MyHeritage LIVE Conference Day 2 – The Science Behind DNA Matching    

The MyHeritage LIVE Oslo conference is but a fond memory now, and I would count it as a resounding success.

Perhaps one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much is the scientific aspect and because the content is very focused on a topic I enjoy without being the size and complexity of Rootstech. The smaller, more intimate venue also provides access to the “right” people as well as the ability to meet other attendees and not be overwhelmed by the sheer size.

Here are some stats:

  • 401 registered guests
  • 28 countries represented including distant places like Australia and South America
  • More than 20 speakers plus the hands-on workshops where specialist teams worked with students
  • 38 sessions and workshops, plus the party
  • 60,000 livestream participants, in spite of the time differences around the world

I was blown away by the number of livestream attendees.

I don’t know what criteria Gilad Japhet will be using to determine “success” but I can’t imagine this conference being judged as anything but.

Let’s take a look at the second day. I spent part of the time talking to people and drifting in and out of the rear of several sessions for a few minutes. I meant to visit some of the workshops, but there was just too much good, distracting content elsewhere.

I began Sunday in Mike Mansfield’s presentation about SuperSearch. Yes, I really did attend a few sessions not about DNA, but my favorite was the session on Improved DNA Matching.

Improved DNA Matching

I’m sure it won’t surprise any of my readers that my favorite presentations were about the actual science of genetic genealogy.

Consumers don’t really need to understand the science behind autosomal results to reap the benefits, but the underlying science is part of what I love – and it’s important for me to understand the underpinnings to be able to unravel the fine points of what the resulting matches are and are not revealing. Misinterpretation of DNA results leading to faulty conclusions is a real issue in genetic genealogy today. Consequently, I feel that anyone working with other people’s results and providing advice really needs to understand how the science and technology together works.

Dr. Daphna Weissglas-Volkov, a population geneticist by training, although she clearly functions far beyond that scope today, gave a very interesting presentation about how MyHeritage handles (their greatly improved) DNA Matching. I’m hitting the high points here, but I would strongly encourage you to watch the video of this session when they are made available online.

In addition to Dr. Weissglas-Volkov’s slides, I’ve added some additional explanations and examples in various places. You can easily tell that the slides are hers and the graphics that aren’t MyHeritage slides are mine.

Dr. Weissglas-Volkov began the session by introducing the MyHeritage science team and then explaining terminology to set the stage.

A match is when two people match each other on a fairly long piece of DNA. Of course, “fairly long” is defined differently by each vendor.

Your genetic map (of your chromosomes) is comprised of the DNA you inherit from different ancestors by the process of recombination when DNA is transferred from the parents to the child. A centiMorgan is the relatively likelihood that a recombination will occur in a single generation. On average, 36 recombinations occur in each generation, meaning that the DNA is divided on any chromosome. However, women, for reasons unknown have about 1.5 times as many recombinations as men.

You can’t see that when looking at an example of a person compared to their parents, of course, because each individual is a full match to each parent, but you can see this visually when comparing a grandchild to their maternal grandmother and their paternal grandmother on a chromosome browser.

The above illustration is the same female grandchild compared to her maternal grandmother, at left, and her paternal grandmother at right. Therefore the number of crossovers at left is through a female child (her mother), and the number at right is through a male child (her father.)

# of Crossovers
Through female child – left 57
Through male child – right 22

There are more segments at left, through the mother, and the segments are generally shorter, because they have been divided into more pieces.

At right, fewer and larger segments through the father.

Keep in mind that because you have a strand of DNA from each parent, with exactly the same “street addresses,” that what is produced by DNA sequencing are two columns of data – but your Mom’s and Dad’s DNA is intermixed.

The information in the two columns can’t be identified as Mom’s or Dad’s DNA or strand at this point.

That interspersed raw data is called a genotype. A haplotype is when Mom’s and Dad’s DNA can be reassembled into “sides” so you can attribute the two letters at each address to either Mom or Dad.

Here’s a quick example.

The goal, of course, is to figure out how to reassemble your DNA into Mom’s side and Dad’s side so that we know that someone matching you is actually matching on all As (Mom) or all Gs (Dad,) in this example, and not a false match that zigzags back and forth between Mom and Dad.

The best way to accomplish that goal of course is trio phasing, when the child and both parents are available, so by comparing the child’s DNA with the parents you can assign the two strands of the child’s DNA.

Unfortunately, few people have both or even one parent available in order to actual divide their DNA into “sides,” so the next best avenue is statistical phasing. I’ve called this academic phasing in the past, as compared to parental phasing which MyHeritage refers to as trio phasing.

There’s a huge amount of confusion about phasing, with few people understanding there are two distinct types.

Statistical phasing is a type of machine learning where a large number of reference populations are studied. Since we know that DNA travels together in blocks when inherited, statistical phasing learns which DNA travels with which buddy DNA – and creates probabilities. Your DNA is then compared to these models and your DNA is reshuffled in order to assemble your DNA into two groups – one representing your Mom’s DNA and one representing your Dad’s DNA, according to statistical probability.

Looking at your genotype, if we know that As group together at those 6 addresses in my example 95% of the time, then we know that the most likely scenario to create a haplotype is that all of the As came from one parent and all of the Gs from the other parent – although without additional information, there is no way to yet assign the maternal and paternal identifier. At this point, we only know parent 1 and parent 2.

In order to train the computers (machine learning) to properly statistically phase testers’ results, MyHeritage uses known relationships of people to teach the machines. In other words, their reference panels of proven haplotypes grows all of the time as parent/child trios test.

Dr. Weissglas-Volkev then moved on to imputation.

When sequencing DNA, not every location reads accurately, so the missing values can be imputed, or “put back” using imputation.

Initially imputation was a hot mess. Not just for MyHeritage, but for all vendors, imputation having been forced upon them (and therefore us) by Illumina’s change to the GSA chip.

However, machine learning means that imputation models improve constantly, and matching using imputation is greatly improved at MyHeritage today.

Imputation can do more than just fill in blanks left by sequencing read errors.

The benefit of imputation to the genetic genealogy community is that vendors using disparate chips has forced vendors that want to allow uploads to utilize imputation to create a global template that incorporates all of the locations from each vendor, then impute the values they don’t actually test for themselves to complete the full template for each person.

In the example below, you can see that no vendor tests all available locations, but when imputation extends the sequences of all testers to the full 1-500 locations, the results can easily be compared to every other tester because every tester now has values in locations 1-500, regardless of which vendor/chip was utilized in their actual testing.

Therefore, using imputation, MyHeritage is able to match between quite disparate chips, such as the traditional Illumina chips (OmniExpress), the custom Ancestry chip and the new GSA chip utilized by 23andMe and LivingDNA.

So, how are matches determined?

Matching

First your DNA and that of another person are scanned for nearly identical seed sequences.

A minimum segment length of 6cM must be identified for further match processing to occur. Anything below 6cM is discarded at this point.

The match is then further evaluated to see if the seed match is of a high enough quality that it should be perfected and should count as a match. Other segments continue to be evaluated as well. If the total matching segment(s) is 8 total cM or greater, it’s considered a valid match. MyHeritage has taken the position that they would rather give you a few accidental false matches than to miss good matches. I appreciate that position.

Window cleaning is how they refer to the process of removing pileup regions known to occur in the human genome. This is NOT the same as Ancestry’s routine that removes areas they determine to be “too matchy” for you individually.

The difference is that in humans, for example, there is a segment of chromosome 6 where, for some reason, almost all humans match. Matching across that segment is not informative for genetic genealogy, so that region along with several others similar in nature are removed. At Ancestry, those genome-wide pileup segments are removed, along with other regions where Ancestry decides that you personally have too many matches. The problem is that for me, these “too matchy” segments are many of my Acadian matches. Acadians are endogamous, so lots of them match each other because as a small intermarried population, they share a great deal of the same DNA. However, to me, because I have one great-grandfather that’s Acadian, that “too matchy” information IS valuable although I understand that it wouldn’t be for someone that is 100% Acadian or Jewish.

In situations such as Ashkenazi Jewish matching, which is highly endogamous, MyHeritage uses a higher matching threshold. Otherwise every Ashkenazi person would match every other Ashkenazi person because they all descend from a small founder population, and for genealogy, that’s not useful.

The last step in processing matches is to establish the confidence level that the match is accurately predicted at the correct level – meaning the relationship range based on the amount of matching DNA and other criteria.

For example, does this match cluster with other proven matches of the same known relationship level?

From several confidence ascertainment steps, a confidence score is assigned to the predicted relationship.

Of course, you as a customer see none of this background processing, just the fact that you do match, the size of the match and the confidence score. That’s what genealogists need!

Matching Versus Triangulation Thresholds

Confusion exists about matching thresholds versus triangulation thresholds.

While any single segment must be over 6 cM in length for the matching process to begin, the actual match threshold at MyHeritage is a total of 8 cM.

