full or half sibling. One clue can be if one of the siblings has a proven second cousin or closer match that is absent for the other sibling, meaning the siblings and the second cousin (or closer) do not all match with each other.

Sibling MyHeritage.png

Family Tree DNA

At Family Tree DNA, you can see the amount of shared DNA. They also they predict a relationship range, include a chromosome browser, in common matching and family phasing, also called bucketing which sorts your matches into maternal and paternal sides. They offer additional Y DNA testing which can be extremely useful for males.

Sibling FamilyTreeDNA.png

If the two siblings in question are male, a Y DNA test will shed light on the question of whether or not they share the same father (unless the two fathers are half brothers or otherwise closely related on the direct paternal line).

Sibling advanced matches.png

FamilyTreeDNA provides Advanced Matching tools that facilitate combined matching between Y and autosomal DNA.

Sibling bucketing both.png

FamilyTreeDNA’s Family Finder maternal/paternal bucketing tool is helpful because full siblings should be assigned to “both” parents, shown in purple, not just one parent, assuming any third cousins or closer have tested on both sides, or at least on the side in question.

As you can see, on the test above, the tester matches her sister at a level that could be either a high half sibling match, or a low full sibling match. In this case, it’s a full sibling, not only because both parents tested and she matched, but because even before her parents tested, she was already bucketed to both sides based on cousins who had tested on both the maternal and paternal sides of the family.

GedMatch

GedMatch, an upload site, shows the amount of shared DNA as well. Select the One-to-One matching and the “Graph and Position” option, letting the rest of the settings default.

Sibling GedMatch menu.png

GedMatch doesn’t provide predicted relationship ranges as such, but instead estimates the number of generations to the most recent common ancestor – in this case, the parents.

Sibling GedMatch total.png

However, GedMatch does offer an important feature through their chromosome browser that shows fully identical regions.

To illustrate, first, I’m showing two kits below that are known to be full siblings.

The green areas are FIR or Fully Identical Regions which are easy to spot because of the bright green coloring. Yellow indicate half identical matching regions and red means there is no match.

Sibling GedMatch legend.png

Please note that this legend varies slightly between the legacy GedMatch and GedMatch Genesis, but yellow, green, purple and red thankfully remain the same. The blue base indicates an entire region that matches, while the grey indicates an entire region not considered a match..

Sibling GedMatch FIR.png

Fully identical green regions (FIR) above are easy to differentiate when compared with half siblings who share only half identical regions (HIR).

The second example, below, shows two half-siblings that share one parent.

Sibling GedMatch HIR.png

As you can see, there are slivers of green where the nucleotides that both parents contributed to the respective children just happen to be the same for a very short distance on each chromosome. Compared to the full sibling chart, the green looks very different.

The half-sibling small green segments are fully identical by chance or by population, but not identical by descent which would mean the segments are identical because the individuals share both parents. These two people don’t share both parents.

The fully identical regions for full siblings are much more pronounced, in addition to full siblings generally sharing more total DNA.

GedMatch is the easiest and most useful site to work with for determining half versus full siblings by comparing HIR/FIR. I wrote instructions for downloading your DNA from each of the testing vendors at the links below:

Twins

Fraternal twins are the same as regular siblings. They share the same space for 9 months but are genetically siblings. Identical twins, on the other hand, are nearly impossible to tell apart genetically, and for all intents and purposes cannot be distinguished in this type of testing.

Sibling GedMatch identical twin.png

Here’s the same chart for identical twins.

23andMe

23andMe also provides relationship estimates, along with the amount of shared DNA, a chromosome browser that includes triangulation (although they don’t call it that) and a tool to identify full versus half identical regions. 23andMe does not support trees, a critical tool for genealogists.

Unfortunately, 23andMe has become the “last” company that people use for genealogy. Most of their testers seem to be seeking health information today.

If you just happen to have already tested at 23andMe with your siblings, great, because you can use these tools. If you have not tested at 23andMe, simply upload your results from any vendor to GedMatch.

At 23andMe, under the Ancestry, then DNA Relatives tabs, click on your sibling’s match to view genetic information, assuming you both have opted into matching. If you don’t match your sibling, PLEASE be sure you BOTH have completely opted in for matching. I can’t tell you how many panic stricken siblings I’ve coached who weren’t both opted in to matching. If you’re experiencing difficulty, don’t panic. Simply download both people’s files to GedMatch for an easier comparison. You can find 23andMe download instructions here.

Sibling 23andMe HIR.png

Scrolling down, you can see the options for both half and completely identical segments on your chromosomes as compared to your match. Above,  my child matches me completely on half identical regions. This makes perfect sense, of course, because my father and my child’s father are not the same person and are not related.

Conversely, this next match is my identical twin whom I match completely identically on all segments.

Sibling 23andMe FIR.png

Confession – I don’t have an identical twin. This is actually my V3 test compared with my V4 test, but these two tests are in essence identical twin tests.

Unusual Circumstances

The combination of these two tools, DNA matching and half versus fully identical regions generally provides a relatively conclusive answer as to whether two individuals are half or full siblings. Note the words generally and relatively.

There are circumstances that aren’t as clear cut, such as when the father of the second child is a brother or other close relative of the first child’s father – assuming that both children share the same mother. These people are sometimes called three quarters siblings or niblings.

In other situations, the parents are related, sometimes closely, complicating the genetics.

These cases tend to be quite messy and should be unraveled with the help of a professional. I recommend www.dnaadoption.com (free unknown parent search specialists) or Legacy Tree Genealogists (professional genealogists.)

The Final SafeGuard – Just in Case

A third check, should any doubt remain about full versus half siblings, would be to find a relative that is a second cousin or closer on the presumed mother’s side and one on the presumed father’s side, and compare autosomal results of both relatives to both siblings.

There has never been a documented case of second cousins or closer NOT matching each other. I’m unclear about second cousins once removed, or half second cousins, but about 10% of third cousins don’t match. To date, second cousins (or closer) who didn’t match, didn’t match because they weren’t really biological second cousins.

If the two children are full siblings meaning the biological children of both the presumed parents, both siblings will match the 2nd cousin or closer on the mother’s side AND the 2nd cousin or closer on the father’s side as well. If they are not full siblings, one will match only on the second cousin on the common parent’s side.

You can see in the example below that Child 1 and Child 2, full siblings, match both Hezekiah (green), a second cousin from the father’s side, as well as Susan (pink), a second cousin from the mother’s side.

Sibling both sides matching.png

If one of the two children only matches one cousin, and not the other, then the person who doesn’t match the cousin from the father’s side, for example, is not related to the father – although depending on the distance of the relationship, I would seek an additional cousin to test through a different child – just in case.

You can see in the example below that Child 2 matches both Hezekiah (green) and Susan (pink), but Child 1 only matches Susan (pink), from the mother’s side, meaning that Child 1 does not descend from John, so isn’t the child of the Presumed Father (green).
Sibling both sides not matching.png

If neither child matches Hezekiah, that’s a different story. You need to consider the possibility of one of the following:

  • Neither child is the child of the Presumed Father, and could potentially be fathered by different men
  • A break occurred in the genetic line someplace between John and Hezekiah or between John and the Presumed Father.

In other words, the only way this safeguard works as a final check is if at least ONE of the children matches both presumed parents’ lines with a second cousin or closer.

And yes, these types of “biological lineage disruptions” do occur and much more frequently that first believed.

In the End

You may not need this safeguard check when the first and second methodologies, separately or together, are relatively conclusive. Sometimes these decisions about half versus full siblings incorporate non-genetic situational information, but be careful about tainting your scientific information with confirmation bias – meaning unintentionally skewing the information to produce the result that you might desperately want.

When I’m working with a question as emotionally loaded as trying to determine whether people are half or full siblings, I want every extra check and safeguard available – and you will too. I utilize every tool at my disposal so that I don’t inadvertently draw the wrong conclusion.

I want to make sure I’ve looked under every possible rock for evidence. I try to disprove as much as I try to prove. The question of full versus half siblingship is one of the most common topics of the Quick Consults that I offer. Even when people think they know the answer, it’s not uncommon to ask an expert to take a look to confirm. It’s a very emotional topic and sometimes we are just too close to the subject to be rational and objective.

Regardless of the genetic outcome, I hope that you’ll remember that your siblings are your siblings, your parents are your parents (genetic or otherwise) and love is love – regardless of biology. Please don’t lose the compassionate, human aspect of genealogy in the fervor of the hunt.

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

 

Ancestry’s ThruLines Dissected: How to Use and Not Get Bit by the ‘Gators

Ancestry’s new tool, ThruLines has some good features and a lot of potential, but right now, there are a crop of ‘gators in the swimmin’ hole – just waiting for the unwary. Here’s help to safely navigate the waters and not get bit!

Gator

Let’s start with first things first.

Maybe it’s wishful thinking or a slip of the keyboard (or phone) but I see people referring to ThruLines as TrueLines, and that’s absolutely NOT true. ThruLines must be verified and proven, just like connections with trees must always be proven – especially when new ancestors are suggested.

ThruLines are not necessarily true lines.

Having said that, there’s lots to unpack here, so let’s get started looking at Ancestry’s latest discovery tool, ThruLines.

It took me a few days to wrap my head around this – meaning what ThruLines is attempting to do, with what information, and why. In other words:

  • How is ThruLines supposed to help us?
  • How can ThruLines actually help us?
  • What are the limitations and dangers?
  • How can we avoid the problems?

The difference in the answer depends on your goals. Let’s dissect ThruLines into pieces to see how it can help with genealogy, when and where – along with what to avoid. There are some useful features here alongside some very large neon-flashing danger signs right beside the ‘gator pond.

What is ThruLines?

Ancestry’s blog announcing ThruLines can be seen here.

ThruLines does two things:

  • ThruLines groups DNA matching descendants by ancestor. ThruLines shows you, by ancestor, which people match your DNA and claim to be descended from that same ancestor. Notice the words “claim to be.” As always, when other people’s trees are involved, there is a danger of conflated trees and other concerns. We’ll discuss that shortly.

Especially for more closely related relatives, this grouping of DNA matches by ancestor is a great feature because their trees and who they believe they are descended from are more likely to be accurate in the past 3 or 4 generations when the relationship with the ancestor is a result of direct knowledge as opposed to further back where the relationship to an ancestor is a result of genealogical research. This also means the relationship to your match is easier for you to confirm, if you don’t already have your match in your tree. These gathered matches allow you to add family members and cousins to your tree. You never know who might have photos or other information, so matching and discovering that you are connected makes it easy to reach out.

These match groupings use ancestors that you already have in your tree.

  • ThruLines provides “suggestions” for potential ancestors by extrapolating from other trees. These “suggestions” include replacing your researched ancestors with other ancestors from other people’s (often inaccurate) trees, many of whom are not DNA matches to you. This is Gatorland!

Ancestry has provided this product announcement but has not yet released a white paper about how ThruLines performs the following:

  • Utilizes DNA matches.
  • Utilizes trees, including how decisions are made about which trees to use and how to suggest potential ancestors.
  • How Ancestry determines when to ignore your existing ancestor in your tree in favor of a suggested replacement.
  • The weighting between DNA and tree evidence. In some cases, nonsensical ancestors are being suggested through people’s step-parent’s lines, or ancestors’ “other spouses” lines that the tester is not biologically connected to, so the Ancestry selection process cannot be solely based on DNA matching and in some cases, is clearly not based on DNA matching at all.

Hopefully, a white paper will be coming shortly.

Caveats

If you’re an experienced genealogist, I’m not worried about you. You already understand about ‘gators, meaning the caveats and concerns about the massive number of incorrect trees.

My primary concern is that ThruLines encourages people to believe that ancestors are being suggested because DNA has confirmed that a specific ancestor is theirs. In many cases, erroneous trees have propagated for years, and now all of those people are “wrong together” so their incorrect ancestor is being suggested as an ancestor for many more people. Worse yet, multiple wrong trees are being stitched together by Ancestry in ThruLines.

I wish Ancestry provided a visible warning someplace where users CAN’T MISS IT. MyHeritage does exactly that, even in the name of their similar feature, Theory of Family Relativity.

Buried in the Ancestry support document for ThruLines, I found this:

ThruLines accuracy

This should be a required clickthrough before anyone can use ThruLines.

Accessing ThruLines

Not everyone at Ancestry has ThruLines yet. Ancestry has been struggling the past few days and ThruLines have been coming and going. ThruLines is in beta and will be rolled out during the month of March.

For ThruLines to work, you must be sure:

  • Your tree is connected to your DNA.
  • Your tree is either public or a private searchable tree. Unsearchable trees won’t have ThruLines.
  • Your tree is at least 3 or 4 generations deep.
  • You only have one kit for any individual person connected to that person in the same tree. If you have multiple kits for the same person connected to one tree, only one kit will have ThruLines. If this is your situation, you can create a “twin” to yourself in your tree and attach the second kit to that person and both kits should get ThruLines. There aren’t many people like me who have tested twice with AncestryDNA, so this shouldn’t be a problem for most people.

You can have multiple kits attached to the same tree, but each kit must be connected to a different person in the tree

If you want to know if ThruLines is available on your account or you are having problems with ThruLines, I wrote about that in the article, “Ancestry’s Disappearing ThruLines – Now You See Them, Now You Don’t.”

Myths and Misconceptions

  • ThruLines is NOT telling you or confirming that a specific ancestor IS your ancestor.
  • ThruLines is NOT modifying or automatically doing anything to your tree. The ThruLines “trees” you are seeing are constructed for ThruLines.
  • You are NOT necessarily related to, nor have DNA matches with the people whose trees are used to suggest potential ancestors.

Warning

For individuals seeking unknown parents, if you see your name beneath a placard that shows a “private” individual in a hashed box above your name, this does NOT mean your parent has been discovered. This only means that Ancestry has “paired” you with a potential ancestor that happens, in your case, to be a parent based on some combination of name similarity (yours) and a person with a similar surname in someone else’s tree.

If you have a parent/child match, it will be the first match on your match list. Look there.

It’s heartbreaking to get excited only to learn that the ThruLines “potential parent” shown for you has nothing to do with genetics – so be prepared for this possibility and don’t get excited. Check your DNA match list.

Facts

  • According to Crista Cowan in her RootsTech video, ThruLines is a replacement for Circles. After working with both my ThruLines and Circles, it became obvious very quickly that Circles have not been updated for some time, probably months. If you have Circles or New Ancestor Discoveries (which have been dormant for the past couple years), please archive them so you don’t lose any information you might have. I wrote about how to do that here.
  • New Ancestor Discoveries were discontinued roughly two years ago, so you may not have any.
  • Shared Ancestor Hints (green leaves) is no longer working. Neither is Filter By Common ancestors. I sure hope they fix both of these (probably related) bugs.
  • Any ThruLine card in a dotted edge box is a POTENTIAL ANCESTOR and is very likely incorrect.ThruLines hashed line.png
  • Any ThruLine card in a solid line box when you mouse over the card is an ancestor currently found in your tree. It’s as correct as your tree.ThruLines solid line.png
  • Just because you have an ancestor in your tree does NOT mean that Ancestry will use that ancestor. Ancestry may provide another potential ancestor from someone else’s tree. Watch for the hashed lines and be cognizant of who is already in your tree, and why!
  • On the ThruLine trees, any person, meaning ancestor OR other person in a grey hashed line box is only a suggestion based on someone else’s tree or multiple trees.
  • ThruLines shows you which tree that ancestor was “suggested” from, allowing you to click through to that tree and view their documentation.
  • On the ThruLine trees, any person in a solid edge box is from your own tree, shown with red arrows below, while any suggested individual is shown with hashed edges, shown with green arrows.

Thrulines tree.png

  • The summary below the ancestor’s name may indicate that you’re related to XYZ ancestor in <some number> of ways, but review the people you match very closely because you may be related to them, but not through the ancestor or in the way shown.

ThruLines number of matches.png

  • If there was a second marriage, ThruLines may be attributing your relationship to the un-related spouse. The descendants shown may be from the “other” marriage and that person’s ancestors. If you’re thinking the unrelated spouse’s ancestors can’t be genetic, you’re right – at least not through that line. Be very careful. You’re in ‘gator territory.
  • Furthermore, Ancestry may be suggesting ancestors of the “step-spouse” or other tangential line as well. More ‘gators.
  • Just because you match 5 descendants of XYZ ancestor, that does not mean any of these people match each other. In fact, you may match some of these people through another line entirely.
  • You can still click through to view the DNA comparison feature at Ancestry. However, since the Shared Ancestor Hints (green leaves) is not working at all, you will not be able to see the side-by-side tree comparison feature☹

ThruLines common ancestors.png

  • Using Shared Matches on the comparison page, you may be able to determine if some of these individuals do in fact match each other which helps to increase the likelihood of common ancestry in a specific line.

ThruLines shared matches 1.png

  • ThruLines does not replace Shared Ancestor Hints (green leaves) although ThruLines organizes the Shared Ancestor Hints by ancestor. Currently Shared Ancestor Hints is not working and says you have no matches with shared ancestors which is clearly incorrect if you previously had any Shared Ancestor Hints.
  • ThruLines may “add” projected ancestors to matches whose trees don’t reach far enough back in time, but who connect with another tree who connects with your tree. This occurs in ThruLines, not in your own tree unless you specifically add the information there. This additive “tree extension” effort is very similar to the WeRelate application which was infamously wrong – more like WeDontRelate.
  • You will still receive potential parent hints for ancestors on your actual tree, some of which will (or may) also be reflected in ThruLines. In some cases, the hint on your tree and the ThruLine suggested “potential ancestor” are different, so check both places.

Thrulines potential parent tree.png

  • ThruLines only reaches back 7 generations, so if you’re looking for a breakthrough or descendants from ancestors before that time, you won’t see them in ThruLines. Previously in this regard in relationship to Circles, Ancestry had said that there were too many unknown family lines and multiple relationship paths that far back in time.
  • Many of the ancestor ThruLines share exactly the same descendants. For example, my Dutch line only has a limited number of testers, so the same 10 people are listed for generation after generation going up in the pedigree (back in time.)
  • Once ThruLines offers a potential ancestor, they continue offering parents and grandparents of that potential ancestor until they run out of ancestors, reach the 8th generation or some other criteria for stopping. If this is a legitimate line, great – and if not, it’s a royal pain without an “off” button to reject known erroneous “potential ancestors.” “Gators having baby ‘gators!
  • There is no way to “ignore,” “reject” or tell Ancestry to “disconnect” or remove a potential ancestor. I hope they will add this feature soon. This could be useful if they suggest another ancestor, especially in lines where you are truly at a brick wall. New “potential ancestors” would provide you with ideas for who/where to search.
  • There is also no way to mark a ThruLines card as “seen” so you don’t review it again.
  • Having two kits connected to the same person in your tree will (at the time of this writing) prevent one of those kits from receiving ThruLines. In my case, I took a V1 and a V2 test and had them both connected to my own record. This can be solved by adding yourself as a sibling and connecting one kit to the sibling.
  • ThruLines is free for everyone for now but may require a subscription in the future. (Don’t forget about the Insight subscription to access DNA features only, assuming it still exists, but you must call support to obtain that limited subscription.)

Suspicions

  • That trees with “more” sources are weighted more heavily than trees without “more” sources. Case in point is my own tree for an ancestor who little is known about, so I only had an estimated birth and death year. However, Ancestry suggested a replacement with a very robust but nonsensical tree that incorporates “lots” of documentation. In fact, this amazing woman has birth records from Washington DC 1830-1955 (which didn’t exist in the 1700s when this woman lived), New Hampshire 1714-1904, PA 1669-2013 and who died in TN but is buried in PA. Any modicum of logic would have immediately down-weighted this tree’s veracity.
  • That not all relationships are genetically based. For example, I have 15 ancestors for whom I’m the only DNA tester listed, legitimately, so why are those ancestors shown as a ThruLine for me? No DNA is involved.
  • That Ancestry created, updated or still has a version of that “One World Tree” someplace, because some of this information is drawn from old trees with information removed long (as in years) ago. Does Ancestry know where this information was obtained from customer trees, and how they selected the specific tree to use? Do they update it? How often and what logic decides what is incorporated into that tree? I notice that in some cases, suggested ancestors’ spouses came from different users’ trees, even when the same spouse was in the same tree.
  • That projected ancestors are entirely tree based only, not genetically based.
  • Although Ancestry has not yet told us how they weight tree matches, it stands to reason that the most complete records are the most likely to be matched successfully – so be sure your ancestor’s records are as complete as possible.
  • Having said that, some of the suggested potential ancestors replacing my existing ancestors have much LESS documentation than my own tree, including some with the only “source” being Ancestry trees. I have no idea what Ancestry is actually doing, when, or why.

Accessing ThruLines

Sign on to your account and click on DNA and then “Your DNA Results Summary.”

Click on “Extras” and then “Ancestry Lab.”

ThruLines Ancestrylab

Once there, enable the beta functions. I’m not positive you need to do this for ThruLines, but there have been so many issues that I’d recommend doing this, just in case.

ThruLines Ancestrylab enable

If you have ThruLines available on your account, you’ll see this on your DNA Summary page.

ThruLines explore.png

Click on the green box to access ThruLines.

Please note that as of this writing, ThruLines is not stable, meaning that ThruLines and ancestors, as well as matches are tending to come and go. Some features are working sporadically and some not at all. The Shared Ancestor Hints and Common Ancestors filter is not working at all, even when ThruLines is functioning.

Sorting ThruLines

After working with ThruLines, I discovered, for me, working the different types of records together was easiest, because what I do with those records differs.

Records fall into the following categories:

  • Existing ancestors in your tree
  • Potential (suggested) ancestors

In fact, Ancestry provides the ability to filter in exactly that fashion, at the top of the ThruLines page on the left side.

ThruLines filter.png

Let’s look at these two types of records individually, because I use them differently.

In case you’re wondering how I track my ThruLines, I created a spreadsheet that includes columns for:

  • Number – numbered so that I know I’ve accounted for all 254 ancestors through 7 generations
  • Generation in which that ancestor is found – for example my 4 grandparents are generation 2
  • Surname of Ancestor
  • First name of Ancestor with birth year if multiple people by that same surname
  • “Should Be” column for when Ancestry suggests a replacement ancestor for a correct Ancestor I have in my tree. “Should be” is the correct ancestor’s name.
  • Existing – meaning does the ancestor exist in my tree already and is the ThruLines card provided by Ancestry for this existing ancestor from my tree
  • Potential – meaning is this a “potential ancestor” as indicated by a hashed line. Believe it or not, I have several cases where I have an ancestor by a specific name in my tree and Ancestry has suggested a different ancestor by the same name that is a conflated version of my ancestor and another person by that same name, so the answer can be yes for both “existing” and “potential.”
  • Members – how many people match in this ancestor’s group. The number of matching people is easy to see at the top of the ThruLine card when you click on the Ancestor card to open.

