Top Ten RootsTech 2022 DNA Sessions + All DNA Session Links

The official dates of RootsTech 2022 were March 3-5, but the sessions and content in the vendor booths are still available. I’ve compiled a list of the sessions focused on DNA, with web links on the RootsTech YouTube channel

YouTube reports the number of views, so I was able to compile that information as of March 8, 2022.

I do want to explain a couple of things to add context to the numbers.

Most speakers recorded their sessions, but a few offered live sessions which were recorded, then posted later for participants to view. However, there have been glitches in that process. While the sessions were anticipated to be available an hour or so later, that didn’t quite happen, and a couple still aren’t posted. I’m sure the presenters are distressed by this, so be sure to watch those when they are up and running.

The Zoom rooms where participants gathered for the live sessions were restricted to 500 attendees. The YouTube number of views does not include the number of live viewers, so you’ll need to add an additional number, up to 500.

When you see a number before the session name, whether recorded or live, that means that the session is part of a series. RootsTech required speakers to divide longer sessions into a series of shorter sessions no longer than 15-20 minutes each. The goal was for viewers to be able to watch the sessions one after the other, as one class, or separately, and still make sense of the content. Let’s just say this was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done as a presenter.

For recorded series sessions, these are posted as 1, 2 and 3, as you can see below with Diahan Southard’s sessions. However, with my live session series, that didn’t happen. It looks like my sessions are a series, but when you watch them, parts 1, 2 and 3 are recorded and presented as one session. Personally, I’m fine with this, because I think the information makes a lot more sense this way. However, it makes comparisons difficult.

This was only the second year for RootsTech to be virtual and the conference is absolutely HUGE, so live and learn. Next year will be smoother and hopefully, at least partially in-person too.

When I “arrived” to present my live session, “Associating Autosomal DNA Segments With Ancestors,” my lovely moderator, Rhett, told me that they were going to livestream my session to the RootsTech page on Facebook as well because they realized that the 500 Zoom seat limit had been a problem the day before with some popular sessions. I have about 9000 views for that session and more than 7,400 of them are on the RootsTech Facebook page – and that was WITHOUT any advance notice or advertising. I know that the Zoom room was full in addition. I felt kind of strange about including my results in the top ten because I had that advantage, but I didn’t know quite how to otherwise count my session. As it turns out, all sessions with more than 1000 views made it into the top ten so mine would have been there one way or another. A big thank you to everyone who watched!

I hope that the RootsTech team notices that the most viewed session is the one that was NOT constrained by the 500-seat limited AND was live-streamed on Facebook. Seems like this might be a great way to increase session views for everyone next year. Hint, hint!!!

I also want to say a huge thank you to all of the presenters for producing outstanding content. The sessions were challenging to find, plus RootsTech is always hectic, even virtually. So, I know a LOT of people will want to view these informative sessions, now that you know where to look and have more time. Please remember to “like” the session on YouTube as a way of thanking your presenter.

With 140 DNA-focused sessions available, you can watch a new session, and put it to use, every other day for the next year! How fun is that! You can use this article as your own playlist.

Please feel free to share this article with your friends and genealogy groups so everyone can learn more about using DNA for genealogy.

Ok, let’s look at the top 10. Drum roll please…

Top 10 Most Viewed RootsTech Sessions

Session Title Presenter YouTube Link Views
1 1. Associating Autosomal DNA Segments With Ancestors Roberta Estes (live)


~9000: 1019 + 500 live viewers + 7,400+ Facebook
2 1. What to Do with Your DNA Test Results in 2022 (part 1 of 3) Diahan Southard 7428
3 Who Is FamilyTreeDNA? FamilyTreeDNA – Bennett Greenspan 2946
4 2. What to Do with Your DNA Test Results in 2022 (part 2 of 3) Diahan Southard 2448
5 Latest DNA Painter Releases DNAPainter Jonny Perl (live) 2230 + live viewers
6 DNA Painter Introduction DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 1983
7 3. What to Do with Your DNA Test Results in 2022 (part 3 of 3) Diahan Southard 1780
8 The Tree of Mankind Age Estimates Paul Maier 1638
9 A Sneak Peek at FamilyTreeDNA Coming Attractions FamilyTreeDNA (live) 1270 + live viewers


10 Extending Time Horizons with DNA Rob Spencer (live) 1037 + live viewers


All DNA-Focused Sessions

I know you’ll find LOTS of goodies here. Which ones are your favorites?

  Session Presenter YouTube Link Views
1 Estimating Relationships by Combining DNA from Multiple Siblings Amy Williams 201
2 Overview of Amy Williams 126
3 How do AncestryDNA® Communities help tell your story? | Ancestry® Ancestry 183


4 AncestryDNA® 201 Ancestry – Crista Cowan


5 Genealogy in a Minute: Increase Discoveries by Attaching AncestryDNA® Results to Family Tree Ancestry – Crista Cowan 369
6 AncestryDNA® 101: Beginner’s Guide to AncestryDNA® | Ancestry® Ancestry – Lisa Elzey 909
7 Hidden in Plain Sight: Free People of Color in Your Family Tree Cheri Daniels 179
8 Finding Relatives to Prevent Hereditary Cancer ConnectMyVariant – Dr. Brian Shirts 63
9 Piling on the chromosomes Debbie Kennett 465
10 Linking Families With Rare Genetic Condition Using Genealogy Deborah Neklason 43
11 1. What to Do with Your DNA Test Results in 2022 Diahan Southard 7428
12 1. What to Do with Your DNA Test Results in 2022 Diahan Southard 1780
13 2. What to Do with Your DNA Test Results in 2022 Diahan Southard 2448
14 DNA Testing For Family History Diahan Southard 84


15 Understanding Your DNA Ethnicity Estimate at 23andMe Diana Elder 66
16 Understanding Your Ethnicity Estimate at FamilyTreeDNA Diana Elder 73
17 DNA Monkey Wrenches DNA Monkey Wrenches 245
18 Advanced Features in your Ancestral Tree and Fan Chart DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 425
19 DNA Painter Introduction DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 1983
20 Getting Segment Data from 23andMe DNA Matches DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 134
21 Getting segment data from FamilyTreeDNA DNA matches DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 169
22 Getting segment data from Gedmatch DNA matches DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 163
23 Getting segment data from Geneanet DNA Matches DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 38
24 Getting segment data from MyHeritage DNA matches DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 160
25 Inferred Chromosome Mapping: Maximize your DNA Matches DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 688
26 Keeping track of your genetic family tree in a fan chart DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 806


27 Mapping a DNA Match in a Chromosome Map DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 423
28 Setting up an Ancestral Tree and Fan Chart and Exploring Tree Completeness DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 77
29 Using the Shared cM Project Tool to Evaluate DNA Matches DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 763
30 Your First Chromosome Map: Using your DNA Matches to Link Segments to Ancestors DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 688
31 DNA Painter for absolute beginners DNAPainter (Jonny Perl) 1196
32 Latest DNA Painter Releases DNAPainter (live) 2230 + live viewers
33 Unraveling your genealogy with DNA segment networks using AutoSegment from Genetic Affairs Evert-Jan Blom


34 Unraveling your genealogy with genetic networks using AutoCluster Evert-Jan Blom 201



35 Unraveling your genealogy with reconstructed trees using AutoTree & AutoKinship from Genetic Affairs Evert-Jan Blom 143
36 Research Like a Pro with DNA – A Genealogist’s Guide to Finding and Confirming Ancestors with DNA Family Locket Genealogists 183
37 How to Interpret a DNA Network Graph Family Locket Genealogists – Diana Elder 393
38 Find and Confirm Ancestors with DNA Evidence Family Locket Genealogists – Nicole Dyer 144
39 How To Make A DNA Network Graph Family Locket Genealogists – Nicole Dyer 201
40 Create A Family Tree With Your DNA Matches-Use Lucidchart To Create A Picture Worth A Thousand Words Family Locket Genealogists – Robin Wirthlin 270
41 Charting Companion 7 – DNA Edition Family Tree Maker 316


42 Family Finder Chromosome Browser: How to Use FamilyTreeDNA 750



43 FamilyTreeDNA: 22 Years of Breaking Down Brick Walls FamilyTreeDNA Not available
44 Review of Autosomal DNA, Y-DNA, & mtDNA FamilyTreeDNA  – Janine Cloud 77
45 Who Is FamilyTreeDNA? FamilyTreeDNA – Bennett Greenspan 2946
46 Part 1: How to Interpret Y-DNA Results, A Walk Through the Big Y FamilyTreeDNA – Casimir Roman 684


47 Part 2: How to Interpret Y-DNA Results, A Walk Through the Big Y FamilyTreeDNA – Casimir Roman


48 Big Y-700: A Brief Overview FamilyTreeDNA – Janine Cloud 96
49 Mitochondrial DNA & The Million Mito Project FamilyTreeDNA – Janine Cloud 179
50 Mitochondrial DNA: What is a Heteroplasmy FamilyTreeDNA – Janine Cloud 57
51 Y-DNA Big Y: A Lifetime Analysis FamilyTreeDNA – Janine Cloud 154
52 Y-DNA: How SNPs Are Added to the Y Haplotree FamilyTreeDNA – Janine Cloud 220
53 Family Finder myOrigins: Beginner’s Guide FamilyTreeDNA – Katy Rowe 88
54 Mitochondrial DNA: Matches Map & Results for mtDNA FamilyTreeDNA – Katy Rowe 190
55 Mitochondrial DNA: mtDNA Mutations Explained FamilyTreeDNA – Katy Rowe 340


56 Y-DNA: Haplotree and SNPs Page Overview FamilyTreeDNA – Katy Rowe 432
57 Y-DNA: Understanding the Y-STR Results Page FamilyTreeDNA – Katy Rowe 148
58 Y-DNA: What Is Genetic Distance? FamilyTreeDNA – Katy Rowe 149
59 DNA Tools: myOrigins 3.0 Explained, Part 1 FamilyTreeDNA – Paul Maier 74


60 DNA Tools: myOrigins 3.0 Explained, Part 2 FamilyTreeDNA – Paul Maier 50
61 DNA Tools: myOrigins 3.0 Explained, Part 3 FamilyTreeDNA – Paul Maier 36
62 African American Genealogy Research Tips FamilyTreeDNA – Sherman McRae 153


63 Connecting With My Ancestors Through Y-DNA FamilyTreeDNA – Sherman McRae 200
64 Join The Million Mito Project FamilyTreeDNA (Join link) link
65 View the World’s Largest mtDNA Haplotree FamilyTreeDNA (Link to mtDNA tree) n/a
66 View the World’s Largest Y Haplotree FamilyTreeDNA (Link to Y tree) link
67 A Sneak Peek at FamilyTreeDNA Coming Attractions FamilyTreeDNA (live) 1270 + live viewers


68 DNA Upload: How to Transfer Your Autosomal DNA Data FamilyTreeDNA -Katy Rowe 303
69 Family Finder myOrigins: How to Compare Origins With Your DNA Matches FamilyTreeDNA -Katy Rowe 145
70 Join Group Projects at FamilyTreeDNA FamilyTreeDNA link to learning center article) link


71 Product Demo – Unraveling your genealogy with reconstructed trees using AutoKinship GEDmatch 803
72 Towards a Genetic Genealogy Driven Irish Reference Genome Gerard Corcoran 155


73 Discovering Biological Origins in Chile With DNA: Simple Triangulation Gonzalo Alexis Luengo Orellana 40
74 Cousin Lynne: An Adoption Story International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies 111
75 Using DNA Testing to Uncover Native Ancestry Janine Cloud 205
76 1. Forensic Genetic Genealogy Jarrett Ross 58
77 Reunited and it Feels so Good Jennifer Mendelsohn 57


78 Genealogical Research and DNA Testing: The Perfect Companions Kimberly Brown 80
79 Finding a Jewish Sperm Donor Kitty Munson Cooper 164
80 Using DNA in South African Genealogy Linda Farrell 141
81 Using DNA Group Projects In Your Family History Research Mags Gaulden 165
82 2. The Expansion of Genealogy Into Forensics Marybeth Sciaretta 35


83 DNA Interest Groups That Keep ’em Coming Back McKell Keeney (live) 180 plus live viewers
84 Searching for Close Relatives with Your DNA Results Mckell Keeney (live) Not yet available
85 Top Ten Reasons To DNA Test For Family History Michelle Leonard 181
86 Top Tips For Identifying DNA Matches Michelle Leonard 306
87 Maximising Messages Michelle Patient 442
88 How to Filter and Sort Your DNA Matches MyHeritage 88
89 How to Get Started with Your DNA Matches MyHeritage 447


90 How to Track DNA Kits in MyHeritage` MyHeritage 28


91 How to Upload Your DNA Data to MyHeritage MyHeritage 82
92 How to Use Genetic Groups MyHeritage 62
My Story: Hope MyHeritage 133
93 MyHeritage Keynote, RootsTech 2022 MyHeritage Not available
94 Using Labels to Name Your DNA Match List MyHeritage 139


95 An Introduction to DNA on MyHeritage MyHeritage – Daniel Horowitz 60
96 Using MyHeritage’s Advanced DNA Tools to Shed Light on Your DNA Matches MyHeritage – Daniel Horowitz 110
97 You’ve Got DNA Matches! Now What? MyHeritage – Daniel Horowitz 260
98 My Story: Lizzie and Ayla MyHeritage – Elizbeth Shaltz 147
99 My Story: Fernando and Iwen MyHeritage – Fernando Hermansson 165


100 Using the Autocluster and the Chromosome Browser to Explore Your DNA Matches MyHeritage – Gal Zruhen 115


101 My Story : Kara Ashby Utah Wedding MyHeritage – Kara Ashby 200
102 When Harry Met Dotty – using DNA to break down brick walls Nick David Barratt 679
103 How to Add a DNA Match to Airtable Nicole Dyer 161
104 How to Download DNA Match Lists with DNAGedcom Client Nicole Dyer 124
105 How to Know if a Matching DNA Segment is Maternal or Paternal Nicole Dyer 161
106 DNA Basics Part I Centimorgans and Family Relationships Origins International, Inc. dba Origins Genealogy 372
107 DNA Basics Part II Clustering and Connecting Your DNA Matches Origins International, Inc. dba Origins Genealogy 333
108 DNA Basics Part III Charting Your DNA Matches to Get Answers Origins International, Inc. dba Origins Genealogy 270
109 2. Using Cluster Auto Painter Patricia Coleman 691
110 3. Using Online Irish Records Patricia Coleman 802
111 Exploring Different Types of Clusters Patricia Coleman 972


112 The Million Mito Project: Growing the Family Tree of Womankind Paul Maier 541
113 The Tree of Mankind Age Estimates Paul Maier 1638
114 Y-DNA and Mitochondrial DNA Testing Plans Paul Woodbury 168
115 Finding Biological Family Price Genealogy 137
116 What Y-DNA Testing Can Do for You Richard Hill 191
117 Extending Time Horizons with DNA Rob Spencer (live) 1037 + live viewers
118 DNA for Native American Ancestry by Roberta Estes Roberta Estes 212
119 1. Associating Autosomal DNA Segments With Ancestors Roberta Estes (live)


~9000: 1019 + 500 live viewers + 7,400+ Facebook
120 1. What Can I Do With Ancestral DNA Segments? Roberta Estes (live) 325 plus live viewers


121 Native American DNA – Ancient and Contemporary Maps Roberta Estes (live) 212 plus 483 live viewers


122 How Can DNA Enhance My Family History Research? Robin Wirthlin 102
123 How to Analyze a DNA Match Robin Wirthlin 367
124 1. Jewish Ethnicity & DNA: History, Migration, Genetics Schelly Talalay Dardashti 82


125 2. Jewish Ethnicity & DNA: History, Migration, Genetics Schelly Talalay Dardashti 72
126 Ask us about DNA Talking Family History (live) 96 plus live viewers
127 1. An Introduction to Visual Phasing Tanner Blair Tolman


128 2. An Introduction to Visual Phasing Tanner Blair Tolman 110


129 Common Problems When Doing Visual Phasing Tanner Blair Tolman 68
130 Cross Visual Phasing to Go Back Another Generation Tanner Blair Tolman 64
131 DNA Basics Tanner Blair Tolman 155
132 DNA Painter and Visual Phasing Tanner Blair Tolman 155
133 DNA Painter Part 2: Chromosome Mapping Tanner Blair Tolman 172
134 DNA Painter Part 3: The Inferred Segment Generator Tanner Blair Tolman


135 DNA Painter Part 4: The Distinct Segment Generator Tanner Blair Tolman 83
136 DNA Painter Part 5: Ancestral Trees Tanner Blair Tolman 73
137 Understanding Your DNA Ethnicity Results Tanner Blair Tolman 518
138 What’s New at GEDmatch Tim Janzen


139 What Does it Mean to Have Neanderthal Ancestry? Ugo Perego 190
140 Big Y-700 Your DNA Guide 143
141 Next Steps with Your DNA Your DNA Guide – Diahan Southard (live) Not yet available


142  Adventures of an Amateur Genetic Genealogist – Geoff Nelson     291 views


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FamilyTreeDNA Keynote, RootsTech Wrap + Special Show Pricing Still Available

Am I ever whipped. My two live Sessions that were actually a series of three classes each took place on Friday. Yes, that means I presented 6 sessions on Friday, complete with a couple of Zoom gremlins, of course. It’s the nature of the time we live in.