I took a look at my lowest match at MyHeritage.

I have two segments, one 6.1 cM segment, and one 6 cM segment that match. It would appear that if I only had one 6 cM segment, it would not show as a match because I didn’t have the minimum 8 cM total.

Triangulation Threshold

However, after you pass that matching criteria and move on to triangulation with a matching individual, you have the option of selecting the triangulation threshold, which is not the same thing as the match threshold. The match threshold does not change, but you can change the triangulation threshold from 2 cM to 8 cM and selections in-between.

In the example below, I’m comparing myself against two known relatives.

You won’t be shown any matches below the 6 cM individual segment threshold, BUT you can view triangulated segments of different sizes. This is because matching segments often don’t line up exactly and the triangulated overlap between several individuals may be very small, but may still be useful information.

Flying your mouse over the location in the bubble, which is the triangulated segment, tells you the size of the triangulated portion. If you selected the 2 cM triangulation, you would see smaller triangulated portions of matches.

Closing Session

The conference was closed by Aaron Godfrey, a super-nice MyHeritage employee from the UK. The closing session is worth watching on the recorded livestream when it becomes available, in part because there are feel good moments.

However, the piece of information I was looking for was whether there will be a MyHeritage LIVE conference in 2019, and if so, where.

I asked Gilad afterwards and he said that they will be evaluating the feedback from attendees and others when making that decision.

So, if you attended or joined the livestream sessions and found value, please let MyHeritage know so that they can factor your feedback onto their decision. If there are topics you’d like to see as sessions, I’m sure they’d love to hear about that too. Me, I’m always voting for more DNA😊

I hope to hear about MyHeritage LIVE 2019, and I’m voting for any of the following locations:

  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Israel
  • Germany
  • Switzerland

What do you think?

Elizabeth Warren’s Native American DNA Results: What They Mean

Elizabeth Warren has released DNA testing results after being publicly challenged and derided as “Pochahontas” as a result of her claims of a family story indicating that her ancestors were Native America. If you’d like to read the specifics of the broo-haha, this Washington Post Article provides a good summary, along with additional links.

I personally find name-calling of any type unacceptable behavior, especially in a public forum, and while Elizabeth’s DNA test was taken, I presume, in an effort to settle the question and end the name-calling, what it has done is to put the science of genetic testing smack dab in the middle of the headlines.

This article is NOT about politics, it’s about science and DNA testing. I will tell you right up front that any comments that are political or hateful in nature will not be allowed to post, regardless of whether I agree with them or not. Unfortunately, these results are being interpreted in a variety of ways by different individuals, in some cases to support a particular political position. I’m presenting the science, without the politics.

This is the first of a series of two articles.

I’m dividing this first article into four sections, and I’d ask you to read all four, especially before commenting. A second article, Possibilities – Wringing the Most Out of Your DNA Ethnicity Test will follow shortly about how to get the most out of an ethnicity test when hunting for Native American (or other minority, for you) ethnicity.

Understanding how the science evolved and works is an important factor of comprehending the results and what they actually mean, especially since Elizabeth’s are presented in a different format than we are used to seeing. What a wonderful teaching opportunity.

  • Family History and DNA Science – How this works.
  • Elizabeth Warren’s Genealogy
  • Elizabeth Warren’s DNA Results
  • Questions and Answers – These are the questions I’m seeing, and my science-based answers.

My second article, Possibilities – Wringing the Most Out of Your DNA Ethnicity Test will include:

  • Potential – This isn’t all that can be done with ethnicity results. What more can you do to identify that Native ancestor?
  • Resources with Step by Step Instructions

Now, let’s look at Elizabeth’s results and how we got to this point.

Family Stories and DNA

Every person that grows up in their biological family hears family stories. We have no reason NOT to believe them until we learn something that potentially conflicts with the facts as represented in the story.

In terms of stories handed down for generations, all we have to go on, initially, are the stories themselves and our confidence in the person relating the story to us. The day that we begin to suspect that something might be amiss, we start digging, and for some people, that digging begins with a DNA test for ethnicity.

My family had that same Cherokee story. My great-grandmother on my father’s side who died in 1918 was reportedly “full blooded Cherokee” 60 years later when I discovered she had existed. Her brothers reportedly went to Oklahoma to claim headrights land. There were surely nuggets of truth in that narrative. Family members did indeed to go Oklahoma. One did own Cherokee land, BUT, he purchased that land from a tribal member who received an allotment. I discovered that tidbit later.

What wasn’t true? My great-grandmother was not 100% Cherokee. To the best of my knowledge now, a century after her death, she wasn’t Cherokee at all. She probably wasn’t Native at all. Why, then, did that story trickle down to my generation?

I surely don’t know. I can speculate that it might have been because various people were claiming Native ancestry in order to claim land when the government paid tribal members for land as reservations were dissolved between 1893 and 1914. You can read more about that in this article at the National Archives about the Dawes Rolls, compiled for the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole for that purpose.

I can also speculate that someone in the family was confused about the brother’s land ownership, especially since it was Cherokee land.

I could also speculate that the confusion might have resulted because her husband’s father actually did move to Oklahoma and lived on Choctaw land.

But here is what I do know. I believed that story because there wasn’t any reason NOT to believe it, and the entire family shared the same story. We all believed it…until we discovered evidence through DNA testing that contradicted the story.

Before we discuss Elizabeth Warren’s actual results, let’s take a brief look at the underlying science.

Enter DNA Testing

DNA testing for ethnicity was first introduced in a very rudimentary form in 2002 (not a typo) and has progressed exponentially since. The major vendors who offer tests that provide their customers with ethnicity estimates (please note the word estimates) have all refined their customer’s results several times. The reference populations improve, the vendor’s internal software algorithms improve and population genetics as a science moves forward with new discoveries.

Note that major vendors in this context mean Family Tree DNA, 23andMe, the Genographic Project and Ancestry. Two newer vendors include MyHeritage and LivingDNA although LivingDNA is focused on England and MyHeritage, who utilizes imputation is not yet quite up to snuff on their ethnicity estimates. Another entity, GedMatch isn’t a testing vendor, but does provide multiple ethnicity tools if you upload your results from the other vendors. To get an idea of how widely the results vary, you can see the results of my tests at the different vendors here and here.

My initial DNA ethnicity test, in 2002, reported that I was 25% Native American, but I’m clearly not. It’s evident to me now, but it wasn’t then. That early ethnicity test was the dinosaur ages in genetic genealogy, but it did send me on a quest through genealogical records to prove that my family member was indeed Native. My father clearly believed this, as did the rest of the family. One of my early memories when I was about four years old was attending a (then illegal) powwow with my Dad.

In order to prove that Elizabeth Vannoy, that great-grandmother, was Native I asked a cousin who descends from her matrilineally to take a mitochondrial DNA test that would unquestionably provide the ethnicity of her matrilineal line – that of her mother’s mother’s mother’s direct line. If she was Native, her haplogroup would be a derivative either A, B, C, D or X. Her mitochondrial DNA was European, haplogroup J, clearly not Native, so Elizabeth Vannoy was not Native on that line of her family. Ok, maybe through her dad’s line then. I was able to find a Vanoy male descendant of her father, Joel Vannoy, to test his Y DNA and he was not Native either. Rats!

Tracking Elizabeth Vannoy’s genealogy back in time provided no paper-trail link to any Native ancestors, but there were and are still females whose surnames and heritage we don’t know. Were they Native or part Native? Possibly. Nothing precludes it, but nothing (yet) confirms it either.

Unexpected Results

DNA testing is notorious for unveiling unexpected results. Adoptions, unknown parents, unexpected ethnicities, previously unknown siblings and half-siblings and more.

Ethnicity is often surprising and sometimes disappointing. People who expect Native American heritage in their DNA sometimes don’t find it. Why?

  • There is no Native ancestor
  • The Native DNA has “washed out” over the generations, but they did have a Native ancestor
  • We haven’t yet learned to recognize all of the segments that are Native
  • The testing company did not test the area that is Native

Not all vendors test the same areas of our DNA. Each major company tests about 700,000 locations, roughly, but not the same 700,000. If you’re interested in specifics, you can read more about that here.

50-50 Chance

Everyone receives half of their autosomal DNA from each parent.

That means that each parent contributes only HALF OF THEIR DNA to a child. The other half of their DNA is never passed on, at least not to that child.

Therefore, ancestral DNA passed on is literally cut in half in each generation. If your parent has a Native American DNA segment, there is a 50-50 chance you’ll inherit it too. You could inherit the entire segment, a portion of the segment, or none of the segment at all.

That means that if you have a Native ancestor 6 generations back in your tree, you share 1.56% of their DNA, on average. I wrote the article, Ancestral DNA Percentages – How Much of Them is in You? to explain how this works.