ThruLines may be related.png

  • Comments – anything that comes to mind such as why the suggested ancestor is wrong, something to look at, if they are a Y or mtDNA candidate, etc.

ThruLines spreadshet.png

Here’s an example of my spreadsheet.

I also color coded the ThruLines ancestors according to the groups identified later in this article so that I could filter by color. In the example above, the grey entry is an example of a correctly gathered ancestor and the red entry is a hypothetical example of an incorrect entry. If an incorrect person was listed, I would enter the correct ancestor in the “should be” column.

I had to create this spreadsheet to wrap my head around what Ancestry was doing with ThruLines, and to some extent, perhaps determine why.

I would suggest that you read through this entire article before deciding how to handle your ThruLines, then come back and create this spreadsheet if you want to. I had to create a spreadsheet to wrap my head around what was going on with ThruLines so I could write this article.

Existing Ancestors

ThruLines only “sees” ancestors on your linked tree. That means the tree linked to your DNA results.

If you switch trees, you’ll have to give Ancestry some amount of time to switch your results to the new tree. No, I don’t know how long that is in actuality. Hours to days. Ancestry suggests two days. Many people are reporting much longer waits.

What you’ll see when the process is complete is a very nicely organized set of “ancestor cards” that begins with the closest ancestors you have in your linked tree.

ThruLines cards.png

Linking Your Tree

If your tree is not linked, PLEASE LINK IT. You will not have ThruLines if your tree is not linked correctly.

To link your tree, click on “DNA” at the top of the page, and then on DNA Summary.

ThruLines settings.png

Click on the Settings gear in the upper right corner of the page.

Be sure you are participating in matching and then link your tree in this section:

ThruLines link tree.png

Exploring ThruLines

I have 161 individual ancestors listed on cards at Ancestry, along with 49 potential ancestors, although this number varies from hour to hour and day to day.

Existing ancestors in your tree have a solid line around their card when your cursor is above the ancestor.

ThruLines existing ancestor.png

Potential ancestors have a hashed line around their card.

ThruLines potential ancestor.png

This might be a good time to mention that Ancestry includes information from searchable but private trees. This means that information from many of those private trees that so frustrate genealogists is included. It may also mean that trees people are using as “quick and dirty trees” and they forgot to make unsearchable are included too.

However, if you have a private searchable tree, this now means that you too will have ThruLines.

As frustrating as these “private” cards appear at first glance, they actually aren’t useless. I clicked on this private placard and look what I see.

ThruLines private.png

This potential ancestor happens to be inaccurate, but at least I can see something.

ThruLines contact.png

Sometimes you’ll see this instead (even if the person lived so long ago that they can’t possibly be living), or if you’re lucky, the following which at least provides the name of the suggested ancestor so you can search elsewhere.

ThruLines private ancestor identified.png

I’m very grateful for this change to provide the ability to at least identify the ancestor being referenced.

Looking at my Ancestry tree, to the 8th generation (meaning 7 generations, inclusive, counting from my mother, means that if you expand your tree once, every ancestor other than the last column should be shown on a ThruLines card as illustrated below.

ThruLines 7 generations.png

In 7 generations, there are a total of 254 ancestors, counting our parents as generation 1.

Let’s break my 254 ancestors down into categories based on the Ancestry ThruLines.

Group 1 – Ancestors with No DNA Matches

Based on the fact that I’m the only child that has tested as a descendant of my mother, and she has a card, Ancestry appears to have taken every one of those 254 individuals and processed them in some fashion. I say this because I have a total of 20 ancestors in my tree with whom there are no DNA matches attributable to that ancestor.

ThruLines no matches.png

In fact, it’s this line of relatively recent German immigrants, the parents having arrived in the mid-1850s. Jacob Kirsch and Barbara Drechsel (Drexler) didn’t have a lot of children and many of those children didn’t marry and have children, which leaves a small descendant pool to test.

Clearly, based on this, the ThruLines, meaning the cards shown, aren’t generated based on a DNA match. That’s fine, except that I understood that a ThruLines card meant that you HAD a DNA match first, then secondarily a matching tree as well.

Obviously, that’s a misconception.

I’ll be keeping a running scorecard of my 254 ancestors and how they break down in ThruLines.

Ancestors Number Comments
Total ancestors in 7 generations 254
Ancestors with no DNA matches 20 German immigrant line
Remainder 234

Group 2 – Missing Ancestors Altogether

This next group is probably the easiest to account for, because they are missing in the Ancestry ThruLines cards altogether. They are clearly in my tree, but they have no ThruLines card showing that they exist. If they were only in the 7th generation, I could understand that they are missing AND don’t have hints about ancestors in earlier generations – because Ancestry (unfortunately) doesn’t provide anything in the 8th generation, but that’s not the case here. Two full generations are missing entirely.

ThruLines missing branch.png

This entire branch of my mother’s tree is missing altogether – both parents and all 4 grandparentts of Angenietje Houtsma.

It’s clearly NOT because there aren’t any DNA matches, because the Kirsch branch in the last example has no matches and still has ThruLines cards for ancestors.

It’s not because there aren’t parents, because Angenietje Houtsma has grandparents who should have cards as well, AND, those grandparents have record hints. So, it’s not like these people are unknown to the system, because they aren’t. In this one line alone, 6 ancestors are missing.

In the 6th generation, I have a total of 4 missing ancestors who are in my tree but have no cards, and in the 7th generation, 10, for a total of 14 missing ancestors. Where are these ancestors and why don’t they have a ThruLines card?

I have no idea.

Ancestors Number Comments
Total ancestors in 7 generations 254
Ancestors with no DNA matches 20 German immigrant line
Missing Ancestors 14
Remainder 220

Group 3 – Ancestors in My Tree with Gathered Descendants

This next group is the largest group of matches after eliminating the missing ancestors and those with no DNA matches.

This group consists of ancestors who have cards from my tree shown by Ancestry AND with whom I have DNA matches attributed to that line.

Keep in mind that many more people may have DNA tested and are descended from these ancestors, but their DNA doesn’t match my DNA. The only resource available to see that those people match others descended from that ancestor is if you have a Circle for that ancestor, you can check for people NOT shown in this ThruLine grouping.

Ancestry has stated that they are not going to continue to add to the Circles, so if you want that information, archive it now. I wrote about how to do that here.

I will be doing that for every ancestor with a Circle.

Let’s look at Lazarus Estes. He’s my great-grandfather and I know of most of his descendants, or at least I think I do. I have 6 DNA matches that descend from Lazarus.

Thrulines ancestor gathered descendants.png

Ok, maybe I don’t know most of his descendants. I know most of his descendants a generation ago. One of these names I’ve never heard of. The good news is that they might have information that I don’t. Pictures, stories, something.

If your goal is to connect with LIVING people, you’ll love this ThruLines feature.

In recent or relatively close generations, people are likely to know their genealogy which means their parents and grandparents. For example, I don’t question for a minute that the three descendants of Gracie Estes Long know that she’s their grandmother. I would hope that Tyler knows that my half-sister is his great-grandmother, but I suspect he has no idea who I am. His mother and grandfather are still living, which is why they are marked as private and have hashed lines, so he could ask them and I’m sure they know both who Edna was and who I am.

As you move further back in time where people are depending on historical research, that’s when the trees become more problematic, entering ‘gator territory, because they adopt and incorporate other people’s trees, believing them to be accurate.

One point that this graphic illustrates quite well is the difference in inherited DNA in the green boxes. Note that with my three 2C1R (second cousins once removed), I share 170cM, 161 cM and a paltry 25cM of DNA with them. That’s a very large difference. Then note that I share LESS with my half 2nd great-nephew, with whom I’m more closely related than with two of my 2C1R. Roll of the genetic dice.

You might notice that I can’t drop down the middle box because there’s not enough space for all 6 matches to show simultaneously. Sometimes you have to scroll back and forth to see the entire graphic, including all the siblings, so you can click at the top on the “List” link to see the people you match who descend from this ancestor in a list format.

ThruLines list.png

There are three additional pieces of information available from this “List” screen.

If you click on “View Relationship,” it takes you back to the tree where you will see only your relationship with that person.

ThruLines relationship.png

Notice that the solid lines mean these people are in my tree, but there’s another hint too. You can see that Becky’s father was taken from her own tree, but her grandmother, Lucy was taken from someone else’s tree. Is that accurate information? Don’t ever assume that it is. The trees are all hotlinks. Verify, verify, verify!!!

If you click on the person’s initial box or name, you’ll be taken to the DNA comparison screen that we’re all familiar with. Be sure to note how you’re related so you can check easily.

ThruLines match info.png

This confirms that Becky didn’t provide any more information than her parents in her tree.

If you click on the segment information in the middle of the “List” screen, you will see the following:

ThruLines relationship percents.png

Please note that these percentages do not correlate with the DNAPainter tool here which I use extensively. Ancestry does remove segments that they feel are “too matchy.”

ThruLines DNAPainter percents.png

There’s a pretty large difference between 40% and almost 52%. I wonder if Ancestry is a victim of their own incorrect trees where relationships are reported inaccurately. If that’s how they are calculating these statistics, it could well explain the discrepancy.

I would think that genealogists who care enough to make the effort to enter their DNA information into Blaine Bettinger’s Shared cM Project, from which the DNAPainter tool is derived would care enough to make sure the relationships reported are accurate. You can contribute to this crowd-sourced effort here.

I have a total of 148 “Ancestor Gathered Descendant Trees.” I know for a fact that not all of them are accurate for any number of reasons, but what I do know is:

  • That my path to the ancestor is accurate because it’s my tree and I’ve spent 40 years performing original research and documenting those ancestors.
  • That I’m somehow related to these people, assuming that the segment is not identical by chance.
  • The identical by chance scenario can be lessened for each match by looking at the Shared Matches for hints based on other people that also descend from the same ancestor.

ThruLines shared matches.png

Checking my match with cousin Beverly to help eliminate the identical by chance scenario, I discover that I do have shared matches with her, and that two of the closest common matches are people I recognize. Becky from my example above and another cousin I know well – both who descend from the same lines and help confirm the legitimacy of Beverly’s match.

Ancestors Number Comments
Total ancestors in 7 generations 254
Ancestors with no DNA matches 20 German immigrant line
Missing Ancestors 14 No ancestor cards at all
Ancestors from my Tree with Gathered Descendants 149 My ancestor is accurate. Ancestor of matches may or may not be accurate.
Remainder 71

Group 4 – Ancestors with Unknown Parents But No ThruLine

These are the individuals I was truly hoping would have a potential ancestor.

With one exception, all of these 9 ancestors are females with no surnames. In the one case where the ancestor is a male, the potential father is incorrect and no mother is offered. Based on the other mothers offered connected to incorrect fathers, the mother would be the wife of the incorrect father.

Ancestors Number Comments
Total ancestors in 7 generations 254
Ancestors with no DNA matches 20 German immigrant line
Missing Ancestors 14 No ancestor cards at all
Ancestors from my Tree with Gathered Descendants 149 My ancestor is accurate. Ancestor of matches may or may not be accurate.
Ancestors with Unknown Parents 9 Generally, missing parents of females with no surnames and no potential parents offered.
Remainder 62

Group 5 – Ancestors Shown as Potential Ancestors are Already in Tree

In 3 cases, I have Potential Ancestor cards for the same exact person that is listed in my tree already, with much the same information, making me wonder why mine was ignored and the other offered as a replacement.

The good news is that the other person’s tree from where these suggestions arose looks to be quite well documented, so I look forward to contacting them and researching what they have attached.

Ancestors Number Comments
Total in 7 generations 254
Ancestors with no DNA matches 20 German immigrant line
Missing Ancestors 14 No ancestor cards at all
Ancestors from my Tree with Gathered Descendants 149 My ancestor is accurate. Ancestor of matches may or may not be accurate
Ancestors with Unknown Parents 9 Generally, missing parents of females with no surnames and no potential parents offered.
Potential Ancestors Already in Tree 5
Remainder 57

Group 6 – Possibly Accurate Potential Ancestors

Only two Potential Ancestors are possibly accurate. Both of these individuals are the parents of a known and proven ancestor. A cousin has done some research on this line and eliminated a number of candidates, but I need to work with her to research further to determine if the suggested couple has been researched or eliminated.

Ancestors Number Comments
Total in 7 generations 254
Ancestors with no DNA matches 20 German immigrant line
Missing Ancestors 14 No ancestor cards at all
Ancestors from my Tree with Gathered Descendants 149 My ancestor is accurate. Ancestor of matches may or may not be accurate
Ancestors with Unknown Parents 9 Generally, missing parents of females with no surnames and no potential parents offered.
Potential Ancestors Already in Tree 5
Possibly Accurate Potential Ancestors 2
Remainder 55

Group 7 – Inaccurate Potential Ancestors (‘Gator City)

I saved this group for last because it’s just painful. As a genealogist, I have to say that truthfully, the fact that Ancestry has suggested 55 ancestors that I know positively are inaccurate terrifies me for the sheer fact that less experienced genealogists will grab gleefully onto these “new ancestors” and perpetuate the Ancestry-provided incorrect trees like kudzu vines. The perception is that these trees are now “proven” by DNA – a statement I’ve seen repeatedly the past several days.

THESE ANCESTORS AND TREES ARE **NOT** PROVEN BY DNA!!!

These trees are predicated upon other people’s inaccurate trees with suggestions being made to replace your ancestors, currently in your trees, with other ancestors from other people’s trees. There seems to be no consistent logic that applies in ‘Gatorland.

The end result will be that even more people will receive inaccurate “Potential Ancestors” because there are yet more of those incorrect trees skewing the algorithm. I don’t know if the criteria for ancestor suggestion is “most numerous” tree or something else. This scenario is the very definition of a vicious ‘gator circle.

The incredibly frustrating aspect of ThruLines for me is when Ancestry ignores the ancestor in my tree that I’ve spent years (if not decades) researching and documenting, and instead suggests a “Potential Ancestor” that defies logic. LHM!

In some cases, such as with Lydia Brown, wife of William Crumley III, the widely disseminated Elizabeth Johnson is shown as the mother of my ancestor, Phoebe Crumley, instead of Lydia Brown. Not only is Elizabeth Johnson incorrect, it’s been proven incorrect for several years now via mitochondrial DNA, AND, I’ve written and published about this case.

Imagine my frustration, to put it mildly, to discover that Ancestry is now ignoring my carefully proven ancestor and suggesting that I replace her with the unproven, erroneous ‘gator. Not only that, but I fully suspect that my tree is NEVER going to be suggested to others, because it’s a (nearly) lone voice lost in the forest of incorrect ancestors.

Truthfully, this makes my blood boil – 55 separate painful times. Once for each incorrect ‘gator masquerading as an ancestor. Why would Ancestry think that replacing my ancestors in my tree with ones from other people’s trees is even remotely a good idea?

To suggest that I “consider” a different ancestor or information in another tree is vastly different than simply ignoring the ancestor I have in my tree and providing a “Potential Ancestor” replacement, like the one in my tree doesn’t even exist. (Not to mention that this attitude in and of itself is both arrogant and condescending.)

If I should consider a different ancestor, I’d at least like for that ancestor to have lived in remotely the right place and time. People did not have children at age 5 nor after they died (except occasionally for men within 9 months), nor did they have 30 children, nor were they married, having children and living in multiple places at the same time. Well, at least not most ancestors😊

The Quality of a potential tree should be part of the recommendation factor, especially if Ancestry is blithely ignoring my existing ancestor in favor of another potential ancestor from someone else’s tree.

Simply telling you how wrong these suggested Potential Ancestors are would not do the situation justice. I’ve documented the circumstances, briefly, with the hope that you will use my experience trying to sort through this ‘gator swamp as a warning for what to look for and consider in your own ThruLines, and how.

What’s worse, when Ancestry ignores your existing ancestor and suggests others, they don’t stop with that one ancestor, but then continue to suggest and propagate ancestors on up your tree for the erroneously suggested ancestors. These recommendations are not based on DNA or your existing ancestor in your tree but on “those other” trees alone.

Let’s look at an example of what Ancestry “suggested” for my Crumley branch. The red Xs document where Ancestry replaced a known ancestor with suggested incorrect ancestors – including on up the tree. (I should have used little ‘gators instead of Xs.)

Thrulines bad tree.png

Unknown H2a1 is an unknown wife of William Crumley II with the H2a1 mitochondrial haplogroup. Ancestry did not assign a potential ancestor for her, but obviously Ancestry “believes” that she was a Johnson, because her father is suggested as Andrew Johnson. Of course, this means that H2a1’s mother is incorrectly “suggested” as well as Andrew Johnson’s wife.

I know this is wrong, because Elizabeth Johnson was a second wife who married William Crumley in 1817, long after his son, my ancestor, William Crumley III was born in 1785. Therefore, it’s impossible that Elizabeth was William III’s mother. Not only that, she was 12 years YOUNGER than William Crumley III. Twelve years younger than her step-son.

Furthermore, Lydia Brown, the proven mother of Phebe Crumley through William Crumley III in the next generation, was ignored as well, and his wife was also given as Elizabeth Johnson through a different tree. This Elizabeth Johnson’s parents were assigned as different parents than the Elizabeth Johnson who married William Crumley II in 1817. Are you confused yet? Believe me, so was I and obviously, so are other people as well as Ancestry.

The end result of this is that not only were my existing ancestors ignored and replaced, but the erroneous trees that are themselves full of impossibilities for the person they are documenting are then suggested to replace mine. Those trees are then cobbled together by Ancestry in a Frankenstein mosaic of patched together ancestors that are blatantly wrong and very difficult to unravel.

And this in only one branch of my extended tree. This scenario happened on multiple branches. If you’re thinking to yourself, “How bad can this really be?”, here’s the graphic of every branch affected, and how.

That old “picture is worth 1000 words” thing.

If you think I’m overreacting, take a look at these graphics which do NOT include missing ancestors or the two that that might potentially be accurate – only the “Potential Ancestors” provided by Ancestry that I know positively are inaccurate.

ThruLines bad tree 2.png

The red Xs show where my ancestors have been ignored and alternative incorrect ancestors suggested as “potential ancestors.”

ThruLines bad tree 3.png

ThruLines bad tree 4.png

ThruLines bad tree 5.png

ThruLines bad tree 6.png

ThruLines bad tree 7.png

ThruLines bad tree 8.png

Thrulines bad tree 9.png

ThruLines bad tree 10.png

ThruLines bad tree 11.png

ThruLines bad tree 12.png

My tree is literally bleeding red Xs. And I just realized while proofing that there are now more than there were initially, and I missed one X. Sigh. The ‘gators are “propagatoring.”

If your jaw just dropped looking at those red Xs, let this serve as a warning for your own tree.

Below, brief descriptions of what is wrong, and how. Think of this as the ‘gator trap.