RootsTech tried something new that they’ve never done before. The Zoom class sessions were restricted to 500 attendees each. RootsTech was concerned about disappointed attendees when the room was full and they couldn’t get in, so we live-streamed three of my sessions to Facebook in addition to the 500 Zoom seats.

As of this evening, 6,800 of you have viewed the Facebook video, “Associating Autosomal DNA Segments With Ancestors.” I’m stunned, and touched. Thank you, thank you. Here’s the Facebook link, and here’s the RootsTech YouTube link.

My afternoon sessions, “What Can I DO With Ancestral DNA Segments?” can be viewed here at RootsTech or here on YouTube.

I must admit, I’m really, REALLY looking forward to being together again because RootsTech without the socializing and in-person Expo Hall just isn’t the same. Still, be sure to take a virtual walk through the Expo Hall, here. There’s lots of content in the vendors” booths and it will remain available for all of 2022, until the beginning of RootsTech 2023..

Between prep for my classes and presenting, I didn’t have a lot of time to watch other sessions, but I was able to catch the FamilyTreeDNA keynote and their 2022 Product Sneak Peek. Both were quite worthwhile.

However, I just realized that FamilyTreeDNA’s special show pricing promo codes are still valid for the next two days.

 Special Prices Are Still Available

Every single test that FamilyTreeDNA offers, including UPGRADES, is on sale right now by using special RootsTech promo codes. These prices are good for two more days, through March 7th, so if you want to purchase a Y DNA test, mitochondrial, or Family Finder autosomal test, or upgrade, click here to see the prices only available at RootsTech (and to you through my blog.) It’s not too late, but it will be soon.

To order, click here to sign on or place your order.

FamilyTreeDNA’s Keynote

FamilyTreeDNA’s keynote was titled FamilyTreeDNA: 22 Years of Breaking Down Brick Walls.

I really enjoyed this session, in part because I’ve been a part of the genetic genealogy revolution and evolution from the beginning. Not only that, but I know every single person they interviewed for this video, and have for years. If you’ve been participating in genetic genealogy for some time, you’ll know many of these people too. For a minute, it was almost as good as visiting in person.

I’m going to share a few highlights from the session, but I’m also going to include information NOT in the video. I was one of the early project administrators, so I’ve been along for the ride for just a few months shy of 22 years.

FamilyTreeDNA was the first US company to enter the DNA testing space, the first to offer Y DNA testing, and the only one of the early companies that remains viable today. FamilyTreeDNA was the result of Bennett Greenspan’s dream – but initially, he was only dreaming small. Just like any other genealogist – he was dreaming about breaking down a brick wall which he explains in the video.

I’m so VERY grateful that Bennett had that dream, and persisted, because it means that now millions of us can do the same – and will into the future.

Bennett tells this better than anyone else, along with his partner, Max Blankfeld.

“Some people were fascinated,” Bennett said.

Yep, that’s for sure! I certainly was.

“Among the first genetic genealogists in the world.”

“Frontier of the genetic genealogy revolution.”

Indeed, we were and still are. Today’s genetic genealogy industry wouldn’t even exist were it not for FamilyTreeDNA and their early testers.

I love Max Blankfeld’s story of their first office, and you will too.

This IS the quintessential story of entrepreneurship.

In 2004, when FamilyTreeDNA was only four years old, they hosted the very first annual international project administrator’s conference. At that time, it was believed that the only people that would be interested in learning at that level and would attend a DNA conference would be project administrators who were managing surname and regional projects. How times have changed! This week at RootsTech, we probably had more people viewing DNA sessions than people that had tested altogether in 2004. I purchased kit number 30,087 on December 28, 2004, and kit 50,000 a year later on New Year’s Eve right at midnight!

In April 2005, Nat Geo partnered with FamilyTreeDNA and founded the Genographic Project which was scheduled to last for 5 years. They were hoping to attract 100,000 people who would be willing to test their DNA to discover their roots – and along with that – our human roots. The Genographic Project would run for an incredible 15 years.

In 2005 when the second Project Administrator’s conference was held at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington DC, I don’t think any of us realized the historic nature of the moment we were participating in.

I remember walking from my hotel, ironically named “Helix,” to that iconic building. I had spent my childhood reading those yellow magazines at school and dreaming of far-away places. As an adult, I had been a life-long subscriber. Never, in my wildest dreams did I imagine ever visiting Nat Geo and walking the marble Explorer’s Hall with the portraits of the founders and early explorers hanging above and keeping a watchful eye on us. We would not disappoint them.

That 100,000 participation goal was quickly reached, within weeks, and surpassed, leading us all to walk the road towards the building that housed the Explorer’s Hall, Explorers’ in Residence, and so much more.

We were all explorers, pioneers, adventurers seeking to use the DNA from our ancestors in the past to identify who they were. Using futuristic technology tools like a mirror to look backward into the dim recesses of the past.

The archaeology being unearthed and studied was no longer at the ends of the earth but within our own bodies. The final frontier. Reaching out to explore meant reaching inward, and backward in time, using the most progressive technology of the day.

Most of the administrators in attendance, all volunteers, were on a first-name basis with each other and also with Max, Bennett, and the scientists.

Here, Bennett with a member of the science team from the University of Arizona describes future research goals. Every year FamilyTreeDNA has improved its products in numerous ways.

Today, that small startup business has its own ground-breaking state-of-the-art lab. More than 10,000 DNA projects are still administered by passionate volunteer administrators who focus on what they seek – such as the history of their surname or a specific haplogroup. Their world-class lab allows FamilyTreeDNA to focus on research and science in addition to DNA processing. The lab allows constant improvement so their three types of genetic genealogy products, Y, mitochondrial and autosomal DNA.

Those three types of tests combine to provide genealogical insights and solutions. The more the science improves, the more solutions can and will be found.

If you watch the video, you’ll see 6 people who have solved particularly difficult and thorny problems. We are all long-time project administrators, all participate on a daily basis in this field and community – and all have an undying love for both genealogy and genetic genealogy.

You’ll recognize most of these people, including yours truly.

  • I talk about my mother’s heritage, unveiled through mitochondrial DNA.
  • Rob Warthen speaks about receiving a random phone call from another genealogist as his introduction to genetic genealogy. Later, he purchased a DNA test for his girlfriend, an adoptee, for Christmas and sweetened the deal by offering to “go where you’re from” for vacation. He didn’t realize why she was moved to tears – that test revealed the first piece of information she had ever known about her history. DNA changed her and Rob’s life. He eventually identified her birth parents – and went on to found both and DNAGedcom.
  • Richard Hill was adopted and began his search in his 30s, but it would be DNA that ended his search. His moving story is told in his book, Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA.
  • Mags Gaulden, professional genealogist and founder of Grandma’s Genes and tells about her 91-year-old adopted client who had given up all hope of discovering her roots. Back in the 1950s, there was literally nothing in her client’s adoption file. She was reconciled to the fact that “I would never know who I was.” Mags simply could not accept that and 2 years later, Mags found her parents’ names.

  • Lara Diamond’s family was decimated during the holocaust. Lara’s family thought everyone in her grandfather’s family had been killed, but in 2013, autosomal DNA testing let her to her grandfather’s aunt who was not killed in the holocaust as everyone thought. The aunt and first cousin were living in Detroit. Lara went from almost no family to a family reunion, shown above. She says she finally met “people who look like me.”
  • Katherine Borges founded, the International Society of Genetic Genealogy in 2005, following the first genetic genealogy conference in late 2004 where she realized that the genealogy community desperately needed education – beginning with DNA terms. I remember her jokingly standing in the hallway saying that she understood three words, “a, and and the.” While that’s cute today, it was real at that time because DNA was a foreign language, technology, and concept to genealogy. In fact, for years we were banned from discussing the topic on RootsWeb. The consummate genetic genealogist, Katherine carries DNA kits in her purse, even to Scotland!

Bennett says that he’s excited about the future, for the next generation of molecular scientific achievements. It was Bennett that greenlit the Million Mito project. Bennett’s challenge as a genetic genealogy/business owner was to advance the science that led to products while making enough money to be able to continue advancing the science. It was a fine line, but Max and Bennett navigated those waters quite well.

Apparently, Max, Bennett, and the FamilyTreeDNA customers weren’t the only people who believe that.

In January 2021, myDNA acquired and merged with FamilyTreeDNA. Max and Bennett remain involved as board members.

Dr.Lior Rauchberger, CEO of myDNA which includes FamilyTreeDNA

Dr. Lior Rauchberger, the CEO of the merged enterprise believes in the power of genetics, including genetic genealogy, and is continuing to make investments in FamilyTreeDNA products – including new features. There have already been improvements in 2021 and in the presentation by Katy Rowe, the Product Manager for the FamilyTreeDNA products, she explains what is coming this year.

I hope you enjoyed this retrospective on the past 22 years and are looking forward to crossing new frontiers, and breaking down those brick walls, in the coming decades.

Sneak Peek at FamilyTreeDNA – New Features and Upcoming Releases

You can watch Katy Rowe’s Sneak Peek video about what’s coming, here.

Of course, while other companies need to split their focus between traditional genealogy research records and DNA, FamilyTreeDNA does not. Their only focus is genetics. They plan to make advances in every aspect of their products.

FamilyTreeDNA announced a new Help Center which you can access, here. I found lots of short videos and other helpful items. I had no idea it existed.

In 2021, customers began being able to order a combined Family Finder and myDNA test to provide insights into genealogy along with health and wellness

Wellness includes nutrition and fitness insights.

Existing customers either are or will be able to order the myDNA upgrade to their existing test. The ability to upgrade is being rolled out by groups. I haven’t had my turn yet, but when I do, I’ll test and let you know what I think. Trust me, I’m not terribly interested in how many squats I can do anymore, because I already know that number is zero, but I am very interested in nutrition and diet. I’d like to stay healthy enough to research my ancestors for a long time to come.

FamilyTreeDNA announced that over 72,000 men have taken the Big Y test which has resulted in the Y DNA tree of mankind surpassing 50,000 branches.

This is utterly amazing when you consider how far we’ve come since 2002. This also means that a very high number of men, paired with at least one other man, actually form a new branch on the Y haplotree.

The “age” of tester’s Y DNA haplogroups is now often within the 500-year range – clearly genealogical in nature. Furthermore, many leaf-tip haplogroups as defined by the Big Y SNPs are much closer than that and can differentiate between branches of a known family. The Big Y-700 is now the go-to test for Y DNA and genealogy.

Of course, all these new branches necessitate new maps and haplogroup information. These will be released shortly and will provide users with the ability to see the paths together, which is the view you see here, or track individual lines. The same is true for mitochondrial DNA as well.

Y DNA tree branch ages will be forthcoming soon too. I think this is the #1 most requested feature.

On the Mitochondrial DNA side of the house, the Million Mito project has led to a significant rewrite of the MitoTree. As you know, I’m a Million Mito team member.

Here’s Dr. Paul Maier’s branch, for example. You can see that in the current version of the Phylotree, there is one blue branch and lots of “child” branches beneath that. Of course, when we’re measuring the tree from “Eve,” the end tip leaf branches look small, but it’s there that our genealogy resides.

In the new version, yet to be released, there is much more granularity in the branches of U5a2b2a.

To put this another way, in today’s tree, haplogroup U5a2b2a is about 5,000 years old, but the newly defined branches bring the formation of Paul’s (new) haplogroup into the range of about 500 years. Similar in nature to the Y DNA tree and significantly more useful for genealogical purposes. If you have not taken a mitochondrial DNA full sequence test, please order one now. Maybe your DNA will help define a new branch on the tree plus reveal new information about your genealogy.

Stay tuned on this one. You know the Million Mito Project is near and dear to my heart.

2022 will also see much-needed improvements in the tree structure and user experience, as well as the matches pages.

There are a lot of exciting things on FamilyTreeDNA’s plate and I’m excited to see these new features and functions roll out over the next few months.

Just the Beginning

The three days of RootsTech 2022 may be over, but the content isn’t.

In fact, it’s just the beginning of being able to access valuable information at your convenience. The vendor booths will remain in the Expo Hall until RootsTech 2023, so for a full year, plus the individual instructor’s sessions will remain available for three years.

In a few days, after I take a break, I’ll publish a full list of DNA sessions, along with links for your convenience.

Thank You Shout Outs

I want to say a HUGE thank you to RootsTech for hosting the conference and making it free. I specifically want to express my gratitude to the many, many people working diligently behind the scenes during the last year, and frantically during the past three days.

Another huge thank you to the speakers and vendors whose efforts provide the content for the conference.

And special thanks to you for loving genealogy, taking your time to watch and learn, and for reading this blog.


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How to Find RootsTech 2022 Sessions + Other Info You Need to Know

Tomorrow, Thursday, March 3rd is the beginning of RootsTech 2022 which is completely free and entirely virtual this year.

You’ll find a bouquet of speakers from around the world providing sessions in many languages. An auto-translate feature is available through YouTube as well.

I hope you’ve already signed up for RootsTech. If not, here are instructions.

The opening presentation by Steve Rockwood will take place on the “Main Stage, here,” at 10 AM EST.

The Expo Hall opens at the same time, and class sessions begin as well.

The navigation bar is at the top of your page.

New Options

Like last year, RootsTech is offering 15-20 minute sessions, with a few sessions being offered as a series which means there are either two, or three, 15-20 minute sessions that are intended to be viewed serially.

Additionally, some presentations, including several of mine, are live this year. Fingers crossed that Zoom doesn’t act up and technology gremlins don’t attend RootsTech too.

Session Availability

Classes, presentations or sessions, however you refer to them, will be offered for three full days and will be available for some time after as well.

How long they will be available depends on the source of the class/session/presentation. If the presentation is given by a vendor, the vendor’s booths and content won’t be available for as long as sessions presented by individuals.

I don’t know how long keynotes will be available either.

I do know that the RootsTech team told the speakers that their intention is for the sessions to remain online for three years unless they are no longer relevant for some reason.

I’ll explain how to find different classes and create a playlist in a minute. There are a few workarounds that will be very beneficial and several places you’ll want to look to be sure you find everything – including the Expo Hall.

Expo Hall

The Expo Hall, meaning vendor booths, organizations, and supporters will also open at 10 AM EST on Thursday, March 3rd and they will remain open through Saturday, March 5th, closing at 7 PM EST. This is the time that the booth is “staffed.” You can of course stop by anytime. The content in each booth may be available for longer and was last year.

Don’t overlook vendor booths thinking you can only find items for sale there. That’s not the case at all. Many if not most vendors and organizations will also have presentations and other resources available for you there too. What better source to find out about that organization’s tools and how to use them successfully than from the horse’s mouth, or booth, in this case.

Speaker’s Bookstore

There will be a Speaker’s Bookstore this year, and no, you cannot purchase a speaker in the store. You can, however, purchase things the speaker might have to sell, like books or services or whatever is relevant to their specialty. The Speaker’s Bookstore will be found in the Expo Hall.

This is a great way to support the speakers, plus, don’t forget to “like” sessions you enjoy.


There are several ways to navigate the RootsTech website, and not all types of sessions are in the same place, so I want to be sure you know how to find everything and how to create a playlist for yourself. Furthermore, RootsTech is still trying to iron out some last-minute issues, so I’ve detailed ways I’ve found to deal with challenges.

Please also note that last year’s 2021 sessions are still available as well. Here’s a comprehensive list of 2021 DNA sessions that I created for your convenience, with links to the session recordings.

Live Sessions Calendar

To view all of the live sessions, including several roundtables, in one place, go to the Calendar, here.

You’ll notice that there are three days, and three groups of presentations, with 9 total sets of live sessions for you to choose from. Some sessions are scheduled “very late” in the US, but remember that late here is early someplace else and vice versa. RootsTech has a worldwide audience.

Be sure to review each group and make your selections.

In order to add a session to your playlist, click on the little “+” sign. It’s OK if you select multiple events for the same timeslot. You’ll just have to choose between them later, or watch some as recordings. All live sessions are being recorded. I don’t know how soon they will be available for viewing.

The PlayList can also serve as a “to do” list for after RootsTech as well. Just uncheck the ones you’ve already seen.

I like to watch live sessions because the speakers often provide time-sensitive information. You may also have the opportunity to ask chat questions of live presenters.

Session Search

Let’s say you’re interested in viewing presentations of a specific speaker.

Click to enlarge any image

Click on “Sessions,” and you’ll see the search box. Type the name of the speaker or any keyword into the search box. Be aware that the search/filter function is one of the aspects that the RootsTech team is still diligently working on. We’ll be discussing different ways to find things so you can be positive you’ve found what’s relevant for you.

Session Filters

On the left side, you see a list of filters. You can use these filters alone, in groups, or in conjunction with the search feature.

I suggest viewing each drop down and experimenting a bit, especially combinations.

I typed the word “dna” in the search box, selected the DNA category under Topic, plus selected only 2022 and I see a total of 151 DNA sessions. That’s a smorgasbord!!!!

Adding 2021 for both years shows a total of 278 sessions.

You could add language or other filters as well.

Series Filter

The “Series Episode” filter under “Content Type” isn’t showing all of the sessions that are a series of 2 or 3 contiguous sessions. My series sessions aren’t showing yet (as of this writing,) but some series sessions are. I hope this will be fixed soon.