These calculations are estimates and use averages. Why? Because they tell us what to expect, on average. Every person’s results will vary. It’s entirely possible to carry a Native (or other ethnic) segment from 7 or 8 or 9 generations ago, or to have none in 5 generations. Of course, these calculations also presume that the “Native” ancestor we find in our tree was fully Native. If the Native ancestor was already admixed, then the percentages of Native DNA that you could inherit drop further.

Why Call Ethnicity an Estimate?

You’ve probably figured out by now that due to the way that DNA is inherited, your ethnicity as reported by the major testing companies isn’t an exact science. I discussed the methodology behind ethnicity results in the article, Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum.

It is, however, a specialized science known as Population Genetics. The quality of the results that are returned to you varies based on several factors:

  • World Region – Ethnicity estimates are quite accurate at the continental level, plus Jewish – meaning African, Indo-European, Asian, Native American and Jewish. These regions are more different than alike and better able to be separated.
  • Reference Population – The size of the population your results are being compared to is important. The larger the reference population, the more likely your results are to be accurate.
  • Vendor Algorithm – None of the vendors provide the exact nature of their internal algorithms that they use to determine your ethnicity percentages. Suffice it to say that each vendor’s staff includes population geneticists and they all have years of experience. These internal differences are why the estimates vary when compared to each other.
  • Size of the Segment – As with all genetic genealogy, bigger is better because larger segments stand a better chance of being accurate.
  • Academic Phasing – A methodology academics and vendors use in which segments of DNA that are known to travel together during inheritance are grouped together in your results. This methodology is not infallible, but in general, it helps to group your mother’s DNA together and your father’s DNA together, especially when parents are not available for testing.
  • Parental Phasing – If your parents test and they too have the same segment identified as Native, you know that the identification of that segment as Native is NOT a factor of chance, where the DNA of each of your parents just happens to fall together in a manner as to mimic a Native segment. Parental phasing is the ability to divide your DNA into two parts based on your parent’s DNA test(s).
  • Two Chromosomes – You have two chromosomes, one from your mother and one from your father. DNA testing can’t easily separate those chromosomes, so the exact same “address” on your mother’s and father’s chromosomes that you inherited may carry two different ethnicities. Unless your parents are both from the same ethnic population, of course.

All of these factors, together, create a confidence score. Consumers never see these scores as such, but the vendors return the highest confidence results to their customers. Some vendors include the capability, one way or another, to view or omit lower confidence results.

Parental Phasing – Identical by Descent

If you’re lucky enough to have your parents, or even one parent available to test, you can determine whether that segment thought to be Native came from one of your parents, or if the combination of both of your parent’s DNA just happened to combine to “look” Native.

Here’s an example where the “letters” (nucleotides) of Native DNA for an example segment are shown at left. If you received the As from one of your parents, your DNA is said to be phased to that parent’s DNA. That means that you in fact inherited that piece of your DNA from your mother, in the case shown below.

That’s known as Identical by Descent (IBD). The other possibility is what your DNA from both of your parents intermixed to mimic a Native segment, shown below.

This is known as Identical by Chance (IBC).

You don’t need to understand the underpinnings of this phenomenon, just remember that it can happen, and the smaller the segment, the more likely that a chance combination can randomly happen.

Elizabeth Warren’s Genealogy

Elizabeth Warren’s genealogy, is reported to the 5th generation by WikiTree.

Elizabeth’s mother, Pauline Herring’s line is shown, at WikiTree, as follows:

Notice that of Elizabeth Warren’s 16 great-great-great grandparents on her mother’s side, 9 are missing.

Paper trail being unfruitful, Elizabeth Warren, like so many, sought to validate her family story through DNA testing.

Elizabeth Warren’s DNA Results

Elizabeth Warren didn’t test with one of the major vendors. Instead, she went directly to a specialist. That’s the equivalent of skipping the family practice doctor and going to the Mayo Clinic.

Elizabeth Warren had test results interpreted by Dr. Carlos Bustamante at Stanford University. You can read the actual report here and I encourage you to do so.

From the report, here are Dr. Bustamante’s credentials:

Dr. Carlos D. Bustamante is an internationally recognized leader in the application of data science and genomics technology to problems in medicine, agriculture, and biology. He received his Ph.D. in Biology and MS in Statistics from Harvard University (2001), was on the faculty at Cornell University (2002-9), and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2010. He is currently Professor of Biomedical Data Science, Genetics, and (by courtesy) Biology at Stanford University. Dr. Bustamante has a passion for building new academic units, non-profits, and companies to solve pressing scientific challenges. He is Founding Director of the Stanford Center for Computational, Evolutionary, and Human Genomics (CEHG) and Inaugural Chair of the Department of Biomedical Data Science. He is the Owner and President of CDB Consulting, LTD. and also a Director at Eden Roc Biotech, founder of Arc-Bio (formerly IdentifyGenomics and BigData Bio), and an SAB member of Imprimed, Etalon DX, and Digitalis Ventures among others.

He’s no lightweight in the study of Native American DNA. This 2012 paper, published in PLOS Genetics, Development of a Panel of Genome-Wide Ancestry Informative Markers to Study Admixture Throughout the Americas focused on teasing out Native American markers in admixed individuals.

From that paper:

Ancestry Informative Markers (AIMs) are commonly used to estimate overall admixture proportions efficiently and inexpensively. AIMs are polymorphisms that exhibit large allele frequency differences between populations and can be used to infer individuals’ geographic origins.

And:

Using a panel of AIMs distributed throughout the genome, it is possible to estimate the relative ancestral proportions in admixed individuals such as African Americans and Latin Americans, as well as to infer the time since the admixture process.

The methodology produced results of the type that we are used to seeing in terms of continental admixture, shown in the graphic below from the paper.

Matching test takers against the genetic locations that can be identified as either Native or African or European informs us that our own ancestors carried the DNA associated with that ethnicity.

Of course, the Native samples from this paper were focused south of the United States, but the process is the same regardless. The original Native American population of a few individuals arrived thousands of years ago in one or more groups from Asia and their descendants spread throughout both North and South America.

Elizabeth’s request, from the report:

To analyze genetic data from an individual of European descent and determine if there is reliable evidence of Native American and/or African ancestry. The identity of the sample donor, Elizabeth Warren, was not known to the analyst during the time the work was performed.

Elizabeth’s test included 764,958 genetic locations, of which 660,173 overlapped with locations used in ancestry analysis.

The Results section says after stating that Elizabeth’s DNA is primarily (95% or greater) European:

The analysis also identified 5 genetic segments as Native American in origin at high confidence, defined at the 99% posterior probability value. We performed several additional analyses to confirm the presence of Native American ancestry and to estimate the position of the ancestor in the individual’s pedigree.

The largest segment identified as having Native American ancestry is on chromosome 10. This segment is 13.4 centiMorgans in genetic length, and spans approximately 4,700,000 DNA bases. Based on a principal components analysis (Novembre et al., 2008), this segment is clearly distinct from segments of European ancestry (nominal p-value 7.4 x 10-7, corrected p-value of 2.6 x 10-4) and is strongly associated with Native American ancestry.

The total length of the 5 genetic segments identified as having Native American ancestry is 25.6 centiMorgans, and they span approximately 12,300,000 DNA bases. The average segment length is 5.8 centiMorgans. The total and average segment size suggest (via the method of moments) an unadmixed Native American ancestor in the pedigree at approximately 8 generations before the sample, although the actual number could be somewhat lower or higher (Gravel, 2012 and Huff et al., 2011).

Dr. Bustamante’s Conclusion:

While the vast majority of the individual’s ancestry is European, the results strongly support the existence of an unadmixed Native American ancestor in the individual’s pedigree, likely in the range of 6-10 generations ago.

I was very pleased to see that Dr. Bustamante had included the PCA (Principal Component Analysis) for Elizabeth’s sample as well.

PCA analysis is the scientific methodology utilized to group individuals to and within populations.

Figure one shows the section of chromosome 10 that showed the largest Native American haplotype, meaning DNA block, as compared to other populations.

Remember that since Elizabeth received a chromosome from BOTH parents, that she has two strands of DNA in that location.

Here’s our example again.

Given that Mom’s DNA is Native, and Dad’s is European in this example, the expected results when comparing this segment of DNA to other populations is that it would look half Native (Mom’s strand) and half European (Dad’s strand.)

The second graphic shows Elizabeth’s sample and where it falls in the comparison of First Nations (Canada) and Indigenous Mexican individuals. Given that Elizabeth’s Native ancestor would have been from the United States, her sample falls where expected, inbetween.

Let’s take a look at some of the questions being asked.

Questions and Answers

I’ve seen a lot of misconceptions and questions regarding these results. Let’s take them one by one:

Question – Can these results prove that Elizabeth is Cherokee?

Answer – No, there is no test, anyplace, from any lab or vendor, that can prove what tribe your ancestors were from. I wrote an article titled Finding Your American Indian Tribe Using DNA, but that process involves working with your matches, Y and mitochondrial DNA testing, and genealogy.