Ancestor Suggestion to Replace Accurate with Inaccurate Ancestor
Joseph Bolton My ancestor ignored and suggested similar Joseph Bolton from tree with significantly less information than mine.
Lydia Brown Proven incorrect ancestor based on widely spread speculative misinformation.
Elisabeth Mehlheimer’s mother I already have her mother, Elisabetha Mehlheimer, in my tree. Why suggest a “private” person instead? (This has since disappeared.)
William Moore Replaced my William with another William Moore proven via Y DNA not to be from the same line. The William they suggest has 30 children from 3 “wives” who are obviously the same woman by different variations of a common surname, with many “children” by the same name. This tree has obviously been constructed by indiscriminately “gathering” from other trees. Yet, that tree, according to Ancestry, trumped my own carefully curated tree.
Lucy, wife of William Moore Suggested wife of yet a different wrong William Moore, above, ignoring Lucy in my tree. Birth shown in Giles County, VA but also with an attached England birth document. Shows marriage to two different William Moores, at the same time, neither one where mine lived.
Daniel Vannoy Suggested his brother, Francis, ignoring Daniel in my tree. The Francis tree has many spurious references to IGI records, Family Data Collection and Ancestry trees, but does NOT include my Elijah as his child, so how Ancestry decided to make this connection is baffling.
Sarah Hickerson Suggested Daniel’s wife from a different tree than above where Elijah is included as a child. Which Vannoy brother fathered Elijah Vannoy was proven through DNA matches to the Hickerson family, not Millicent Henderson, wife of Francis Vannoy.
Jotham Brown Because the right wife, Lydia Brown, was ignored, the wrong line continued to be suggested upwards in the tree instead of Jotham Brown, Lydia’s proven father. This “private” tree is for Zopher Johnson, as shown by his connected children even though “Zopher” himself is private. Another Potential Ancestor shows Zopher as a card a generation earlier, along with wife Elizabeth Williamson Cooper, perpetuating this wrong information up the tree another generation.
Phoebe Cole Because the right wife, Lydia Brown, ignored, the wrong line continued to be suggested upwards in the tree instead of Phebe Cole, the wife of Jotham Brown, Lydia’s proven father in my tree. This “private” ancestor is for Catherine Harrison, wife of Zopher Johnson.
James Mann Substituted James Robert Mann, the wrong person, ignoring the accurate person. This continues upstream for 2 more generations.
Mary Cantrell Substituted Mary Jane Wilson, wife of James Robert Mann. The wrong line continued up the tree for 2 more generations.
Michael McDowell Suggested replacing my Michael with a different, less correct, possibly conflated, Michael McDowell.
Samuel Muncy Suggested Samuel Munsey-Muncy, ignoring my Samuel, from a tree that shows a Civil War service record for a man who died in the early 1800s and would have been about 100 during the Civil War. Miraculous! Lots of Family Data Collection and Ancestry Trees sources.
Andrew McKee Suggested replacing my Andrew with a different, incorrect “private” Andrew McKee. The original tree for Andrew has now been made completely private.
Elizabeth, wife of Andrew McKee Ignored my Elizabeth and suggested replacing with another Elizabeth. The matches look to be correct, so the other tree has the two Elizabeths conflated. The only source for the replacement tree is “Ancestry Family Trees.” Sheesh, Ancestry.
James Moore Ignored my proven ancestor and suggested replacing him with a William Moore proven via Y DNA not to be of the same line. This William in the person’s tree was said to be born in Henrico Co., VA, but has an attached birth record from England. Can’t be both.
Mary Rice Ignored Mary Rice and suggested Margaret Hudspeth, wife of the incorrect William Moore, above. Again, shown to be born in Henrico County, with English birth record attached along with IGI record as only sources.
Charles Hickerson Since Sarah Hickerson was ignored, the incorrect family line was perpetuated up the tree with a wrong ancestor for the second generation instead of Charles Hickerson.
Mary Lytle Since Sarah Hickerson was ignored, the incorrect family line was perpetuated up the tree with a wrong ancestor instead of Mary Lytle.
Sarah Rash Ignored mine and suggested replacing with a Sarah Rash that appears to be more fleshed out, but the dates are all based on records not belonging to the correct Sarah, including a birth in England despite a shown birth date in 1732 in Spotsylvania Co., VA. We have our Sarah’s birth from the family Bible.
William Moore’s wife, Lucy’s father Nancy Moore’s erroneously given mother’s supposed father, Samuel Little Harwell. This erroneous tree now perpetuated to the second generation.
William Moore’s wife, Lucy’s mother Nancy Moore’s erroneously given mother’s supposed mother, Anne Jackson. Woman who died in 1765 has a SSDA claim record and an 1800s immigration record, even though she was supposedly born in Brunswick Co, VA in 1712. Married Samuel Harwell 5 different times – clearly has simply collected and attached data to their tree without evaluation, but Ancestry thought it was “better” than my tree.
Jotham Brown’s father Because Lydia Brown was misidentified, so was Jotham Brown, and now his father as well, perpetuating garbage up the tree for two more generations
Jotham Brown’s mother Because Lydia Brown was misidentified, so was Jotham Brown, and now his mother as well, perpetuating garbage up the tree for two more generations
John Cole Since Phebe Cole was misidentified, so was her father.
Mary Mercy Kent Since Phebe Cole was misidentified, so was her mother
Michael McDowell Sr. Since the wrong Michael was identified earlier, a wrong father, John McDowell, was also identified, proven by Y DNA not to be related. The son of this John McDowell is yet a different John McDowell than the one Ancestry substituted for my John McDowell.
Wife of Michael McDowell Sr. We don’t know who she was, but we know she wasn’t Magdalena Woods, married to John McDowell. The Magdalena Woods tree they recommended includes 13 Ancestry Family Tree, Family Data Collection and IGI records as sources, plus a German birth record for a person born (supposedly) in 1705 in Ireland, according to the tree itself. Pretty tricky!
Isabel, wife of Michael McDowell Jr. Suggested private father, Ebenezer Hall, and erroneous mother, Dorcas Abbott who lived her entire life in New Hampshire, not Virginia.
James Claxton’s parents Suggested erroneous private father and mother, widely distributed but proven via Y DNA testing not to be of the same line. Ironically, there are other trees for this person that are not private. How and why Ancestry selected the private one is a mystery. Ancestry also suggested his mother, from another tree as Catherine Kathryn Caty Middleton which is incorrect as well.
Joel Cook Ignored Joel, proven ancestor via military records to suggest Henry Cook. Henry’s only daughter, Sarah, in the suggested tree would have been 5 years old when she married and 6 when her first child was born. Another miracle!
Alice, wife of Joel Cook Ignored Alice to suggest wife of Henry Cook from a different tree with the only source being Ancestry Family Trees.
Samuel Muncy Ignored Samuel to suggest Obediah Muncy.
Agnes Craven Ignored, Agnes, wife of Samuel Muncy to suggest “private” person who was the wife of Obediah listed as “Mrs. Obediah.”
Andrew McKee Ignored Andrew McKee who is proven to suggest Hugh McKee who did not live in the correct state to have his child. The next generation up the tree is also incorrect, suggesting a George McKee who had Elizabeth Barnes, mother of Ann McKee, according to Ancestry. Ann McKee’s mother was actually Martha (probably) McCamm. Another potential ancestor card suggests George McKee’s wife is Anna Elizabeth Carney with no sources at all.
Martha possibly McCamm Ignored Martha and suggested wife of Hugh McKee, Mary Nesbit, perpetuating erroneous information for another generation up the tree. Some very convoluted trees in this mess with only source being “Ancestry trees.” This has now been made entirely private.
Elizabeth, wife of Steven Ulrich. Ignored my Elizabeth and suggested Elizabeth Cripe, a surname/person that has been disproven but rampant in trees.
Marie LePrince Ignored proven genealogy that Marie LePrince is the mother of Marguerite de Forest and replaced with Marie Claire Rivet. Shown marrying both in France and in Nova Scotia.
Hannah Drew Ignored my Hannah Drew and replaced with wrong Hannah Drew from another tree with less information, showing only an Ancestry Family Tree and a record showing the birth of her son in England, while the rest of the tree shows his birth in the colonies.
Samuel Mitchell Ignored my Samuel Mitchell and replaced with an erroneous Samuel Mitchell who was supposed to have died in 1756 in Maine, but has a Michigan death record from after 1867. I had no idea people lived to be almost 200 years old. Wow!
Elizabeth, wife of Samuel Mitchell Ignored my Elizabeth and suggested Elizabeth Penglase as the mother of Catherine Mitchell. Elizabeth Penglase was born in 1698 in Kittery Maine, but with at London England birth/baptism attached to the record. Also shows her father as Christopher Mitchell and two marriages to her husband. Tree is very confused and conflated.
Susanna Koob Ignored Susanna who is proven and suggested replacement with Anna Margaretha Kirsch with only source being “Ancestry Family Trees.” No DNA matches, so how was this done, exactly?
John Herrell Ignored my John and substituted John Isaac Herrell, incorrectly from a different location, with no documentation.
John Herrell’s father Because John Herrell was incorrectly substituted, so is his father, shown as Davie Harrell.
Francois LaFaille’s father Suggested Jean Francois LaBelle who did not live in the right location to be the parent of Francoise LaFaille, nor is the surname correct.
Francois LaFaille’s mother Suggested Marie Genevieve Auger Baron who as the mother of Francois LaFaille, who was the wife of Jean Francois LaBelle.
Jacques De Foret Ignored proven ancestor, Jacques de Foret and replaced with Bonaventure Foret who did not live where my ancestor lived.

Evaluation

If you are looking for close cousins and know your tree well, you may well find some individuals with whom to collaborate based on the grouping of DNA matching descendants by ancestor. Perhaps you’ll be fortunate and discover previously unknown family photos, history or stories.

The further back in time ThruLines reaches, the more problematic the frankentrees that are unrelated to DNA become.

The suggested “replacements” of known, proven, ancestors with incorrect ancestors are found in my tree as follows:

  • 1 individual at generation 4
  • 2 individuals at generation 5
  • 12 individuals at generation 6
  • 40 individuals at generation 7

Here’s the final scorekeeping chart.

Ancestors Number Comments
Total ancestors in 7 generations 254
Ancestors with no DNA matches 20 German immigrant line
Missing Ancestors 14 No ancestor cards at all
Ancestors from my Tree with Gathered Descendants 149 My ancestor is accurate. Ancestor of matches may or may not be accurate
Ancestors with Unknown Parents 9 Generally, missing parents of females with no surnames and no potential parents offered.
Potential Ancestors Already in Tree 5
Possibly Accurate Potential Ancestors 2
Correct Ancestors Replaced by Incorrect Potential Ancestors 55

By any measure, this is an abysmal report card relative to “Potential Ancestors,” with only 2 potential new ancestors that could be accurate and 55 wildfires that can never be extinguished – with gasoline thrown on, encouraged and propagated by Ancestry themselves. What a terrible example of stewardship. This is not just a disservice to me, but to the entire genealogy community. We should be striving for accuracy, not feeding the ‘gators and fertilizing Kudzu vines frankentrees.

Goals and Benefits

My goal with genetic genealogy, and genealogy as a whole, is fourfold, as shown in the following chart. The questions is, how does ThruLines help me achieve these goals?

Goal ThruLines
To confirm known ancestors through DNA

 

This is best achieved by segment matching which Ancestry does not provide, but less conclusive evidence can certainly be obtained through close matches and shared matches that match both me and close family members. Unfortunately, Circles which is a form of genetic networks would provide additional confirmation but is being discontinued.
To document the lives of my ancestors accurately for future generations

 

ThruLines encourages the propagation of erroneous trees by suggesting them, by linking to them, and by failing to use any discernible quality measure. A quality tree is NOT a tree with conflicting sources about the same event, the same timeframe or unreliable sources such as “Ancestry Family Trees.” We, as individuals, can’t put these fires out as fast as Ancestry flames them, especially if quality trees are discounted for larger “scavenged” trees. Size does not = accuracy.
To break through brick walls

 

The two individuals that I have yet to research, as well as perhaps viewing trees for others whose DNA I match and share a common ancestor may be illuminating. It would be difficult to sift through the chaff for a newer genealogist.
To reconstruct and paint the DNA of my ancestors For this, I need at least segment data, if not a chromosome browser. I hope that Ancestry customers will transfer their DNA files to FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage and GedMatch to reap the added advantages of the tools at those sites – including the availability of segment information and the resulting confirmation ability.

ThruLines Recommendations

The “Potential Ancestor” feature could have been, and still can be presented in an entirely different way, facilitating responsible genealogy, including the following:

  1. Extremely visible and repeated warnings cautioning that ThruLines are not definitive, only hints and MUST BE VERIFIED with research.
  2. Do not ignore the ancestor in the customer’s tree.
  3. Providing “suggestions” to look at alternate ancestors or trees for additional information for ancestors, not doling out “potential ancestors” to replace your existing ancestors.
  4. Implementing artificial intelligence (machine learning) for accuracy including factors such as looking for multiple births in various locations (a person can only be born once), cobbled together frankentrees, multiple marriages at the same time in different places, births too late or early in the lives of potential parents, and more red flag factors that should down-weight trees as being “recommendation worthy.”
  5. Sharing with the customer why these trees were considered as recommendation worthy, similar to the MyHeritage confidence factor and side-by-side comparisons.
  6. Eliminating “Ancestry Trees,” IGI records and other similar “word of mouth” types of sources as being “recommendation worthy.”
  7. The ability to “dismiss” a “Potential Ancestor” suggestion and for that dismissal to be part of the AI learning process relative to future recommendations.
  8. Ability to group ThruLines, such as by categories: Dismiss (inaccurate), Accurate and processed, Reviewed but unknown accuracy, In Process, New and not yet reviewed, etc.
  9. Restoration of shared ancestor hints.
  10. Fix bug in common ancestors causing no matches with common ancestors to be found, which I would presume is supposed to replace Shared Ancestor Hints.
  11. Permanently archiving Circles and NADs.
  12. If the Circles must be replaced, find another way to provide a genetic network that includes people who descend from the same ancestor, have DNA tested and match some of the people in the Circle or NAD but not everyone.
  13. The ability to know when looking at a tree of a descendant of an ancestor if they have tested, and if so, if they match you.
  14. Much more adequate product testing before release. By any measure, this release has been miserable and was not adequately tested in advance. No one expects new code to be bug-free, but this is unacceptable.

Ancestry, I hope you’re listening, cause the ‘gators are circling and you need to help us escape from this mess you created.

Gator

______________________________________________________________

Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

The Muller House on Kreuzgasse; Humble Beginnings in Schwarzenmatt, Switzerland – 52 Ancestors #229

Just when I thought I was done with the Muller story, as in end-of-the-line done, another wonderful gift arrived for the Miller descendants in the form of a chapter from a book written by Peter Mosimann and his wife, Berti Mosimann-Bhend whose family owned the Muller home in Schwarzenmatt, Switzerland for generations, and still does.

Peter Mosiman very kindly sent this chapter of his out-of-print book to Chris, who sent it to me. I did my best translating it using www.DeepL.com/Translator.

An automated translator can only do so much, even a good one, so I sent the translated text back to Chris, who very patiently reviewed and retranslated over 260 places in this document over the holidays, in spite of having a young family. I feel like I need to apologize to Chris, because this isn’t even his family – although I wish it was.

This may not be your family either, but if you have Swiss or “Alpine” family from Europe, this is probably the story of your family. The goats, the cheese, their hand tools, carvings about God in their barns and…well…just come along. There are amazing photos and it’s never going to get any more “real” than this unless you have a time machine.

Thank You

My humble thanks to Chris and to Peter Mosiman for his permission to use his chapter and his photos to document the beautiful home of our Heinsmann Muller, the grandfather of Johann Michael Muller (Miller) the second who was born in 1692 in Steinwenden, Germany. At least, it’s very likely Heinsmann’s home. We know it was in the Muller family a generation later.

This historic home was built in 1556, according to the date carved into the wall, 100 years before Johann Michael Muller was born, but half a century after we know that a Muller man was living in Schwarzenmatt.

Johann Michael Muller the second, whose father was born in Schwarzenmatt, along with his half-brother, Jacob Stutzman whose family was also from this region and possibly from this village, immigrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1727, founding both the Stutzman and Miller lineages in the US. Our roots run deep in this valley.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank Peter and his wife, Berti Mosimann-Bhend for preserving and restoring this wonderful historical home for future generations. You can read in the text the extent of their frustrations but were it not for their perseverance, there would be nothing left today.

Before we read Berti’s chapter, lets take a look at the earliest history of Schwarzenmatt, the quaint Swiss alpine village where Johann Michael Muller was born to Heinsmann Muller in 1655.

Come along…

Prehistory of Schwarzenmatt

As we travel further back in time in the human occupation of our planet earth, records become increasingly scarce. Eventually, of course, the only records are archaeological sites found in caves and shelters where our very distant ancestors lived. Pathways faintly threaded through the mountains and forests connecting one location with the next, or shelters with hunting grounds.

During the Middle Ages forts and castles were built along these routes to protect access, although all are in ruins today. Villages were established as waypoints, probably accidentally, beginning with a single hut, and grew slowly over time.

The villages and farms in this region came under Bernese control in 1386 and at that time, several villages were listed, including Boltigen, first mentioned in 1286, and Schwarzenmatt. The Boltigen church, St. Mauritius is first mentioned in 1288, so enough people were living there at that time to warrant the erection of a (then Catholic) church in the community.

Traditionally, villages in this valley imported grain from Bern and raised cattle on the valley floor and in seasonal alpine herding camps. Some trade occurred over the Juan Pass, shown below, crossing the Alps to France as well.

CC BY-SA 3.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2643201

Our Muller family is first found in the records of Schwarzenmatt in the early 1500s, at least by name, but humans inhabited the alpine valley and mountains long before. Who knows, these early settlers could have been our ancestors, or they could have moved on or eventually their lineage might have been wiped out.

The first trace of human habitation is found about a mile and a half as the crow flies, above Schwarzenmatt in the mountains towering over the village.

By Ulrich Eranrb, Boltigen BE, Switzerland – Self-photographed, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21282568

The Ranggliloch Mesolithic shelter from about 15,000 years ago is a cave above what eventually became a mule path known as the Juan Pass (1509 meters) that connects Boltigen in Switzerland with Jaun in France and passed directly through the tiny village of Schwarzenmatt.

The Letter

Now that we know a bit about the earliest history of the area, let’s turn to Chris who tells us that a letter arrived from Peter Mosimann which included the chapter on the house on the Kreuzgasse in Schwarzenmatt, from the Boltigen book. This chapter was written by Peter’s wife Berti Mosimann-Bhend whose family owned the Muller home.

From Chris:

The second-last paragraph in the letter by Peter Mosimann may be a good summary:

“Heintzman Müller certainly lived in Schwarzenmatt in 1653, but whether he lived in our house hasn’t been proven yet. In former times, young families often spent some time at home, but when there were several children, then they moved out and often lived nearby. It should also be remembered that in some larger houses there were two fireplaces, so that we cannot deduce the exact number of houses from this directory.”

Let me add that there is indeed a Wolfgang Müller on the 1653 house list, so it is hard to tell, if there may in fact have been two Müller families in Schwarzenmatt. Personally, I do not think so, but it remains a possibility.

On the bottom of the letter there is a note that in 1653 (year of Schwarzenmatt house list) a peasant war was taking place in Switzerland. I was not aware of this, you can read about it in English here.

The book chapter itself gives no new genealogical information for you, Roberta, except one notion on page 289 that a Benedikt Müller is on record as a Schwarzenmatt resident as early as 1502. Besides that, I am sure you will like the photos!

On the pages 293 and 294, there is a colored floor plan of the house, “black” being the remains of the original building from 1556 and all further parts added from 1705 onwards That means that if Heintzmann Müller and son Michael indeed lived in this very house, then it was about one third of the size it is today – rather small!

Also, please note that from page 308 onwards additional houses are described, not the house on Kreuzgasse.

I was excited to see that one Benedikt Muller was living in Schwarzenmatt in 1502, 153 years before Johann Michael Muller was born in Schwarzenmatt in 1655 to Heinsmann or Heinzmann Muller, however his name was actually spelled.

If we use the 30-year generation as an average, we can presume that Heinsmann was born in about 1625.

  • Heinsmann’s father – born about 1595
  • Heinsmann’s grandfather – born about 1565
  • Heinsmann’s great-grandfather – born about 1535
  • Heinsmann’s great-great-grandfather – born about 1500
  • Benedikt Muller – born about 1470.

Did we just reach back another 5 generations in the Muller family in Schwarzenmatt? It’s certainly possible, but very unlikely that we will ever be able to connect those dots.

The Muller House on Kreuzgasse in Schwarzenmatt

This next section is the chapter itself, translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator and improved by Chris. I have left the translation largely intact, even when it’s stilted, in order not to inadvertently change the meaning.

Page 1 of the pdf that Peter sent, page 289 of the original book, on the bottom right of the page.

In the gable triangle, the year 1556 is at the upper left corner; the house is therefore one of the earliest dated rural residential buildings of the municipality Boltigen and perhaps even of the entire Bernese Oberland; today it forms a rare example of the small rural house type of the 16th century. So that one can imagine the time, in which this house is built, can visualize something better.

I would like to remind you of some important events of that time:

  • 1492 Christopher Columbus discovers America.
  • 1509 Nikolaus Kopernikus explains that the sun is the center of our planetary system.
  • 1515 Battle of Marignano. End of the Swiss great power politics.
  • 1517 Start of the Reformation in Germany by Martin Luther.
  • 1519 Magellanes is the first to sail around the world.
  • 1528 Reformation in the state of Bern.
  • 1531 Kappeier wars. Death of Ulrich Zwingli.
  • 1536 Bern conquers Vaud.
  • 1556 Emperor Charles V of Habsburg abdicates. “In my kingdom the sun never sets.”
  • In Boltigen the entries in the first church book (Eherodel) begin.
  • 1564 The Geneva reformer Johannes Calvin dies.
  • 1572 Persecutions of Huguenots in France. Bartholomew’s night.
  • 1588 England destroys the Spanish Armada.
  • 1608 Invention of the telescope.

It was the time of the masters, the patricians, Schultheisse and Landvögte, but also the time of the muleteers and rice runners, religious wars, plague trains, witches and Anabaptist persecutions, the Renaissance and the Baroque.

Probably the house on the Kreuzgasse was built on the Allmend built. It stands in a striking, sunny location of the settlement, directly on the old alpine and mule track (IVS: BE 25.1) from Boltigen via Reidigen to Jaun and more into the Gruyère region.

Before 1615 there were in Schwarzenmatt only a few courtyards, only four prove themselves with certainty, which also included our house; next to it there were some individual farmsteads (Tuor 1974: 64).

The house may have always been our ancestors. Documents of the State Archives and archival material the community of Boltigen and the Säuert Schwarzenmatt as well as private purchase contracts suggest this. In Schwarzenmatt are already 1425 Agnes Spilman (BU: 271), 1502 Benedikt Mueller (U 2) and 1558 Peter and Paulj Spylman (K 1: 4) detectable. The Spielmann Families and Mullers have been at least since the 15th century and 16th century settled here. Barbara owned in 1720 Spyllman in the Säuert Schwarzenmatt a “Hauß and Spycherblatz” [house and granary] (SSB: 54). 1741 lent Hans Spillmann Saltigen 179 Kr 6 bz 1 X and gave as a deposit the so called “Lehngut” [feud ?] and the house in Schwarzenmatt including beunden [a piece of land with a fence] and garden (AG: 25).

Andreas Müller married Johanna Horner (died 1768) in 1731.

Barthlome Müller (born 1731) her son, took Anna Zimmermann from Wattenwil (died 1775) as his wife. Since Barthlome had fled for unknown reasons around 1770, Anna and her children had to be supported by the community as in the poor calculations (MA 1:1773 f.). Single mothers were I’m afraid it was very badly placed back then. Jakob, Barthlomes and Anna’s son, married her already in the house on the Margaretha Spielmann living in Kreuzgasse (1742-1819); unfortunately, Jakob died very early (1758-1785). In his widow Margaretha lived with her two children two children Anna (1779-1837) and David (1782-1817) and her sister Magdalena Spielmann (1747-1812). Both women were sentenced in 1786 by the choir court for unauthorized serving of wine without permission, each penalty of 1 lb (C VIII: 31 0). Already their father, the mule skinner Hans Spielmann (died 1784) had to appear before the choir court several times because of unauthorized sale of wine and unauthorized [“Wirtschaft” is an inn, so “Winkelwirtschaft” could be an inn at a street corner, but I am guessing. Alternatively, it could as well be a specific juristic term for unauthorized sale.] at the Schafscheid [a place, where sheep are separated in different groups and directed on different roads] in Schwarzenmatt (C VI: 404, 409, 412). In 1805 Margaretha was (owed?) the Moneylender Johannes Zabli at Brunnehus 33 Kr 1 0 X accrued interest owed (EA: 12).

Kreuzgassen: Magdalena and Margritha Spielmann have all the house rules. 1808. AGM: 18.

Page 2 of pdf, page 290 of document.

The Kauf-Beyle of 1819/1825 states that “the lower half of the house (on Kreuzgasse) belongs to David Müller (1782-1817). Children of thought Schwarzenmatt “I belong to.” These five children were siblings of the seller Anna Spielmann, Johannes’ daughter from Weissenbach. She had inherited from her grandmother Margaretha Müller, née Spielmann, widow of the late Jakob …, half of the house. According to above Purchase and sale of orphans of Boltigen Municipality in Anna’s name her part of the house to old Gerichtsäss Jakob Gobeli zu Weissenbach (1746-1839), husband of Anna Müller (1779-1837).

Anna Müller’s brother David (1782-1817), Jakob’s son, married (Eherodel burned) Magdalena Karlen (1775-1827). He died as a soldier in a hospital in Holland. Their children were David (1803-1878), Magdalena (born 1805), Anna (born 1811), Christian (born 1814, teacher) and Margaretha (1816-1862). Later, Jakob Gobeli must have passed on his half of the house to these five children.

David Müller (1803-1878), known as “the hunter”, married in 1825 with Barbara Reidenbach (1798-1853). Her children were Barbara (born 1825, died in the USA). Caroline (1833-1903). Susanna (born 1834), David (1840-1897 died in Ohio) and Friedrich Wilhelm (born 1842, died in the USA).