Doggone Pesky Bugs

The searches and filters aren’t working consistently correctly right now. I only mention this because you may not see everything available for individual speakers, vendors or categories, so try various avenues, meaning search and filter in multiple ways to be sure you’re seeing everything relevant.

Creating a virtual event to serve over a million attendees is a daunting task, and the team really is working hard to resolve issues.

Add to the PlayList

When you add a session to your playlist, the “+” becomes an “X”.

I definitely want to hear what Paul Maier has to say about the Million Mito Project! You can read more about the Million Mito Project here and here.

Using Your PlayList

Your PlayList can be viewed at the top under the menu.

Your sessions will be listed in chronological order, generally with the day and time displayed, but not always. Hmmm…

I noticed that the first session showing, “The Million Mito Project” by Paul Maier doesn’t display a date or time, so I clicked to view the session. It is scheduled for 8 PM on March 2nd, before the conference actually opens, so be sure to check the session times. I’ll check back later today to be sure this is accurate.

I heartily recommend putting this session on your PlayList.

As a Million Mito team member, I might or might or might not be writing a short article soon on this very topic! 😊

Innovators Portal

Take a look at the Innovators Portal where you’ll find several “incognito sessions.”

I haven’t found all of these sessions listed elsewhere, and several are quite interesting.

This is a great place to see what vendors are doing.

Y DNA age estimates – OMG finally! I’m adding this one to my PlayList for sure!!!

You can also view your PlayList by clicking on the little “play” shortcut arrow.

My Sessions

I want to be sure you can find and view my sessions.

I have 4 sessions this year, two of which are actually a series of three sessions each. If you’re counting, yes, that means I’ve created a total of 8 sessions. If you’re thinking, “she’s nuts,” you’d be right. I’ll likely never do this again. It’s just so easy to get inspired, but then the weeks of work comes later.

If you’d like to view my autosomal DNA session from 2021, DNA Triangulation: What, Why and How, click here.

My 2021 session, Revealing Your Mother’s Ancestors and Where They Came From lives in the RootsTech DNA Learning Center, and you can watch it here.

I’m very pleased to offer four sessions in 2022 that I’ve listed in schedule order, below.

DNA for Native American Ancestryclick here to add to PlayList and view.

Thursday, March 3rd – 10 AM EST

I’ll be talking about the contents of DNA for Native American Genealogy, my new book. I wrote this book to help people identify their Native American ancestors, or put those rumors to rest.

There is a myriad of ways to approach this challenge, beginning with your family history, then using several genetic tools. The book covers methodology, geography, ethnicity results, Y DNA, mitochondrial DNA, autosomal DNA, your cousins as gold nuggets, third-party tools, identifying that elusive Native ancestor, and more.

This session is recorded, so you can watch it anytime after the conference opens.

Native American DNA – Ancient and Contemporary Mapsclick here to add to PlayList and view.

Thursday, March 3rd – 2 PM EST LIVE

One of my very favorite parts of writing the book was working with ancient DNA which informs our understanding of where specific groups of people lived, where they migrated – and where their descendants are found today.

Whether you’re interested in Native American heritage, history, anthropology or you’re a map junkie – join me because we are going to have a GREAT time.

Associating Autosomal DNA Segments With Ancestorsclick here to add to PlayList and view.

Friday, March 4th – 10 AM LIVE, Series

This session is a series of three 20-minute sessions that you can view by simply signing in to the first session. Each individual session will have a short Q&A following the session before moving on to the next one. This series will be recorded live so that the individual sessions can be viewed later, either together or separately.

I discuss why segments are important to genealogy, how to find ancestral segments at each major DNA testing vendor, plus GEDmatch, and identifying which ancestor(s) those segments descend from. You might be surprised to learn that I utilize Ancestry in this process too, even though they don’t have a chromosome browser.

After figuring out how to associate your DNA segments with specific ancestors, there’s so much more you can do! I hope you’ll join me for this next session too!

What Can I DO With Ancestral DNA Segments?click here to add to PlayList and view.

Friday March 4th – 2 PM LIVE, Series

This session is a series of three 20-minute sessions that you can view by simply signing in to the first session. Each session will have a short Q&A following the session before moving on to the next one. This live series will be recorded so that the individual sessions can be viewed later, either together or separately.

In this series, I review the more advanced tools at the DNA testing vendors, plus third-party tools like Genetic Affairs, DNAPainter and GEDmatch.

The great thing is that this painter’s pallet of tools has automated what we had been doing manually for several years – and every vendor and tool has something unique to offer genealogists.

Your Turn

Now it’s time to create your PlayList of sessions and make your RootsTech viewing plan. Hope to “see” you there!

Earlier RootsTech 2022 Articles


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I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to 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.

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AutoKinship at GEDmatch by Genetic Affairs

Genetic Affairs has created a new version of AutoKinship at GEDmatch. The new AutoKinship report adds new features, allows for more kits to be included in the analysis, and integrates multiple reports together:

  • AutoCluster – the autoclusters we all know and love
  • AutoSegment – clusters based on segments
  • AutoTree – reconstructed tree based on GEDCOM files of you and your matches, even if you don’t have a tree
  • AutoKinship – the original AutoKinship report provided genetic trees. The new AutoKinship report includes AutoTree, combines both, and adds features called AutoKinship Tree. (Trust me on this one – you’ll see in a minute!)
  • Matches
    • Common Ancestors with your ancestors
    • Common Ancestors between matches, even if they don’t match your tree
    • Common Locations

Maybe the best news is that some reports provide automatic triangulation because, at GEDmatch, it’s possible to not only see how you match multiple people, but also if those people match each other on that same segment. Of course, triangulation requires three-way matching in addition to the identification of common ancestors which is part of what AutoKinship provides, in multiple ways.

Let’s step through the included reports and features one at a time, using my clusters as an example.

Order Your Report

As a Tier 1 GEDmatch customer, sign in, select AutoKinship and order your report.

Note that there are now two clustering settings, the default setting and one that will provide more dense clusters. The last setting is the default setting for AutoKinship, since it has been shown to produce better AutoKinship results.

You can also select the number of kits to consider. Since this tool is free with a GEDmatch Tier 1 subscription, you can start small and rerun if you wish, as often as you wish.

Currently, a maximum of 500 matches can be included, but that will be increased to 1000 in the future. Your top 500 matches will be included that fall within the cM matching parameters specified.

I’m leaving this at the maximum 400 cM threshold, so every match below that is included. I generally leave this default threshold because otherwise my closest matches will be in a huge number of clusters which may cause processing issues.

For a special use case where you will want to increase the cM threshold, see the Special Use Cases section near the end of this article.

You can select a low number of matches, like 25 or 50 which is particularly useful if you want to examine the closest matches of a kit without a tree.

Keep in mind that there is currently a maximum processing time of 10 minutes allowed per report. This means that if you have large clusters, which are the last ones processed, you may not have AutoKinship results for those clusters.

This also means that if you select a high cM threshold and include all 500 allowable matches, you will receive the report but the AutoKinship results may not be complete.

When finished, your report will be delivered to you as a download link with an attached zipped file which you will need to save someplace where you can find it.


If you’re a PC user, you’ll need to unzip or extract the files before you can use the files. You’ll see the zipper on the file.

If you don’t extract the contents, you can click on the file to open which will display a list of the files, so it looks like the files are extracted, but they aren’t.

You can see that the file is still zipped.

You can click on the html file which will display the AutoCluster correctly too, but when you click on any other link within that file, you’ll receive this error message if the file is still zipped.

If this happens to you, it means the file is still zipped. Close the files you have open, right click on the yellow zipped file folder and “extract all.”

Then click on the HTML link again and everything should work.

Ok, on to the fun part – the tools.


I’ve written about most of these tools individually before, except for the new combinations of course. I’ve put all of the Genetic Affairs Tools, Instructions and Resources in one article that you can find here.

I recommend that you take a look to be sure you’re using each tool to its greatest advantage.


Click on the html file and watch your AutoCluster fly into place. I always, always love this part.

The first thing I noticed about my AutoCluster at GEDmatch is that it’s HUGE! I have a total of 144 clusters and that’s just amazing!

Information about the cluster file, including the number of matches, maximum and minimum cM used for the report, and minimum cluster size appears beneath your cluster chart.

22 people met the criteria but didn’t have other matches that did, so they are listed for my review, but not included in the cluster chart.

At first glance, the clusters look small, but don’t despair, they really aren’t.

My clusters only look small because the tool was VERY successful, and I have many matches in my clusters. The chart has to be scaled to be able to display on a computer monitor.

New Layout

Genetic Affairs has introduced a new layout for the various included tools.

Each section opens to provide a brief description of the tool and what is occurring. This new tool includes four previous tools plus a new one, AutoCluster Tree, as follows:


AutoCluster first organizes your DNA matches into shared match clusters that likely represent branches of your family. Everyone in a cluster will likely be on the same ancestral line, although the MRCA between any of the matches and between you and any match may vary. The generational level of the clusters may vary as well. One may be your paternal grandmother’s branch, another may be your paternal grandfather’s father’s branch.


AutoSegment organizes your matches based on triangulating segments. AutoSegment employs the positional information of segments (chromosome and start and stop position) to identify overlapping segments in order to link DNA matches. In addition, triangulated data is used to collaborate these links. Using the user defined minimum overlap of a DNA segment we perform a clustering of overlapping DNA segments to identify segment clusters. The overlap is calculated in centimorgans using human genetic recombination maps. Another aspect of overlapping segments is the fact that some regions of our genome seem to have more matches as compared to the other regions. These so-called pile-up areas can influence the clustering. The removal of known pile-up regions based on the paper of Li et al 2014 is optional and is not performed for this analysis However, a pileup report is provided that allows you to examine your genome for pileup regions.


By comparing the tree of the tested person and the trees from the members of a certain cluster, we can identify ancestors that are common amongst those trees. First, we collect the surnames that are present in the trees and create a network using the similarity between surnames. Next, we perform a clustering on this network to identify clusters of similar surnames. A similar clustering is performed based on a network using the first names of members of each surname cluster. Our last clustering uses the birth and death years of members of a cluster to find similar persons. As a consequence, initially large clusters (based on the surnames) are divided up into smaller clusters using the first name and birth/death year clustering.


AutoKinship automatically predicts family trees based on the amount of DNA your DNA matches share with you and each other. Note that AutoKinship does not require any known genealogical trees from your DNA matches. Instead, AutoKinship looks at the predicted relationships between your DNA matches, and calculates many different paths you could all be related to each other. The probabilities used by this AutoKinship analysis are based on simulated data for GEDmatch matches and are kindly provided by Brit Nicholson (methodology described here). Based on the shared cM data between shared matches, we create different trees based on the putative relationships. We then use the probabilities to test every scenario which are then ranked.

AutoKinship Tree

Predicted trees from the AutoTree analysis are based on genealogical trees shared by the DNA matches and, if available, shared by the tested person. The relationships between DNA matches based on their common ancestors as provided AutoTree are used to perform an AutoKinship analysis and are overlayed on the predicted AutoKinship tree.

AutoKinship Tree is New

AutoKinship Tree is the new feature that combines the features of both AutoTree and AutoKinship. You receive:

  • Common ancestors between you and your matches
  • Trees of people who don’t share your common ancestors but share ancestors with each other
  • Combined with relationship predictions and
  • A segment analysis

Of course, the relative success of the tree tools depends upon how many people have uploaded GEDCOM files.

Big hint, if you haven’t uploaded your family tree, do so now. If you are an adoptee or searching for a parent and don’t know who your ancestors are, AutoKinship Tree does its best without your tree information, and you will still benefit from the trees of others combined with predicted relationships based on DNA.

It’s easier to show you than to tell you, so let’s step through my results one section at a time.

I’m going to be using cluster 5 which has 32 members and cluster 136 which has 8 members. Ironically, cluster 136 is a much more useful cluster, with 8 good matches, than cluster 5 which includes 32 people.

Results of the AutoKinship Analyses

As you scroll down your results, you’ll see a grid beneath the Explanation area.

It’s easy to see which cluster received results for each tool. My cluster 5 has results in each category, along with surnames. (Notice that you can search for surnames which displays only the clusters that contain that surname.)

I can click on each icon to see what’s there waiting for me.

Additionally, you can click at the top on the blue middle “here” for an overview of all common ancestors. Who can resist that, right?

Click on the ancestor’s name or the tree link to view more information.

You can also view common locations too by clicking on the blue “here” at far right. A location, all by itself, is a HUGE hint.

Clicking on the tree link shows you the tree of the tester with ancestors at that location. I had several others from North Carolina, generally, and other locations specifically. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

Common Ancestor Clusters

Click on the first blue link to view all common ancestors.

Common Ancestor Clusters summarize all of the clusters by ancestor. In other words, if any of your matches have ancestors in common in their tree, they are listed here.

These clusters include NOT just the people who share ancestors in a tree with you, but who also share known ancestors with each other BUT NOT YOU. That may be incredibly important when you are trying to identify your ancestors – as in brick walls. Your ancestors may be their ancestors too, or your common segments might lead to your common ancestors if you complete their tree.

There are other important hints too.

In my case, above, Jacob Lentz is my known ancestor.

However, Sarah Barron is not my ancestor, nor is John Vincent Dodson. They are the descendants of my Dodson ancestor though. I recognized that surname and those people. In other instances, recognizing a common geography may be your clue for figuring out how you connect.

In the cluster column at left, you can see the cluster number in which these people are found.

Common Locations Table

Clicking on the second link provides a Common Location Table

Some locations are general, like a state, and others are town, county or even village names. Whatever people have included in their GEDCOM files that can be connected.

Looking at this first entry, I recognize some of the ancestral surnames of Karen’s ancestors. The fact that we are found in the same cluster and share DNA indicates a common ancestor someplace.

Check for this same person in additional locations, then, look at their tree.

Ok, back to the AutoKinship Analysis Table and Cluster 136.

Cluster 136

I’m going to use Cluster 136 as an example because this cluster has generated great reports using all of the tools, indicated by the icon under each column heading. Some clusters won’t have enough information for everything so the tools generate as much as possible.

Scrolling down to Cluster 136 in the AutoCluster Information report, just beneath the list of clusters, I can see my 8 matches in that cluster.

Of course, I can click on the links for specific information, or contact them via email. At the end of this article in the “Tell Me Everything” section, I’ll provide a way to retrieve as much information as possible about any one match. For now, let’s move to the AutoTree.

Cluster 136 AutoTree

Clicking on the icon under AutoTree shows me how two of the matches in this cluster are related to each other and myself.

Note that the centimorgan badges listed refer to the number of cM that I share with each of these people, not how much they share with each other.

Click on any of the people to see additional information.

When I click on J Lentz m F Moselman, a popup box shows me how this couple is related to me and my matches.

Of course, you can also view the Y DNA or mitochondrial DNA haplogroups if the testers have provided that information when they set up their GEDmatch profile information.

Just click on the little icons.

If the testers have not provided that information, you can always check at FamilyTreeDNA or 23andMe, if they have tested at either of those vendors, to view their haplogroup information.

Today, GEDmatch kit numbers are assigned randomly, but in the early days, before Genesis, the leading letter of A meant AncestryDNA, F or T for FamilyTreeDNA, M for 23andMe and H for MyHeritage. If the kit number is something else, perform a one-to-one or a one-to-many report which will display the source of their DNA file.

The small number, 136 in this case, beside the cM number indicates the cluster or clusters that these people are members of. Some people are members of multiple clusters

Let’s see what’s next.

Cluster 136 Common Ancestors

Clicking on the Ancestors icon provides a report that shows all of the Ancestor Clusters in cluster 136.

The difference between this ancestor chart and the larger chart is that this only shows ancestors for cluster 136, while the larger chart shows ancestors for the entire AutoCluster report.

Cluster 136 Locations

All of the locations shown are included in trees of people who cluster together in cluster 136. Of course, this does NOT mean that these locations are all relevant to cluster 136. However, finding my own tree listed might provide an important clue.

Using the location tool, I discover 5 separate location clusters. This location cluster includes me with each tester’s ancestors who are found in Montgomery County, Ohio.

The difference between this chart for cluster 136 only and the larger location chart is that every location in this chart is relevant for people who all cluster together meaning we all share some ancestral line.

Viewing the trees of other people in the cluster may suggest ancestors or locations that are essential for breaking down brick walls.

Cluster 136 AutoKinship

Clicking on the anchor in the AutoKinship column provides a genetically reconstructed tree based on how closely each of the people match me, and each other. Clearly, in order to be able to provide this prediction, information about how your matches also match each other, or don’t, is required.

Again, the cM amount shown is the cM match with me, not with each other. However, if you click on a match, a popup will be shown that shows the shared cM between that person and the other matches as well as the relationship prediction between them in this tree

So, Bill matches David with a total of 354.3 cM and they are positioned as first cousins once removed in this tree. The probability of the match being a 1C1R (first cousin once removed) is 64.9%, meaning of course that other relationships are possible.

Note that Bill and David ALSO share a segment with me in autosegment cluster 185, on chromosome 3.

It’s important to note that while 136 is the autocluster number, meaning that colored block on the report, WITHIN clusters, autosegment clusters are formed and numbered. 