Q – Are these results absolutely positive?

A – The words “absolutely positive” are a difficult quantifier. Given the size of the largest segment, 13.4 cM, and that there are 5 Native segments totaling 25.6 cM, and that Dr. Bustamante’s lab performed the analysis – I’d say this is as close to “absolutely positive” as you can get without genealogical confirmation.

A 13.4 cM segment is a valid segment that phases to parents 98% of the time, according to Philip Gammon’s work, here, and 99% of the time in my own analysis here. That indicates that a 13.4 cM segment is very likely a legitimately ancestral segment, not a match by chance. The additional 4 segments simply increase the likelihood of a Native ancestor. In other words, for there NOT to be a Native ancestor, all 5 segments, including the large 13.4 cM segment would have to be misidentified by one of the premier scientists in the field.

Q – What did Dr. Bustamante mean by “evidence of an unadmixed Native American ancestor?”

A – Unadmixed means that the Native person was fully Native, meaning not admixed with European, Asian or African DNA. Admixture, in this context, means that the individual is a mixture of multiple ethnic groups. This is an important concept, because if you discover that your ancestor 4 generations ago was a Cherokee tribal member, but the reality was that they were only 25% Native, that means that the DNA was already in the process of being divided. If your 4th generation ancestor was fully Native, you would receive about 6.25% of their DNA which would be all Native. If they were only 25% Native, that means that while you will still receive about 6.25% of their DNA but only one fourth of that 6.25% is possibly Native – so 1.56%. You could also receive NONE of their Native DNA.

Q – Is this the same test that the major companies use?

A – Yes and no. The test itself was probably performed on the same Illumina chip platform, because the chips available cover the markers that Bustamante needed for analysis.

The major companies use the same reference data bases, plus their own internal or private data bases in addition. They do not create PCA models for each tester. They do use the same methodology described by Dr. Bustamante in terms of AIMs, along with proprietary algorithms to further define the results. Vendors may also use additional internal tools.

Q – Did Dr. Bustamante use more than one methodology in his analysis? What if one was wrong?

A – Yes, he utilized two different methodologies whose results agreed. The global ancestry method evaluates each location independently of any surrounding genetic locations, ignoring any correlation or relationship to neighboring DNA. The second methodology, known as the local ancestry method looks at each location in combination with its neighbors, given that DNA pieces are known to travel together. This second methodology allows comparisons to entire segments in reference populations and is what allows the identification of complete ancestral segments that are identified as Native or any other population.

Q – If Elizabeth’s DNA results hadn’t shown Native heritage, would that have proven that she didn’t have Native ancestry?

A – No, not definitively, although that is a possible reason for ethnicity results not showing Native admixture. It would have meant that either she didn’t have a Native ancestor, the DNA washed out, or we cannot yet detect those segments.

Q – Does this qualify Elizabeth to join a tribe?

A – No. Every tribe defines their own criteria for membership. Some tribes embrace DNA testing for paternity issues, but none, to the best of my knowledge, accept or rely entirely on DNA results for membership. DNA results alone cannot identify a specific tribe. Tribes are societal constructs and Native people genetically are more alike than different, especially in areas where tribes lived nearby, fought and captured other tribe’s members.

Q – Why does Dr. Bustamante use words like “strong probability” instead of absolutes, such as the percentages shown by commercial DNA testing companies?

A – Dr. Bustamante’s comments accurately reflect the state of our knowledge today. The vendors attempt to make the results understandable and attractive for the general population. Most vendors, if you read their statements closely and look at your various options indicate that ethnicity is only an estimate, and some provide the ability to view your ethnicity estimate results at high, medium and low confidence levels.

Q – Can we tell, precisely, when Elizabeth had a Native ancestor?

A – No, that’s why Dr. Bustamante states that Elizabeth’s ancestor was approximately 8 generations ago, and in the range of 6-10 generations ago. This analysis is a result of combined factors, including the total centiMorgans of Native DNA, the number of separate reasonably large segments, the size of the longest segment, and the confidence score for each segment. Those factors together predict most likely when a fully Native ancestor was present in the tree. Keep in mind that if Elizabeth had more than one Native ancestor, that too could affect the time prediction.

Q – Does Dr. Bustamante provide this type of analysis or tools for the general public?

A – Unfortunately, no. Dr. Bustamante’s lab is a research facility only.

Roberta’s Summary of the Analysis

I find no omissions or questionable methods and I agree with Dr. Bustamante’s analysis. In other words, yes, I believe, based on these results, that Elizabeth had a Native ancestor further back in her tree.

I would love for every tester to be able to receive PCA results like this.

However, an ethnicity confirmation isn’t all that can be done with Elizabeth’s results. Additional tools and opportunities are available outside of an academic setting, at the vendors where we test, using matching and other tools we have access to as the consuming public.

We will look at those possibilities in a second article, because Elizabeth’s results are really just a beginning and scratch the surface. There’s more available, much more. It won’t change Elizabeth’s ethnicity results, but it could lead to positively identifying the Native ancestor, or at least the ancestral Native line.

Join me in my next article for Possibilities, Wringing the Most Out of Your DNA Ethnicity Test.

In the mean time, you might want to read my article, Native American DNA Resources.

Concepts – DNA Recombination and Crossovers

What is a crossover anyway, and why do I, as a genetic genealogist, care?

A crossover on a chromosome is where the chromosome is cut and the DNA from two different ancestors is spliced together during meiosis as the DNA of the offspring is created when half of the DNA of the two parents combines.

Identifying crossover locations, and who the DNA that we received came from is the first step in identifying the ancestor further back in our tree that contributed that segment of DNA to us.

Crossovers are easier to see than conceptualize.

Viewing Crossovers

The crossover is the location on each chromosome where the orange and black DNA butt up against each other – like a splice or seam.

In this example, utilizing the Family Tree DNA chromosome browser, the DNA of a grandchild is compared to the DNA of a grandparent. The grandchild received exactly 50 percent of her father’s DNA, but only the average of 25% of the DNA of each of her 4 grandparents. Comparing this child’s DNA to one grandmother shows that she inherited about half of this grandmother’s DNA – the other half belonging to the spousal grandfather.

  • The orange segments above show the locations where the grandchild matches the grandmother.
  • The black sections (with the exception of the very tips of the chromosomes) show locations where the grandchild does not match the grandmother, so by definition, the grandchild must match the grandfather in those black locations (except chromosome tips).
  • The crossover location is the dividing line between the orange and black. Please note that the ends of chromosomes are notoriously difficult and inconsistent, so I tend to ignore what appear to be crossovers at the tips of chromosomes unless I can prove one way or the other. Of the 22 chromosomes, 16 have at least one black tip. In some cases, like chromosome 16, you can’t tell since the entire chromosome is black.
  • Ignore the grey areas – those regions are untested because they are SNP poor.

We know that the grandchild has her grandmother’s entire X chromosome, because the parent is a male who only inherited an X chromosome from his mother, so that’s all he had to give his daughter. The tips of the X chromosome are black, showing that the area is not matching the mother, so that region is unstable and not reported.

It’s also interesting to note that in 6 cases, other than the X chromosome, the entire chromosome is passed intact from grandparent to grandchild; chromosomes 4, 11, 16, 20, 21 and 22.

Twenty-six crossovers occurred between mother and son, at 5cM.  This was determined by comparing the DNA of mother to son in order to ascertain the actual beginning and end of the chromosome matching region, which tells me whether the black tips are or are not crossovers by comparing the grandchild’s DNA to the grandmother.

For more about this, you might want to read Concepts – Segment Survival – Three and Four Generation Phasing.

Before going on, let’s look at what a match between a parent and child looks like, and why.

Parent/Child Match

If you’re wondering why I showed a match between a grandchild and a grandparent, above, instead of showing a match between a child and a parent, the chromosome browser below provides the answer.

It’s a solid orange mass for each chromosome indicating that the child matches the parent at every location.

How can this be if the child only inherits half of the parent’s DNA?

Remember – the parent has two chromosomes that mix to give the child one chromosome.  When comparing the child to the parent, the child’s single chromosome inherited from the parent matches one of the parent’s two chromosomes at every address location – so it shows as a complete match to the parent even though the child is only matching one of the parent’s two of chromosome locations.  This isn’t a bug and it’s just how chromosome browsers work. In other words, the “other ” chromosome that your parents carry is the one you don’t match.

The diagram below shows the mother’s two copies of chromosome 1 she inherited from her father and mother and which section she gave to her child.

You can see that the mother’s father’s chromosome is blue in this illustration, and the mother’s mother’s chromosome is pink.  The crossover points in the child are between part B and C, and between part C and D.  You can clearly see that the child, when compared to the mother, does in fact match the mother in all locations, or parts, 3 blue and 1 pink, even though the source of the matching DNA is from two different parents.