In 1837 David acquired his four siblings’ shares in house and real estate, so that he is the sole owner of the in the house on Kreuzgasse. Caroline was my great-grandmother, she took (married) in 1868 in Spiez, Friedrich Bhend (1836-1904), of Jacob blessed, to man; he was cheese maker and Salzer and came from the small town Unterseen, his hometown. In 1872 David Müller sold the whole property for 6’700 Fr. to his daughter Friedrich Bhendin. His children were Louise (1872-1884) and Frederick (1873-1943). He married Susanna in 1903.

Katharina von Allmen (1877-1950); both were my Grandparents. They had three boys: Friedrich (1904-1984), Johannes (1906-2005) and Karl (1909-1973).

Johannes Bhend and Elise Stalder (1911-2008), my parents [the parents of Berti Mosimann-Bhend] held their wedding in 1935 and were gifted with five daughters: Rasmarie (born 1935), Hulda (born 1937), Elise Bertha (born 1940), Therese (born 1943) and Verena (born 1946).

If this chart is accurate, Berti and I are 9th cousins, once removed, or 9C1R. The three people in red immigrated to the US, and we’ll meet David, highlighted in red, later. Back to Berti:

After the move of my parents to the old age center “Bergsonne “the house in Zweisimmen was uninhabited since 2002. In February 2009 I bought it from the community of heirs.

With the “Ferien im Baudenkmal” Foundation FIB”, a sub-organization of the Swiss Heritage Protection, in 2010 an agreement was signed for 30 years completed. For the gentle reconstruction and the conversion into a holiday home was the subject of an architectural competition, won by the architects Bühler AG in Thun.

The house was built on top of it, after a six-month delay due to a neighbor’s building objection, from May to Christmas 2011 by the Foundation; in cooperation with the cantonal authorities. preservation of historical monuments, but mostly disregarding my wishes as owner and financier.

Unfortunately, the work was not done at all gently, as promised before, and without feeling for the historically valuable, interesting house! Thereby especially local craftsmen. On 21 December 2011 took place the inauguration, and on 25 December the first holiday guests moved in.

Image on page 290

The house on the Kreuzgasse in Schwarzenmatt from 1556. Susanna Katharina and Friedrich Bhend-von Allmen [his family name] stand in front of the ring fence.

With their children Friedrich, Karl and Johannes. Little boys used to wear skirts. The rings of the fence were made of green, slender twigs of dance. In front of the house stands a “Scheielizaun”. Photo from 1912, owned by B. Mosimann.

The house property bordered 1872 “above (N) at the Magdalena Eschler Soil, outside (E) and below (S) an the alley and inside 0NJ at Susanne Stocker Erben Bäunde.” To the house belonged a house pasture or five feet right on the Hausweidreidigberg and the ground serving summation or right of pasture to the of summed up Schwarzenmatt grounds. It was the impetus after with the alley maintenance complained [I am guessing again: “Kaufbeile” is probably the archival folder for house purchases] in 1872.

The house possesses an old house right (HV: 18), which the residents are entitled each year to take one of the following forest ranger marked fir tree, called lot wood, for his own use to fell. An old house belonging to the house winter right of way allows them to use the logs in winter with the horn sledge to the western neighboring property to lead it there to firewood, and next door to it in the woodcut. In spring, all the traces of logging on neighboring land removed be. The current owner refuses to know anything about any old rights.

All over the world, people used to use the material which nature has offered on the spot; thereby are the characteristic houses of a region of the country which fit in perfectly with their surroundings. The most important building materials in the Bernese Oberland were wood and stone well into the 20th century; both stood in the immediate vicinity in sufficient quantity and reasonably priced, so also for our house. The walls of the basement, the west wall, the wall between cook and stable as well as the pedestal of the east wall between the house door and the stable door consist of unhewn quarry stones, from boulders and brook debris in all sizes; they all originate from the near environment or even from the pit itself. The stones are made with only little lime mortar connected, plastered and white limed over. The art of masonry was here in the valley at that time still little developed and stands in contrast to the to the remarkable carpentry of this house.

In 2011, we invited the archaeologists of the Service (ADB) for a tour of the old building but unfortunately the offer was not used.

The house underwent various structural changes. 9.11.2009.

The roofs of the residential part and the stable were 1951 only with shingles, later then partly above the shingles covered with bricks, such as those around the new fireplace. Around 1960 the whole western part of the wall above the dwelling covered with bricks. 1977 one laid over the shingles of the apartment – in place the brick – Eternit plates and over the shingles of the stable brick.

(Page 4 of pdf, 292 of original)

During the reconstruction of 2011 the whole, well preserved cement asbestos roof together with the existing shingle roof again for no reason through heavy tiles is replaced. A good shingle roof insulates against summer heat and winter coldness; therefore it was in the Gaden [The “Gaden” must be a specific Swiss German term of a room. I never heard it before and cannot find information about it online.] never unpleasant even in the worst summer heat warm. Since the air here in the mountains in the evening always cooled, we girls in the Gaden could always sleep well. At the part of the stable the wooden roof bricks of the shingle roof, held by wooden hangers, unfortunately unnecessarily discarded. In addition the good roof bricks that had been stored in the hayloft disappeared without a trace.

West wall of the kitchen during reconstruction. 10.07.2011.

Above: Large eaves with typical 16th century ridge console.

Above: Year 1556. 9.11.2009.

Above: Strange holes in the beam above the room door. In the square hole on the upper right was the joist of the former.

“Welbi” (hallway) from 1951. Right: Holes to snap in the rod of the fireplace lid [I cannot offer a better translation than this. Fitting places for a rod used to open/close the fireplace.]. 26.2.20

Page 5 of pdf, page 293 of original.

Construction phases: Plan photographs autumn 2009 by architect Hans-Ruedi Roth. Spiez:.

  • Black – 1556 Original building. One room wide, two room deep with open smoke house. Later the installation took place of a wooden fireplace. The stove firing with stove plate and boiling stove were located at the western exterior wall of the kitchen.
  • Blue – 1705 Extension of a barn on the north side. Independent ridge, staggered opposite the main building.
  • Red – 1903 Widening of the Stuben floor to include the eaves arcade. Two new parlours with three are built on the ground floor, resp. two single windows. The three symmetrically arranged gaden windows were only changed in 1952.
  • Yellow – Modifications and installations after 1952.

Above: Facade west and east. Below: Front and back of the house.

Page 6 of pdf, page 294 of original

Ground floor plan.

Cuts.

Page 8 of pdf, page 296 of original

The ground floor originally only possessed one single room. Around 1900 the story was renovated and east, so that a small adjoining sleeping room was established. During the renovation of the front of the room, unfortunately only narrow walls were inserted between the windows; but before that, the opened window shutters were in place during the day. This “improvement” was fashion at that time.

Between the parlor and the stable there was originally an open smoke kitchen, where the rising smoke is through the cracks of the roof; and in the process the soot adheres to beams and walls, that’s why the one upstairs is black today. Later the open western half of the kitchen is a large, pyramid-shaped wooden fireplace. After a post-butcher feast, from the middle of the winter onwards, ham, bacon sides and sausages were stored and smoked on wooden rods in the upper half of the upwards tapered room, safe from mice. Through the open chimney also light fell in the kitchen. Today’s small roof window shows about the where once the former fireplace led out into the open air.

In the kitchen, on the right parlor door post old drill holes arranged vertically on top of each other are visible; in it one could see the long rod for adjusting the fireplace lid. On the left side you can see a lot of weird ones all over the beam above the door, 1-2 cm deep square smaller and larger holes. However, they cannot, as is was assumed, be marks caused by halberds that were smashed in there a long time ago, the holes are too small and their cross section would have to be rhombus-shaped, the specialist of the archaeological (A: Wulf; 4.3.2013). Also nail holes are hardly an option, they are too little for that deep. Since the holes end sharply, they could perhaps be marks of flails [“Morgenstern” in German can mean both “morning star” as well as “flail” – I know, that sounds strange…].

Rescued remainder of the original debris from the rubble dump.

Substructure. It is 21.5 cm high, 15.2 cm wide, with a scratch plow pattern characteristic of the time and bore the ceiling up to the wooden fireplace until 1951. It is another confirmation the year 1556 (Rubi 1972: 57). The incisions for this beam is still visible on both kitchen walls.

To the right of the room door stood the wood-burning stove, which was also used to heat the tiled stove in the living room. In front of the cooker and the “Buuchchessi” [I have no idea, again Swiss German specific…] the kitchen floor without any basement below it consisted until 1951 made of large natural stone slabs; otherwise wooden shutters formed the floor the kitchen. With these stone slabs was later below the little garden door. The large, whitewashed wall framed by a small “Buuchchessi” was for cooking laundry. There was no “Schüttelstein” [must be a specific kind of stone for dish washing] yet; we washed the dishes in a basin on the kitchen table and simply poured the dishwater out to the Hostettli [Swiss German…]. We drew hot water with an oval water cup the “Water Ship”, a tin ship, with a copper rectangular container with lid on the side at the wood-burning stove. When in the stove was fired, we also have hot water.

The other households in Schwarzenmatt had to obtain their water at the different wells of the village until their houses built around the middle of the last century got a water connection. But in front of our house entrance has always been a well of our own with water rights for it (purchase records 1819/1825); there the water rights are we fetched the drinking water with a kettle. This kettle stood to the right of the woodcop door [I do not know the term, it describes a specific kind of door] and hung in it a “watergätzi” (ladle). Not until 1951 did the kitchen a connection with cold water and a back then usual [“Schüttelstein” again must be the place for dishwashing, but I do not know the exact meaning of the word] made of white stoneware. At this opportunity, a hole was broken through the west wall and a large window with sash bars, double glazing and shutters was built in. At the same time, the wooden fireplace was torn out as well, a floor was built in at the entire length of the kitchen and the steep, turned-in staircase to the upper floor turning 180 degrees [was built in]. The beautiful old two-part front door with knocker was sold and replaced by a one-piece the upper half of which consists of a window that can be opened. The kitchen has been equipped with the two the new windows is now much brighter. The electric light reached the village of Schwarzenmatt in 1928 (PBS:254), the telephone came into the house in 1956.

In the upper floor the large Gaden served on the east side for the storage of supplies and the small Gaden (with stove hole) as bedroom. Both rooms received early light through three small windows, all with one sliding window vision. During the reconstruction of 1951 these windows were replaced by four larger ones, and it was two rooms of the same size, but now brighter.

An antique dealer from Grubenwald convinced our mother to sell the old windows to him for little money and he built them in at his rustic “Restaurant Schlössli”.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g580341-d4844540-Reviews-Schlossli-Zweisimmen_Canton_of_Bern.html

The original Gadenwand [“Wand” means “wall”, but since I do not know what a “Gaden” is, I cannot further describe its meaning] would be on the arcade side very well preserved. In the wall, on the outside at different heights thumb thickness, good hand-long wooden nails for hanging tools and clothes, because cupboards were hardly used here until the 18th century known. It is possible that these nails were (page 9 of pdf, page 297 of original) even so-called corn nails and thus relics of the former granary. On one wall-length, arm-thick wooden pole, hanging on ropes at shoulder height, Papa lined up all kinds of agricultural objects like Treicheln, bells, calf and goat bells, chains and ropes. A 150 x 40 cm long and safe from mice needed wooden board mother, to put on tea and aromatic herbs, dried fruit and keep scrawny beans in linen bags. The pergola [arbor] also served as a screed [“floor screed” is the term my dictionary gives me, it is a kind of wooden floor]. During the conversion of our resistance – the wooden nails sawn off short way and the beautiful old wall behind an isolation layer hidden. Due to the excessively thick insulation of the floor, the room lost so much height that you could no longer stand erect.

The window sill with grooved bevels is typical of the 16th century and well preserved in the area of the corner combs. 9.11.2009

Above 9.5.2012.

Above: The grooved bevels in the living room are a feature of the 16th century. 11.4.2011.

Above: Door fitting of the living room door. Around 1760. 15.3.2011.

The typical gaden windowsill of the 16th century with grooved chamfers in the area of the Gwätte harrows (corner combs) still preserved; other embellishments when different grooves didn’t exist back then. It will can hardly be explained unequivocally, why the carpenters of the Oberland around 1600 as on order of the grooved trains cultivated over a century on the cornices and other parts of the building and from then on, for a while, only the Cube as a decorative element. “In the history of the Bernese carpentry, there was never a single change that occurred as quickly as the one around 1600 in the Oberland” (Rubi 1975: 34; Rubi 1980: 27) The still Gothic grooved bevel on the outer wall, above the sitting stove of the living room as well as at the lintel of the door of the house door and the room door confirm the notched year 1556.

The custom of using the year of construction on the building as a jewelry form has only very hesitantly spread in the Alpine region in the course of the 16th century. Before 1550 only isolated numbers; the oldest preserved one comes from 1516 at a house in Hasli near Oey, parish Diemtigen (Fiückiger R.: 129).

Page 10 in pdf, page 298 in original

The parlor used to have a large tread stove from sandstone; it was heated from the stove in the kitchen. The stove stood directly above a walled-in rock in the basement. Above the oven hung the “Ofestängeli”, a finger-thick wooden pole; it was used for hanging up and drying of wet clothes, small clothes, diapers, dads calf bandage etc. ln the corner above the stove can be in the hallway is a wooden lid which can be closed with an oven lid or “gaden” lid can be opened, so that the hot air can ascend into the cold “gaden”. Sometimes we girls slipped up through the hole when we went to sleep. Often we would take a rest on the oven warmed cherry stone baglet with us to bed.

Candle holder made of brass sheet; tallow light, so called “Meijulämpli “with drinking glass insert and suspended tallow bowl, 19. 2 tallow bowls made of brass turned, end of 18th century. House on the Kreuzgasse. 2010.

Wick or light cleaning scissors made of iron. Candles were up to beginning of the 19th century made of animal fat (tallow). The longer the wick, the more sooty and dripping they became. The burned tip of the wick therefore had to be regularly shortened (snuffed) with the wick scissors. To prevent the cut-off wick from falling off, the scissors [had] a box to hold the hot wick. Length: 15 cm. House on the Kreuzgasse. 2010.

The furnace had a “Ofeguggeli”, a niche in which the Mother kept food warm for a late coming home family member. In the autumn we dried in it plums, pear and apple slices. Around the oven ran a low “Ofestüeli”, a small wooden stove bench; Papa liked to sit on it when he tied the shoes or wrapped the calf pads in winter.

In 1972 the old, cozy sandstone stove needed repair and had to give way to a tiled stove; its “Ofeguggeli” now had a metal door. Unfortunately this cozy sitting stove was also torn out during the conversion.

In winter the living room was the only warm one until 1951, well-lit room throughout the house. Here we all ate meals. After we finished dinner Papa sat at the big table in the parlour, writing, mother sewed, knitted or mended dresses, socks and lingerie, we girls did our homework or played. In the cold kitchen was only cooked, washed up and I got the laundry.

The windows and doors are protected against rain and breeze. The pergola on the east side was a kind of winter garden; the morning sun warmed them even on cool days so that my old parents could stay there on their bedside. Such arbours (I do not have a good translation for “hilbe” – again, probably Swiss German) belong to many old Simmentaler houses. The door and some of the windows were unfortunately removed during the conversion, instead of renewed, so that it is now on the pergola with the coziness is over, because it rains in, often an uncomfortable draught prevails and you also feel exposed.

The tiled stove from 1972. 9.11.2009.

Under the pergola was the small chicken yard, in front of the fox protected by wire mesh. This pergola was supported with five poles. Why with the conversion three have been removed, we don’t understand; now the gate to the chicken coop is jammed because of this. When I was a child, my mother owned a dozen chickens, but no rooster. She bought from the chicken dealer Peduzzi, who is on a motorbike with side-mounted (page 11 of pdf, page 299 of original) the so-called “one-day chicks”. We held these until they were bigger, on the always warm room oven in a box with interspersed sawdust; then we brought them for a while in a small Hostettli (Swiss German again…) enclosure. The money from the egg sale was a welcome addition to the household budget for the mother.

Of course cats always lived with us because of the mice, too.

Above: Stove hole closed. 11.4.2011.

Above: stove hole open. 25.11 .2012.

The cellar and wooden doors, the stable door, the door on the upper pergola and the former front door are typical doors of the 16th century. They consist of two wide, up to 6 cm thick boards. Groove and comb connect them at the contact surfaces, and two entirely slightly wedge-shaped burr strips with dovetail profile keep them together. Since these boards can move in damp conditions weather laterally expand, but in drought it will the doors seldom fit exactly in the door frame. Folds of the posts (Rubi 1980: 112).

In 1705, in the extension of the ridge, an economic section on the day. Various holes, grooves, rectangular recesses and other characters on the bars prove that the timber has already been used in another building was used, which at that time was quite customary. Such re-utilization can be seen in our house at other places as well. For example, two former parlor joists with planed profiles serve as posts of the outer wooden door, another beam with profile was used as rafter on the roof of the upper and a former pergola cornice with a 17th century diamond pattern was used as a support for the cellar ceiling.

The part of the barn had a hay stage, a scattered pergola and three small stables for four to six goats and two pigs. Through the two coverable feeding holes in the floor boards, left and right of the gate door, daddy threw hay from the stage directly into the feeding troughs.

(page 12 of pdf, 300 of original)

Above: House before the reconstruction. 24.7.2008.

Above: under the pergola supported by five posts was the chicken yard, behind the Wall of the chicken coop. 27.5.2011.

The stables underneath the economic section shows various interesting details, e.g. over the ridge purlin a stapled rate pair (I have no idea even in German, what “verklammertes Rafenpaar” is supposed to mean, it must be a specific term in carpentry – not my subject…) or the gate door at the north wall with its ingenious wooden lock and the inscription “DMD 1844”; it is to be opened with a wooden key. DM is David Müller (1803-1878), D probably means David’s. On the stable wall of the on the east side is a wooden jug, from which the goats licked their salt – today also a rare object.

The small board, which the wall underneath before the salt was unfortunately thrown away during the conversion.

Above: Door to the wooden mop of wood.

Above: Strip with dovetail profile on the upper half of the barn door. 3.7.2011.

The eaves-side of the building is supported by two posts. The scattering pergola was covered from the hayloft by a small door; this opening existed, as the beam construction and Roth’s plans clearly show, already since 1705 the addition of the economic section of the building took place.

Flax, cereal cows, or also litter (dry leaves, fern, niche) stored, therefore evenly, the scattering hood. It is not comprehensible for us that the monument care this completely intact pergola, which is formerly an important function in everyday farming life as the first action at the beginning of the I’m afraid the reconstruction was cancelled. Double incomprehensible, because it robs the big canopy of its supports. The carpenter warned, if much snow the protruding roof could break.

Such scattered foliage belonged in former times practically to all stable barns. Some of them are used as threshing floors. (Tuor 1974n5: 169) and can still be seen in the valley today (page 13 of pdf, 301 of original) and can be observed at numerous houses. Probably found the many old, tanned boards of our Scatterbugs and others, on stage for decades stored boards with planing profiles on any noble building in Gstaad use. A few windows of our house front we discovered in summer 2012 by chance at a chalet converted into a holiday home in the community Oberwil, the others found elsewhere can be used again.

The stone slabs between the house and stable entrance come from the surrounding area and the reddish plates from the Roteflue Alp.

Directly behind the stable part supports the upper neighboring garden a 1 to 1.5 m high, today cement grouted quarry stone wall. They already existed in 1611, because at that time a “Hanns Spillman vff der mur’ (K 1: 191). This one lived in the neighboring upper house, which will later be my grandsons and my cousin today. Martin Bhend.

Economical part of 1705 with step-down cottage 0/VC). Stables, scattering arbour and hayloft, in front the upper Hostettli. 9.11 .2009.

Above: Wooden castle at the gate of the hayloft. 11.4.2011.

Above: Detail of the corner combing (Gwätt) with Ratennagel (large hardwood nail) for stabilizing the Beam. 3.7.2011.

Above: Salt can for goats. 9.3.2011.

I love this goat salt lick. I can see them standing there yet today!

Above: Between house entrance and stable. Above the spreading hood. 24. 7.2008.

Next to the barn door stood the wooden cottage (outhouse); at whose back wall served as a horizontal board with two round holes for dismounting. The septic tank had to be occasionally with a “Bschüttigoon” (small, wooden scoop on long wooden handle) exhausted will be. With the liquid manure the vegetables in the garden were or she was fertilized with a lockable liquid manure cart on the Maadli flood and distributed it there.

This still completely intact little cottage, which nobody stood in the way, would have stood nevertheless with the change can stay! This would have given the holiday guests the former simple states and to show it as a ski and sledge room or playhouse that kids could use. The house was supposed to be an architectural monument. Give the holidaymakers a little idea how the lives of the former inhabitants of this area could have played!

Old. original kitchen window with sliding window.

Page 14 pdf, 302 of original

The saying “Fear God and keep his commandments” is carved in Gothic script above the stable door. 20.4.2011.

Stone slab floor in front of the stable. If the stones are wet, their red color is more visible. 9.3.20 11.

Above 2, cellar wall made of found stones with a ventilation formed by four stone slabs. 10. 7. / 25.9. 2011.

Scattered pergola, two-part barn door and little exit cottage on the covered cesspit. (outhouse) 9.3.2011 .

Right: Departure. 9.9.2011.

Page 15 of pdf, page 303 of original

Wooden mop with exterior wall of “Müselen” (wood chips) and door; brick kitchen wall. 9.11.2009.

Above: Cellar door with bar grille. 9.3.2011.

Above: Cheese tower with rinds and cheese boards. 15.3.2011.

I love this cheese tower! I can see the Muller family making, and then checking the cheese.

On the west side of the farm building is the woodcut; it can be entered directly from the kitchen. A wooden door leads out of the mop of hair. The doorposts consist of old beams, which have planing profiles. Above the lintel donated a window the room brightness. Before the reconstruction wood splinters stacked up to under the roof and branches the outer walls, so that a closed hilber where daddy spent hours and hours in the winter wood sawed and split.

The cellar is half deepened in the ground and possesses a stamped ground. Attention deserves the wooden bar grids of the outer cellar door; with this you can the enclosed room can still be ventilated. In always cool cellar we supplied buckets, tubs, pickling barrels for fruit and the garden tools; but we stored especially potatoes and vegetables, milk and milk products.

Butter. Daddy took care of our alp cheese on the cheese tower. Not only the cheese tower in the cellar, but also others objects stored in the house show that in former times whose inhabitants were alpine shepherds who made cheese:

  • Cheese vat: 60 cm copper belly cauldron diameter, capacity about 80 litres. In it during cheese making, by heating the milk, the cheese mass won.
  • Järbe: Wooden ripening for shaping the cheese mass (in cheese cloths), outside around with adjustable pull cord to tighten. They were used for larger hard cheese. Cheese boards: while pressing on the table was the fresh cheese mass between two round boards in the first place.
  • Cheese tower: three round, staggered trays, through the center of which is a ground level in a large stone and ceiling joists rotatable axis guides. Then the cheese from the alp Reidigen (Rieneschli), where we our cattle summered, salted by their parents, well-groomed and, protected from mice, for personal use and kept it in a safe place. A rarity!