Each autosegment cluster receives its own number and the numbers are for the entire report. You will have more autosegment clusters than autoclusters, because at least some of the colorful autoclusters will contain more than one segment cluster.

Remember, autoclusters are those colorful boxes of matches that fly into place. Autosegment clusters are the matching triangulated clusters on chromosomes and they are represented by the blue bars, shown below.

AutoCluster 136 contains 5 different autosegment clusters, but Bill is only included in one of those autosegment clusters.

You’ll notice that there are some people, like Robin at the bottom, who do match some other people in the cluster, but either not enough people, or not enough overlapping DNA to be included as an autocluster member.

The small colored chromosomes with numbers, boxed in red, indicate the chromosome on which this person matches me.

If you click on that chromosome icon, you’ll see a popup detailing everyone who matches me on that segment.

Note that in some cases a member of a segment cluster, like Robin, did not make it in the AutoCluster cluster. You can spot these occurrences by scrolling down and looking at the cluster column which will then be empty for that particular match.

Reconstructed AutoKinship Trees in Most Likely Order

Scrolling down the page, next we see that we have multiple possible trees to view. We are shown the most likely tree first.

Tree likelihood is constructed based on the combined probability of my matching cM to an individual plus their likely relationship to each other based on the amount of DNA they share with each other as well.

In my case, all of the first 8 trees are equally as likely to be accurate, based on autosomal genetic relationships only. The ninth tree is only very slightly less likely to be accurate.

The X chromosome is not utilized separately in this analysis, nor are Y or mitochondrial DNA haplogroups if provided.

DNA Relationship Matrix

Continuing to scroll down, we next see the DNA matrix that shows relationships for cluster 5 in a grid format. Click on “Download Relationship Matrix” to view in a spreadsheet.

Keep scrolling for the next view which is the Individual Segment Cluster Information

Individual Segment Cluster Information

Remember that we are still focused on only one cluster – in this case, cluster 136. Each cluster contains people who all match at least some subset of other people in the cluster. Some people will match each other and the tested person on the same chromosome segment, and some won’t. What we generally see within clusters are “subclusters” of people who match each other on different chromosomes and segments. Also, some matches from cluster 136 might match other people but those matches might not be a member of cluster 136.

In autocluster 136, I have 14 DNA segments that converge into 5 segment clusters with my matches. Here’s segment cluster 185 that consists of two people in addition to me. Note that for individuals to be included in these segment clusters at GEDmatch, they must triangulate with people in the same segment cluster.

From left to right, we see the following information:

  • AutoCluster number 136, shown below

  • Segment cluster 185. This is a segment cluster within autocluster 136.

  • Segment cluster 185 occurs on chromosome 3, between the designated start and stop locations.
  • The segment representation shows the overlapping portions of the two matches, to me. You can easily see that they overlap almost exactly with each other as well.
  • The SNP count is shown, followed by the name and cM count.

Cluster 136 AutoKinship Tree

The AutoKinship Tree column is different from the AutoKinship column in one fundamental way. The new AutoKinship Tree feature combines the genealogical AutoTree and the genetic AutoKinship output together in one report.

You can see that the “prior” genealogical tree information that one of my matches also descends from Jacob Lentz (and wife, if you click further) has now been included. The matches without trees have been reconstructed around the known genealogy based on how they match me and each other.

I was already aware of how I’m related to Bill, David, *C and *R, but I don’t know how I am related to these other people. Based on their kit identifier, I can go to the vendor where they tested and utilize tools there, and I can check to see if they have uploaded their DNA files elsewhere to discover additional records information or critical matches. Now at least I know where in the tree to search.

Cluster 136 AutoSegment

Clicking on AutoSegment provides you with segment information. Each cluster is painted on your chromosomes.

By hovering over the darkly colored segments, which are segment clusters, you can view who you match, although to view multiple matches, continue scrolling.

In the next section, you’ll see the two segment clusters contained wholly within cluster 136.

Following that is the same information for segment clusters partially linked to cluster 136, but not contained wholly within 136.

Bonus – Tell Me Everything – Individual Match Clusters

We’ve focused specifically on the AutoKinship tools, but if you’re interested in “everything” about one specific match, you can approach things from that perspective too. I often look at a cluster, then focus on individuals, beginning with those I can identify which focuses my search.

If you click on any person in your match list, you’ll receive a report focusing on that person in your autocluster.

Let’s use cousin Bill as an example. I know how he’s related to me.

You can choose to display your chosen cluster by:

  • Cluster
  • Number of shared matches
  • Shared cM with the tester
  • Name

I would suggest experimenting with all of the options and see which one displays information that is most useful to the question you’re trying to answer.

Beneath the cluster for Bill, you’ll see the relevant information about the cluster itself. Bill has cluster matches on two different chromosomes.

The AutoCluster Cluster member Information report shows you how much DNA each cluster member shares with the tested person, which is me, and with each other cluster member. It’s easy to see at a glance who Bill is most closely related to by the number of cMs shared.

Only one of Bill’s chromosomes, #3, is included in clusters, but this tells me immediately that this/these segments on chromosome 3 triangulate between me, Bill, and at least one other person.

Segments shown in orange (chromosome 22) match me, but are not included in a cluster.

Special Use Cases – Unknown People

For adoptees and people trying to figure out how they are related to closer relatives, especially those without a tree, this new combined AutoKinship tool is wonderful.

400 cM is the upper default limit when running the report, meaning that close family members will not be included because they would be included in many clusters. However, you can make a different selection. If you’re trying to determine how several closely related people intersect, select a high threshold to include everyone.

Select a lower number of matches, like 25 or 50.

In this example, ‘no limit” was selected as the upper total match threshold and 25 closest matches.

AutoKinship then constructs a genetic tree and tells you which trees are possible and most likely. If some people do have trees, that common ancestor information would be included as well.

Note that when matches occur over the 400 cM threshold, there will be too many common chromosome matches so the chromosome numbers are omitted. Just check the other reports.

This tool would have helped a great deal with a recent close match who didn’t know how they are related to my family.

You can see this methodology in action and judge its accuracy by reconstructing your own family, assuming some of your known family members have uploaded to GEDmatch. Try it out.

It’s a Lot!

I know there’s a lot here to absorb, but take your time and refer back to this article as needed.

This flexible new tool combines DNA matching, genealogy trees, genetic trees, locations, autoclusters, a chromosome browser, and triangulation. It took me a few passes and working with different clusters to understand and absorb the information that is being provided.

For people who don’t know who their parents or close relatives are, these tools are amazing. Not only can they determine who they are related to, and who is related to each other, but with the use of trees, they can view common ancestors which provides possible ancestors for them too.

For people painting their triangulated segments at DNAPainter, AutoKinship provides triangulation groups that can be automatically painted using the Cluster Auto Painter, here, plus helps to identify that common ancestor. You can read more about DNAPainter, here.

For people seeking to break down brick walls, AutoKinship Tree provides assistance by providing tree matching between your matches for common ancestors NOT IN YOUR TREE, but that ARE in theirs. Your brick walls are clearly not (yet) identified in your tree, although that’s our fervent hope, right?

Even if your matches’ trees don’t go far enough back, as a genealogist, you can extend those trees further to hopefully reveal a previously unknown common ancestor.

The Best Things You Can Do

Aside from DNA testing, the three best things you can do to help yourself, and your clusters are:

  • Upload your GEDCOM file, complete with locations, so you have readily available trees. Ask your matches to do so as well. Trees help you and others too.
  • Encourage people you match at Ancestry who provides no chromosome segment information or chromosome browser to upload a copy of their DNA files and tree.
  • Test your family members and cousins, and encourage them to upload their DNA and their trees. Offer to assist them. You can find step-by-step download/upload instructions here.

Have fun!


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You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

If you haven’t already subscribed (it’s free,) you can receive an email whenever I publish by clicking the “follow” button on the main blog page, here.

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Johann Peter Koehler (1724-1791), Innkeeper, Lawyer, Mayor of Ellerstadt – 52 Ancestors #351

My ancestor, Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler was born on April 30, 1772 in Ellerstadt, Germany to Johann Peter Koehler and Anna Elisabetha Scherer.

I wrote about the Kirsch and Koehler homes in neighboring Mutterstadt where Margaretha Elisabetha lived after her marriage, here.


The village of Ellerstadt is the heart of German wine country. The ideal location for an innkeeper. Johann Peter Koehler was just that, the innkeeper at The Lion, and an innkeeper with aspirations.

Ellerstadt was a small village in the 1700s when Peter Koehler lived there, although it had existed for hundreds of years, minus the years it was laid waste by invading armies. The first mention of Ellerstadt was in 783, nearly 1000 years before Peter took up residence.

Peter wasn’t born in Ellerstadt.


According to his death record, Peter was born on September 28, 1724. His parents were Johann Peter Theobald Koehler and Anna Elisabetha Ulzhofer and he was most likely born in the little village of Rehutte (Rehhutte), given that his father was the customs collector and innkeeper there. However, Rehutte was occupied by French troops from 1734-1745, so where the family might have lived during that time is open to speculation. Records from Rehutte would be very enlightening.

Peter spent his adult life in Ellerstadt.

We don’t know exactly when Peter took up residence there, but at age 22, on January 11, 1746, he married Charlotta Braun in Ellerstadt. He would have been a citizen by then, with a vocation sufficient to support a wife and family or he would not have been allowed to marry.


This map of Ellerstadt from the 1840s is probably very similar to life 50 years earlier, near the end of Peter’s time on earth. These are the streets that Peter would have walked, buttressed by the vineyards tended by the residents stretching long and narrow behind their homes.

Today, you can see the same roads embracing the beautiful “old,” village.

The lives of all of the villagers, their comings and goings, revolved around the center of the village where there was likely a communal well at one time and probably a marketplace too. You can easily see the Protestant church with the green roof near the old school on the corner.

There would have been a bakery nearby, the smell of freshly baked bread wafting down the street. Of course, every village had an inn that functioned as the local restaurant and pub, gathering place, and safe haven for travelers and their beasts.

The region’s fine wines would have been served at the tables there, and maybe some locally distilled fruit brandy too. Today there’s a generationally owned winery in Ellerstadt plus a few more in close proximity.

You have no idea how much I want to walk these streets.

Von Immanuel Giel – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0,

The old white school, shown above on the corner, was likely something else before it served as a school. We know that during Peter’s day that the schoolmaster taught at the Lutheran church.

Kirchenstrasse runs alongside the church, north to south, and Ratstrasse, or city hall street, intersects in the center of town. The city hall would have been located there, as would the local inn. Peter would have lived and worked someplace in this long block. I’d bet that in the city’s dusty records, there is something that would tell us where the old Lion or Red Lion Inn was located, or where Peter lived, which might well have been the same building. His wife may well have cooked for the family and their guests.

Peter, his wives and some of his children are assuredly buried in the cemetery behind the church in long-lost graves. Many of his children married and moved away, to neighboring villages and eventually, some of his descendants sailed for America.

Ellerstadt History

Like the rest of the Palatinate, Ellerstadt was entirely abandoned during the Thirty Years War which began in 1618. While the war officially ended in 1648, families had either died or settled elsewhere and there was literally nothing to return to. Everythign was burned and gone, but some tried to return to their ancestral villages.

Repeated incursions lasted throughout the 1600s, with French troops once again ravaging the Palatinate from 1689-1697. Refugees fled across the Rhine, with some eventually returning after the French discovered that they needed people to work so they had someone to tax.

In 1707, Ellerstadt belonged to Casimir Kolb von Wartenberg and was part of the Imperial county that was of an Imperially immediate nature. An imperial immediate nature was a privileged political status rooted in feudal law under the Holy Roman Empire granting the holder a form of sovereignty, allowing them to extract taxes and tolls, among other forms of control. Often, they granted benefits to villagers such as allowing them to own some time of business, such as an inn. Of course, nothing was free – they would have selected a man they could depend on to pay their taxes.

We know that Peter was living in Ellerstadt by 1746 when he married and established himself as a citizen and innkeeper. A decade later in 1756 catastrophic weather conditions including hail destroyed the entire harvest.

Many people probably went hungry that year. Peter, then 32 years old and married for a decade had 6 children, including a babe in arms. What did they do? How did they survive? We’ll never know.

During almost the entire time that Peter lived in Ellerstadt, the village was owned by the Wartenbergs. However, in 1789, the impoverished Wartenbergs sold their rights to the Counts of Sickingen, another noble family who subsequently lost Ellerstadt, along with all of the Palatinate west of the Rhine to the French in 1794.

We don’t know exactly how many people lived in the village of Ellerstadt in the 1700s, but we do know that there were 24-30 families by 1548 and by 1614, that number had increased to 60-70. Of course, that was before the war.

The families who didn’t die left no later than 1620, and it’s unknown if any of the original families tried to return after 1650. A full generation had passed.

Regardless, Peter Koehler’s family was not from Ellerstadt, but Ellerstadt was probably a “young” village once again in the early and mid-1700s, in the process of rebuilding and reestablishing itself. If it was without an innkeeper, a newly established inn would have been quite welcome. Food, wine and travelers. More people and goods to tax, including luxuries like tea, coffee and chocolate.

By 1722, the population had not extended beyond the city center; Ratsstausse, Kirchenstrausse with Fliesstrasse bordering the south side of the village.

The 1840s map shows about 110 or so residences, but many are in the “newer” outskirts of town, outside the village center where the church would have been rebuilt. Perhaps there were 50 families when Peter lived in Ellerstadt, eventually serving as Mayor.

Peter died in 1791, before the French Revolution occurred in 1793 and 1794, once again ravaging Ellerstadt. Soldiers plundered homes and forced the inhabitants into labor if they did not flee across the Rhine River.

Peter’s home and the inn would have either been destroyed or at least repurposed – although soldiers like everyone else had to eat and likely enjoyed a drink. While Peter was gone, perhaps his inn survived due to its usefulness.

Reassembling Peter’s Life

Most of what we know about Peter came from the church records which of course reflect none of the turmoil taking place, at least not directly. Clearly, the family attended services regularly. All of Peter’s children were baptized in the church as was expected.

The church was the central, cohesive glue of the village, with the protestant religion a way of life in German Palatinate villages during this time. There was no Catholic church. The Thirty Years’ War had been about the differences between Catholicism and the Protestant faith and the protestants won.

Peter’s transcribed marriage record tells us that on the 11th of January, 1746, Johann Peter Koehler, legitimate son of the customs collector Mister Kohler was married to the local widow Braun’s daughter Charlotta, after 3 public announcements during open church services.

Charlotta died 16 years later, on March 6, 1762, in Ellerstadt.

Charlotta and Peter had 8 children between November of 1746 and March of 1761. There are two gaps of 4 years, suggesting that two children died, one in 1751 and one in 1759. Others might have died after they were christened during that timeframe.

Peter remarried shortly, just 3 months later, on June 29th, 1762 to Anna Elisabetha Scherer, 18 years his junior and the daughter of the innkeeper of the “Lion Inn” in Heuchelheim, about 20 miles away. Peter’s oldest child was only 5 years younger than his new wife who immediately acquired a family of 8 children, minus any who had died. The oldest was 16 and the youngest, an infant who would never have known any other mother other than Elisabetha.

The translation of their marriage record, courtesy of cousin Tom says:

The local innkeeper at the Löwenwirth (Lion’s Inn), Peter KÖHLER, widower with Anna Elisabetha SCHER(IN), the late Philipp SCHER(N) from Heuchelheim, surviving legitimate daughter were married after the reading of the three proclamation of the banns.

Their first child arrived in November of 1763.

In his daughter Christina Ottilia’s marriage record on August 4, 1763, Peter is referenced as “citizen and host of the Red Lion in Ellerstadt, of the reformed religion.”

In 1765, their child Anna Margaretha was christened with Peter’s brother, Tobias Kohler, citizen and resident of Zeiskem (Zeiskam) and his wife, Anna Margaretha, serving as godparents. Zeiskam is about 33 kilometers away, so not a trivial journey.

Until 1776, Peter was consistently referred to as the Innkeeper at the Lion’s Inn, but in September 1776 when a new daughter was christened, he was referred to as anwalt,” or “lawyer here”, meaning the person who checked the contracts for the village. Probably quite different than a lawyer today, but still a position of responsibility and one that required the trust of the residents. He was 52 years old.

Elisabetha had 11 children between 1763 and January 1784. She died on July 21, 1784, once again leaving Peter, then 60, a widower with young children ranging in age from 6 months to 19 years, plus his children from his first marriage who were all adults by that time.

Three of Peter and Elisabetha’s children had died, including young Johann Martin Koehler on January 22, 1784, just a few months before his mother. I wonder if something like typhoid, flu or maybe dysentery was affecting people in the village during that time.

After Elisabetha’s death, Peter waited nearly a year before remarrying on July 4, 1785 to the widow Anna Margaretha Volker of Assenheim, a neighbor village.

Elke translated the record as:

The 4th of July, Mister Peter Kohler, former mayor and widower and Anna Margarethe nee Volckerin, remaining widow of the former Johannes tock, former citizen and court cognant in Assenheim.

Former mayor suggests that in 1785, Peter was no longer mayor, but that may have changed.

Four years later, in 1789, when his son, Philip Jacob Kohler married, Peter was referenced once again as the village mayor.

Then Peter died, his demise recorded in the church record.