This example shows the child compared to both parents, so you can see that the child does in fact match both parents on every single location.

This is exactly why two different matches may match us on the same location, but may not match each other because they are from different sides of our family – one from Mom’s side and one from Dad’s.

You can read more about this in the article, One Chromosome, Two Sides, No Zipper – ICW and the Matrix.

The only way to tell which “sides” or pieces of the parent’s DNA that the child inherited is to compare to other people who descend from the same line as one of the parents.  In essence, you can compare the child to the grandparents to identify the locations that the child received from each of the 4 grandparents – and by genetic subtraction, which segments were NOT inherited from each grandparent as well, if one grandparent happens to be missing.

In our Parental Chromosome pink and blue diagram illustration above, the child did NOT inherit the pink parts A, B and D, and did not inherit the blue part C – but did inherit something from the parent at every single location. They also didn’t inherit an equal amount of their grandparents pink and blue DNA. If they inherited the pink part, then they didn’t inherit the blue part, and vice versa for that particular location.

The parent to child chromosome browser view also shows us that the very tip ends of the chromosomes are not included in the matching reports – because we know that the child MUST match the parent on one of their two chromosomes, end to end. The download or chart view provides us with the exact locations.

This brings us to the question of whether crossovers occur equally between males and female children.  We already know that the X chromosome has a distinctive inheritance pattern – meaning that males only inherit an X from their mothers.  A father and son will NEVER match on the X chromosome.  You can read more about X chromosome inheritance patterns in the article, X Marks the Spot.

Crossovers Differ Between Males and Females

In the paper Genetic Analysis of Variation in Human Meiotic Recombination by Chowdhury, et al, we learn that males and females experience a different average number of crossovers.

The authors say the following:

The number of recombination events per meiosis varies extensively among individuals. This recombination phenotype differs between female and male, and also among individuals of each gender.

Notably, we found different sequence variants associated with female and male recombination phenotypes, suggesting that they are regulated by different genes.

Meiotic recombination is essential for the formation of human gametes and is a key process that generates genetic diversity. Given its importance, we would expect the number and location of exchanges to be tightly regulated. However, studies show significant gender and inter-individual variation in genome-wide recombination rates. The genetic basis for this variation is poorly understood.

The Chowdhury paper provides the following graphs. These graphs show the average number of recombinations, or crossovers, per meiosis for each of two different studies, the AGRE and the FHS study, discussed in the paper.

The bottom line of this paper, for genetic genealogists, is that males average about 27 crossovers per child and females average about 42, with the AGRE study families reporting 41.1 and the FHS study families reporting 42.8.

I have been collaborating with statistician, Philip Gammon, and he points out the following:

Male, 22 chromosomes plus the average of 27 crossovers = an average of 49 segments of his parent’s DNA that he will pass on to his children. Roughly half will be from each of his parents. Not exactly half. If there are an odd number of crossovers on a chromosome it will contain an even number of segments and half will be from each parent. But if there are an even number of crossovers (0, 2, 4, 6 etc.) there will be an odd number of segments on the chromosome, one more from one parent than the other.

The average size of segments will be approximately:

  • Males, 22 + 27 = 49 segments at an average size of 3400 / 49 = 69 cM
  • Females, 22 + 42 = 64 segments at an average size of 3400 / 64 = 53 cM

This means that cumulatively, over time, in a line of entirely females, versus a line of entirely males, you’re going to see bigger chunks of DNA preserved (and lost) in males versus females, because the DNA divides fewer times. Bigger chunks of DNA mean better matching more generations back in time. When males do have a match, it would be likely to be on a larger segment.

The article, First Cousin Match Simulations speaks to this as well.

Practically Speaking

What does this mean, practically speaking, to genetic genealogists?

Few lines actually descend from all males or all females. Most of our connections to distant ancestors are through mixtures of male and female ancestors, so this variation in crossover rates really doesn’t affect us much – at least not on the average.

It’s difficult to discern why we match some cousins and we don’t match others. In some cases, rather than random recombination being a factor, the actual crossover rate may be at play. However, since we only know who we do match, and not who tested and we don’t match, it’s difficult to even speculate as to how recombination affected or affects our matches. And truthfully, for the application of genetic genealogy, we really don’t care – we (generally) only care who we do match – unless we don’t match anyone (or a second cousin or closer) in a particular line, especially a relatively close line – and that’s a horse of an entirely different color.

To me, the burning question to be answered, which still has not been unraveled, is why a difference in recombination rates exists between males and females. What processes are in play here that we don’t understand? What else might this not-yet-understood phenomenon affect?

Until we figure those things out, I note whether or not my match occurred through primarily men or women, and simply add that information into the other data that I use to determine match quality and possible distance.  In other words, information that informs me as to how close and reasonable a match is likely to be includes the following information:

  • Total amount of shared DNA
  • Largest segment size
  • Number of matching segments
  • Number of SNPs in matching segment
  • Shared matches
  • X chromosome
  • mtDNA or Y DNA match
  • Trees – presence, absence, accuracy, depth and completeness
  • Primarily male or female individuals in path to common ancestor
  • Who else they match, particularly known close relatives
  • Does triangulation occur

It would be very interesting to see how the instances of matches to a certain specific cousin level – say 3rd cousins (for example), fare differently in terms of the average amount of shared DNA, the largest segment size and the number of segments in people descended from entirely female and entirely male lines. Blaine Bettinger, are you listening? This would be a wonderful study for the Shared cM Project which measures actual data.

Isn’t the science of genetics absolutely fascinating???!!!

______________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Cousin Match Simulations

Have you ever wondered if your match with your first cousin is “normal,” or what the range of normal is for a first cousin match? How would we know? And if your result doesn’t fall into the expected range, does that mean it’s wrong? Does gender make a difference?

If you haven’t wondered some version of these questions yet, you will eventually, don’t worry! Yep, the things that keep genetic genealogists awake at night…

Philip Gammon, our statistician friend who wrote the Match-Maker-Breaker tool for parental match phasing has continued to perform research. In his latest endeavor, he has created a tool that simulates the matching between individuals of a given relationship. Philip is planning to submit a paper describing the tool and its underlying model for academic publication, but he has agreed to give us a sneak peek. Thanks Philip!

In this example, Philip simulated matching between first cousins.

The data presented here is the result of 80,000 simulations:

Philip was interested in this particular outcome in order to understand why his father shared 1206 cM with a first cousin, and if that was an outlier, since it is not near the average produced from the Shared cM Project (2017 revision) coordinated by Blaine Bettinger.

Academically calculated expectations suggest first cousins should share 850 cM. The data collected by Blaine showed an actual average of 874 cM, but varied within a 99th percentile range of 553 to 1225 cM utilizing 1512 respondents. You can view the expected values for relationships in the article, Concepts – Relationship Predictions and a second article, Shared cM Project 2017 Update Combined Chart  that includes a new chart incorporating the values from the 2016 Shared cM Project, the 2017 update and the DNA Detectives chart reflecting relationships as well.

Philip grouped the results into the same bins as used in the 2017 Shared cM Project:

From The Shared cM Project tables:

Philip’s commentary regarding his simulations and The Shared cM Project’s results:

I’d say that they look very similar. The spread is just about right. The Shared cM data is a little higher but this is consistent with vendor results typically containing around 20 cM of short IBC segments. My sample size is about 50 times greater so this gives more opportunity to observe extreme values. I observed 3 events exceeding 1410 cM, with a maximum of 1461 cM. At the lower end I have 246 events (about 0.3%) with fewer than 510 shared cM and a minimum of 338 cM.

I thought that the gender of the related parents of the 1st cousins would have quite an impact on the spread of the amounts shared between their children. Fewer crossovers for males means that the respective children of two brothers would be receiving on average, larger segments of DNA, so greater opportunity for either more sharing or for less. Conversely, the respective children of two sisters, with more crossovers and smaller segments, would be more tightly clustered around the average of 12.5% (854 cM in my model). There is a difference, but it’s not nearly as pronounced as I was expecting:

The most noticeable difference is in the tails. First cousins whose fathers were brothers are twice as likely to either share less than 8% or more than 17% than first cousins whose mothers were sisters. And of course, if the cousins were connected via a respective parent who were brother and sister to each other, the spread of shared cM is somewhere in between.

% DNA shared between the respective offspring of…
<8% 8-10% 10-15% 15-17% >17%
2 sisters 0.6% 8.0% 82.4% 8.0% 1.0%
1 brother, 1 sister 0.7% 9.2% 79.7% 9.1% 1.3%
2 brothers 1.3% 9.9% 76.9% 10.0% 2.0%

Shared cM Project 2017 Update Combined Chart

The original goal of Blaine Bettinger’s Shared cM Project was to document the actual shared ranges of centiMorgans found in various relationships between testers in genetic genealogy. Previously, all we had were academically calculated models which didn’t accurately really reflect the data that genetic genealogists were seeing.