Alp Reidigen is about 2 miles as the crow flies.

  • Gebsen: cooped, round, low vessels from wood, in which the milk is stored overnight in the cool Milchgadeo or cellar was kept, so that on the surface, the cream was eliminated. This could be skimmed off in the morning with the shallow Nidelkelle and processed into butter.
  • Vätterli: round, turned or coopered wooden moulds with grooves and little holes in the bottom, through which drained the cheese milk. For the production of Cheese and goat cheese.

Tools stored in the house for various activities and repairs testify to the fact that the former residents knew how to help themselves in everyday life. So shortly before 1950, father Hans and uncle Karl covered the whole roof with shingles. We found when clearing out the house before the conversion of all kinds of tools and equipment for:

  • Cheese drill to take a cheese sample; wooden ladle.
  • Carpenters and carpenters carving tools
  • Chisels, all kinds of saws (e.g. clamping or frame saws), burr saws, large and small drills, various axes and planes, hammers and pliers
  • Wooden angle and scale (EIIstock), whetstone
  • Cooper: pulling chair, pulling knife, plane with slightly bent up sole
  • Roofer: black bucket with string, hammers
  • Nails, wedge.
  • Masons: trowels, spatulas, hammers
  • Wooden rubbing board
  • Forestry worker: Zappi, sweeper hook, crowbar, iron for debarking, axes, crop!, Guntel. Iron and wooden crossroads, big forest saws, foxtail, iron chains etc.
  • Butcher: brewing trough, butcher’s collar, large hardwood meat board, butcher knife, meat saw, meat hook, meat grinder, piercing machine (for closing the sausages).
  • Shoemaker: Special hammers, shoe last, iron fitting foot, shoe nails
  • Veterinarian: Trocar (french trocart). Metal instrument for stinging bloated cows (rumen).

Above: Vätterli (cheese mold)

Above: Cheese vat

Page 17 of pdf, 305 of original

Above: All kinds of hand-forged nails with square cross section found in the house.

Above: Hand carved spoon; wooden clothes pegs (“Gäbeli”); milking grease box made of cow horn and inserted wooden floor, which is attached to the milking chair strap with a cord.

Above: 2 artificial chairs and an artificial stick. When spinning, the flax is tied to the top of the stick and put it in the tube of the chair.

Above: Chipboard holder for resinous woods for the lighting.

The house was once used for spinning and weaving, because on stage we found corresponding objects such as breaking, weaving shuttle, spinning wheel, bobbins, three-legged artificial chair with artificial sticks, reel, peg. etc. From former own production are today 200-year-old pillow- and bedding suits still available. You carry partly embroidered monograms, e.g. “DM 1 0”. (David Müller 1 0 pieces). These suits were then in the Simmentalertruhe, which is being restored today in the living room. 1747 learned the daughter of Andreas Müller with her mother Johanna Horner the weaving craft (C VI: 419).

Other items kept in the farm building bear witness to the once arduous life of the mountain farmers:

Horn sledges were used to transport wood,

Branches, straw or hay, wooden bowls for discharge of liquid manure and other substances for the carriage of water, huts for carrying dung, rope cloths for scratching hay and lischnen (sedge grass), hay ropes with truffles to bind the Burdines from hay and Emd; these so-called “Fertli” were on his back from the meadow to the hayloft.

I wonder if this is what is being carried in the photo below.

Also, a wooden dustpan, dung forks, hay forks and wooden hay rakes with long stems are available. A flail points to former threshing (page 18 of pdf, 306 of original) treidebau. The wooden equipment and tools the respective owners and occupants of the house burned well their monograms in order to protect them from confusion. To protect the world.

V.l.t.r.: Water briquette,

Hut with “Brätschel”

Melchter and KalberkübeL

Beautifully woven huts with wooden carrying straps, “called “Brätschel”, were used for entering smaller quantities of hay or grass, but also for transport and food to our agricultural and food processing businesses plots of land or on the mountain; occasionally they even took a toddler with them. On the Räf was carried all sorts of loads, especially wood and cheese; they leaned on the long, decorated puzzles with an iron tip at the bottom. We can today, we can hardly imagine the long distances that are possible and height differences the people in former times had to cover every day and what heavy loads and on their backs in huts and on rafts that we have carried with us.

All sorts of small tools, the use of which today is hardly known anymore, came to light in the house: a ring pliers and open, different large copper and brass rings with pointed ends for pig wrestling. A ringed trunk (nose) hindered the animals to stir up the soil or to damage the edge of the (fence or) to gnaw away at a wooden feeding trough. Since 2008 the Animal Welfare Act prohibits the marking of pigs. (I love that translation, though it is utterly wrong – “pig wrestling”! Indeed what is meant here is a tool to mark pigs with metal rings. “ring” in German is “Ring”, “wrestling” is “Ringen”…)

With a pair of ball pliers you could use lead balls yourself for cast muzzle-loading rifles. Maybe this pliers for making balls with a caliber of 17 mm belonged to my great-great-grandfather David Müller, called “the hunter” who lived in the house. Such pliers were in use until the end of the 19th century.

Above: Ball tongs. Length 14 cm. Right:

Ring pliers with rings. Length 17 cm.

On the ground, directly in front of the whitewashed southern house wall, formed long, thick wooden boards a 1.30 m wide, slightly elevated floor, which can be used for all sorts of ???. Thanks to the large canopy, it rained it seldom on, so we here in summer grass from the “ribbons” (grass ribbons on both sides of the alleyways) and we could have dried it. In autumn we spread out on these boards the harvested onions and dug up (page 19 of pdf, 307 or original) DahIienknoiien to dry out. Also boxes with red Geraniums stood here in late autumn until the first frost. Papa “Baumgretzen” stratified directly at the wall. (lumber) Between the boards and the fence was a small garden. In spring winter follies, snow and March bells blossomed there, crocuses, April bells and daffodils, in summer all kinds of meadow flowers and low along the fence roses. Even medicinal plants like warts grew here and cheese herb. Also an apple tree and in the corner a stick of gooseberries were present. At an old red climbing rose climbed up the edge of the house.

Carved chair back from 1739. House on Kreuzgasse.

In the course of the rebuilding of the house – without us to ask – one day the whole good soil of this garden with all the bulbs, trees and boards was simply lifted up and taken away. As a replacement a boring, splintered one was created, in summer hot forecourt, as it is in the Simmental otherwise is barely visible.

On the small meadow of the upper Hostettli, in spring snowdrops, marchdrops, aprildrops and daffodils; in summer, forget-me-nots followed, mat nails, Küherkäppli, red clover, more meadow flowers and all kinds of grasses. Also, this earth has been taken away; now there is a splintered parking for two cars. This bare house environment hurts us; it must be changed urgently!

The triangular garden in front of the house, “Haltenboden” “called ” (plot with summation to be served on the Schwarzenmatt area), was founded by David Müller in two halves acquired the first 1839 and the second in 1853. The purchase of this plant blossom enabled the inhabitants to grow flax close to the at home and better self-sufficiency with vegetables, potatoes and berries. Remarkable is still that the second half salesgirl, Elisabeth Tänzer. on the Eschiegg, who needed the proceeds to “give birth to her daughter Elisabeth to pay the apprenticeship fee, which the weaving craft learned.” (production certificate 1839; axes of purchase and letter 1853)

Above: Snowdrops and winterlings in Mätteli in front of the house. 14.3.2009.

Above: Kitchen and living room wall with eternit protection and climbing rose. The stone embankment had to give way to the new water pipe. 27.5.2011

Page 20 of pdf, 308 of original

The vegetable garden was protected against the cold Bise by a board wall provided with deck loading, as it is protected by a here in the valley belongs to almost every old garden. The inner wall along grew a rhubarb stick, productive currants and raspberries, also a gooseberry bush. In flower gangs on the upper side fence and next to the garden paths winterlinge, schneeund March bells, tulips, April bells, daffodils, irises, larkspur, lupines, flake flowers, roses, buschelfriesli, big daisies, pansies, asters, flox and fire lilies. They are being converted to buried to a large extent by excavated material or else disappeared.

The “Maadli” also belonged to the operation of my parents, a mat (mat=food, does this mean garden) situated above the Dachebüel. David Müller had the one part 1849 from the Burgergemeinde for the price of 250 Kr and the other part 1864 of the Stocker brothers for 2070.50 Fr. in increases (PG: 133; axes of purchase 1864).

Note, this is where discussion of the other buildings in the village begins, according to Chris, but I am retaining this section because it paints such a vivid picture of the life and times of the people who lived here. Our ancestors saw and were in these buildings too. For all we know, these buildings were built and owned by additional ancestors. Heinsmann had to marry someone and the family surely lived nearby!

On an artificial small terrace on a slope in a very beautiful location the oldest stable barn of the municipality Saltigen stands there, dating from 1688. It is preserved by the monument preservation as worthy of preservation. It is built entirely as a block building, on the upper floor, however, as a loose block construction, so that the hay stick can pass through the “gime” (spaces) is ventilated. Access to the barn is from the valley side, that to the hayloft on the mountain side. The stable floor is in the back deepened in the slope and secured by quarry stone walls. The longitudinal stable contains one store each for grass and small cattle and a feeding walk. On the east side there is the cromes for the litter (foliage, niche, straw).

Above the stable floor, a beam shows the following Inscription (antiqua. notched, unfortunately only partially legible):

The small barn is still used today as a storage room. The building is in a bad condition and should urgently be redeveloped; but the preservation of historical monuments is on our request has not yet occurred. Below the mother moved the old barn on her big planzbiätz beans and autumn vegetables such as cabbage, cabbage and cabbage and palatine turnips.

In 1927, a new and larger plant was built on Maadli land. Barn built, still today called “Nöji Schüür”. They has the following inscription on the top bar: “BI. Fritz Bhend + Katha. v. Allmen. Built in 1927 Z.mstr. SI. Stryffeler.” To the building wood of the broken off old Eggscheune use. It was the Ueltschi brothers, cattle breeders, Boltigen, bought for 800 Fr. (Receipt). To it was agreement of the acid meeting necessary (PBS: 229).

Garden with traditional shop wall as protection against the iron and fence with wire mesh against the street. 30.5.2009.

Page 21 of pdf, 309 of original

The former vegetable garden, bordered at the top by a local “Scheielizaun”, was a flower meadow before the restoration.

18.5.2011.

Under which “Maadli” ran past, uphill of the old path and ending up far behind the new barn, a beautiful, about 300 m long, up to 1 m high dry stone wall. It was mostly covered with hazel herbaceous perennials, hedge roses and Maples stocked and offered small birds and lizards shelter. Directly below the new barn the wall contained a small niche; inside there was an old iron stove. The mother prepared and then we’ll have lunch each time our family in the “Maadli” on the mucky tedding, cherry picking, haying or Emden was.

The old Maadli barn from 1688 with two plum trees; the snow pushed the lower tree down in February 2012. 5.4.2011.

Page 22 of pdf, page 310 of original

Above: Back side with gate to the hayloft.

Above: wooden door hinge of the gate. 5.4.2011.

In 1977 the wall was completely demolished, because they corrected the old way, extended it, asphalted it. and as a rhinestone vision with three loops up to the willow. Our own small spring because of the large earthworks and excavations above the old barn. The old way could possibly a part of the medieval mule track.from Adlemsried to Tubetal and Schwarzenmatt.to Eschi.

The medieval mule track.

New Maadli barn from 1927. 5.4.20 11 .

Also the food south of the “Maadli” with barn, called “Lehn”, 1915 by Friedrich Bhendvon Allmen, and the “Grimattli” belonged until the inheritance from 1951 of the Bhend family, also in Ruere a third of the “war moss” (Lischenland with Heufimmel and forest), the “Untere Stierenweid” (lower bull pasture) (residential house with economy part, 16th or 17th century and 1735th inscription: IM ESM ZM ZM HST HR 1735, antiqua notched) with a freestanding barn, and the “Grabenmatte”; then a third of the Grabenheimwesen” (country and barn); further behind Ruere, below at the old Waldweidgasse, indoors to the “forest pasture”, the “Waldweidli” with a hay house, a bovine pasture, Wiesland and forest; in addition the third part of the Sennhütte on the “forest pasture” (four cow rights, pasture, with and complaints, with forest share). The whole property was taken over by the three Bhend families and jointly farmed.

The “Grimattli” or “Grünmattli”, underneath the “Maadlis”. came on the 3rd Hornung in 1837 in the possession of my ancestors. The barn standing on it was fire insured for 2′ 100 Fr. (Certificate of Inheritance 1951); unfortunately it was torn down in autumn 2011. In of a shopping hatchet reads: “Know and know be thither: That the respectable old court apostle Jacob Gobeli, from and to to Weißenbach, for himself and his heirs: to his beloved cousin, the honourable David Müller, David’s son, from and to Schwarzenmatt, and eat inherit the two property effects listed below

  1. A home being to said Weißenbach, called Schußeli, containing a residential house together with attached barn and stabling.
  2. A piece of land called the Grimmenmatte, in the Bäuert Reidenbach, with a coating standing on it.

The purchase price was 1,000 Kr Berner- or 2,500 f Swiss currency (axes of purchase 1837). Jakob Gobeli’s wife died on 18 Hornung 1837. Anna née Müller; she was the sister of David Müller. Jakob, at that time 91 years old and childless, donated then on 17 June 1837 to his “beloved godchild David Müller” 500 Kr or 1 ‘250 f to the remaining. Purchase remainder (donation 1837). On the vegetable blossom at the “Grimattli” my parents built potatoes every year until the distribution of the inheritance in 1951. The land was planted on this parcel every few years. Shifted.

Maadli. Drawing P. Mosimann.

My great-grandfather Peter von Allmen (1843-1918) and his wife Magdalena (born Boden, 1848-1924) possessed in Ruere many real estates; 1876 Peter was also (page 23 of PDF, page 311 of original) owner of the house on the Unteren Stierenweid and 1878 of the Grabenhaus (LB II: 38, 17). After Magdalenas death, the whole property was taken over the same year. The three heirs Peter (born 1910), son of Peter. (1871-1913), and the daughters Magdalena (born 1872) and Susanna Katharina (1877-1950). Since Susanna Katharina 1903 Friedrich Bhend (1873-1943) had married, came now about a third of the former large Ruere-owned property in his family.

On November 4, 1939, Friedrich Bhend, my grandfather sold to the private docent and medical doctor Max Müller, then director of the of the Psychiatric Clinic Münsingen, the beautiful, large, residential building in Ruere, built around 1700, which is today a protected monument. After the war began, rented also other rich lowlands in the Oberland houses or flats as possible escape accommodation-for their families. The purchase price for the building including 781 m2 of land was exceptionally low. The longer uninhabited house was located in a house with a in quite bad condition and had to be renovated. The unique house sale inspired Werner Juker in 1952 to his novella “The House in Ruhren” (or “Horen”). The house was built by the three current Müller heirs fortunately largely in the original, almost museum-like condition the kitchen furniture, for example, with the the Buuchchessi, the wood fireplace, the windows partly with the bull’s-eye slices, the shingle roof. In the house there are neither Electricity nor water (A: M. Müller, 17.8.2011). In the barn connected with the residential building the current owner Ernst Gobeli still livestock. Already 1734 is from “the sloppy house in the ditch” to read, because there had often been operated Winkelwirtschaft (C VI :32, 116, 173, 176, 180).

Above: The Grimtlischeuer shortly before the dismantling. Photo: Ueli Stryffeler.

Above: Remains of the barn, on the horizon the old Maadli barn. 24.3.2012.

Page 24 of pdf, 312 of original

When Susanna Katharina had died, in 1951 the still considerable possessions among the three Bhend brothers divided.

They received:

– Fritz: The whole “Untere Stierenweid” with farmhouse, the “Grabenmatte”, a third of the “Grabenheimwesens “, a third of the “war moss” and the “Waldweidli”.

– Hans: In Schwarzenmatt the lower, smaller house, called “Auf der Kreuzgasse”; the “Maadli” (as the compensation, because of the relatively new barn); from the “Lehn” the external (front) part, two cow rights on the “forest pasture” and one sixth of the Sennhütte.

– Karl: In Schwarzenmatt the upper, bigger house, bought 1924 (certificate of inheritance 1951). called “Uf the Mur”; the “Grimattli”, from the “Lehn” the inner (rear) part, two cow rights on the “Waldweid” (forest pasture) and one sixth of the hut there (Erbgangsangs- Das Grabenhaus in Ruere. 13.9.2011 . Below: 1 0.8.2011. document 1924). Karl’s son Martin sold the “Grimattli” the farmer Ueli from Schwarzenmatt Stryffeler, who will break off the barn in 2011.

I didn’t.

The Grabenhaus in Ruere. 13.9.2011 .

Above: 1 0.8.2011.

Buuchchessi (covered), fireplace, wooden door in the ditch house. The kitchen in the “Haus auf der Kreuzgasse” was quite similar until 1951. ” looked like. 16.10.2011.

Page 25 in pdf, 313 in original

The house on Unteren Stierenweid dates from the 16th/17th century and was extended in 1735. Recordings around 1970 and 2010. Photo: Preservation of monuments in the Canton of Berne.

A beam above the residential part of the Sennhütte on the “Waldweid” bears the following inscription: “BL PVA 1\ MB. ZM HK 1896”. BL means builders, PVA Peter von Allmen (1843-1918), MB Magdalena Floor (1848-1924), ZM Master carpenter HK(?). The house has on the ground floor stables for young cattle and goats, above a living room, a kitchen and a Milchgaden, behind it a cowshed and a hay stage under the roof.

The “forest pasture” is a Vorsass. The flat stones from the nearby streambed belong to the flysch of the Simmendecke; they were bricked up unprocessed.

After the distribution of the inheritance in 1951 Hans, my father, was compelled, as a supplement to his own business, from Karl Stocker, teacher in Boltigen at that time to rent the steep, arduous “Büelacher” and the even more stubborn “Farnerenrain “. Also, he farmed the northeastern of the Büelachers situated property with name “Schmidsweg, which belonged to Altred Wüest. We were a simple family of mountain farmers, and the parents during the Second World War, always easy to take care of her five girls every day. I had little spare time, because in all the families I had to the children, in keeping with their powers, the parents.help in the operation. Nevertheless or perhaps just because of that I lived in the old house on Kreuzgasse. Happy childhood.

Berti Mosimann-Bhend
Cooperation: Peter Mosimann

Above: The mountain hut on the Waldweid. 7.10.201 0.

Right: The walls consist of unhewn stones from the nearby stream bed.

13.9.20 11.

Page 26 of pdf, 314 or original

The house on Kreuzgasse. Dächenbühl in the background. February 1968.

The house on the Kreuzgasse. Behind the economic part is the upper house, called “Uf der Mur>>. 23.11.2008.

This ends the above translation of the wonderful chapter by Peter Mosimann and his wife, Berti Mosimann-Bhend.

Life in Schwarzenmatt

Some of these translations were a bit rough, but translating their life then for us to understand today is rough, regardless of the language. It truly is another world away, in both geography and the lives these mountain farmers and their families lived.

I found it interesting to note the discussion about the well. It seems this location was the only property to have its own water source, which tells you EXACTLY why this home was build where it was. I’d wager that this was the very first house or hut, at the time, to be built in Schwartzenmatt. Clean water equates to life. Contaminated water means illness and death. The first settler got their choice of where to build their camp and that prime real estate location was clearly adjacent the water source.

I was surprised that they received both electricity and phones as early as they did, considering the terrain. However, the poles for power lines which also carried phone lines would have snaked up the valley right alongside the stream.

The artifacts found and the carvings speak in whispers about the lives of Heinsmann Muller, and probably long before. The earliest people who lived in this half house/half barn hut environment would have guarded their livestock, goats and pigs, closely. Cheese and meat meant life. The growing season was short and the elevation high, which further reduced the time for crops to ripen.

When I lived in the Swiss Alps in 1970, just about 30 miles away and across a few mountains, in July and August, much snow remained on the ground in the ski resorts. In other locations, alpine meadows above the tree line were snow free and literally carpeted in Edelweiss and meadow flowers, exactly as described by Berti.

A wild Alpine garden stretching as far as the eye could see, without end.

By Matthias Zepper – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4101693

Perhaps now I understand my breathless enchantment with this landscape so foreign to my young American eyes, yet so hauntingly familiar. Indeed, I felt that I had returned home and have longed to return since the day I left.

By Giettois – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46004459

Not the Only Immigrants

I was surprised to read that three different children of David Miller, “the hunter,” immigrated to and died in America. How would they have even known about America in this remote location? Why would they leave?

It’s also ironic that my own Miller ancestor, great-grandson of Johann Michael Muller/Miller, the immigrant, was named David Miller and his son, John David. David has been a Miller name for generations and I can’t help but wonder if its genesis was in Schwarzenmatt.

David Miller, “the hunter” who lived in Schwarzenmatt had a son, David, who was reported by Berti to have died in Ohio.

As fate would have it, my own Miller ancestor, Daniel, whose brother was David, and who both had sons named David, also lived in Ohio.

I told you the name was popular. Carrying the same names also makes it difficult to sort through the various men.

Could I possibly find the David Muller who was born in 1840 in Schwarzenmatt and died in Ohio?

He probably had absolutely no idea that he was related to any Miller already living in the States. After all, by 1680, Johann Michael Muller had left Schwarzenmatt and his son immigrated in 1727, 160 years before David would be born in Schwarzenmatt.

By the time David immigrated, 150 years more or less would have passed since Johann Michael Muller Jr. would have immigrated.

No, surely David had no idea at all.

The question is, could I find him?

David Muller (1840-1897) Who Died in Ohio

The family members who migrated to America obviously kept in touch, because the family who stayed in Schwarzenmatt had knowledge of the death year of David who moved to Ohio. He probably had no idea whatsoever that his Miller cousins, a few generations removed were also living in Ohio about 200 miles away and in nearby Indiana.

It’s clear that my Ohio clan had lost the oral history of where, in Germany they had originated, and Switzerland was lost entirely to history.

Finding David in Ohio was more difficult than I expected.

The only reasonable candidate that I located was found buried in the Old Lutheran Cemetery in Bethleham Twp. Stark Co., Ohio, having had served someplace in the Civil War.

David Miller died on January 30, 1897 and was married to Mena Strubel in 1878 according to a later census and the marriage record of one of his children.