On August 11, 1791, Herr Johann Peter Kohler, village mayor and lowenwirth, Innkeeper at The Lion here, died. Age 67 years, less 1 month 2 weeks and 4 days.

This tells us that Peter was born on September 28, 1724, and that he was still both the mayor and an innkeeper at his death. The title Herr was used as a sign of respect.

Peter’s daughter Anna Elisabetha’s marriage record on August 18, 1801 says:

Anna Elisabetha Kohlerin of Ellerstadt, 21 years old born in Fussgoenheim the ? of Oct residing in Ellerstadt, daughter of the former Peter Koehler, former citizen and mayor in Ellerstadt and his wife anna Elisabetha nee Schererin.

She was born October 3, 1781.

Peter’s daughter’s August 13, 1793 marriage record says:

Philipp Jacob Rhodt, citizen in Freudenheim a widower to Maria Eva Kohlerin unmarried daughter of the former Peter Kohler, former mayor, from here and Anna Elisabetha, nee Scherin, both are no more.

In 1823, Peter’s daughter died, providing a final confirmation:

On the 21st of April 1823 died and on the 23rd was buried, Anna Margaretha Kirsch, widow of the late Andreas Kirsch, aged 49 years 11 months 22 days. Her parents: Peter Kohler from Ellerstadt and Anna Elisabetha Scherr.

The Lion Inn

It has been suggested that perhaps the Lion Inn has something to do with the Hallberg crest or coat of arms. It’s worth noting that the inn in Heuchelheim was also known as “The Lion.”

Von Immanuel Giel – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0,

This Hallberg crest is affixed to the pulpit in the Hallberg castle church in neighboring Fussgoenheim, less than 2 miles away. There are two lions on the crest, and one way to obtain the rights to open a local inn would be to sell Hallberg wine and name the establishment after the local noble’s crest animal.

A Confusing DNA Puzzle

Several years ago, my Koehler cousin was gracious enough to take an autosomal and Y DNA test to represent our Koehler line.

The results are very interesting.

The Renner family is also present in this part of Germany, primarily in Mutterstadt, but also found in neighboring Fussgoenheim, Schauernheim, Dannstadt and Assenheim. Perhaps even more interesting is that one Jacob Wilhelm Renner married Peter Koehler’s sister. The couple stood as godparents for one of Peter’s children.

The Renner and Koehler families were both in this part of Germany since before written records. It’s certainly possible that the Renner and Koehler families had a common paternal ancestor, before the advent of surnames. Celts and Germanic tribes settled along the Rhine River in prehistory, and Ceasar crossed the Rhine in 55 and 53 BCE. The Rhine River has always been Europe’s water superhighway, serving as both passageways and boundaries – and always worth fighting for.

In other words, families existed, as did armies, in the Palatinate long before surnames.

My Koehler cousin descends from Peter Koehler and Elisabetha through their son, Philip Jacob Koehler who married Maria Catharina Merck.

Today, my Koehler cousin’s Y DNA matches several Renner and Rennard men. So far, no Koehler surname matches on Y DNA, but, there’s more…

  • Autosomal matching shows a match to another descendant of Johann Peter Koehler and Anna Elisabetha Scherer through Philip Jacob Koehler and Maria Catharina Merck, through their daughter. Therefore, the path back to at least Philip Jacob Koehler seems to be clear and unbroken. If the Y DNA Koehler line of Ellerstadt had been broken between Philip Jacob Koehler and my Koehler cousin, he would NOT match anyone else descended from that couple autosomally, and he does.
  • In other words, if Peter Koehler and Elisabetha Scherer’s son, Philip Jacob Koehler had been their son, but his son was a Renner male, then the Y and autosomal link would both have been broken, so my cousin today could not match a descendant of either Philip Jacob Koehler or Peter Koehler.

There’s additional information to consider.

  • My cousin also matches another Koehler male on the Family Finder test, but that person has not taken the Y DNA test and hasn’t provided genealogical information.
  • Another interesting tidbit – we find another Koehler line autosomal match and a Renner Y DNA match both in Frederick County, Maryland in the 1700s. Is this important? I don’t know.
  • One of the Renner Y DNA test matches shows their ancestor, Johann Peter Renner in Oberschleichach, Hassberge, Bavaria and his father Adam Renner born in 1739 in Neuschleichach, Haßberge, Bavaria, Germany. His father, Johann Adam Renner was born in Oberschleichach in 1689. Given the Y DNA direct connection, this link between Koehler and Renner seems to reach back beyond the birth of Peter Koehler in 1724 in the Palatinate. This connection, 250 kilometers east of Ellerstadt and far from the Palatinate looks like it reaches back to or before the Thirty Years’ War.

I can’t help but think back to the devastation of the Thirty Years War in the early 1600s west of the Rhine in the Palatinate, and how many children were orphaned. Fighting continued throughout the 1600s and the 1700s weren’t exactly stable either. The French Revolution in the 1790s caused massive upheaval as well. Was an orphan child taken in and raised by another family? Did a Renner family take a Koehler child, or vice versa?

I would LOVE to test a Renner male from the Renner line that lived in Mutterstadt or nearby. I descend from Johann Peter Renner (1679-1746) there was well. If you’re a Renner male that fits this description, I have a DNA testing scholarship for you!

Were the paternal ancestors of both of these lines the same man prior to the adoption of surnames? Had their ancestors lived in this region since prehistory? The answer to this question is never going to be found in the records – and only shadows and hints exist in the Y and autosomal DNA of descendants.

Perhaps in time, enough other people will test both Y and autosomal DNA that we can refine our knowledge.

Until then, we can only piece tidbits together about how Johann Peter Koehler was related to the Renner family, and when.


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DNA Shows Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Philips Are My Relatives, But Are They My Ancestors? – 52 Ancestors #350

One of the requests by several people for 2022 article topics revolved in some way around solving challenges and showing my work.

In this case, I’m going to show both my work and the work of a newly-discovered cousin, Greg Simkins.

Let’s start by reminding you of something I said last week in Darcus Johnson (c1750-c1835) Chain Carrier – Say What??.

Darcus is reported in many trees to be the daughter of Peter Johnson (Johnston, Johnstone) and his wife Mary Polly Phillips. Peter reportedly lived in Pennsylvania and died in Allegheny County, PA. However, I am FAR from convinced that this couple was Darcus’s parents.

The distance from Shenandoah County, VA to Allegheny Co., PA is prohibitive for courting.

The Shenandoah County records need to be thoroughly researched with various Johnson families reconstructed. I’m hoping that perhaps someone has already done that and a Johnson family was living not terribly far from Jacob Dobkins father, John Dobkins. That would be the place to start.

Greg, Peter Johnson’s descendant through son James reached out to me.

Hi Roberta, I read your essay today on Dorcas Johnson. I wanted to write to you because I am a descendant of Dorcas’s brother James and have DNA matches to support our connection.

Clearly, I was very interested, but I learned long ago not to get too excited.

Then, Greg kindly shared his tree and DNA results with me. He was also generous enough to allow me to incorporate his information into this article. So yes, this article is possible entirely thanks to Greg.

I was guardedly excited about Greg’s communication, but I wasn’t prepared for the HUGE shock about to follow!


Greg has done his homework and stayed after school.

First, he tracked the descendants of Peter through all of his children, to present, where possible, and added them into his trees at the genealogy vendors. The vendors can do much better work for you with as much ammunition as you can provide.

Second, he has doggedly tracked matches at MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, Ancestry and GEDmatch that descend through Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips’s children. By doggedly, I mean he has spent hundreds to thousands of hours by his estimation – and based on what I see, I would certainly agree. In doing so, he pushed his own line back from his great-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Johnson, three generations to Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips – and proved its accuracy using DNA.

Altogether, Greg has identified almost 250 matches that descend from Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips, and mapped those segments across his chromosomes.

Greg made notes for each match by entering the number of matching cMs into their profile names as a suffix in his tree. For example, “David Johnson 10cM” instead of “David Johnson Jr.” or Sr.  That way, it’s easy to quickly see who is a match and by how much. Brilliant! I’m adopting that strategy. It won’t affect what other people see, because no living people are shown in trees.

Of course, DNA is on top of traditional genealogical research that we are all familiar with that connects people via deeds, wills, and other records.

Additionally, Greg records research information for individuals as a word document or pdf file and attaches them as documents to the person’s profile in his tree. His tree is searchable and shareable, so this means those resources are available to other people too. We want other researchers to find us and our records for EXACTLY this reason.

One thing to note is that if you are using Ancestry and use the Notes function on profiles, the notes don’t show to people with whom you share your tree, but links, sources and attached documents do.

Greg has included both “Other Sources” and “Web Links” below.

Click images to enlarge

For example, if I click on Greg’s link to Historic Pittsburg, I see the land grant location for Peter Johnson. Wow, this was unexpected.

Ok, I love maps and I’m hooked. Notice the names of the neighbors too. You’ll see Applegate again. Also, note that Thomas Applegate sold his patent to Richard Johnson. Remember the FAN club – friends and neighbors.

Ok, back to DNA for now.

The Children

Ancestors with large families are the best for finding present-day DNA matches. Of course, that’s because there are more candidates. More descendants and that means more people who might test someplace. This is also why you want to be sure to have your DNA in all 4 major DNA vendors, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, Ancestry, and 23andMe, plus GEDmatch.

This is a portion of Greg’s tree that includes the children of Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips. Note that two Johnson females married Dobkins men. I’ve always suspected that Margaret Johnson and Dorcas Johnson were sisters, but unless we could use mitochondrial DNA, or figure out who the parents of either Peter or Mary are, there’s no good way to prove it.

We’re gathering some very valuable evidence.

At Ancestry, Greg has 85 matches on his ThruLines for Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips, respectively.

  • Of course, Greg has the most matches for his own line through Peter’s son James Johnson (1752-1826) who married Elizabeth Lindsay and died in Lawrence County, IL: 35 matches.
  • Next is Margaret Johnson (1780-1833) who married Evan Dobkins in Dunmore County, VA, brother of my ancestor, Jacob Dobkins. She probably died in Cocke County, TN: 25 matches. Dorcas named one of her children Margaret and Margaret may have named one of her children Dorcas.
  • Solomon Johnson (1765-1843) married Frances Warne and stayed in Allegheny County, PA: 8 matches. Notice one of Peter’s neighbors was a Warner family. Dorcas named one of her children Solomon, a fairly unusual name.
  • Mary Johnson (1770-1833) married Garrett Wall Applegate and died in Harrison County, IN: 7 matches. The Applegates were Peter Johnson’s neighbors and Garrett served in the Revolutionary War in the 8th VA Regiment. Clearly, some of these settlers came from or spent time in Virginia.
  • Dorcas Johnson (c1750-c1835) married Jacob Dobkins in Dunmore County, VA and died in Claiborne County, TN: 5 matches.
  • Peter Johnson (1753-1840) married Eleanor “Nellie” Peter and died in Jefferson County, KY: 4 matches.
  • Richard D. Johnson (1752-1818) married Hannah Dungan and Elizabeth Nash: 2 matches.

Unfortunately, since most of those matches are between 7 and 20 cM, and Ancestry does not display shared matches under 20 cM, we can’t use Ancestry’s comparison tool to see if these people also match each other. That’s VERY unfortunate and extremely frustrating.

Greg matches more people from this line at MyHeritage, GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA, and thankfully, those vendors all three provide segment information AND shared match information.

Cousins Are Critical

While Greg, unfortunately, does not match me, he does match several of my cousins whose tests I manage.

Two of those cousins both descend from Darcus Johnson through her daughter Jenny Dobkins, through her daughter Elizabeth Campbell, through her daughter Rutha Dodson, through her sons John Y. Estes and Lazarus Estes, respectively.

Another descends through Jenny Dobkins son, William Newton Campbell for another 5 generations. These individuals all match on a 17 cM segment of Chromosome 20.

Other known cousins match Greg on different chromosomes.

Looking at their shared matches at FamilyTreeDNA, we find more Dobkins, Dodson and Campbell cousins, some that were previously unknown to me. One of those cousins also descends through William Newton Campbell’s daughter for another 4 generations and matches on the same segment of chromosome 20.


Emails have been flying back and forth between me and Greg, each one with some piece of information that one of us has found that we want to be sure the other has too. Having research buddies is wonderful!

Then, Greg sent a screenshot of a portion of his chromosome 20 from DNAPainter that includes the DNA of the cousins mentioned above. I didn’t realize Greg was using DNAPainter. It’s an understatement to say I’m thrilled because DNAPainter does the cross-vendor triangulation work automatically for you.

Just look at all of those matches that carry this Johnson/Phillips segment of chromosome 20. Holy chimloda.

Greg also sent his DNAPainter sharing link, and it turns out that this is only a partial list, with one of my cousins highlighted, dead center in the list of Peter Johnson’s and Mary Polly Phillip’s descendants. Greg has even more not shown.

Trying Not to Jump to Conclusions

I’m trying so hard NOT to jump to conclusions, but this is just SOOOO EXCITING!

Little doubt remains that indeed, Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips are the parents of Dorcas Johnson who married Jacob Dobkins and also of Margaret Johnson who married Evan Dobkins. I’ve eliminated the possibility of other common ancestors, as much as possible, and verified that the descent is through multiple children. This particular segment on chromosome 20 reaches across multiple children’s lines.

I say little doubt remains, because some doubt does remain. It’s possible that perhaps Dorcas and her sister weren’t actually daughters of Peter Johnson, but maybe children of his brother? Peter was reported to have a brother James, a sheriff in Cumberland County, PA. but again, we lack proof. If Dorcas is Peter Johnson’s niece, her descendants would still be expected to match some of the descendants of Peter and his wife.

Also complicating matters is the fact that Greg also has a Campbell brick wall with a James Campbell born about 1790 who lived in Fayette County, PA, in the far northwest corner of the state. Therefore, DNA matches through Dorcas Johnson Dobkins’s daughters Jenny and Elizabeth who married Campbell brothers need to be verified through her children’s lines that do NOT descend through her daughters who married Campbell men.

Nagging Questions

I know, I’m being a spoilsport, but I still have questions that need answers.

For example, I still need to account for how the Johnson girls managed to get to Shenandoah County, VA (Dunmore County at that time) to meet the Dobkins boys, spend enough time there to court, and then marry Evan and Jacob nine months apart in 1775. Surely they were living there. Young women simply did not travel, especially not great distances, and marriages occurred in the bride’s home county. Yet, they married in Shenandoah County, VA, not in PA.

What About the Records?

We are by no means done. In fact, I’ve just begun. I have some catching up to do. Greg has focused on Peter Johnson and Mary Polly Phillips in Pennsylvania. I need to focus on Virginia.

Of course, the next challenge is actual records.

What exists and what doesn’t? FamilySearch provides a list for Dunmore County, here, and Shenandoah, here.

Was Peter Johnson ever in Dunmore County that became Shenandoah County, VA, and if so when and where? If not, how the heck did his two daughters marry the Dobkins boys in 1775? Was there another Johnson man in Dunmore during that time? Was it James?

Where was Peter Johnson in 1775 when Dorcas and Margaret were marrying? Can we positively account for him in Pennsylvania or elsewhere?

Some information has been published about Peter Johnson, but those critical years are unaccounted for.

It appears that the Virginia Archives has a copy of the 1774-1776 rent rolls for Dunmore County, but they aren’t online. That’s the best place to start. Fingers crossed for one Peter Johnson living right beside John Dobkins, Jacob’s father. Now THAT would convince me.

Stay tuned!

Note – If you’d like to view Greg’s tree at Ancestry, its name is “MyHeritage Tree Simkins” and you can find it by searching for Maude Gertrude Wilson born in 1876 in Logan County, Illinois, died January 27, 1950 in Ramsey County, Minnesota, and married Harry A. Simkins. Elizabeth Ann Johnson (1830-1874) is Maude’s grandmother.


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Genealogy Research

Darcus Johnson (c1750–c1835), Chain Carrier – Say What??- 52 Ancestors #349

The People’s History of Claiborne County, Tennessee tells us that, “Darcus Johnson was the daughter of Peter Johnson and Mary “Polly” Phillips, was born in 1750 in the area of Augusta County, Virginia that became Dunmore County, then Shenandoah. Her father might have come from Pennsylvania. She died in 1831 in Claiborne County, TN.”

This may or may not be entirely accurate.

Bill Nevils, long-time family history researcher provided a great deal of information about his Claiborne County ancestors, some of which, fortunately, are mine too. Unfortunately, he’s gone now and I can’t ask him about his sources. I don’t know what data might be available now that was not available to him at that time.

First Things First

There is some question about the spelling of Dorcas, Dorcus or Darcus’s first name. It’s listed as Darcus in the Shenandoah County (transcribed) Marriage records. In the 1852 Greene County, TN will of Andrew Dobkins (wife Joanna), Darcus’s probable son, he listed a daughter named Darcas in his will.

I’ve also seen her name spelled Dorcas, several times, but never in an original document. That’s one of the problems, there is only one known contemporaneous document that is positively her and lists her name – her marriage. And even that misspells Jacob’s surname. So who knows.

I’m spelling her name in all three ways because I don’t know which one to choose. That way, no matter who is googling in the future, they’ll find this article😊.

Darcus married Jacob Dobkins, who I wrote about here, here and here.