In June 2016, Blaine published the first version of the Shared cM Project information gathered collaboratively through crowd-sourcing. He continued to gather data, and has published a new 2017 version recently, along with an accompanying pdf download that explains the details. Today, more than 25,000 known relationships have been submitted by testers, along with their amount of shared DNA.

Blaine continues to accept submissions at this link, so please participate by submitting your data.

In the 2017 version, some of the numbers, especially the maximums in the more distant relationship categories changed rather dramatically. Some maximums actually doubled, meaning having more data to work with was a really good thing.

The 2017 project update refines the numbers with more accuracy, but also adds more uncertainly for people looking for nice, neat, tight relationship ranges. This project and resulting informational chart is a great tool, but you can’t now and never will be able to identify relationships with complete certainly without additional genealogical information to go along with the DNA results.

That’s the reason there is a column titled “Degree of Relationship.” Various different relationships between people can be expected to share about the same amount of DNA, so determining that relationship has to be done through a combination of DNA and other information.

When the 2016 version was released, I completed a chart that showed the expected percentage of shared DNA in various relationship categories and contrasted the expected cM of DNA against what Blaine had provided. I published the chart as part of an article titled, Concepts – Relationship Predictions. This article is still a great resource and very valid, but the chart is now out of date with the new 2017 information.

What a great reason to create a new chart to update the old one.

Thanks to Blaine and all the genetic genealogists who contributed to this important crowd-sourced citizen science project!

2016 Compared to 2017

The first thing I wanted to know was how the numbers changed from the 2016 version of the project to 2017. I combined the two years’ worth of data into one file and color coded the results. Please note that you can click on any image to enlarge.

The legend is as follows:

  • White rows = 2016 data
  • Peach rows = 2017 data for the same categories as 2016
  • Blue rows = new categories in 2017
  • Red cells = information that changed surprisingly, discussed below
  • Yellow cells = the most changed category since 2016

I was very pleased to see that Blaine was able to add data for several new relationship categories this year – meaning that there wasn’t enough information available in 2016. Those are easy to spot in the chart above, as they are blue.

Unexpected Minimum and Maximum Changes

As I looked at these results, I realized that some of the minimums increased. At first glance, this doesn’t make sense, because a minimum can get lower as the range expands, but a minimum can’t increase with the same data being used.

Had Blaine eliminated some of the data?

I thought I understood that the 2017 project simply added to the 2016 data, but if the same minimum data was included in both 2016 and 2017, why was the minimum larger in 2017? This occurred in 6 different categories.

By the same token, and applying the same logic, there are 5 categories where the maximum got smaller. That, logically, can’t happen either using the same data. The maximum could increase, but not decrease.

I know that Blaine worked with a statistician in 2016 and used a statistical algorithm to attempt to eliminate the outliers in order to, hopefully, eliminate errors in data entry, misunderstandings about the proper terms for relationships and relationships that were misunderstood either through genealogy or perhaps an unknown genetic link. Of course, issues like endogamy will affect these calculations too.

A couple good examples would be half siblings who thought they were full siblings, or half first cousins instead of just first cousins. The terminology “once removed” confuses people too.

You can read about the proper terminology for relationships between people in the article, Quick Tip – Calculating Cousin Relationships Easily.

In other words, Blaine had to take all of these qualifiers that relate to data quality into consideration.

Blaine’s Explanation

I asked Blaine about the unusual changes. He has given me permission to quote his response, below:

The maximum and minimum aren’t the largest and smallest numbers people have submitted, they’re the submissions statistically identified by the entire dataset as being either the 95th percentile maximum and minimum, or the 99th percentile maximum and minimum. As a result, the max or min can move in either direction. Think of it in terms of the histograms; if the peak of the histogram moves to the right or left due to a lot more data, then the shoulders (5 & 95% or the 1 and 99%) of the histogram will move as well, either to the right or left.

So, for example, substantially more data for 1C2R revealed that the previously minimum was too low, and has corrected it. There are still 1C2R submissions down there below the minimum of 43, and there are submissions above the maximum of 531, but the entire dataset for 1C2R has statistically identified those submissions as being outliers

The histogram for 1C2R supports that as well, showing that there are submissions above 531, but they are clearly outliers:

People submit “bad” numbers for relationships, either due to data entry errors, incorrect genealogies, unknown pedigree collapse, or other reasons. Unless I did this statistical analysis, the project would be useless because every relationship would have an exorbitant range. The 95th and 99th percentiles help keep the ranges in check by identifying the reasonable upper and lower boundaries.

Adding Additional Information

The reason I created this chart was not initially to share, but because I use the information all the time and wanted it in one easily accessible location.

I appreciate the work that Blaine has done to eliminate outliers, but in some cases, those outliers, although in the statistical 1%, will be accurate. In other cases, they clearly won’t, or they will be accurate but not relevant due to endogamy and pedigree collapse. How do you know? You don’t.

In the pdf that Blaine provides, he does us the additional service by breaking the results down by testing vendors: 23andMe, Ancestry and Family Tree DNA, and comparison service, GedMatch. He also provides endogamous and non-endogamous results, when known.

The vendor where an individual tests does have an impact on both the testing, the matching and the reporting. For example, Family Tree DNA includes all matches to the 1cM level in total cM, Ancestry strips out DNA they think is “too matchy” with their Timber algorithm, so their total cM will be much smaller than Family Tree DNA, and 23andMe is the only one of the vendors to report fully identical regions by adding that number into the total shared cM a second time. This isn’t a matter of right or wrong, but a matter of different approaches.

Blaine’s vendor specific charts go a long way in accounting for those differences in the Parent/Child and Sibling charts shown below.

A Combined Chart

In order to give myself the best change of actually correctly locating not just the best fit for a relationship as predicted by total matching cM, but all possible fits, I decided to add a third data source into the chart.

The DNA Detectives Facebook Group that specializes in adoption searches has compiled their own chart based on their experiences in reconstructing families through testing. This chart is often referred to simply as “the green chart” and therefore, I have added that information as well, rows colored green (of course), and combined it into the chart.

I modified the headings for this combined chart, slightly, and added a column for actual shared percent since the DNA Detectives chart provides that information.

I have also changed the coloring on the blue rows, which were new in 2017, to be the same as the rest of Blaine’s 2017 peach colored rows.

I hope you find this combined chart as useful as I do. Feel free to share, but please include the link to this article and credit appropriately, for my work compiling the chart as well as Blaine’s work on the 2016 and 2017 cM Projects and DNA Detective’s work producing their “green chart.”

Ancestral DNA Percentages – How Much of Them is in You?

One of the most common questions I receive, especially in light of the interest in ethnicity testing, is how much of an ancestor’s DNA someone “should” share.

The chart above shows how much of a particular generation of ancestors’ DNA you would inherit if each generation between you and that ancestor inherited exactly 50% of that ancestor’s DNA from their parent. This means, on the average, you will carry less than 1% of each of your 5 times great-grandparents DNA, shown in generation 7, in total. You’ll carry about 1.56% of each of your 6 times great-grandparents, and so forth.

As you can see, if you’re looking for a Native American ancestor, for example, who is 7 generations back in your tree, if you carry the average amount of DNA from that ancestor, it will be less than 1% which will be under the noise threshold for detection – and that’s assuming they were 100% Native at that time.

Everyone inherits 50% of their DNA from their parents, but not everyone inherits half of each of their ancestors’ DNA from a parent. Sometimes, the child will inherit all of a segment of DNA from an ancestor, and in other cases, the child will inherit none. In some cases, they will inherit half or a portion of the DNA from an ancestor. In reality, the DNA segments are very seldom divided exactly in half, but all we can deal with are averages when discussing how much DNA you “should” receive from an ancestor, based on where they are in your tree.

The generational relationship chart above represents the average that you will inherit from each of those ancestors. Of course, few people are actually average, and you may not be either. In other words, your ancestor’s DNA may not be detectible at 5, 6 or 7 generations, because it was lost in generations between them and you, while another ancestor’s DNA is still present in detectable amounts at 8 or 9 generations.

How Does Inheritance of Ancestral Segments Actually Work?

For you to inherit a particular segment from one GGGGG-grandparent, the inheritance might look something like this. “You” are at the bottom of the tree. You can click on any graphic to enlarge.

In the above example, you inherited one tenth of the segment from your GGGGG-grandparent which was one third of the DNA that your parent carried in that segment from that ancestor.

A second example is every bit as likely, shown below.

In this second scenario, you inherited nothing of that segment from your GGGGG-grandparent.

A third scenario is also a possibility.

In this third scenario, you inherited all of the DNA from that ancestor as your parent.

Now, think of these three scenarios as three different siblings inheriting from the same parent, and you’ll understand why siblings carry different amounts of DNA from their ancestors.

Of course, the child can only inherit what the parent has inherited from that ancestor, and if that particular segment was gone in the parent’s generation, or generations before the parent, the child certainly can’t inherit the segment. There is no such thing as “skipping generations.”