According to the 1880 census, they had:

  • Barbara 4 (born 1876)
  • Mary C, 2 (born 1878)
  • David born in May of 1880

In 1900, I find Mena, born Oct 1854, with:

  • Unnamed child probably born 1880-1882
  • Carrie (female) (born in April 1884)
  • Charles (born August 1887)

Obviously I’m missing a child according to the 1900 census that shows Mena with 6 children living. That child was probably born after 1880 but before 1882 so they would be old enough to be gone from the household by 1900. David and Mena also had one child that died.

One very pleasant turn of events is that in 1880, David Miller actually says he was born in Switzerland. He is the only David Miller in the 1880 census anyplace that says he was born in Switzerland, so, I’m pretty confident we found the right David Miller.

Sadly, in 1897, David Miller of Navarre, Stark County, Ohio met his demise in a train accident according to this brief article in the Stark County, Democrat published on February 4, 1897.

Is This the Same Family?

I suspect so, but there is no absolutely proof. We are missing a definitive link between Heinsmann and Berti’s family line that begins in the documentation with Andreas who was born in 1710 or earlier, given that he had a child in 1731. We know that Heinsmann had a son, Johann Michael Muller, in 1655 who could have been his first or last child, or in-between.

Heinsmann could have been Andreas’ father, uncle, grandfather, related more distantly or not related at all. I must say, in a tiny village with only a few farms, that’s probably unlikely, but given the common name of Muller it could certainly happen. I learned long ago to never assume anything.

We’re also missing a definitive link between the David that died in Ohio in 1897 and the Schwarzenmatt line, although that connection seems firmer.

To prove definitively that Berti Mosimann-Bhend’s Muller line is one and the same with the Johann Michael Muller line, a Y DNA test needs to be taken by one of the male children descendants of David Miller who died in Stark County, Ohio in 1897 and a male Muller who is known to descend from the Schwarzenmatt line. The Y DNA, passed from father to son ad infinitum would match, or closely enough to establish the ancestral relationship between:

  • Johann Michael Muller who immigrated to the US in 1727
  • Muller family from Schwarzenmatt
  • David Muller who died in 1897 in Ohio

Maybe someday one of the Schwarzenmatt descendants or David Miller’s descendants will find this article and reach out. I am offering a DNA testing scholarship for a male Miller descendant of both lines. If this is you, just leave a message in the comments.

I sure hope the genealogy bug bites someone in the Miller family!

Last in the Series

This is the last in the long series of Muller/Miller articles. I hear you laughing now, because I know I’ve said that before – but I really think this one is it. We’re now back beyond the reach of records and before even Chris can excavate anything more.

Perhaps one day the next generation will add to this story when, if we’re lucky, new records are found, transcribed, indexed and translated.

It’s been a long journey from Schwarzenmatt in the 1600s to Indiana in the 1900s when Eva Miller married Hiram Ferverda and had my grandfather. The Muller lineage may reach back even further in time, to Benedikt Muller who lived in our quaint alpine village in 1502, more than 500 years and 15 generations ago.

Clearly, the red generations between Heinsmann and Benedikt are speculative, and I don’t want to portray them otherwise. Miller is such a common name.

Berti is probably a 9th cousin once removed, give or take a generation. That’s an amazingly long time – roughly 23 generations counting both lineages.

I would love for Berti to take an autosomal DNA test. There’s a small chance that she would match my mother, especially considering that it’s very likely that Heinsmann Muller’s wife, the mother of Johann Michael Muller was a young lady from the same village, or at least the neighboring farms. There were only a limited number of families living in that area in the early 1600s and every family intermarried into the mix.

Fingers crossed that somehow, someplace, DNA tests or new records surface to prove me wrong once again about this being the “last article!”

In the mean time, a deeply heartfelt thank you to the many people, in particular Chris, Tom and now, Peter and Berti, who have helped compile and reconstruct the stories of the Muller men of Germany and Switzerland, their wives and many descendants who have scattered like alpine meadow seeds on the winds of time throughout the world.

Elias Kirsch (1733-1804) and the Fall of the Holy Roman Empire – 52 Ancestors #227

Elias Kirsch and his family lived in Fussgoenheim – that much we know for sure. Unfortunately, the Fussgoenheim records are in sorry shape.

Fussgoenheim records include the following:

  • Baptisms: 1726-1798 and 1816-1839
  • Marriages: 1727-1768 and 1816-1839
  • Deaths: 1733-1775 and 1816-1839

Those books are not complete, with pages missing and significant water damage. In the words of Tom, my trusty cousin and retired German genealogist, “these are some of the worst German records content-wise I’ve ever perused,” followed by, “your gang is never easy.”

Isn’t that the truth!

Given the situation, we’ll just have to piece Elias’s life together as best we can from what records do exist.

Keep in mind that my collaborators, Chris and Tom, did not transcribe every single church record. They have looked at most of the Kirsch records, and Thomas graciously completed a spreadsheet of what he found.

However, if the records are ever entirely transcribed, we may find significant missing information in the baptisms and other notes in records not found under the Kirsch surname. Godparent notes sometimes describe the relationships between various people, including the godparents and the child being baptized, or the godparents and the child’s parents, or even the godparents’ relationship to each other – any of which might serve as either outright confirmation or breadcrumbs.

So, hopefully, over time, we will discover more than we know today. We’ve been able to piece quite an interesting story together from the breadcrumbs we do have.

Elias Kirsch was Born in 1733

Elias Kirsch baptism 1733

Elias Kirsch May 6 1733 baptism Taufen 1726-1798

“6ten May Ist Joh. Michael Kirsch und seiner Haußfrau Anna Margaretha Ein Söhnlein getauft worden noie [abbreviation for Latin “nomine”] Elias Nicolaus … gett [? cannot read this, but it must mean: witnesses] waren Elias Nicolaus Schnell und seine Haußfrau von Dürckheim”

Translation:

“On 6 May was baptized a son of Johann Michael Kirsch and his wife Anna Margaretha by the name of Elias Nicolaus. Witnesses have been Elias Nicolaus Schnell and his wife from Dürckheim.”

From this record, we know that Elias Nicholas was named after Elias Nicholaus Schnell who lived in Durckheim, now Bad Durkheim.

It’s likely, but not a given, that Elias Nicolaus Schnell or his wife are related to either Johann Michael Kirsch or his wife, Anna Margaretha, whose last name we don’t know. Otherwise, there’s no reason for them to know each other or travel from Durkheim to Fussgoenheim for a baptism. I was not able to find any records for Elias Nicholaus Schnell, unfortunately.

Bad Durkheim to Mutterstadt map

On the map above, we see that Bad Durkheim is about 11 km or 6.7 miles from Fussgoenheim. Other locations relevant to this family are Ellerstadt and Mutterstadt where the Kirsch and Koehler families would both live when they migrated to America in the mid-1800s. Mutterstadt is about 5 miles via road from Fussgoenheim. In essence, this is all one big community.

Rhine valley map

All of these villages are located in the Rhine Valley plain, but Bad Durkheim borders the beginning of the low-mountain region known as the Palatinate Forest, shown in green at left on the map above and in the photo below.

Palatinate Forest

By Dr. Manfred Holz (Diskussion) – Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28600004

Elias Marries

We don’t know exactly when Elias married, but it was sometime before his first child was born in 1763. The available marriage records list dates from 1727-1768, but clearly Elias’s marriage record is missing. What we do know, though, through the subsequent baptism records of his children, is that Elias married Susanna Elisabetha Koob.

Children of Elias Kirsch

Tom found the baptism records for four children of Elias Kirsch and Susanna Elisabeth Koob born in 1763, 1766, 1772 and 1774.

The records go strangely mute after that.

Are there any other clues?

Multiple Men Named Andreas

Andreas seems to be a popular name in the Kirsch family.

Chris says:

For your information: There are burial entries for an Andreas Kirsch in 1762 (“Andreas Kirsch, the Elder”) and 1774 as well. So there have been several Andreas Kirschs in Fußgönheim at the same time.

This is potentially relevant because Elias named a son Andreas Kirsch in 1774.

There is a gap in the burial entries from January 1743 to 1762. (The burial in January 1743 for Johann Michael Kirsch the elder is the last one for a long time!). There is another gap from 1776 up to 1816. I found no burial entry for Elias Kirsch or his wife in the years from 1762-1775.

In summary, I am afraid there is not much more I can search for.

So, the entire family disappeared from the records? However, given the evidence that I’m alive and descended from Andreas, they clearly didn’t disappear in fact. It’s just that I can’t find them.

Did Elias Die in 1804?

I frustrate myself incredibly when it comes to the Kirsch family, in part because I began this research 40+ years ago which I simply wrote down what people told me and gave no though to recording sources, or asking them how they knew a given piece of information. It seemed rude to ask, like I was questioning their truthfulness when they were trying to do me a favor. Besides, it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t remember.

I was very young and very naïve. I know, right?!!

And I’m paying the price now. At least I was bright enough to WRITE THINGS DOWN!

In my genealogy software, I showed a death date for Elias Kirsch of May 2, 1804. A date that specific is too detailed not to have been found someplace. It’s not an approximation based on a child’s birth or marriage record, for example. But where did I come up with that date, and how?

I began searching relentlessly. Finally, I found a note from a German cousin decades ago where Elias’  death date was shown and the location was noted as Fussgoenheim, the village where Elias and my cousin both lived. This led me, of course, to presume (cousin word to assume) that the cousin had access to local records.

I had no idea at that point in time that the local Fussgoenheim records had been destroyed or were otherwise absent. Besides, absent at the local Family History Center might only have meant that the records weren’t (yet) filmed, not that they didn’t exist. I had already copied the Fussgoenheim church record images. I later copied the Fussgoenheim Civil Records as well, trying to fill in blanks, but all for naught.

Where did this death date come from? Not the church records and not the Civil Records. Not a family Bible because there wasn’t one. Believe me, I asked about a Bible AND I would have remembered that for sure.

Found It!

I had searched (again) some time ago when I started this article, but I searched one more time – this time with different search criteria. That old adage, “cast the net wider,” might work. I searched for any Kirsch who died in 1804 in Germany, with no first name or location.

What popped up was a shock.

Kirsch French church

A death record alright, but a FRENCH death record.

Kirsch French Elias death

That’s not possible. Elias was very clearly German. Besides, he lived and died in Fussgoenheim, not Ludwigshafen, right?

Kirsch French Elias

These Ludwigshafen records show a death date of February 4, 1804 in Ruchheim for Elias Kirsch, but is this the same Elias Kirsch? The cousin’s original note said May 2nd, 1804 in Fussgoenheim.

Ruchheim is approximately 2.2 miles from Fussgoenheim, so it’s certainly possible.  As we know, there were several Kirsch men in this area, so I was very cautious.

Tom originally translated the death record thus:

Elias KIRSCH

Date of the Act: 16 Pluviose in 12th year of the French Republic or 6 February 1804.

Death Act No. 36

The 16th day of the month of Pluviose in the year 12 of the Republic, the Death Act of Elias KIRSCH…..the 15th Pluviose in the morning between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. at the age of 71 years son of the late Michael KIRSCH and Margaretha his rightful? wife from the declaration made by Andreas KIRSCH, ? and farmer here……and Kristoph Braun…farmer …..

Klingenburger, mayor and civil registrar. Mayor’s signature as well as signatures of Christoph Braun and Andreas Kirsch.

We asked Chris, a native German speaker to help fill in some of the blanks, and he very kindly did so, in the midst a whirlwind time in his life. (Thanks so much Chris!)

Death Act No. 36

The 16th day of the month of Pluviose in the year 12 of the Republic, the Death Act of Elias KIRSCH died [verschieden] the 15th Pluviose in the morning between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. at the age of 71 years, son of the late Michael KIRSCH and Margaretha his rightful [yes! recht=mäßige] wife from the declaration made by Andreas KIRSCH, citizen [Br. = short for: Bürger] and farmer here, who declared that he had been a son of the deceased [als welcher gesagt hat er seie ein Sohn des Verstorbenen] and Kristoph Braun, citizen and farmer here, who declared that he had been a neighbour of the deceased and who signed this document. [Br. und Ackersmann allda [?] als welcher gesagt hat er seie ein Nachbar des Verstorbenen, und haben unterschrieben.]

Klingenburger, mayor and civil registrar. Mayor’s signature as well as signatures of Christoph Braun and Andreas Kirsch.

The parents’ names match Elias’s church birth record and the birth year too. Not only that, but Andreas is confirmed in this death record as the son of Elias. Everything aligns – same family. The discrepancy in the death month and year, in part, might be explained by a difference in date conventions in the US and in Europe.  In the US, the abbreviation 2-4-1804 would be February 4, 1804 and in Germany, it would be April 2, 1804.

This sure make me wonder how many of my ancestors’ dates are incorrectly interpreted by me.

Kirsch French Andreas signature

The death record is signed by Andreas Kirsch, and Andreas was Elias’s youngest child and one of three sons.

It looks like we found Elias’s death record alright, but how did Elias suddenly become French?

French Occupation!

The answer lies in the French occupation of the German left bank, the area between the Rhine River and France.

In the 1700s, Germany was still ruled by the Holy Roman Empire and was divided into sections ruled by Princes and royal families. The map below shows the Holy Roman Empire in 1789.

Holy Roman Empire 1789

Wikimedia commons map by Robert Alfers

You can see the Pfalz region in the closeup, below.

Holy Roman Empire Pfalz

The Rhine had for centuries been the road into the heartland of Germanic Europe facilitating transportation and trade. Of course, along that road marched and floated armies and invaders as well.

Wars in this part of Europe had been occurring regularly for hundreds of years by this time, and probably as long as humanity occupied this part of the earth.

The German people were weary. They had been displaced over and over again since before the 30 Years War which laid waste to and depopulated this part of Germany.

By the late 1700s, the German princes feared a Revolution, while the intellectuals hoped that the French would defeat royal absolutism. The common people, my families, were caught in the middle and could only deal with the outcome – whatever that happened to be.

When the French Revolution began in 1789, it was just one more in a succession of conflicts that dragged on until France officially occupied the German lands west of the Rhine.

In 1792, a conflict broke out, initially over the rights of German Princes with holdings in France, but it quickly expanded. The hostilities revealed that the civic ideals and French military were more than a match for the Germanic princes, vestiges of the Holy Roman Empire with no coordination among their fiefdoms, concerned about their own turf and not any consolidated whole.

The German lands saw armies marching back and forth, bringing devastation (albeit on a far lower scale than the Thirty Years’ War, almost two centuries before), but also ushering in new ideas of liberty and civil rights for the people.

According to Wikipedia:

Europe was racked by two decades of war revolving around France’s efforts to spread its revolutionary ideals, as well as to annex Belgium and the Rhine’s Left Bank to France and establish puppet regimes in the Netherlands, Germany and Italy. The French revolutionaries’ open and strident republicanism led to the conclusion of a defensive alliance between Austria and Prussia on February 7, 1792. The alliance also declared that any violation of the borders of the Empire by France would be a cause for war.

Prussia and Austria ended their failed wars with France but (with Russia) partitioned Poland among themselves in 1793 and 1795. The French took control of the Rhineland, imposed French-style reforms, abolished feudalism, established constitutions, promoted freedom of religion, emancipated Jews, opened the bureaucracy to ordinary citizens of talent, and forced the nobility to share power with the rising middle class.

Feudalism was a social system wherein the nobility held land from the crown in exchange for military service. Vassals were in turn tenants of the nobles and peasants, villeins or serfs were obligated to live on their lord’s land and give him homage, labor and a share of the produce in exchange for military protection.

In other words, no one other than the crown or nobility actually owned land. Freedom was restricted and military duty was mandatory. It wasn’t quite slavery, but it certainly restricted freedoms in many ways. In essence, it was economic slavery with no way to free oneself. Even emigration required permission.

The French-imposed reforms beginning in 1793 proved largely permanent and modernized the western parts of Germany. However, despite these welcome reforms, when the French tried to impose the French language, German opposition grew in intensity. The French had crossed an emotional line in the sand.

A Second Coalition of Britain, Russia, and Austria then attacked France but failed. Napoleon established direct or indirect control over most of western Europe, including the German states.

Clearly, based upon these civil records, the mandate of the French language was implemented and upheld, at least officially. Knowing the tenacious nature of the German people, I’m sure not one word of French was spoken when they had any choice.

The Encyclopedia Britannica adds:

After 1793 French revolutionary troops occupied the German lands on the left bank of the Rhine known as the Palatine Region, and for the next 20 years their inhabitants were governed from Paris. Yet there is no evidence that the Germans were dissatisfied with French rule or at least no evidence that they strongly opposed it. Devoid of a sense of national identity and accustomed to submission to authority, they accepted their new status with the same equanimity with which they had regarded a succession to the throne or a change in the dynasty.

Wikipedia tell us that:

Following the Peace of Basel in 1795 with Prussia, the west bank of the Rhine was ceded to France.

Napoleon I of France relaunched the war against the Empire. In 1803 he abolished almost all the ecclesiastical and the smaller secular states and most of the imperial free cities. New medium-sized states were established in south-western Germany.

The Holy Roman Empire was formally dissolved on 6 August 1806 when the last Holy Roman Emperor Francis II (from 1804, Emperor Francis I of Austria) resigned.

In 1806, the Confederation of the Rhine was established under Napoleon’s protection.

Confederation of the Rhine 1806

By ziegelbrenner – own drawing/Source of Information: Putzger – Historischer Weltatlas, 89. Auflage, 1965; Westermanns Großer Atlas zur Weltgeschichte, 1969; Haacks geographischer Atlas. VEB Hermann Haack Geographisch-Kartographische Anstalt, Gotha/Leipzig, 1. Auflage, 1979., CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9024294

The Confederation of the Rhine, a confederation of client states of the First French Empire, existed from 1806 to 1813.

With the defeat of Napoleon’s France in 1814, Bavaria was compensated for some of its losses, and received new territories such as the Grand Duchy of Würzburg, the Archbishopric of Mainz (Aschaffenburg) and parts of the Grand Duchy of Hesse. Finally in 1816, the Rhenish Palatinate was taken from France in exchange for most of Salzburg which was then ceded to Austria in the Treaty of Munich (1816).

It’s no coincidence that we see the church records recording births, deaths, and marriages resume, in German, in Fussgoenheim in 1816.

The French rule was over. The official language returned to German, although I’m willing to bet that while the upper-class society spoke French, the peasants and farmers in the villages never did.

They simply waited.

Some, of course, like Elias, died waiting – but his grandson Philip Jacob Kirsch, born in 1806, two years after Elias’ death, tired of constant turmoil in the Palatinate, would take his German-speaking family to Indiana in 1848 where they still spoke primarily or at least occasional German for another 100+ years.

Some of that strong German bloodline is discernible in his descendants today.

Kirsch Autosomal DNA

Because the Kirsch family didn’t immigrate until the mid-1800s, we don’t have as many descendants in the US today to DNA test as lines that have been in the states since colonial times.

Thankfully, another Kirsch descendant and his family are also interested in the Kirsch genealogy and agreed to DNA test.

It’s particularly interesting, because while Mr. Kirsch’s daughter and I don’t have an autosomal DNA match, he and my mother have a significant match, on six substantial segments, shown in red below. In fact, other than immediate family, my Mom is his closest match.

Kirsch Autosomal DNA

On the chromosomes above, Mr. Kirsch is the background person with mother being the red segments matching Mr. Kirsch. For purposes of comparison, I’m the light blue that matches with Mr. Kirsch and my mother on chromosomes 8 and 11. Notice the huge red piece of DNA that I didn’t receive from Mom on chromosomes 3 and 14, the first half of chromosome 11 and the smaller segment on chromosome 4. In these locations, I received my mother’s father’s DNA, because I certainly didn’t receive her DNA from her mother’s Kirsch lineage.

The largest segment that Mr Kirsch and mother share is 42.67 cM and the smallest segment larger than 5 cM is 10.27 cM. Four other people also match both Mr. Kirsch and mother, above, as well. Two matches don’t have trees, one lives in Germany and one in the Netherlands.

Of course, Mom and Mr. Kirsch share both the Kirsch and Drechsel DNA, given that Elias’s great-grandson, Jacob Kirsch, married Barbara Drechsel in Aurora, Indiana. We could be seeing a combination of segments descended from both Barbara and Jacob.

I inherited very little of this specific Kirsch/Drechsel DNA, and my children inherited even less. Obviously, Mr. Kirsch’s daughter didn’t inherit the segments from her father that I share with him, given that she and I don’t match. It’s amazing just how quickly descendants can go from 163 cM of shared DNA in one generation between two people on 6 segments greater than 10 cM, to no match between their children. Genetic roll of the dice.

I do wonder if any of these segments descended from Elias or if they were introduced by a wife’s line in the 4 generations (inclusive) between Elias Kirsch/Susanna Elisabetha Koob and Jacob Kirsch/Barbara Drechsel where the line splits into sibling lines in the late 1800s.

Kirsch Autosomal DNA pedigree

Of course, every segment has its own unique history, so these segments could descend from multiple ancestors in the pedigree chart, above – Kirsch, Koob, Koehler, Lemmert and/or Drechsel.

We won’t know unless some Kirsch and Drechsel descendants who descend from ancestors upstream of Jacob and Barbara test and match some of these segments. One thing is for sure, one way or another, this DNA originated with our ancestors someplace in modern day Germany, a place then known as the Holy Roman Empire.

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

caution Y

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

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

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

Combined DNA Matches + Tree Matches at MyHeritage

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

They have and it’s super easy.

DNA and Tree Matching in 4 Easy Steps

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

  1. Sign on and click on DNA Matches.

  1. Click on the little filter icon.

  1. Click on “All tree details.”

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

That’s it!

DNA Matches Plus SmartMatches

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

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

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

  • Shared Ancestors

  • Shared Ancestral Surnames

  • Shared Ancestral Places

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

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

  • Pedigree charts

  • Shared Ethnicities

  • Chromosome Browser – Shared DNA Segments

Who do you match, share ancestors and triangulate with?

Testing at or Transferring to MyHeritage

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

To order a DNA test, click here.

To transfer a DNA file to MyHeritage, click here.

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

Have fun😊

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

2018 – The Year of the Segment

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

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

The SNiPPY Award

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

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

Who will it be this year?

Drum roll…….

The 2018 SNiPPY goes to…

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

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

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

What else has happened this year? A lot!

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

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

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

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

Barbara Rae-Venter and the Golden State Killer Case

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

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

DNA in the News

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

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

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

Law Enforcement and Genetic Genealogy

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

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

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

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

MyHeritage

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

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

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

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

GDPR

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

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

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

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

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

On to more positive events.