The Shenandoah Co., VA marriage records don’t give a date for the marriage of Jacob Dobkins (spelled Dobbins) and Darcus Johnson, but they appear to have been transcribed in entry order. The marriage above theirs took place on September 6, 1775, and the following date, 7 couples later is October 2, 1775. I can’t help but wonder if “no date” means “ditto”, but regardless, they were married sometime between those two dates.

Jacob and Darcus were actually married in Dunmore County that became and was renamed on February 1, 1778, as Shenando, now Shenandoah. The Dunmore records have been incorporated into the Shenandoah County records since Dunmore wasn’t split, just renamed.


Darcus is reported in many trees to be the daughter of Peter Johnson (Johnston, Johnstone) and his wife Mary Polly Phillips. Peter reportedly lived in Pennsylvania and died in Allegheny County, PA. However, I am FAR from convinced that this couple was Darcus’s parents.

The distance from Shenandoah County, VA to Allegheny Co., PA is prohibitive for courting.

The Shenandoah County records need to be thoroughly researched with various Johnson families reconstructed. I’m hoping that perhaps someone has already done that and a Johnson family was living not terribly far from Jacob Dobkins father, John Dobkins. That would be the place to start.

What DO We Know?

We know that Jacob Dobkins was born about 1751 based on his Revolutionary War Pension application in 1832 where he said he was 81 years old. If Dorcas was 20 when she was married, then she would have been born about 1755, but later records place her birth about 1750 or perhaps even somewhat earlier.

In 1773, Jacob appears on the Fincastle Co., VA tax list as “not found.” Fincastle County was the parent of Dunmore which was the parent of Shenandoah. Not found means he had likely moved on. It’s somewhat unusual for a single man to be living alone, but we have no reason to think he was married before Darcus.

By 1774, Jacob was likely serving in the all-volunteer militia as Lord Dunmore’s War had commenced and one Jacob Dobler was listed as defending the frontier in a Fincastle Militia unit. Interestingly, so was one Patrick Johnston.

In January 1775, Jacob’s brother, Evan, married Margaret Johnson. Were Margaret and Darcas related? Sisters perhaps? We’ll likely never know, well, unless someone who descends from Margaret through all females to the current generation takes a full sequence mitochondrial DNA test. Darcus’s descendants have tested and their mitochondrial DNA would match, or nearly so, if Margaret and Darcus are sisters. If this applies to you and you descend through all females from Margaret (but a tester can be male in the current generation), please let me know because I have a DNA testing scholarship for you! We could solve a mystery together.

In May of 1775, Evin, also spelled Evan, Jacob, and another brother, Reuben, appear on a militia list of Dunmore County.


Of course, children began arriving soon after their marriage. Unfortunately, we only have a reconstructed list of children based on proximity, inferences and some legal and other documents. Unfortunately, the 1835 deed where the “Heirs of Jacob Dobkins” deeded his property is recorded in the missing Claiborne County Deed Book L, and the index entry only says “The Heirs of Jacob Dobkins.” I swear, every deed I “really need” is in that AWOL book.

  • Assuming Andrew Dobkins was the child of Jacob and Darcus, and I know assume is a dangerous word in genealogy, he was born about 1775 according to the 1850 Greene Co., TN census. He did name a daughter Darcus, and Jacob Dobkins did live in this area about the time Andrew would have been marrying. Alternatively, Andrew could have been the child of a different Dobkins man, probably one of Jacob’s brothers.
  • Darcus’s first proven child, Elizabeth was born about 1776 and died sometime after 1850. Elizabeth would marry George Campbell, a near neighbor in Hawkins County, Tennessee. They named their daughter born about 1799 Dorcus/Dorcas.
  • John Dobkins was born about 1777, lived his adult life in Claiborne County, TN, and reportedly married Elizabeth Shaw. His children are unknown and I cannot confirm his birth year estimate. He first appeared in the court notes in 1808.
  • Another possible daughter named Dorcas Dobkins fits here. The Murphy family Bible record shows her birth as May 29, 1780. She married Malachi Murphy in 1796, according to the Bible, although neither a birth or marriage location is recorded. She could also have been the daughter of one of the other Dobkins men, brothers of Jacob, or someone else. I’m not convinced that Dorcas is the child of Jacob and Dorcas Dobkins, in part because of her birth date. Let’s set this aside for the moment.

There was a gap between John and the next child. Jacob was serving in the military far from Shenandoah County. Darcas nearly lost her young husband. Bullets ripped through his clothes during the Battle of Pickaway. If Jacob hadn’t survived, the course of history, at least my history and Darcas’s, would have been forever altered.

  • Jacob Dobkins Jr. was reportedly born about 1782. There has been a lot of confusion surrounding this man, and he is listed as having married Johanna Woolsey. However, Andrew Dobkins married Johanna Woolsey and was listed as early as 1819 in Greene County, TN where he died in 1852 with a will. Jacob Dobkins Jr., spent most of his adult life in Claiborne County, TN, first appeared in the records in 1803 and was on the tax list of 1833 as Jacob Jr. when Jacob Dobkins Sr. was still alive. He was still noted in records in 1839 and 1842, and probably died between then and 1850 where he is still listed on the agricultural census but NOT in the regular census.
  • Reuben Dobkins was born in 1783 in Shenandoah County, married Mary Polly, last name unknown, and died in Claiborne County in 1823. Some people show this Reuben as Jacob Dobkins’ brother, not his son. Reuben first appears in the Claiborne County court notes in 1815.
  • Margaret, known as Peggy Dobkins was born about 1785, married Elijah Jones, and died in March of 1852. They were divorced before 1844 when he remarried, according to his widow’s pension application. Peggy named her daughter born in 1811 Dorcas.
  • Solomon Dobkins was born in 1787 in what would become Tennessee, married Elizabeth, surname unknown, and died in 1852 in Kaufman County, TX.
  • The youngest daughter, Jane, known as Jenny Dobkins was born between 1778 and 1780, probably in Virginia, and died between 1850 and 1860 in Claiborne County, TN. She married John Campbell, believed to be the brother of George Campbell who married her sister.
  • George Dobkins was born between 1782 and 1788 in Virginia, married Nancy Parks, and died after 1840 in Claiborne County, TN.

This may be only a partial list of children.

Inferred History

Most of what we know about Darcus Johnson Dobkins is extrapolated from the life of her husband and children. We’re taking it on faith that the woman who bore his children was the same woman Jacob married back in Virginia, and that she had not died along the way and he remarried. That’s probably a pretty safe bet at least through Margaret born about 1785 because she named a child Dorcas.

Darcus’s early married life was anything but settled.

In 1775, Jacob enlisted in the local militia in Shenandoah County and participated in Lord Dunmore’s War, a conflict between Virginia, which extended through present-day Kentucky and west without boundary, and the Shawnee and Mingo nations. In 1780, his unit was mustered out, but by then, Jacob was already in Kentucky, serving under the command of George Rogers Clark. Jacob marched from near Louisville to near Cincinnati, pursuing Shawnee Indians. For that matter, we don’t know if Jacob ever had a horse during these years. We do know the men were on foot most if not all of the time.

Jacob Dobkins had enlisted in the militia to fight specifically in the Revolutionary War in May of 1779 where he was already living – Harrod’s Fort that eventually became Harrodsburg, Kentucky, and served for at least two years. If you are counting on your 9 fingers, this means that if Jacob left before he enlisted and was already in Kentucky, he could not have fathered Dorcas Dobkins if she was born in May of 1780. Of course, sometimes birth years were recorded incorrectly, but this suggests that Dorcas Dobkins who married Malachi Murphy was not the child of Jacob and Dorcas Dobkins. Maybe she was named in honor of our Dorcas.

Why was Jacob Donkins already at Fort Harrod in 1779? Was he on a reconnaissance mission, thinking about moving west, when he needed to enlist because the war on the frontier had heated up? One John Dobbin filed for land on North Elkhorn Creek in 1778. John could have been his father or brother. Jacob would not have taken his wife on that type of expedition. By this time, she had small children at home and was probably pregnant again. The land claim was sold by 1780.

Jacob spent 1780 in Harrods Fort and Shawnee Springs, now in the state of Kentucky but then the western frontier of Virginia. Later that fall, he fought in the Battle of Pickaway in Ohio where the bullets flew fast and furious, shreddinging his clothes into tatters. It’s amazing that he escaped with his life. Many didn’t.

Home Again

In August of 1781, Jacob finally headed back to his bride in Shenandoah County who was waiting with at least two and possibly as many as four children. I’m using the word “waiting” loosely here, because she was certainly not sitting around waiting. Dorcas was doing the work of two people. Hers as the wife and mother, plus the tasks Jacob would have been doing too. Her tasks would have included childcare, cooking, cleaning, and doing everything by hand. Covering his responsibilities meant taking care of any animals, plowing, planting, weeding, harvesting, and obtaining food, generally by hunting – all with babies. I don’t know how she did it, but I hope fervently she had family nearby to help. I mean, think about it. How could you even plow, assuming you HAD a plow and an ox, with two babies in tow? And when you got done with all that – you still had all the inside traditional women’s work to do.

If she was pregnant when Jacob left, she gave birth without him nearby, and if the child died, she also buried her baby without her husband’s support.

Fortunately, Jacob did make it home and in 1782, 1783, and 1784 is recorded on the Shenandoah County, VA tax lists.

Their next child was born in 1783 as well.

The 1783 tax lists provided additional information and the family is shown with 8 whites, which would mean that they had 6 children or other people lived with them.

We don’t know exactly where they lived but we do know they were closely associated with the Holeman family. One of Jacob’s brothers married a Holeman woman and the men served in the militia together. The Holeman and Dobkins families both received land grants and settled along Holeman’s Creek near present-day Forestville, VA.

Holeman’s Creek runs between the two red arrows before dumping into the North Shenandoah River.

However, Jacob had caught an itch while he was away. And that itch was to move west.

Westward Ho

Jacob would have passed through Martin’s Station, located in Lee County, VA, just east of the Cumberland Gap on his way to and from Kentucky. That’s not far from where Jacob and Darcus would eventually settle permanently, but first, they tried a few other locations. Tennessee wasn’t yet a state, nor was that area open for settlement.

In 1785, the couple was not listed on the Virginia tax lists. The family had likely packed up and already started down the Great Wagon Road that eventually morphed into I81.

Jacob may have come and gone between two locations because in 1785, a Washington County, North Carolina document subpoenaed Jacob Dobkins of Shenandoah County to testify.

By Iamvered – I, Esemono, drew this map myself., CC BY-SA 3.0,

It appears that Jacob and Dorcas moved to the State of Franklin and likely became embroiled in early politics. The State of Franklin was not a state, but it wanted to be, seceding from North Carolina in 1784. Eventually, the area involved in the State of Franklin became the easternmost counties of Tennessee, but then, it was the wild west – the fringe of the frontier.

By 1786, the residents were negotiating with the state of North Carolina for readmission. “Oops, we’re sorry and had a moment.”

The State of Franklin had become a no man’s land meaning they weren’t a part of any government and had no rights or protections. Residents couldn’t file for land, for example, or vote, or hold court. The two sides were literally at war with one another. They had a mess on their hands and eventually, most people just wanted order to be restored.

By Iamvered – I, Iamvered, drew this map myself., CC BY-SA 3.0,

In 1787 and 1788, Jacob and his brothers were living in Washington County, NC, the part that had been the state of Franklin and would become the counties of Washington, Sullivan, Greene, and Hawkins in eastern Tennessee after Tennessee was admitted to the union in 1796. Jacob bought land in Washington County in 1788, so apparently intended to stay.

In 1789, Jacob’s name appeared on a petition along with a group of men who were considered to be living on Indian land not purchased by the US government. They petitioned the NC government, begging for help.

Jacob may have given up and moved back to Shenandoah County, VA because his name appears there on the 1790 reconstructed census with 8 whites. However, the reconstructed census used tax lists, and we already know he was listed in 1783 with 8 people, so his whereabouts in 1790 are unclear.

You might have noticed that children continued to arrive during this time. Was Darcus exasperated beyond her limits? Someplace between 6 and 8 children and constant threats to their safety? Did she perhaps give Jacob a wifely ultimatum? I have to wonder, because even the staunchest of pioneer wives could certainly have reached their limit under those circumstances. Sometimes situations change, and something that at one time seemed like a really good idea, in reality, wasn’t. This turmoil wasn’t short-lived either. Darcus was now approaching 15 years of upheaval. Her entire married life.

Many families did move back to a safer and less stressful environment. Holeman’s Creek probably looked quite welcoming!

That arrangement, if they did move back, did not last long.

Retry – Back Again

In 1792, the family is living in newly formed Jefferson County where Jacob sued John Sevier – yes – the governor. Sevier had been involved with the State of Franklin too, and Jacob had been called to testify in a lawsuit against Sevier in 1785. Perhaps whatever was going on in 1785 was still unresolved in 1792.

I can just hear the gossip and drama, even across 230 years. Everyone but everyone would have been talking about that and assuredly had an opinion – probably a strong one. Tongues would have been wagging, that’s for sure!

The church was not only the religious center, but also the social center of the community, especially for women. I don’t know what church they attended in Virginia, but in later years in Tennessee, they were assuredly Baptists.

By 1792, Dorcas would have been about 40 years old. We don’t know of any children born this late, but there certainly could have been some that we aren’t aware of or that did not survive. Or, Dorcas could have been slightly older than we know. George was reportedly born between 1782 and 1788. If Dorcas was 43-45 when he was born, and he was born in 1788, that puts her birth possibly as early as 1743.

Jacob bought land again, this time in the area known as “The Territory of the United States South of the River Ohio” on Bent Creek in Hawkins County, near the main road between the ford of the Holston River and Bull’s Gap over the mountain.

Clearly, this part of the country, destined to become Tennessee, was having either birthing pains or an identity crisis, but that didn’t stop the settlers from arriving, clearing land, and staying.

By this time, Dorcas’s eldest children were of age to begin marrying. Elizabeth Dobkins married George Campbell and Jenny Dobkins married his (presumed) brother John Campbell, sons of Charles Campbell who lived near the Holston River.

In 1793 Jacob bought land in Jefferson County, and in 1796, Jacob sold at least some of that land. Around this time, the family likely migrated, probably with the Reverend Tidence Lane to what would become Claiborne County. We know that Jacob and Darcas were established in Claiborne County by October 1801 because Jacob is mentioned in the first court notes establishing the county. An entire group, including Jacob’s two Campbell sons-in-law, appear to have moved and settled together.

This was the last move for Jacob and Darcas. They packed up one last time, pulled out in a heavily loaded wagon, settled in Claiborne County, and stayed.

Now roughly 50 years old, I’d guess Darcas was VERY tired of packing everything into a wagon and moving. Their entire married life had been punctuated by instability. First, a war, then moving to “the west,” the State of Franklin, then not a state, then Washington County, NC, then the Territory South of the River Ohio, then Washington Co., TN, then Hawkins County, then Jefferson County, then finally Claiborne county which means they likely lived in Grainger County before Claiborne was formed. Oh yes, fighting Indians, clearing land and suing the governor sprinkled in there for good measure. I’m exhausted just thinking about this.

Darcus must have heaved a huge sigh of relief. By this time, they had older children and adult sons to help clear land and fell trees. They bought a tract large enough to entice all of their children to move with them. That was a brilliant strategy because that seems to be exactly what happened. Maybe that was what enticed Dorcas to move just one more time, into the peaceful little valley on the north side of Wallen Mountain.

Jacob and Dorcas built a log cabin, and their children built cabins nearby.

Amazingly, their cabin still stood into the late 1900s. I wrote about discovering the cabin, here.

The War of 1812

However, Darcus would be forced to deal with war once again, this time the War of 1812. Many local men joined or were drafted to fight, including her adult son, Solomon Dobkins, who was a Captain and fought in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814. Her son-in-law, Elijah Jones, fought alongside her son in Alabama.

Many Claiborne County men died, both of wounds and illness. Most men didn’t even have horses and walked to war, supplying their own armaments too.

Darcus certainly knew how close she came to losing Jacob all those years ago. I’m sure she wondered if she would lose Solomon and Elijah. She would have stepped up to help her daughter and daughter-in-law while the men were gone.

Court Martial

All was not well with the Dobkins family in Claiborne County. Some records are difficult to find and don’t show up for another generation or two. Solomon Dobkins died in 1852 in Fannin County, Texas. His son, Jake (Jacob) Dobkins was living in Gainesville, Cooke Co., Texas on July 5, 1856 when he made application for “anything the government may have to offer him as the heir of his father, Solomon Dobkins.” He states that his father served in the Creek Indian War in 1812 and 1813 under General Jackson. He further states that his father died in 1852 in Fannin County Texas.

Any benefits from the government to this heir were denied because Solomon Dobkins was Court Martialed and Cashiered.

Cashiering is a demotion as a result of a court martial. I always wondered why there was no pension application for Solomon. This answers that question.

Everyone would have known, and apparently, no one spoke of it. I can’t help but wonder what happened, when, and where. A court martial is very severe.

This situation must have caused Dorcas both pain and embarrassment.

I continue to find Solomon in the Claiborne County court records in positions of responsibility, so whatever happened seems to have been largely forgotten, although he was prosecuted by the state at one time.