In this fourth scenario, the parent didn’t receive any of the segment from the GGGGG-grandparent, but maybe their brother or sister did, which is why you want to test aunts and uncles. Testing everyone in your family available from the oldest generation is absolutely critical.

This, of course, is exactly why we test as many relatives as we can. Everyone inherits different amounts of segments of DNA from our common ancestors. This is also why we map our matching segments to those ancestors by triangulating with cousins – to identify which pieces of our DNA came from which ancestor.

Seeing examples of how inheritance works helps us understand that there is no “one answer” to the question we want to know about each ancestor – “How much of you is in me?” The answer is, “it depends” and the actual amount would be different for every ancestor except your parents, where the answer is always 50%.

______________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concepts – Percentage of Ancestors’ DNA

A very common question is, “How much DNA of an ancestor do I carry and how does that affect my ethnicity results?”

This question is particularly relevant for people who are seeking evidence of a particular ethnicity of an ancestor several generations back in time. I see this issue raise its head consistently when people take an ethnicity test and expect that their “full blood” Native American great-great-grandmother will show up in their results.

Let’s take a look at how DNA inheritance works – and why they might – or might not find the Native DNA they seek, assuming that great-great-grandma actually was Native.

Inheritance

Every child inherits exactly 50% of their autosomal DNA from each parent (except for the X chromosome in males.) However, and this is a really important however, the child does NOT inherit exactly half of the DNA of each ancestor who lived before the parents. How can this be, you ask?

Let’s step through this logically.

The number of ancestors you have doubles in each generation, going back in time.

This chart provides a summary of how many ancestors you have in each generation, an approximate year they were born using a 25 year generation and a 30 year generation, respectively, and how much of their DNA, on average, you could expect to carry, today. You’ll notice that by the time you’re in the 7th generation, you can be expected, on average, to carry 0.78% meaning less than 1% of that GGGGG-grandparent’s DNA.

Looking at the chart, you can see that you reach the 1% level at about the 6th generation with an ancestor probably born in the late 1700s or early 1800s.

It’s also worth noting here that generations can be counted differently. In some instances, you are counted as generation one, so your GGGGG-grandparent would be generation 8.

In general, DNA showing ethnicity below about 5% is viewed as somewhat questionable and below 2% is often considered to be “noise.” Clearly, that isn’t always the case, especially if you are dealing with continental level breakdowns, as opposed to within Europe, for example. Intra-continental (regional) ethnicity breakdowns are particularly difficult and unreliable, but continental level differences are easier to discern and are considered to be more reliable, comparatively.

If you want to learn more about how ethnicity calculations are derived and what they mean, please read the article Ethnicity Testing – A Conundrum.

On Average May Not Mean You

On average, each child receives half of the DNA of each ancestor from their parent.

The words “on average” are crucial to this discussion, because the average assumes that in fact each generation between your GGGGG-grandmother and you inherited exactly half of the DNA in each generation from their parent that was contributed by that GGGGG-grandmother.

Unfortunately, while averages are all that we have to work with, that’s not always how ancestral DNA is passed in each generation.

Let’s say that your GGGGG-grandmother was indeed full Native, meaning no admixture at all.

You can click to enlarge images.

Using the chart above, you can see that your GGGGG-grandmother was full native on all 20 “pieces” or segments of DNA used for this illustration. Those segments are colored red. The other 10 segments, with no color, were contributed by the father.

Let’s say she married a person who was not Native, and in every generation since, there were no additional Native ancestors.

Her child, generation 6, inherited exactly 50% of her DNA, shown in red – meaning 10 segments..

Generation 5, her grandchild, inherited exactly half of her DNA that was carried by the parent, shown in red – meaning 5 segments..

However, in the next generation, generation 4, that child inherited more than half of the Native DNA from their parent. They inherited half of their parent’s DNA, but the half that was randomly received included 3 Native segments out of a possible 5 Native segments that the parent carried.

In generation 3, that child inherited 2 of the possible 3 segments that their parent carried.

In generation 2, that person inherited all of the Native DNA that their parent carried.

In generation 1, your parent inherited half of the DNA that their parent carried, meaning one of 2 segments of Native DNA carried by your grandparent.

And you will either receive all of that one segment, part of that one segment, or none of that one segment.

In the case of our example, you did not inherit that segment, which is why you show no Native admixture, even though your GGGGG-grandmother was indeed fully Native..

Of course, even if you had inherited that Native segment, and that segment isn’t something the population reference models recognize as “Native,” you still won’t show as carrying any Native at all. It could also be that if you had inherited the red segment, it would have been too small and been interpreted as noise.

The “Received” column at the right shows how much of the ancestral DNA the current generation received from their parent.

The “% of Original” column shows how the percentage of GGGGG-grandmother’s DNA is reduced in each generation.

The “Expected” column shows how much DNA, “on average” we would expect to see in each generation, as compared to the “% of Original” which is how much they actually carry.

I intentionally made the chart, above, reflect a scenario close to what we could expect, on average. However, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility to see something like the following scenario, as well.

In the second example, above, neither you nor your parent or grandparent inherited any of the Native segments.

It’s also possible to see a third example, below, where 4 generations in a row, including you, inherited the full amount of Native DNA segments carried by the GG-grandparent.

Testing Other Relatives

Every child of every couple inherits different DNA from their parents. The 50% of their parents’ DNA that they inherit is not all the same. The three example charts above could easily represent three children of the GG-Grandparent and their descendants.

The pedigree chart below shows the three different examples, above.  The great-great-grandparent in the 4th generation who inherited 3 Native DNA segments is shown first, then the inheritance of the Native segments through all 3 children to the current generation.

Therefore, you may not have inherited the red segment of GGGGG-grandmother’s Native DNA, but your sibling might, or vice versa. As you can see in the chart above, one of your third cousins received 3 native segments from GGGGG-grandmother. but your other third cousin received none.

You can see why people are always encouraged to test their parents and grandparents as well as siblings. You never know where your ancestor’s DNA will turn up, and each person will carry a different amount, and different segments of DNA from your common ancestors.

In other words, your great-aunt and great-uncle’s DNA is every bit as important to you as your own grandparent’s DNA – so test everyone in older generations while you can, and their children if they are no longer available.

Back to Great-Great-Grandma

Going back to great-great-grandma and her Native heritage. You may not show Native ethnicity when you expected to see Native, but you may have other resources and recourses. Don’t give up!

Reason Resources and Comments
She really wasn’t Native. Genealogical research will help and mitochondrial DNA testing of an appropriate descendant will point the way to her true ethnic heritage, at least on her mother’s side.
She was Native, but the ethnicity test doesn’t show that I am. Test relatives and find someone descended from her through all females to take a mitochondrial test. The mitochondrial test will answer the question for her matrilineal line unquestionably.
She was partly, but not fully Native. This would mean that she had less Native DNA than you thought, which would mean the percentage coming to you is lower on average than anticipated. Mitochondrial DNA testing someone descended from her through all females to the current generation, which can be male, would reveal whether her mother was Native from her mother’s line.
She was Native, but several generations back in time. You or your siblings may show small percentages of Native or other locations considered to be a component of Native admixture in the absence of any other logical explanation for their presence, such as Siberian or Eastern Asian.

Using Y and Mitochondrial DNA Testing to Supplement Ethnicity Testing

When in doubt about ethnicity results, find an appropriately descended person to take a Y DNA test (males only, for direct paternal lineage) or a mitochondrial DNA test, for direct matrilineal results. These tests will yield haplogroup information and haplogroups are associated with specific world regions and ethnicities, providing a more definitive answer regarding the heritage of that specific line.

Y DNA reflects the direct male line, shown in blue above, and mitochondrial DNA reflects the direct matrilineal line, shown in red. Only males carry Y DNA, but both genders carry mitochondrial DNA.

For a short article about the different kinds of DNA and how they can help genealogists, please read 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy.

Ethnicity testing is available from any of the 3 major vendors, meaning Family Tree DNA, Ancestry or 23andMe. Base haplogroups are provided with 23andMe results, but detailed testing for Y and mitochondrial DNA is only available from Family Tree DNA.

To read about the difference between the two types of testing utilized for deriving haplogroups between 23andMe and Family Tree DNA, please read Haplogroup Comparisons between Family Tree DNA and 23andMe.

For more information on haplogroups, please read What is a Haplogroup?

For a discussion about testing family members, please read Concepts – Why DNA Testing the Oldest Family Members is Critically Important.

If you’d like to read a more detailed explanation of how inheritance works, please read Concepts – How Your Autosomal DNA Identifies Your Ancestors.

Concepts – Segment Size, Legitimate and False Matches

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match!

One of the questions I often receive about autosomal DNA is, “What, EXACTLY, is a match?”  The answer at first glance seems evident, meaning when you and someone else are shown on each other’s match lists, but it really isn’t that simple.