Family Tree DNA

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Conferences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019 Conferences

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

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

The Leeds Method

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

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

Genetic Affairs

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

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

DNAGedcom.com

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

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

Rootsfinder

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

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

Chips and Imputation

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

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

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

DNA Central

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

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

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

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

Social Media

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

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

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

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

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

Genetic Snakeoil

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended Vendors

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

For genetic genealogy for ethnicity AND matching:

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

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

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

The next group of vendors offers ethnicity without matching:

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Coming in 2019

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

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

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

What mysteries do you want to unravel?

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

Happy New Year!!!

______________________________________________________________

Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.

Hiram Bauke Ferverda (1854-1925), Part 1: The Baker’s Apprentice – 52 Ancestors #222

Henry & Hiram Ferverda

Hiram (Harmen Bauke) Ferverda (Ferwerda) at left, Henry (Hendrik) Ferverda at right, assuming the Ferverda booklet is labeled correctly.

Hiram Bauke Ferverda was my mother’s grandfather. Since today would be my mother’s 96th birthday if she were still with us, I’ll let her introduce you – just like she introduced me.

Mother and I were visiting on the blustery spring morning of March 3, 2002, while drinking coffee or tea at her kitchen table, plotting our genealogy adventures for the upcoming months. Those were the days, and I miss them!

Mom said, “Grandfather Ferverda came over with his brother from Holland. They had a disagreement and the brother went up by Nappanee near or among the Amish. Mawmaw and Pawpaw [Hiram and Eva Miller Ferverda] weren’t Amish, but she did wear the hat on her head. She wasn’t among the real strict sect.”

That’s the first I had heard of any of this.

Mom was right. According to immigration records, Hiram, along with his parents and brother, Hendrick, known as Henry, immigrated from the Netherlands.

But Amish? Mennonite? Hat on her head? What was that all about?

And so began the Ferverda quest.

Meet Yvette Hoitink

Before I go any further with this story, I have to take a minute and introduce Yvette Hoitink, a Dutch professional genealogist. The Dutch records for this family are available because of her diligent research. I love her reports as well. Oh, how I love those reports!! They are concise and chocked full of information, complete with images of the document, a translation and source information. Even if I could find the records myself, I can’t read them.

If it’s a Dutch ancestor in my family, I absolutely guarantee you that Yvette is involved as a research partner. And no, this is not a paid announcement, it’s my unending gratitude for an amazing friend (that I met thanks to a blog article) and a job well done.

Let’s dive right in!

Neither Hiram nor Ferverda

Ferverda family records in Indiana provided Hiram’s birth date, which was verified by Yvette. But that’s it, all we had about Holland. No location, nothing else. We didn’t even know Hiram’s mother’s name, or, as it turns out, his real name.

Hiram was born, according to Dutch records, on September 21, 1854 in Hiaure, Westdongeradeel, The Netherlands, to Bauke Hendrick(s) Ferverda (known as Henry in the US) and Geertje Harmens de Jong.

The original birth record is shown below, and the first thing that pops out at me is that the surname is spelled Ferwerda in Holland. In the US, Hiram’s line spelled their surname Ferverda and his brother, Henry’s line spelled it Fervida. No one on this side of the pond spelled it Ferwerda! In fact, I initially thought those records were misinterpreted (meaning the handwriting), but they aren’t. The surname probably changed to the phonetic pronunciation here in the US.

Birth record of Harmen Ferwerda, born Westdongeradeel September 21, 1854

Yvette provided the following translation:

In the year one thousand eight hundred fifty-four, the twenty-third of the month of September appeared before us, Zijtse Sijbouts de Haan, mayor, clerk of the civil registration of the municipality of Westdongeradeel province Friesland:

Bauke Hendriks Ferwerda aged twenty-four years, head teacher, living in Hiaure, who declared to us that on the twenty-first of this month of September, at half past ten in the evening, in Hiaure, was born a child of the male sex from him declarer and his wife Geertje Harmens de Jong, aged twenty-five years, without occupation living with him which child he declares to give the first name of Harmen.

Said statement occurred in the presence of Oene Klazes Hofman, aged fifty-four years, cow milker living in Hiaure and of Egbert Oebeles Kijlstra, aged thirty-nine years, clerk at the “secretarie” [municipal administration] living in Ternaard.

Of which we have created this record, that, after having been read aloud, was signed by us, the declarer and the witnesses.

[signed]

B H Ferwerda

O: K Hofman

E O Kijlstra

ZS de Haan

Source: “Netherlands, Civil Registration, 1792-1952”, Familysearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 29 August 2012), digital image, “Geboorten 1851-1856” [Births 1851-1856], Westdongeradeel (Friesland, The Netherlands), p. 66 reverse;  Birth record of Harmen Ferwerda.

Look at Bauke’s beautiful signature!

Not only do we discover that the surname is spelled differently, we also discover that Hiram’s name was originally given as Harmen, his mother’s middle name which was her paternal grandmother’s birth surname. Harmen’s parent’s names are provided, along with their ages and his father’s occupation. Not only that, but he was born at half past 10 in the evening. How many of us know what time we were born today?

I decided right on the spot when I saw these records that I loved Dutch record-keeping.

Visiting my Dutch Homeland

In 2014, both as a result of Yvette’s work, and with Yvette, I was fortunate enough to visit many of my ancestral Dutch locations in what amounted to a whirlwind tour.

Additionally, my Ferverda cousin, Cheryl and my husband, Jim, rounded out our foursome and did we EVER have a good time. We also worked with the wonderful staff at the Friesland branch of the Dutch National Archives in Leeuwarden, named Tresoar. If that name sounds a lot like treasure to you, there’s a reason and yes, it is indeed full of treasure – both in terms of their records and wonderful employees who we now count among our friends.

Ummm….maybe I should explain…

The Dutch really go all out celebrating King’s Day on his birthday, April 27th. Everything shuts down, all public offices are closed and a huge nationwide party takes place. We were accidentally present for the first King’s Day, which changed from the previous Queen’s Day when the Queen’s eldest son, William Alexander became King. The King is a member of the “House of Orange” and let’s just say we wanted to fit in with the locals – and we did. After all, we’re Dutch, right? Yes, there’s obviously a story behind this and yes, eventually, I’ll tell – but not today😉

I’ll be sharing lots photos of the locations where my Dutch family lived and relevant history in this and several upcoming articles.

Hamlet and Record Confusion

Many locations in the Netherlands are very small hamlets. Often records indicate ancestors living in the larger region but don’t give the name of the tiny village. It’s a bonus to find the village name and Yvette is persistent.

For example, Hiaure is a small hamlet in the larger, now extinct, region of Westdongeradeel, now Dongeradeel, which is an administrative district that includes several hamlets, villages and towns.

Additionally, there may be several places in the Netherlands, even in Friesland with the same name. For example, there are about 5 different towns, hamlets and villages with the name of Oudega. In my case, the Oudega I would have assumed, just about 3 miles from another location the family lived, is not at all the Oudega where they moved. All I can say is thank goodness for Yvette or I would have fallen directly into that tar pit.

Another complication for my family is that they didn’t do what families are supposed to do. (Now there’s a surprise – NOT.)

Ancestors are supposed to marry in the town where they were raised. Stay there. Have children there. Marry someone of their own religion. Have their children baptized in the same church with the baptism witnessed by other family members. Don’t move around, and don’t marry across the country from where their first wife died. And don’t, absolutely DO NOT, no matter what else, marry someone of a religion that does NOT KEEP RECORDS.

Oh, and don’t change your name either, first or last and certainly not both. Just sayin’…

Yep, Hiram Ferverda’s father did ‘em all.

Hiaure

Welcome to Hiaure!

You can see a short video clip of Hiaure in this YouTube video.

As with all Dutch towns and villages, the church is located on the highest point of land, a small mound called a terp, because the cemetery lies in the churchyard and the Netherlands is an extremely low, meaning wet, country.

Compared to the countryside of the US, Europe is a very small place with limited land. There’s an old saying that the US has land, but Europe has history. In every square foot, I might add.

It’s quite common to be standing in one village and be able to see the church steeple of several churches by turning and looking in various directions. Those churches are the center of yet another village. This is true even in very small villages. Today, Hiaure has about 65 residents and that probably hasn’t changed much since Hiram was born there.

Because the Netherlands is so low, much of the country is reclaimed either from the sea or extreme lowlands. Windmills furnish wind-power to pumps and are commonplace scenes across the landscape.

This photo, taken close to Hiaure as we drove through the Dutch countryside is a typical Dutch scene. Today, it’s also not unusual to see wind turbines generating electricity in addition and sometimes side by side with older traditional windmills. Note the windmill in the clearing to the right of the house.

Village life centered around the church. Children were baptized there, families attended services, marriages took place, as did funerals. After the funeral service, parishioners walked outside and buried the person in close proximity to the church – sometimes in a grave the family owned, used and reused for generations.

As you can see, the Hiaure church is located on a small “terp” or raised area, the highest location in the village. One does not want to strike water when digging graves.

Hiram’s father was a school teacher. A house was typically provided to the teacher as part of their salary and research suggests strongly that this small house is indeed where Hiram was born.

The current resident was very generous to allow us to visit the backyard as well.

Was this where Hiram played as a child? Possibly, but he probably wouldn’t have remembered because by the time his brother was born in October of 1857, when Hiram had just turned 3, they were living in Eernewoude.

The traditional barns, like the one shown above at right, would have been similar to what Hiram saw when he lived in Hiaure or elsewhere in the countryside.

The Dutch love gardens, and tulips, of course. Such old-world beauty and charm.

Sometime between Hiram’s birth and the birth of his brother, 3 years later, the family moved from Hiaure to Eernewoude, Tietjerksteradeel, Friesland, about 20 miles away, probably so that Bauke could accept a different teaching position.

However, in Eernewoude, Hiram’s young life would change forever.

Hiram and Hendrick Ferwerda

Hiram had a brother Hendrick, later known as Henry in the US, born in 1857 in the village of Eernewoude, Tietjerksteradeel, Friesland, and a sister Lysbertus, born November 12, 1859, probably in the same location.

You may notice location spelling disparities, which I find quite confusing. There is a difference between the languages of Dutch and Frisian, the common language spoken in Friesland, the northwesternmost province of the Netherlands. Most people living in Friesland understand and speak Dutch perfectly well, but not all Dutch people speak or understand Frisian, a west Germanic language.

The original spelling is shown as Eernewoude (Dutch) and the current spelling is Earnewald (Frisian), at least I think I have those right.

Eernewoude, as is recorded in the Ferwerda records, was then and remains today a small low-lying village with a 2017 population of around 409 people.

Hiram’s sister died on July 23, 1860 at 8 months of age, not quite 3 months before her mother perished on October 3rd, leaving Bauke with 6 year old Hiram (Harmen) and 3 year old Hendrick to raise alone.

Young Hiram would just have turned 6 years old less than two weeks before his mother died. He would surely have been old enough to remember both his sister’s and his mother’s deaths and funerals.

We don’t know why Geertje died, but the death notice placed in the newspaper by Bauke Ferwerda on October 12th  and translated by Yvette reveals a lot:

Tonight at 9 ¼ hours died, after a very long but patient suffering, my beloved wife Geertje Harmens de Jong, in the yet youthful age of 31 years and 6 months, leaving me, after a comfortable union of almost 7½ years, two sons.

Eernewoude, 3 October 1860

Did their daughter die of something related to her mother’s death? Was her mother so ill that the child died? What malady related to the birth could have caused Geertje to suffer for nearly 11 months, killing her and the child both. I would think that infections or issues related to childbirth would be terminal much sooner than that. Whatever Geertje’s affliction, it clearly wasn’t contagious, because no other family members died.

Sadly, young Hiram would have seen his mother’s suffering.

We don’t know positively where Hiram’s mother, Geertje, is buried, but given that the family had been living in Eernwoude for several years, it’s very probable that both she and her daughter are buried in the churchyard there.

The church in Eernewoude was built in 1794, so this would have been where Hiram’s sister and mother’s funerals were both held and probably where they would have been buried as well unless there was a separate Mennonite cemetery which is unlikely.

Graves are reused in European countries after a few years, so the stones, if any ever existed for Geertje and the baby would no longer be preserved today. Perhaps the church records themselves record the location of the plots where they were buried, but that too is rare. It will have to be enough to know they are there someplace.

I would love to have been able to decorate Geertje and her daughter’s grave like this beautifully decorated Dutch grave on a little terp all its own. I so wanted to tell Geertje that her son did just fine. That I’m living proof and that she is my great-great-grandmother. To whisper that her little boy, Harmen, would become Hiram. That he sailed to America and became a leader in his community. That he too married an Anabaptist woman, just like she was. That we came back to find her. That she is not lost to us.

I was not able to visit this village, and I would not have been able to find her grave today, but she is there and I honor her none-the-less.

Rauwerderhem, Friesland, Netherlands

The Dutch population registers show that Hiram lived in Rauwerderhem between January 1, 1861 and Dec. 31, 1881. Another population register says that he lived here between 1854 and 1941. That’s surely true, just only a fraction of that time – and we don’t know exactly which fraction.

We know positively that Hiram had sailed to America long before 1881. In fact, we know that in May of 1863, the family had moved to Oudega.

Rauwerderhem as a region ceased to exist in 1984 and became Boarnsterhim which ceased to exist in 2014. Rauwerderhem includes several municipalities including Irnsum which is probably our clue as to when he lived there.

Oudega and a Step-Mother

Hiram’s father, Bauke, remarried on October 30, 1863, three years after his wife’s death, to Minke “Minnie” Gerb ens Van der Kooi. We know that Bauke moved to Oudega on May 6, 1863, several months before he married Minke. A year later, in 1864 when their first child was born, the family was still living in Oudega (Hemelumer Oldeferd), near the coast.

In 1866, Hiram’s father, Bauke, was listed as the head teacher there.

I wonder who cared for Hiram and Hendrick for the 3 years that Bauke Hendricks Ferwerda was a widower and teaching school. His older son, Hiram who had just turned 6 when his mother died was probably attending school, but assuredly the younger child was not.

A newspaper ad that Yvette discovered answers that question:

A few weeks after Geertje’s death, Bauke advertised for a housekeeper. Their first known housekeeper was Romkje Rintjes Dooijema, a 69-year-old widow who joined the family in July 1861. It is possible that they had a housekeeper before her, that did not live with the family. Romkje was in the household for two years, probably until Bauke’s second marriage in October 1863 to Minke Gerbens van der Kooi.

Hiram moved to Oudega with his father in May 1863 when he would have been 9 years old and lived there for the next four years.

We drove from Leeuwarden to Oudega which took about an hour. The Netherlands is connected by roads today, but in the 1860s and before, the Netherlands was a riverine country – connected by natural waterways and canals constructed strategically to drain the land. Boats tied loosely in canals are equivalent to second cars in the driveway here. You may well be able to get to town more quickly by water than by land.

While it appears that the residents of the Netherlands are in a constant battle with water, in reality, for the most part, they’ve learned to adapt and co-exist. In some cases, they have to tame the water, generally the sea, and they have to find ways to retain what little land they have.

Regardless of what they do, the Dutch are always innovative.

The church in Oudega was constructed in 1850, so would have been relatively new at the time that Hiram started attending with his father.

When they first arrived, Bauke, being the schoolteacher, would have been introduced around. He probably entered the church for the first time, holding his sons’ small hands in each of his larger ones as they made their way to a pew where they boys would have sat on either side of their father, probably fidgeting and squirming. A routine they likely repeated every Sunday.

Bauke was single and available, so any widows near the same age would have taken notice and maybe sat strategically nearby. Perhaps Minke Ger bens Van der Kooi sat nearby as well, exchanging furtive glances with the handsome schoolteacher widower.

Given that Bauke was a music teacher, perhaps he took a more active role in the church.

Bauke and both of his sons were listed on their emigration paperwork as Dutch Reformed, but both of Bauke’s wives were Mennonite. So maybe Minke wasn’t sitting in this church after all.

As with most Dutch churches, the cemetery surrounds the church.

Next to the church is the school and parsonage. Bauke would have likely lived in one of these buildings. It’s unclear from historical records which building was which at the time.

The building immediately next door looks like it might well have been the school, and the schoolmaster might well have lived here too.

It’s also possible that another structure stood at that time that does not remain today, in the part of the churchyard where Jim is standing, between the church and that brick building.

There is definitely space for another structure, but no physical evidence that one existed.

Regardless, this is where Hiram lived, attended church and played as a child, probably in the cemetery among the gravestones.

During the time the family lived in Oudega, Minnie and Bauke presented Hiram with 2 sisters, Lysbeth born August 21, 1864 and Geertje born May 15, 1867. Lysbeth died at sea during the August 1868 crossing. That must have been a heartbreaking, terrifying day, watching your child, or your 4-year-old sibling, slip beneath the waves – especially after having lost your mother and sister just a few years before. Did Hiram ever feel safe from death?

Minnie and Bauke would give Hiram two more sisters and a brother in the US.

When Did Hiram Emigrate?

On August 1, 1868, the Ferwerda family sailed for America, but Hiram may not have been with them. Did he arrive with his parents, or did he join the family later? He wouldn’t have been quite 14, but children then were trusted to travel alone at much younger ages than today.

Yvette provides the following information:

Lists of Overseas Emigrants:

Since 1848, the Dutch national government required each province to compile lists of emigrants each year. The government wanted to understand who was leaving and for what reasons. The lists were usually compiled by requesting lists of emigrants from each municipality. The municipality often based these lists on information in their population registers. If people failed to register their departure, their emigration may go unnoticed for some time and sometimes shows up in the lists years after the emigration took place.

1. Harmen Ferwerda

Information in the source:

The list of emigrants shows that Harmen Ferwerda emigrated from Wijmbritseradeel, Friesland in 1869. He was a 14-year-old baker’s apprentice and listed “geluk te zoeken” [finding happiness/luck] as his reason for departure. His destination was listed as North-America, precise location unknown. He was less well-to-do and had not paid poll tax the previous year.

Source: “Staten van Landverhuizers overzee” [Lists of overseas emigrants], Wijmbritseradeel, Friesland, Netherlands, 1869, p. 88-89; microfiche, Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie, The Hague; citing Nationaal Archief, Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken [Department of the Interior], afdeling Statistieken [Statistics department], record group 2.04.23.02, call number 26V

Analysis: The other emigrants from Wijmbritseradeel listed ‘to make a fortune’ or ‘amelioration of circumstances’ as reason to emigrate. To find “geluk” (happiness/luck) is an uncommon reason that is not mentioned elsewhere in the list. It may be that this reflects Harmen’s own choice of words.

2. Bauke Hendriks Ferwerda

Information from the source:

The list of emigrants shows that Bauke Hendriks Ferwerda emigrated from Hemelumer Oldephaert en Noordwolde, Friesland in 1868 with 1 wife and 4 children. His destination is listed as Minnesota. The record shows he was less well-to-do, with an annual income of fl.425 the previous year. The notes column states that he was married to a sister of Bergstra. This refers to the first emigrant named in the list of emigrants from Hemelumer Oldephaert en Noordwolde, Rimmer Johannes Bergstra. Several other emigrants in the list of emigrants from that municipality were also related to Rimmer Johannes Bergstra.

Source: “Staten van Landverhuizers overzee” [Lists of overseas emigrants], Hemelumer Oldephaert en Noordwolde, 1868, p. 69-70; microfiche, Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie, The Hague; citing Nationaal Archief, Ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken [Department of the Interior], afdeling Statistieken [Statistics department], record group 2.04.23.02, call number 26V

Yvette’s note: No relationship between Bauke Hendriks Ferwerda’s second wife, Minke Gerbens van der Kooi, and Rimmer Johannes Bergstra is known at this stage. We could investigate this as this might lead to a better understanding of their reasons for emigrating. The way that the list mentions different relationships suggests that they traveled as a group.

The fact that Bauke and his wife have 4 children with them strongly suggests that Hiram was with them and did not make the trip, alone, later. There were only 4 children in total, including the child who died en route.

I wonder why Bauke and family decided to settle in Indiana. It looks like their original destination was Minnesota. Maybe they met someone en route who provided information that changed their minds.

The Elkhart County history book states that there was a group of Dutch that settled in this area, so the Ferwerda family was not the only family in the settlement group. I wonder how they selected Elkhart County, and why.

Checking others in the immigration group with Rimmer Johannes Bergstra (age 67) we find Dirk Peekes Hoogeboom who died in 1887 in Nappanee, Indiana, and is buried in the Union Cemetery where Hendrick Fervida and family are buried. The Union Cemetery is across the road from the Brethren Church. According to Find-A-Grave, a G. R. Bergstra was married to Kirk Hoogeboom, and the emigration record states that Hoogeboom is married to the daughter of Bergstra. Gerben Willems DeBoer was married to Anna (died 1911), a sister of Bergstra, and died in 1874. They are also buried in Union Cemetery. These people lived in the area where Bauke Ferwerda and family settled and provided tenuous ties to the old country.

A second group that was traveling with the Bergstra group from the same location in Holland settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan by 1870 and remained. Gosse Jans Molenaar, age 35, whose wife was the sister of Durk Jeremias Quarre, age 32.

More from Yvette:

Population registers

Population registers were retrieved for Bauke Hendriks Ferwerda and his son Harmen Ferwerda for the period covering their emigration.

Population registers were kept in the Netherlands since 1850, with some earlier local attempts. Population registers show who lived where in the municipality.

In the 19th century, a population register typically covered a period of 10 to 20 years, depending on the size of the municipality and the mobility of its inhabitants. This register was kept up to date, whenever somebody moved, died or was born their addition or removal from the household was noted. People were required to register whenever they moved into a municipality or moved out of a municipality.

Some population registers were arranged by address. In this case, when people moved, they were struck from the page of their previous address and added to the page of their new address. Other municipalities quickly changed to a system that arranged the population registers by household. In this case, addresses were struck and corrected every time a family moved.

Struck through names in the population register usually indicate one of two things:

  • The person died during the time period covered by the register
  • The person moved away.

All people not stricken through were apparently still living there at the end of the period covered by the register.

Populations give a very good insight in the composition of a household. However, because a population register covers a period of several years, not all people listed on the page may have lived there at the same time. Some people may have died or moved away before other people were born or moved in. Careful analysis of the dates is needed to draw conclusions about the composition of a household.

Hemelumer Oldeferd en Noordwolde 1860-1869

This population record shows the household of Bauke Hendriks Ferwerda. It covers the period 1860-1869 and shows that Bauke Hendriks Ferwerda arrived in Oudega in the municipality of Hemelumer Oldephaert en Noordwolde on 6 May 1863 together with his two sons Harmen and Hendrik. They had come from the municipality of Tietjerksteradeel. The record lists that Bauke married Minke Gerbens van der Kooi on 30 October 1863. She is listed as number 4. Subsequently, two children are born in 1864 (Lijsbert) and 1867 (Geertje).