A Fireside Chat Heralds Changes

Jacob and Darcus probably sat beside the fireplace one night, or maybe on the porch in rocking chairs, and had a talk. I’m guessing that they had many serious talks over the years. Whether to leave, or not. Whether to return, or not. Whether to move back, or not. Whether to move on, or not.

This talk was a bit different. They were aging, approaching 65 which was beyond “retirement age” back then. Well, I guess you never really got to “retire,” but you did get to stop paying taxes at some point when you were either infirm or old. That’s what retirement looked like in that era. You worked until you couldn’t anymore, then you died or lived with your children.

Jacob and Dorcas decided to begin distributing their land. In 1814, about the time Solomon and Elijah returned from the war, Jacob sold land to two sons-in-law, Elijah Jones and George Campbell. Nothing like a wake-up call to realize tomorrow simply isn’t guaranteed.

In about 1817, Jacob suffered a disabling shoulder and collarbone break in some type of accident. He stated in court in 1832 when he applied for his pension that he had not been able to attend court since that time and suffered greatly from “phrumatic pains.” This also means that Dorcas was probably caring for Jacob and once again had to pick up more chores, even though she assuredly had aches and pains herself by this time. Thankfully, she had children and grandchildren nearby to help.

In 1823, their (presumed) son, Reuben died. I wish we had more information. Was he ill or was there an accident? Without antibiotics, any farm injury could quickly become septic, and something like a ruptured appendix meant sure and certain death. Was Reuben actually their son, or was that Reuben Jacob’s brother?

The 1830s

The 1830 Claiborne County census shows columns for ages, with Jacob Dobkins listed as 70-80 and the female living in the household as 80-90. Of course, it’s easy to mismark a column or misunderstand an age, but if Dorcas was in fact 80-90 in 1830, that means she was actually born between 1740-1750. If she was born in 1750, she would have been slightly older than Jacob. That might also explain why we find no children born after roughly 1788 and possibly no later than 1782.

The 1830s are fuzzy for Dorcas. We know that Jacob died in 1835, but we don’t know if she died before or after Jacob. Some show her death in 1831, but I don’t know why.

There is, however, one very intriguing record.

Say What?

This March 27, 1833 survey is quite interesting.

Dorcas Dobkins is listed as a chain carrier. Say what?

Yes, a chain carrier, shown just beneath the drawing as, “Sworn Chainers.”

I’m not sure who else this could have been, unless it was a granddaughter. The problem is, other than the Dorcas Dobkins born in 1808 and who lived in Greene County, I don’t know who else this could have been, other than Dorcas, the wife of Jacob. It’s also fair to say that I only have two known children for Darcus’s son John, and no documented children for Reuben who died in 1823, assuming he was their son, nor for son Jacob who died or disappeared from the records between 1840-1850. Of course, there are questions about the identity of some of those men, and some of them may not have been old enough to have daughters serving as chain carriers in 1833.

Neither sons Solomon nor George have known children named Dorcas.

This survey is for Lorenzo Dow Dobkins, the son of John Dobkins. His brother was also named John, the name of the other chain carrier, so it’s possible that he had a sister by the name of Dorcas. Or, his grandmother wanted to help out.

Personally, I’m voting for an irreverent grandmother who was itching to get out of the house on a beautiful spring day.

Let’s eavesdrop…

“We don’t have another person as the chain carrier. We can’t do the survey today.”

Dorcas: “Oh yes you do!”


Dorcas, pointing to herself: “Me.”

With a slight smile, “Maam, with all respect, you can’t do that.”

Dorcas, more determined than ever: “Hrummph, watch me!” as she wipes her hands, takes off her apron and pins up a stray hair or two.

Men, looking at each other, shrugging, “OK.”

I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen a female chain carrier in a record. A chain carrier needed to be of age and able to testify as to the fairness and accuracy of the survey process if called upon. Not only that, chains were heavy and the terrain was sometimes rough.

I can’t help but wonder if Dorcas was a chain carrier because she wanted to keep her eye on what was occurring. After all, this survey did abut her son John’s land. If that was the case, she was clearly not dead at this time. And being a chain carrier, in spite of what someone might have thought, wasn’t likely to kill her😊.

We know from Jacob’s 1832 pension application and testimony that he was disabled and therefore he would not have been able to be a chain carrier. Dorcas would have been at least in her late 70s if not her 80s.

Jacob’s Pension Payments

Jacob’s pension payment records don’t say anything about Dorcas. One record, from 1835, shows the list of pensioners and does not indicate a death date for Jacob, although there are death dates in 1833 for others. That means that either he hadn’t died when this list was compiled in 1835, or the death date wasn’t entered. Since the legislation was to compile a list of pensioners being paid, it’s very unlikely that he died before 1835, but not impossible. He was also on the Claiborne County tax list in 1833.

A second record indicates the last pension payment was made in September of 1835. I was unclear whether that payment could have been to Dorcas as his surviving spouse, or, it would only have been paid to Jacob directly.

As it turns out, widows were not eligible to receive payments until an act of July 4, 1836. This confirms that Jacob was last paid, himself, in September of 1835. He died sometime between September of 1835 and the next payment date in March of 1836.

All we can surmise from this is that Dorcas did not apply for his pension beginning in 1836, so my presumption would be that she had died before July of 1836.

In 1835, Jacob’s heirs quitclaimed his land to Betsy Campbell, their daughter who had married George Campbell. Of course, that’s the deed in the book that’s missing, so I’ll never know if Dorcas signed, or who all of their heirs were.

I don’t find a woman of Dorcas’s age living with one of her children in the 1840 census, so I’d feel safe in saying she had died by then, and most likely by the end of 1835 when the land was conveyed.


For all that I don’t know, what I do know is where Jacob and Dorcas are buried. Of course, they established a graveyard on their land, behind the house and up the hill towards the Powell River. According to cousin Bill Nevils, when we visited some years ago, the family lore states that Jacob is buried beneath the huge tree in the center. That would make sense.

Jacob would have spared that tree when he cleared the land. Maybe he said to Dorcas one day, “That’s where we’ll be buried, with our kin, looking over our land.”

Maybe Dorcas figured if he established a burying ground, they were finally someplace to stay.

Jacob and Dorcas certainly weren’t the first to be buried there three decades after they purchased the land. Nor were they the last.

No stone marks their resting place, save for the beautiful tree of course.

  • I don’t know where all of Dorcas’s children are buried, but I’d wager that Elizabeth, called Betsy, is buried right there. Her son Barney wound up owning the land and last I knew, his descendants still do.
  • Son John is probably buried in the cemetery too, assuming he didn’t move away. He died sometime after 1834.
  • Darcus probably buried Reuben, throwing clods of dirt on top of his casket as her final act of motherhood. That had to be an incredibly sad day, but he was always nearby, up on the hill.
  • Peggy joined her mother in March of 1852. In the 1850 census, she was living with an unknown family. As a divorced elderly woman, she may have been supported by the court and placed with a family who would care for her. We don’t know when she divorced, but it was before 1844 when Elijah Jones remarried, according to his widow’s pension application after his death. I wonder if Peggy was able to retain any of her parent’s land that Jacob and Darcus sold to her husband, Elijah, in 1814. Divorce was virtually unheard of at that time and required the approval of the state assembly. It’s unknown when the divorce occurred, but it certainly could have been prior to Dorcas’s death.
  • Jane known as Jenny died between 1850 and 1860 and is either buried with her mother or on the Campbell land across the ridge.
  • George died in 1837, just a couple of years after Jacob, and would rest near his mother as well.
  • Jacob Jr. died sometime between 1840 and 1850 and likely rests in the family cemetery.
  • Solomon made his way to Texas, and of course, Andrew died in Greene County.

Of the 9 children believed to be hers, 7 are either buried with her or nearby. That idea of purchasing a large tract of land to share seemed to have worked. Solomon, while he did die in Texas, didn’t leave until after his mother had passed on. At least she didn’t have to wave goodbye to that wagon carrying her son and 11 of her grandchildren.

This beautiful, peaceful cemetery is populated with Dorcas’s descendants. The first person buried there would probably have been either Dorcas’s child or grandchild in one of the many unmarked graves.

Some of her 35 known grandchildren are buried here as well, as are a dozen generations of her descendants scattered across the sundrenched field.


I have more than 100 autosomal DNA matches with Dorcas’s descendants through 5 of her children. There is no question that she’s my ancestor.

However, what I really need is to discover more about her parents. Ancestry’s ThruLines only reach back 7 generations before you hit a hard stop, meaning Ancestry does not calculate ThruLines beyond 7 generations. Ancestry also does not provide segment information, so you have little to work with.

To find her parents, I need to be able to track specific segments that I’ve been able to confirm to Jacob Dobkins and Darcus Johnson back to people who have Johnson ancestors in their tree, hopefully in a timeframe that could be Dorcas’s parents.

Using segments from vendors who provide segment information, meaning FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, 23andMe, and GedMatch, I’ve identified several segments that I know descend from Jacob and Dorcas and painted them at DNAPainter.

I can’t associate segments with (my unknown) ancestors any further back than either Jacob or Dorcas without matching segments from people who descend from their parents, respectively.

What I DESPERATELY need is the ability to use these segments to focus on all of my matches and their trees that triangulate on these specific paternal segments assigned to Jacob and Dorcas. I need the ability to work with the trees of people who carry those segments but aren’t descended from Jacob and Dorcas in order to unravel the identity of their ancestors.

That feature isn’t offered anyplace, at least not yet. I’m hopeful though.

However, that’s not the end of the DNA resources. We can utilize mitochondrial DNA that is passed from women to their children – but only women pass it on. That means both men and women can test today. Mitochondrial DNA testing represents a special DNA unique to their direct matrilineal line.

Dorcas’s Mitochondrial DNA

I’m fortunate enough to have Dorcas’s mitochondrial DNA results through two different daughters of Jane “Jenny” Dobkins. They match exactly, which is a good thing because I want to be able to depend on an exact match to be able to help identify other people’s trees that may hold the key to Dorcas’s parents.

Our testers have 9 full sequence exact matches at FamilyTreeDNA, the only vendor that does full mitochondrial DNA testing.

Of those matches, some have listed an EKA, Earliest Known Ancestor, from this line, some have provided trees, some both, and some neither.

Tracking the information back through their trees I’ve discovered:

  • One EKA is Matilda Holt 1830-1889 from Monroe Co., TN. Matilda Holt married James Willis in Claiborne County. Her mother was Rutha Campbell whose mother was Jane Dobkins, daughter of Dorcas.

Now we have three of Dorcas’s descendants.

  • Another match shows their EKA as Margaret Ida Hamilton born in 1877 in Plattsmouth, Nebraska, died in 1947, and married John Lincoln Brown 1864-1942. She was the daughter of Margaret Adaline Jones (1849-1910) whose mother was Susan Caroline Terrell born about 1820 in Obion County, TN and married Paul Guy Jones (1823-1970). I lost the trail there.
  • A third match descends from the wife of Elias Harrison (1769-1836) who died in 1836 in Claiborne County, TN. With that same location, this match is VERY interesting. Elias Harrison’s wife is purported to be Martha Hedgepith or Hedgepath (1772-1820), although documentation points elsewhere. One record suggests Martha was the daughter of Richard Beasley whose will was probated on October 5, 1800, in Stokes County, NC leaving his estate to his wife Martha but named a daughter, Patty Harrison. Martha and Patsy are common names for each other. The first two daughters of Elias and Martha were reported to have been born in NC. On March 3, 1792, one Jonathan Harrison sold 100 acres on Marshal’s Creek, a branch of Big River in Stokes County to Richard Beasley. You can read more about this couple here and here.

The fascinating thing about this record is that given the dates and locations, the wife of Elias Harrison is clearly not a daughter of Jacob Dobkins and Dorcas Johnson because one of Elias and Martha’s children was born in 1791 and another in 1792. Therefore, Martha’s connection to Dorcas reaches back into earlier generations.

The next logical step would be to research Richard Beasley’s wife who would have contributed Martha’s mitochondrial DNA through her mother’s line. A quick search shows that Richard Beasley was born in Essex County about 1730, reportedly married in Caroline County, and was in Stokes by 1790 where he died in 1800.

I do wonder if there is a reason that these families wound up in the same area of Claiborne County – did they previously know each other?


Darcas’s mitochondrial haplogroup is H2a1.

Her Matches Map shows some matches in the UK, but many clustered in Sweden and Finland. You might also note that only one exact (red) match is shown on the map meaning that 8 people didn’t enter their geographic information. Just think how much more useful this tool could be with tree and location information included.

On the FamilyTreeDNA dashboard, at the bottom under “Other Tools,” you will find both “Advanced Matches” and “Public Haplotrees.”

Advanced matches provide you with the ability to see if any of your mitochondrial DNA matches also match you autosomally, assuming both people have taken both tests.

The public haplotree link allows you to view the countries where your haplogroup is found.

I selected “mtDNA Haplotree”, then “View by Country,” then haplogroup H, then entered the branch name. The requested haplogroup is displayed with the grey bar along with how many times a specific country has been selected by testers. You can mouse over each flag or click on the three dots at right to view the country report.

Just as a note, the “23” means that H2a1 has 23 subgroups, and Darcus’s DNA is not in any of them, just H2a1.

The takeaway with this report is that the deep ancestry of Darcus Johnson is found in Scandinavia, in Sweden, and Finland. How far back is deep? We don’t know exactly. Her more immediate ancestors’ most likely source of origin would be from the British Isles, or Scandinavia.

Haplogroup information alone may or may not be helpful genealogically – only time will tell. It can rule out a great number of possibilities – like Native American and other world regions in this case.

However, the Beasley line information is the most promising. Perhaps a proven daughter of Richard Beasley has a descendant through all females who will DNA test to either confirm or lay to rest that possibility.

Additionally, I’ll be contacting the matches who have not provided either earliest ancestor or pedigree information. Who knows what gems might still be hiding there.


Our trail has taken us far afield from Dorcas herself. She would be amazed or maybe amused to know that we are searching for the information that was familiar to her from birth. She would also be amazed to think we could connect her with her ancestors using something called DNA that her descendants carry inside of them, from her. That would have seemed a lot like magic, but then so would computers, phones, and automobiles.

Ironic, with all of our technology, we still have to search for what our ancestors knew.

Like, for example, the names of their children, grandchildren, and where they went. Who were her parents and where did they live? Where did they attend church and what were their religious beliefs? What was their life like?

When did Darcus die? What did she like to do? Did she sit on the porch of the old Dobkins home, when it was brand spanking new, and make quilts for her family? I like to think of her that way.

Darcus learned to be self-sufficient and independent early in her marriage when Jacob was gone not for days, weeks, or months, but for years during the Revolutionary War. She probably had no idea if he was alive or dead. She simply did what needed to be done, and prayed that one day he would ride or walk up the path to their house – wherever that was.

Given her resiliency, it’s no surprise then that the last record Darcus may have left us was a surprising one documenting a very non-traditional role for a southern pioneer woman – that of a chain carrier.

What a legacy she left, even though much of her life is revealed peeking through the shadows of her husband, children, and history that was unfolding around her.


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Identify Your Ancestors – Follow Nested Ancestral Segments

I don’t think that we actively think about our DNA segments as nested ancestors, like Russian Matryoshka dolls, but they are.

That’s exactly why segment information is critical for genealogists. Every segment, and every portion of a segment, has an incredibly important history. In fact, you could say that the further back in time we can track a segment, the more important it becomes.

Let’s see how to unveil nested segments. I’ll use my chromosome 20 as an example because it’s a smaller chromosome. But first, let’s start with my pedigree chart.


Click images to enlarge.

Before we talk about nested segments that originated with specific ancestors, it’s important to take a look at the closest portion of my maternal pedigree chart. My DNA segments came from and through these people. I’ll be working with the first 5 generations, beginning with my mother as generation #1.

Generation 1 – Parents

In the first generation, we receive a copy of each chromosome from each parent. I have a copy of chromosome 20 from my mother and a copy from my father.

At FamilyTreeDNA, you can see that I match my mother on the entire tested region of each chromosome.

Therefore, the entire length of each of my chromosomes is assigned to both mother and father because I received a copy from each parent. I’m fortunate that my mother’s DNA was able to be tested before she passed away.

We see that each copy of chromosome 20 is a total of 110.20 cM long with 17,695 SNPs.

Of course, my mother inherited the DNA on her chromosome 20 from multiple ancestors whose DNA combined in her parents, a portion of which was inherited by my mother. Mom received one chromosome from each of her parents.

I inherited only one copy of each chromosome (In this case, chromosome 20) from Mom, so the DNA of her two parents was divided and recombined so that I inherited a portion of my maternal chromosome 20 from both of my maternal grandparents.

Identifying Maternal and Paternal Matches

Associating matches with your maternal or paternal side is easy at FamilyTreeDNA because their Family Finder matching does it automatically for you if you upload (or create) a tree and link matches that you can identify to their proper place in your tree.

FamilyTreeDNA then uses that matching segment information from known, identified relatives in your tree to place people who match you both on at least one significant-sized segment in the correct maternal, paternal, (or both) buckets. That’s triangulation, and it happens automatically. All you have to do is click on the Maternal tab to view your triangulated maternal matches. As you can see, I have 1432 matches identified as maternal. 

Some other DNA testing companies and third-party tools provide segment information and various types of triangulation information, but they aren’t automated for your entire match list like Family Finder matching at FamilyTreeDNA.

You can read about triangulation in action at MyHeritage, here, 23andMe, here, GEDmatch, here, and DNAPainter, which we’ll use, here. Genetic Affairs AutoKinship tool incorporates triangulation, as does their AutoSegment Triangulation Cluster Tool at GEDmatch. I’ve compiled a reference resource for triangulation, here.

Every DNA testing vendor has people in their database that haven’t tested anyplace else. Your best strategy for finding nested segments and identifying matches to specific ancestors is to test at or transfer your DNA file to every vendor plus GEDmatch where people who test at Ancestry sometimes upload for matching. Ancestry does not provide segment information or a chromosome browser so you’ll sometimes find Ancestry testers have uploaded to GEDmatch, FamilyTreeDNA  or MyHeritage where segment information is readily available. I’ve created step-by-step download/upload instructions for all vendors, here.

Generation 2 – Grandparents

In the second generation, meaning that of my grandparents, I inherited portions of my maternal and paternal grandmother’s and grandfather’s chromosomes.

My maternal and paternal chromosomes can be divided into two pieces or groups each, one for each grandparent.

Using DNAPainter, we can see my father’s chromosome 20 on top and my mother’s on the bottom. I have previously identified segments assigned to specific ancestors which are represented by different colors on these chromosomes. You can read more about how to use DNAPainter, here.

We can divide the DNA inherited from each parent into the DNA inherited from each grandparent based on the trees of people we match. If we test cousins from each side, assigning segments maternally or paternally becomes much, much easier. That’s exactly why I’ve tested several.

For the rest of this article, I’m focusing only on my mother’s side because the concepts and methods are the same regardless of whether you’re working on your maternal side or your paternal side.

Using DNAPainter, I expanded my mother’s chromosome 20 in order to see all of the people I’ve painted on my mother’s side.

DNAPainter allows us to paint matching segments from multiple testing vendors and assign them to specific ancestors as we identify common ancestors with our matches.

Based on these matches, I’ve divided these maternal matches into two categories:

  • Maternal grandmother, meaning my mother’s mother, bracketed in red boxes
  • Maternal grandfather, meaning my mother’s father, bracketed in black boxes.

The text and arrows in these graphics refer to the colors of the brackets/boxes, and NOT the colors of the segments beside people’s names. For example, if you look at the large black box at far right, you’ll see several people, with their matching segments identified by multiple colored bars. The different colored segments (bars) mean I’ve associated the match with different ancestors in multiple or various levels of generations.

Generation 3 – Great-grandparents

Within those maternal and paternal grandparent segments, more nested information is available.

The black Ferverda grandfather segments are further divided into black, from Hiram Ferverda, and gold from his wife Eva Miller. The same concept applies to the red grandmother segments which are now divided into red representing Nora Kirsch and purple representing Curtis Lore, her husband.

While I have only been able to assign the first four segments (at the top) to one person/ancestor, there’s an entire group of matches who share the grouping of segments at right, in gold, descended through Eva Miller. The Miller line is Brethren and Mennonite with lots of testers, so this is a common pattern in my DNA matches.

Eva Miller, the gold ancestor, has two parents, Margaret Elizabeth Lentz and John David Miller, so her segments would come from those two sides.

Generation 4 and 5 – Fuschia Segment

I was able to track the segment shown in fuschia indicated by the blue arrow to Jacob Lentz and his wife Fredericka Ruhle, German immigrant ancestors. Other people in this same match (triangulation) group descend from Margaret Elizabeth Lentz and John David Miller – but that fuschia match is the one that shows us where that segment originated. This allows us to assign that entire gold/blue bracketed set of segments to a specific ancestor or ancestral couple because they triangulate, meaning they all match me and each other.

Therefore, all of the segments that match with the fuschia segment also track back to Jacob Lentz and Fredericka Ruhle, or to their ancestors. We would need people who descend from Jacob’s parents and/or Fredericka’s parents to determine the origins of that segment.

In other words, we know all of these people share a common source of that segment, even if we don’t yet know exactly who that common ancestor was or when they lived. That’s what the process of tracking back discovers.

To be very clear, I received that segment through Jacob and Fredericka, but some of those matches who I have not been able to associate with either Jacob or Fredericka may descend from either Jacob or Fredericka’s ancestors, not Jacob and Fredericka themselves. Connecting the dots between Jacob/Fredericka and their ancestors may be enlightening as to the even older source of that segment.

Let’s take a look at nested segments on my pedigree chart.

Nested Pedigree

Click to enlarge.

You can see the progression of nesting on my pedigree chart, using the same colors for the brackets/boxes. The black Ferverda box at the grandparent level encompasses the entire paternal side of my mother’s ancestry, and the red includes her mother’s entire side. This is identical to the DNAPainter graphic, just expressed on my pedigree chart instead of my chromosome 20.

Then the black gets broken into smaller nested segments of black, gold and fuschia, while the red gets broken into red and purple.

If I had more matches that could be assigned to ancestors, I would have even more nested levels. Of course, if I was using all of my chromosomes, not just 20, I would be able to go back further as well.

You can see that as we move further back in time, the bracketed areas assigned to each color become smaller and smaller, as do the actual segments as viewed on my DNAPainter chromosomes.

Segments Get Progressively Smaller

You can see in the pedigree chart and segment painting above that the segments we inherit from specific ancestors divide over time. As we move further and further back in our tree, the segments inherited from any specific ancestor get smaller and smaller too.

Dr. Paul Maier in the MyOrigins 3.0 White Paper provides this informative graphic that shows the reduction in segments and the number of ancestors whose DNA we carry reaching back in time.

I refer to this as a porcupine chart.

Eventually, we inherit no segments from red ancestors, and the pieces of DNA that we inherit from the distant blue ancestors become so small and fragmented that they cannot be positively identified as coming from a specific ancestor when compared to and matched with other people. That’s why vendors don’t show small segment matches, although different vendors utilize different segment thresholds.

The debate about how small is too small continues, but the answer is not simply segment size alone. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

As segments become smaller, the probability, or chances that we match another person by chance (IBC) increases. Proof that someone shares a specific ancestor, especially when dealing with increasingly smaller segments is a function of multiple factors, such as tree completeness for both people, shared matches, parental match confirmation, and more. I wrote about What Constitutes Proof, here.

In the Family Finder Matching White Paper, Dr. Maier provides this chart reflecting IBD (Identical By Descent) and IBC (Identical By Chance) segments and the associated false positivity rate. That means how likely you are to match someone on a segment of that size by chance and NOT because you both share the DNA from a common ancestor.

I wrote Concepts: Identical by Descent, State, Population and Chance to help you better understand how this works.

In the chart below, I’ve combined the generations, relationships, # of ancestors, assuming no duplicates, birth year range based on an approximate 30-year generation, percent of DNA assuming exactly half of each ancestor’s DNA descends in each generation (which we know isn’t exactly accurate), and the average amount of total inherited cMs using that same assumption.

Note that beginning with the 7th generation, on average, we can expect to inherit less than 1% of the DNA of an ancestor, or approximately 55 total cM which may be inherited in multiple segments.

The amount of actual cMs inherited in each generation can vary widely and explains why, beginning with third cousins, some people won’t share DNA from a common ancestor above the various vendor matching thresholds. Yet, other cousins several generations removed will match. Inheritance is random.

Parallel Inheritance

In order to match someone else descended from that 11th generation ancestor, BOTH you AND your match will need to have inherited the exact SAME DNA segment, across 11 generations EACH in order to match. This means that 11 transmission events for each person will need to have taken place in parallel with that identical segment being passed from parent to child in each line. For 22 rolls of the genetic dice in a row, the same segment gets selected to be passed on.

You can see why we all need to work to prove that distant matches are valid.

The further back in time we work, the more factors we must take into consideration, and the more confirming proof is needed that a match with another individual is a result of a shared ancestor.

Having said that, shared distant matches ARE the key to breaking through brick-wall ancestors. We just need to be sure we are chasing the real deal and not a red herring.

Exciting Possibilities

The most exciting possibility is that some segments are actually passed intact for several generations, meaning those segments don’t divide into segments too small for matching.

For example, the 22 cM fuschia segment that tracks through generations 4 and 5 to Jacob Lentz and Fredericka Ruhle has been passed either intact or nearly intact to all of those people who stack up and match each other and me on that segment. 22 cM is definitely NOT a small segment and we know that it descended from either Jacob or Fredericka, or perhaps combined segments from each. In any case, if someone from the Lentz line in Germany tested and matched me on that segment (and by inference, the rest of these people too), we would know that segment descended to me from Jacob Lentz – or at least the part we match on if we don’t match on the entire segment.

This is exactly what nested segments are…breadcrumbs to ancestors.

Part of that 22cM segment could be descended from Jacob and part from Fredericka. Then of Jacob’s portion, for example, pieces could descend from both his mother and father.

This is why we track individual segments back in time to discern their origin.

The Promise of the Future

The promise of the future is when a group of other people triangulate on a reasonably sized segment AND know where it came from. When we match that triangulation group, their identified segment may well help break down our brick walls because we match all of them on that same segment.

It is exactly this technique that has helped me identify a Womack segment on my paternal line. I still haven’t identified our common ancestor, but I have confirmed that the Womacks and my Moore/Rice family interacted as neighbors 8 generations ago and likely settled together in Amelia county, migrating from eastern Virginia. In time, perhaps I’ll be able to identify the common Womack ancestor and the link into either my Moore or Rice lines.

I’m hoping for a similar breakthrough on my mother’s side for Philip Jacob Miller’s wife, Magdalena, 7 generations back in my tree. We know Magdalena was Brethren and where they lived when they took up housekeeping. We don’t know who her parents were. However, there are thousands of Miller descendants, so it’s possible that eventually, we will be able to break down that brick wall by using nested segments – ours and people who descend from Magdalena’s siblings, aunts, and uncles.

Whoever those people were, at least some of their descendants will likely match me and/or my cousins on at least one nested Miller segment that will be the same segment identified to their ancestors.

Genealogy is a team sport and solving puzzles using nested segments requires that someone out there is working on identifying triangulated segments that track to their common ancestors – which will be my ancestors too. I have my fingers crossed that someone is working on that triangulation group and I find them or they find me. Of course, I’m working to triangulate and identify my segments to specific ancestors – hoping for a meeting in the middle – that much-desired bridge to the past.

By the time you’ve run out of other records, nested segments are your last chance to identify those elusive ancestors. 

Do you have genealogical brick walls that nested segments could solve?


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2021 Favorite Articles

It’s that time of the year again when we welcome the next year.

2021 was markedly different than anything that came before. (Is that ever an understatement!)

Maybe you had more time for genealogy and spent time researching!

So, what did we read in 2021? Which of my blog articles were the most popular?

In reverse order, beginning with number 10, we have:

This timeless article published in 2015 explains how to calculate the amount of any specific heritage you carry based on your ancestors.

Just something fun that’s like your regular pedigree chart, except color coded locations instead of ancestors. Here’s mine

The Autosegment Triangulation Cluster Tool is a brand new tool introduced in October 2021. Created by Genetic Affairs for GEDmatch, this tool combines autoclusters and triangulation.

Many people don’t realize that we actually don’t inherit exactly 25% of our DNA from each grandparent, nor why.

This enlightening article co-authored with statistician Philip Gammon explains how this works, and why it affects all of your matches.

Who doesn’t love learning about ancient DNA and the messages it conveys. Does your Y or mitochondrial DNA match any of these burials? Take a look. You might be surprised.

How can you tell if you are full or half siblings with another person? You might think this is a really straightforward question with an easy answer, but it isn’t. And trust me, if you EVER find yourself in a position of needing to know, you really need to know urgently.

Using simple match, it’s easy to figure how much of your ancestor’s DNA you “should” have, but that’s now how inheritance actually works. This article explains why and shows different inheritance scenarios.

That 28 day timer has expired, but the article can still be useful in terms of educating yourself. This should also be read in conjunction with Ancestry Retreats, by Judy Russell.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say that their ethnicity percentages were “wrong,” I’d be a rich woman, living in a villa in sun-drenched Tuscany😊

This extremely popular article has either been first or second every year since it was published. Ethnicity is both exciting and perplexing.

As genealogists, the first thing we need to do is to calculate what, according to our genealogy, we would expect those percentages to be. Of course, we also need to factor in the fact that we don’t inherit exactly the same amount of DNA from each grandparent. I explain how I calculated my “expected” percentages of ethnicity based on my known tree. That’s the best place to start.

Please note that I am no longer updating the vendor comparison charts in the article. Some vendors no longer release updates to the entire database at the same time, and some “tweak” results periodically without making an announcement. You’ll need to compare your own results at the different vendors at the same point in time to avoid comparing apples and oranges.

The #1 Article for 2021 is…

  1. Proving Native American Ancestry Using DNA

This article has either been first (7 times) or second (twice) for 9 years running. Now you know why I chose this topic for my new book, DNA for Native American Genealogy.

If you’re searching for your Native American ancestry, I’ve provided step-by-step instructions, both with and without some percentage of Native showing in your autosomal DNA percentages.

Make 2022 a Great Year!

Here’s wishing you the best in 2022. I hope your brick walls cave. What are you doing to help that along? Do you have a strategy in mind?


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I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to 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.

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DNA for Native American Genealogy – Hot Off the Press!

Drum roll please…my new book, DNA for Native American Genealogy, was just released today, published by

I’m so excited! I expected publication around the holidays. What a pleasant surprise.

This 190-page book has been a labor of love, almost a year in the making. There’s a lot.

  • Vendor Tools – The book incorporates information about how to make the best use of the autosomal DNA tools offered by all 4 of the major testing vendors; FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, Ancestry, and 23andMe.
  • Chromosome Painting – I’ve detailed how to use DNAPainter to identify which ancestor(s) your Native heritage descends from by painting your population/ethnicity segments provided by FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe.
  • Y and Mitochondrial DNA – I’ve described how and when to utilize the important Y and mitochondrial DNA tests, for you and other family members.
  • Maps – Everyone wants to know about ancient DNA. I’ve included ancient DNA information complete with maps of ancient DNA sites by major Native haplogroups, gathered from many academic papers, as well as mapped contemporary DNA locations.
  • Haplogroups – Locations in the Americas, by haplogroup, where individual haplogroups and subgroups are found. Some haplogroups are regional in nature. If you happen to have one of these haplogroups, that’s a BIG HINT about where your ancestor lived.
  • Tribes – Want to know, by tribe, which haplogroups have been identified? Got you covered there too.
  • Checklist – I’ve provided a checklist type of roadmap for you to follow, along with an extensive glossary.
  • Questions – I’ve answered lots of frequently asked questions. For example – what about joining a tribe? I’ve explained how tribes work in the US and Canada, complete with links for relevant forms and further information.

But wait, there’s more…

New Revelations!!!

There is scientific evidence suggesting that two haplogroups not previously identified as Native are actually found in very low frequencies in the Native population. Not only do I describe these haplogroups, but I provide their locations on a map.

I hope other people will test and come forward with similar results in these same haplogroups to further solidify this finding.

It’s important to understand the criteria required for including these haplogroups as (potentially) Native. In general, they:

  • Must be found multiple times outside of a family group
  • Must be unexplained by any other scenario
  • Must be well-documented both genetically as well as using traditional genealogical records
  • Must be otherwise absent in the surrounding populations

This part of the research for the book was absolutely fascinating to me.


Here’s the book description at

DNA for Native American Genealogy is the first book to offer detailed information and advice specifically aimed at family historians interested in fleshing out their Native American family tree through DNA testing.

Figuring out how to incorporate DNA testing into your Native American genealogy research can be difficult and daunting. What types of DNA tests are available, and which vendors offer them? What other tools are available? How is Native American DNA determined or recognized in your DNA? What information about your Native American ancestors can DNA testing uncover? This book addresses those questions and much more.

Included are step-by-step instructions, with illustrations, on how to use DNA testing at the four major DNA testing companies to further your genealogy and confirm or identify your Native American ancestors. Among the many other topics covered are the following:

    • Tribes in the United States and First Nations in Canada
    • Ethnicity
    • Chromosome painting
    • Population Genetics and how ethnicity is assigned
    • Genetic groups and communities
    • Y DNA paternal direct line male testing for you and your family members
    • Mitochondrial DNA maternal direct line testing for you and your family members
    • Autosomal DNA matching and ethnicity comparisons
    • Creating a DNA pedigree chart
    • Native American haplogroups, by region and tribe
    • Ancient and contemporary Native American DNA

Special features include numerous charts and maps; a roadmap and checklist giving you clear instructions on how to proceed; and a glossary to help you decipher the technical language associated with DNA testing.

Purchase the Book and Participate

I’ve included answers to questions that I’ve received repeatedly for many years about Native American heritage and DNA. Why Native DNA might show in your DNA, why it might not – along with alternate ways to seek that information.

You can order DNA for Native American Genealogy, here.

For customers in Canada and outside the US, you can use the Amazon link, here, to reduce the high shipping/customs costs.

I hope you’ll use the information in the book to determine the appropriate tests for your situation and fully utilize the tools available to genealogists today to either confirm those family rumors, put them to rest – or maybe discover a previously unknown Native ancestor.

Please feel free to share this article with anyone who might be interested.



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Thank you so much.

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