Son Harmen Baukes Ferwerda leaves the parental home on 22 July 1867 to go to Rauwerdehem. He is also shown as incoming from Wijmbritseradeel on 17 July 1867, when he is added as nr. 8 to the household.

Source: Hemelumer Oldeferd en Noordwolde, Friesland, Netherlands, Bevolkingsregister [Population Register] 1860-1869, p. 88, household of Bauke Hendriks Ferwerda; microfiche, Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie, Den Haag, Netherlands

Analysis: the dates of Harmen Baukes Ferwerda’s departure and return do not add up, as he arrived back home 10 days before leaving it. Since his listing as number 8 is below that of his sister Geertje b. 18 May 1867, we can be sure he arrived back home after 18 May 1867. More analysis is needed in comparison with the Wymbritseradeel population register.

I wonder why Hiram left and went to Rauwerdehem and then Wijmbritseradeel. Yvette wondered too – and she found the answer!

Wymbritseradeel 1862-1880

The population register of Wolsum shows Harmen Baukes Ferwerda as living in the household of Johannes Jousma in Wolsum in the municipality of Wymbritseradeel. He arrived there from Irnsum on 20 November 1867.

Now that’s quite interesting. If Hiram left home of July 22, 1867 and stayed in Irnsum until November 20th of that year, where was he in Irnsum during that time? He was only 12 years old when he left and turned 13 that September. He certainly was living with a family, perhaps someone from his mother’s side of the family who was Mennonite?

Irnsum, today Jrnsum, was a Mennonite stronghold, known to be a center of Mennonite activity before 1600. Two Mennonite congregations originally existed, but one died out relatively early. The second joined the Mennonite conference in Friesland in 1695. In 1684, that congregation had a meeting house with stained glass windows, quite the exception to the traditional “very plain” lifestyle. In 1838 the membership was 83 and in 1871, 160.

This would have been the Mennonite church that Hiram probably attended in Irnsum during his 4 months living there.

A Baker’s Apprenticeship in Wolsum

We may not know who Hiram was living with and what he was doing in Irnsum for 4 months, but we do know more about the time he spent in Wolsum living with Johannes Jousma.

From Yvette:

Johannes Jousma was a baker and Harmen Baukes a “bakkersknecht” [baker’s hand]. The term ‘knecht’ was also used for apprentices, which translation would fit with his age (13). By comparing the arrival and departure dates of the other people in the household, Johannes Jousma is shown to have at most one apprentice at the time, sometimes none.

So, Hiram was apprenticing to be a baker. Fortunately, Wolsum was on our itinerary. It’s such a small “place” that we almost missed it, literally.

Our visit to Wolsum was just amazing, for several reasons. In fact, this was one of the highlights of the trip. Ironic that we nearly abandoned this stop because we couldn’t find this hamlet amid the maze of canals and waterways. I’m so glad my friends didn’t give up.

The Wolsum church on the raised terp. While Hiram would probably have attended this church regularly, none of our ancestors or family members are buried here. Or are they?

Yvette came up with a surprise and tells us that:

In the population register Harmen lived with baker Johannes Jousma (Anabaptist) and Pierkje de Jong (Dutch Reformed). I only now realize that Pierkje was his aunt! She was the daughter of Harmen Gerrits de Jong and Angenietje Wijtzes Houtsma and sister to Geertje Harmens de Jong. Therefore, given that Pierkje was Dutch Reformed, she would have attended this church and is likely buried here as well.

Amazing what is hidden away in the details of these records. Anabaptist connections keep popping up. Hiram would cross the ocean and eventually marry an Anabaptist women himself.

In the back of every church, we find a small unobtrusive building like the one shown below.

I thought these were sheds for the groundskeepers holding lawnmowers or perhaps supplies for digging graves, but that’s not at all the purpose for these generally nondescript structures. They are ossuaries for the bones encountered when the grave is dug for the next occupant. Any bones remaining are put into the ossuary and stacked with all of the other bones where the “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” process continues.

Now, I must admit, in locations where I know my ancestors or their family members are buried, I look longingly at these buildings. I know that their DNA is just laying there, but unavailable to me☹

In fact, I’m probably related to everyone in many small villages. No point crying over split-milk, or bone-dust, so let’s walk through this lovely village.

Flowers bloom everyplace in Holland in the spring, peeking through small spaces, seeking the sun.

Beautiful moss-covered walkway beside the church. I love these little peek-a-boo Dutch gardens. So inviting!

Looking across the fields. The next hamlet is always within view. The fence below isn’t between fields, but across a canal or waterway. We fence roads here, the Dutch fence canals.

Some hamlets are too small to even have a church.

One such place is named Fiifhus translated as “Five Houses,” for obvious reasons, within sight of Wolsum.

A one lane road reaches across the fields and canals in the direction of the tiny Five Houses where we were told the Wolsum baker once lived. Of course, we’re going!

A one car bridge and quaint, beautiful cottages greeted us.

It was here, in 5 Houses, officially a part of Wolsum because the two hamlets shared the church, that Hiram served his apprenticeship with Johannes Jousma.

Five Houses was located at the end of the little dead end one-vehicle-wide “road” that ended beyond the 5th house. The street looked more like a walkway and we weren’t sure we were supposed to drive there, or could turn around, so we parked at the end and walked.

The people in Wolsum told us that the “old baker” had lived in Fiifhus. There were literally 5 houses originally and only one more today, all lined up in a row across from the canal. The “road” in the 1860s to 5 Houses was the canal by boat.

Wood decays quickly in the Netherlands which is why most structures are built of brick. Stone is scarce in this lowland country. Note the moss growing on the fence. It grows everyplace.

Cheryl, always shy (humor), began talking to people and asking questions. Fortunately, Yvette and some of the Frisian-speaking archives staff were along to help with translation, although most Dutch people speak at least some English.

The residents were amazingly friendly and as interested in us as we were in their little village. In the Netherlands, many residences were both a house and a barn, combined. This one was built, remodeled or at least roofed in 1871. The house portion for the people is much smaller than the barn portion, which is typical.

We continued walking along the canal, on the left, below.

It was absolutely amazing to stand where we knew Hiram had stood, in his footsteps, and I mean exactly, daily, 146 years earlier. This boy who would become a man and have the sons who would be Cheryl’s father and my grandfather. And here we were, standing where he stood, looking at the same scenes he saw.

I’m sure Hiram never imagined such a thing, just as I could never have imaged anything like standing here when I was a young teen. When Hiram was living in Five Houses, he couldn’t possibly have imagined that he would sail to America just a year later. He planned to be a baker, perhaps right here, for the rest of his life. But life had something very different in store for young Harmen who would soon become Hiram.

If mother could only have been with us that day. My heart both rejoiced and broke. I’m incredibly glad that Cheryl and I were together, representing our family lines. I wish this could have happened a decade earlier when Mom could have joined us. I’m sure she was with us in spirit.

At the very end of the red brick road, we found the baker’s house where the driveway was wider than the road. The garage portion in front is new, but the rear is older and original. The current resident told us that when he bought the property, some 30+ years ago, he had to tear out the old ovens and haul them away, so we knew unquestionably that we were in the right place and had indeed found the baker’s house where Hiram lived.

My heart broke again.

Hauled. Them. Away.

Lead in a genealogist’s heart. Wasn’t there even one brick left? Someplace?

Nope. The Dutch are fanatically neat and tidy – a trait which I did NOT inherit.

The homeowner graciously invited us to walk on his property and here we found the old barn and building where Hiram likely lived.

Another small building at the rear of this property, below.

The Dutch seldom tear a building down. They simply refurbish, again and again, and the old building isn’t so old. Old in European terms is measured in hundreds of years. The perspective is very different from the US.

Hiram would have walked on these bricks or on this path if bricks weren’t yet laid, and perhaps gone to the supply building for what he needed for the day’s baking.

Structures are mostly made of stone because the almost constant moisture causes wood to rot quickly.

Each property along the small dead-end street also had a “location” for their boat or boats to be tied up on the canal, right across from the house.

Hiram probably rose early, before dawn, to bake bread, then loaded the boat with the baked good to deliver to Wolsum, visible across the field from where we stood, in front of the baker’s house where Hiram would have boarded the boat. It was as if he was standing with us, had guided us back in time to this very place to stand in his footprints.

Was this young man, barely a teen, homesick? Did he miss his father, step-mother and siblings? Did he think about them and wonder what they were doing in the misty or rainy mornings on the boat to Wolsum?

If you cry in the rain, no one knows.

Emigration

Yvette tells us that:

The emigration record shows that Harmen Baukes Ferwerda emigrated with his father, step-mother and siblings on October 15, 1868 to North America.

Source: Wolsum, Wymbritseradeel, Friesland, Netherlands, Bevolkingsregister [Population Register] 1862-1880, p. 30, household of Johannes Jousma; microfiche, Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie, Den Haag, Netherlands

So, Harmen, known to us as Hiram, did immigrate in 1868, not later, but I still wonder if he traveled separately since the rest of the family is recorded as leaving on August 1st.

We’ll catch up with Hiram on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in part 2 of his story, but first, we have a DNA riddle to solve.

The DNA Twist

This story would not be complete without something about DNA, and the DNA aspect of this story is quite unexpected.

One day, I received an e-mail from Yvette whose mother had recently taken an autosomal DNA test. The results were nothing short of amazing!

Yvette’s mother and my mother matched on 5 chromosomes. They matched at Family Tree DNA, although it was easier to compare them at Gedmatch since my cousin, Cheryl and her brother had both tested at 23andMe their results were transferred to GedMatch.

While the matches on chromosomes 6, 11 and 15 between our mothers are too small to be meaningful, the matches on chromosomes 18 and 22 are large enough to potentially be relevant, meaning identical by descent, not identical by chance.

This is exciting not just because Yvette is a friend, but because it might help both of us unravel our respective genealogy. Plus, how cool would that be – to meet through genealogy and then discover we are related.

GedMatch predicted 6.6 generations to a common ancestor between our mothers, but both Yvette and I think that a common ancestor would be further back in time. Obviously, Yvette knows both her and my Dutch ancestry quite well.

Yvette took a look at both of our pedigree charts and identified 4 different potential lines where one or both of us had holes in our tree where we could potentially intersect. That sounded hopeful.

Had my mother not tested before her death, and had Yvette not tested her mother, we would never have known of this match, because it does not extend to matches between us daughters.

The Rest of the Story

This match originally occurred about 5 years ago. I recorded it at that time, excited that someplace, Yvette and I probably shared an ancestor.

However, things have evolved, developed and changed over time.

While writing this article, it occurred to me that I should recheck our DNA matches and see if we could discern anything new.

Was I ever surprised.

Our mothers are no longer matches to each other at Family Tree DNA. At GedMatch, their matching algorithm has apparently changed too, because now they are shown only as matching on chromosome 18. The match on 22 is entirely gone. I didn’t recheck the smaller segments.

This is confounding.

Checking Yvette’s mother to see if she matches either Cheryl or her brother shows no match on this segment.

That’s not terribly unusual, because Mother could have inherited a different piece of DNA from her ancestors that Cheryl and Don did not. Nothing unusual about that for first cousins. Mom and Cheryl/Don share grandparents, so each would be expected to only share about 12.5% of their DNA with mother – and not entirely the same 12.5%.

I could have checked at that time to see if Mom and Cheryl matched on that same segment, given that Cheryl did not match Yvette’s mother, but I was waiting for Don’s results to come back and never got back to checking. Plus, I wanted to retest Cheryl and Don on a fully compatible chip at Family Tree DNA.

The next thing I knew, 5 years had passed and here we are.

However, today we have a much easier visual tool in DNAPainter.

Mom, Cheryl and Don are related in the following fashion.

Mom, Don, Cheryl and another Ferverda line cousin named Mike all match on this same segment, telling me that this is indeed either a Ferverda or a Miller segment, given that Hiram Ferverda married Eva Miller, a Brethren woman.

If Mom matches Yvette’s Mom on this segment and if the segment is a valid IBD (identical by descent) match, then Yvette’s mother will match all three of the Ferverda cousins on the same segment where she matches mother. The only way that mother can match both Cheryl and Don (on very large segments, 17 and 35 cM respectively) is through their common grandparents. Their respective mothers are not related to each other or the Ferverda line. Mike, another Ferverda descendant also matches Mom, on 27 cM that includes Yvette’s Mom’s blue segment and overlaps with both Cheryl and Don.

The perfect triangulation scenario – except they don’t.

Yvette’s mother does not match Cheryl, Don or Mike. Therefore, because mother does match all 3 of her Ferverda cousins, and they all match each other as well on this same segment, that means that the match between Yvette’s mother and my mother is not identical by descent, but identical by chance. Rats!

Better to know than not.

  1. I’m glad we have enough people tested that we can now make this determination.
  2. I’m very grateful for the visual DNAPainter tool which makes the comparison easy.
  3. I’m disappointed that Yvette and I don’t share a common ancestor someplace in the relatively recent past, but I’m glad that we can prove this conclusively one way or another. Yea, I’m trying to make lemonade.

The Moral of the DNA Story

  • Stay away from segments under 7cM. They are more likely to be IBC than IBD and we have enough larger segment matches today that we don’t have to fish in the weeds.
  • Write match results down when you do the initial comparison. Tools change over time.
  • Recheck matches, because the vendor’s algorithms change over time. GedMatch is going through a major retool right now.
  • Understand that matches over the match threshold can still be IBC. Mom and Yvette’s Mom lost one 7.8 cM segment match, and the 7.5 match was reduced to 7.1, which was subsequently proven to be IBC. Generally, matches above 10 cM are relatively safe, 15 cM or above quite safe and I’ve never seen a 20 cM or higher match that turned out to be IBC.
  • Don’t fall in love with results until (minimally) they are actually proven to triangulate with known cousins.
  • Do the basic triangulation steps at the time when you discover the match. I could have solved this riddle long ago had I simply run the comparison between Yvette’s Mom and Cheryl. Better late than never.

But most of all, test those cousins and older family members because often their DNA is every bit as important to genealogy, if not more so, than yours.

Acknowledgements:

A huge thank you to the Tresoar staff as well as Yvette Hoitink.

Initially, Tresoar was planning to offer “Back to Your Roots” genealogical tourism packages, although the project never emerged in quite the way it was initially imagined. If you have Dutch ancestry, please contact either Tresoar in Friesland or Yvette for assistance anyplace in the Netherlands.

Ethnicity is Just an Estimate – Yes, Really!

Lots of people will have received DNA tests as gifts over the holidays. This pleases me to no end, because I know I’ll match any number of them and maybe, just maybe, those matches will help me fill in those pesky blanks in my tree or break down brick walls.

However, for the most part, those testers probably aren’t genealogists, at least not yet. They are most likely curious about “who they are” or didn’t even realize they might be curious about anything until they unwrapped that gift and discovered a DNA test inside.

Let’s hope they test with one of the major 4 companies, being Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage, Ancestry or 23andMe. (Sale prices are still in effect.) Some additional firms are certainly reputable and provide ethnicity only tests (meaning no matching), such as the Genographic Project, LivingDNA and Insitome, but then there are also a growing number of questionable pop-up DNA testing, upload sites and interpretation “services.” And yes, I’m using that word loosely. Buyer beware.

For genealogists, the gold is in the cousin matching. We already know that DNA is more than ethnicity, and ethnicity is far more than percentages.

Ethnicity, for the most part, is a shiny red bauble that the magic wand of advertising transforms from a diamond in the rough into the glittery Hope diamond with a free kilt to lederhosen conversion (or vice versa) thrown in to boot.

Ethnicity bauble

Yay – Results are Back

Everyone who received DNA test kits during the holiday season has hopefully spit or swabbed and mailed and is now waiting excitedly. Waiting is always the hardest part!

Soon, they will be discussing their ethnicity results. Reactions will vary, swinging like a pendulum – and you may well get to help interpret.

  • Some people will be thrilled because their results will confirm what they see or believe and their family stories. For example, if their family carries oral history of a Native American ancestor and their DNA ethnicity results show Native American heritage, they’ll be thrilled.
  • Some people will be pleasantly surprised with whatever information they receive – treating their ethnicity results as a nice package to unwrap, regardless of what’s inside.
  • Another large group will be confused? My mother said her grandmother was French! Why don’t I see France? Substitute <country of your choice> for French/France.
  • And then we have the truly upset. The distraught. The entirely disbelieving. “My great-grandmother was a full-blood Cherokee. Why don’t I show Native American? These tests are wrong!”
  • Some people will doubt their parentage based on ethnicity results alone. This is NOT under any circumstances appropriate. Please have them read Ethnicity and Physical Features are NOT Accurate Predictors of Parentage or Heritage.

Explanations

To help people understand, you may need to explain about how Native Americans, especially east of the Mississippi were admixed very early in our national history, so their “fully Native” ancestor probably wasn’t.

You can explain about how autosomal DNA is diluted in each generation since their Native (or French, or Italian, etc.) ancestor lived – to the point that the Native DNA might not show today.

You can talk about reference populations, or the lack thereof, and that people in France and Israel can’t legally take DNA tests for recreational purposes.

You can educate people about how we all need to research our genealogy, and how, as Blaine Bettinger writes in this classic article, we have both a genetic and genealogical tree. The ancestors are always there in our tree, but we may not have inherited measurable DNA from a particular individual if they are several generations back in time.

If that coveted Native ancestor doesn’t appear in their DNA, then they need to look in their family tree. She or he might be waiting there, AND, they may still be able to prove their Native heritage using either Y or mitochondrial DNA testing at Family Tree DNA.

There’s more than one kind of DNA and more than one way to prove Native heritage.

The Underlying Truth

But the truth of the matter is, while each and every one of those statements above is entirely valid, the fundamental truth about ethnicity testing is that…

Ethnicity percentages.png

Yes, really.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why.

Size Matters

Everyone in the Americas (except for Native American, First Nations or aboriginal peoples) wants to know where their ancestors “came from.” As genealogists, we deal with no records, damaged records, misplaced records, burned records, rapid westward migration with no links “back home” and at least three wars on our soil. It’s no wonder that we often can’t track those ancestors back across the pond or even to the shore.

Therefore, we hope that DNA testing can help us bridge that gap. And indeed, both Y and mitochondrial DNA testing is wonderful for doing just that for matrilineal and patrilineal lines.

But ethnicity results, in most cases, are really only useful for making continental-level discoveries. What we really want, refinement and granularity to the country level within Europe, for example, isn’t really feasible.

Size is part of the reason why. Look at the size of the contiguous 48 US states as compared to Europe, courtesy thetruesize.com.

Ethnicity US over Europe.png

Would you expect to be able to tell the genetic difference between people that live in Washington State from people that live in Idaho? That’s roughly the same distance as from the UK to Germany. France is located down in California and Nevada.

Can you tell the difference genetically between people who live in Washington State from California or Nevada? That idea sounds rather preposterous when you look at it that way. Now, is it any wonder that your ancestor’s “French” doesn’t show up, but German does?

Ethnicity Texas over Europe

Here’s Texas compared to Europe. Can you tell the people in Dallas from the people who live in San Antonio from the people who live in Houston, genetically? That’s the same difference as Germany, Italy and Austria. The Czech Republic is over near Shreveport. You get the drift.

Western European Countries are the Size of US States

Western European countries are even more difficult.

Ethnicity states over Europe

How about discerning the difference between Indiana and Illinois residents, or Illinois and Missouri? European countries are the size of medium sized US states. Larger states, like Texas cover most of the Iberian Peninsula including Spain and Portugal and reach over into Morocco.

To make this relatively small region even more complex, people have moved freely across these areas for thousands of years. The people from the Russian Steppes moved into Eastern Europe displacing and assimilating with the hunter-gatherer population that had resided there for millennia.

The Germanic tribes moved towards the coast and into the British Isles. The people from “Indiana and Ohio” moved into “Illinois” and then that entire group populated parts of Scandinavia. According to a recent genetic paper, some of those “New Yorkers” and on east moved into Scandinavia too.

Oh, and the Sephardic Jewish people moved from the Middle East into “Texas” aka Spain and then on up to “Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania” some 500 years ago to join their Ashkenazi brethren. Fortunately, Jewish people generally stayed together and didn’t intermarry or assimilate much into the local population, so we can still identify them genetically.

Europe is indeed a great melting pot.

Ethnicity Alaska and states over Europe and Asia

Adding the largest US state, Alaska onto the map makes the rest of the states and their corresponding European countries look really tiny.

Ethnicity is Really Only Reliable at a Continental Level

Ethnicity really is only reliable at a continental level, plus Jewish and in particular, Ashkenazi. Very small or trace percentages may not be reliable at all. We’ll discuss ways to prove or disprove minority admixture in my next article, Minority Ethnicity Percentages – True or False?.

This continental-level-only phenomenon is more understandable if you look at a world map.

Ethnicity continents

It’s extremely difficult to discern any reliable level of granularity between regions as tiny as US states in Europe, no matter how badly testers want to know. Of course, that doesn’t keep the testing companies from trying, and kudos to them. As they make improvements, your intra-continental estimates will change over time – so don’t fall in love with them. And don’t trade that lederhosen for a kilt or vice versa – or get that Viking tattoo just yet.

It’s much more reasonable to rely on ethnicity estimates based on much larger regions, where people after migration have been separated from people in the other regions for a much longer period of time, allowing time for unique mutations to develop.

Less admixture happens with greater geographic distance. People who aren’t neighborly don’t produce offspring because begetting requires proximity. Mutations that occurred after the populations split into different regions are found only in the new or the old populations, but not both – at least not in high frequencies. Of course, population boundaries are fluid and people (continue to) move from place to place, back and forth.

What You Can Do!

When your family and friends begin to discuss their confusion or disappointment with their ethnicity results, you’ll have this article to explain the situation visually. Please feel free to share and encourage them to learn more.

Sometimes it’s difficult to be the cold voice of reason in a positive way, but there is so much more to learn. I always hope to spark curiosity about why, and then provide ways that the person can fall in love with discovering their ancestors and ancestry.

Another good resource is the article, Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum which explains how DNA ethnicity testing actually works – in terms that everyone can understand.

If your family is wondering what happened to their Native American DNA, you’re not alone. I’ve put together a page of Native American Resources to help everyone!

Have fun, enjoy and let’s hope that newly baptized ethnicity testers will like the water enough to engage in a bit of genealogy. You can encourage them by helping construct their first tree by recording what they know about their parents and grandparents. Maybe give them a taste of success by helping them find a record or two. Give them a taste of genealogy crack.

You never know, it just might be habit forming!

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Disclosure

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

Thank you so much.