What I’d like to discuss today is what actually constitutes a match – and the difference between legitimate or real matches and false matches, also called false positives.

Let’s look at a few definitions before we go any further.

Definitions

  • A Match – when you and another person are found on each other’s match lists at a testing vendor. You may match that person on one or more segments of DNA.
  • Matching Segment – when a particular segment of DNA on a particular chromosome matches to another person. You may have multiple segment matches with someone, if they are closely related, or only one segment match if they are more distantly related.
  • False Match – also known as a false positive match. This occurs when you match someone that is not identical by descent (IBD), but identical by chance (IBC), meaning that your DNA and theirs just happened to match, as a happenstance function of your mother and father’s DNA aligning in such a way that you match the other person, but neither your mother or father match that person on that segment.
  • Legitimate Match – meaning a match that is a result of the DNA that you inherited from one of your parents. This is the opposite of a false positive match.  Legitimate matches are identical by descent (IBD.)  Some IBD matches are considered to be identical by population, (IBP) because they are a result of a particular DNA segment being present in a significant portion of a given population from which you and your match both descend. Ideally, legitimate matches are not IBP and are instead indicative of a more recent genealogical ancestor that can (potentially) be identified.

You can read about Identical by Descent and Identical by Chance here.

  • Endogamy – an occurrence in which people intermarry repeatedly with others in a closed community, effectively passing the same DNA around and around in descendants without introducing different/new DNA from non-related individuals. People from endogamous communities, such as Jewish and Amish groups, will share more DNA and more small segments of DNA than people who are not from endogamous communities.  Fully endogamous individuals have about three times as many autosomal matches as non-endogamous individuals.
  • False Negative Match – a situation where someone doesn’t match that should. False negatives are very difficult to discern.  We most often see them when a match is hovering at a match threshold and by lowing the threshold slightly, the match is then exposed.  False negative segments can sometimes be detected when comparing DNA of close relatives and can be caused by read errors that break a segment in two, resulting in two segments that are too small to be reported individually as a match.  False negatives can also be caused by population phasing which strips out segments that are deemed to be “too matchy” by Ancestry’s Timber algorithm.
  • Parental or Family Phasing – utilizing the DNA of your parents or other close family members to determine which side of the family a match derives from. Actual phasing means to determine which parts of your DNA come from which parent by comparing your DNA to at least one, if not both parents.  The results of phasing are that we can identify matches to family groups such as the Phased Family Finder results at Family Tree DNA that designate matches as maternal or paternal based on phased results for you and family members, up to third cousins.
  • Population Based Phasing – In another context, phasing can refer to academic phasing where some DNA that is population based is removed from an individual’s results before matching to others. Ancestry does this with their Timber program, effectively segmenting results and sometimes removing valid IBD segments.  This is not the type of phasing that we will be referring to in this article and parental/family phasing should not be confused with population/academic phasing.

IBD and IBC Match Examples

It’s important to understand the definitions of Identical by Descent and Identical by Chance.

I’ve created some easy examples.

Let’s say that a match is defined as any 10 DNA locations in a row that match.  To keep this comparison simple, I’m only showing 10 locations.

In the examples below, you are the first person, on the left, and your DNA strands are showing.  You have a pink strand that you inherited from Mom and a blue strand inherited from Dad.  Mom’s 10 locations are all filled with A and Dad’s locations are all filled with T.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature doesn’t keep your Mom’s and Dad’s strands on one side or the other, so their DNA is mixed together in you.  In other words, you can’t tell which parts of your DNA are whose.  However, for our example, we’re keeping them separate because it’s easier to understand that way.

Legitimate Match – Identical by Descent from Mother

matches-ibd-mom

In the example above, Person B, your match, has all As.  They will match you and your mother, both, meaning the match between you and person B is identical by descent.  This means you match them because you inherited the matching DNA from your mother. The matching DNA is bordered in black.

Legitimate Match – Identical by Descent from Father

In this second example, Person C has all T’s and matches both you and your Dad, meaning the match is identical by descent from your father’s side.

matches-ibd-dad

You can clearly see that you can have two different people match you on the same exact segment location, but not match each other.  Person B and Person C both match you on the same location, but they very clearly do not match each other because Person B carries your mother’s DNA and Person C carries your father’s DNA.  These three people (you, Person B and Person C) do NOT triangulate, because B and C do not match each other.  The article, “Concepts – Match Groups and Triangulation” provides more details on triangulation.

Triangulation is how we prove that individuals descend from a common ancestor.

If Person B and Person C both descended from your mother’s side and matched you, then they would both carry all As in those locations, and they would match you, your mother and each other.  In this case, they would triangulate with you and your mother.

False Positive or Identical by Chance Match

This third example shows that Person D does technically match you, because they have all As and Ts, but they match you by zigzagging back and forth between your Mom’s and Dad’s DNA strands.  Of course, there is no way for you to know this without matching Person D against both of your parents to see if they match either parent.  If your match does not match either parent, the match is a false positive, meaning it is not a legitimate match.  The match is identical by chance (IBC.)

matches-ibc

One clue as to whether a match is IBC or IBD, even without your parents, is whether the person matches you and other close relatives on this same segment.  If not, then the match may be IBC. If the match also matches close relatives on this segment, then the match is very likely IBD.  Of course, the segment size matters too, which we’ll discuss momentarily.

If a person triangulates with 2 or more relatives who descend from the same ancestor, then the match is identical by descent, and not identical by chance.

False Negative Match

This last example shows a false negative.  The DNA of Person E had a read error at location 5, meaning that there are not 10 locations in a row that match.  This causes you and Person E to NOT be shown as a match, creating a false negative situation, because you actually do match if Person E hadn’t had the read error.

matches-false-negative

Of course, false negatives are by definition very hard to identify, because you can’t see them.

Comparisons to Your Parents

Legitimate matches will phase to your parents – meaning that you will match Person B on the same amount of a specific segment, or a smaller portion of that segment, as one of your parents.

False matches mean that you match the person, but neither of your parents matches that person, meaning that the segment in question is identical by chance, not by descent.

Comparing your matches to both of your parents is the easiest litmus paper test of whether your matches are legitimate or not.  Of course, the caveat is that you must have both of your parents available to fully phase your results.

Many of us don’t have both parents available to test, so let’s take a look at how often false positive matches really do occur.

False Positive Matches

How often do false matches really happen?

The answer to that question depends on the size of the segments you are comparing.

Very small segments, say at 1cM, are very likely to match randomly, because they are so small.  You can read more about SNPs and centiMorgans (cM) here.

As a rule of thumb, the larger the matching segment as measured in cM, with more SNPs in that segment:

  • The stronger the match is considered to be
  • The more likely the match is to be IBD and not IBC
  • The closer in time the common ancestor, facilitating the identification of said ancestor

Just in case we forget sometimes, identifying ancestors IS the purpose of genetic genealogy, although it seems like we sometimes get all geeked out by the science itself and process of matching!  (I can hear you thinking, “speak for yourself, Roberta.”)

It’s Just a Phase!!!

Let’s look at an example of phasing a child’s matches against those of their parents.

In our example, we have a non-endogamous female child (so they inherit an X chromosome from both parents) whose matches are being compared to her parents.

I’m utilizing files from Family Tree DNA. Ancestry does not provide segment data, so Ancestry files can’t be used.  At 23andMe, coordinating the security surrounding 3 individuals results and trying to make sure that the child and both parents all have access to the same individuals through sharing would be a nightmare, so the only vendor’s results you can reasonably utilize for phasing is Family Tree DNA.

You can download the matches for each person by chromosome segment by selecting the chromosome browser and the “Download All Matches to Excel (CSV Format)” at the top right above chromosome 1.

matches-chromosomr-browser

All segment matches 1cM and above will be downloaded into a CSV file, which I then save as an Excel spreadsheet.

I downloaded the files for both parents and the child. I deleted segments below 3cM.

About 75% of the rows in the files were segments below 3cM. In part, I deleted these segments due to the sheer size and the fact that the segment matching was a manual process.  In part, I did this because I already knew that segments below 3 cM weren’t terribly useful.

Rows Father Mother Child
Total 26,887 20,395 23,681
< 3 cM removed 20,461 15,025 17,784
Total Processed 6,426 5,370 5,897

Because I have the ability to phase these matches against both parents, I wanted to see how many of the matches in each category were indeed legitimate matches and how many were false positives, meaning identical by chance.

How does one go about doing that, exactly?

Downloading the Files

Let’s talk about how to make this process easy, at least as easy as possible.

Step one is downloading the chromosome browser matches for all 3 individuals, the child and both parents.

First, I downloaded the child’s chromosome browser match file and opened the spreadsheet.

Second, I downloaded the mother’s file, colored all of her rows pink, then appended the mother’s rows into the child’s spreadsheet.

Third, I did the same with the father’s file, coloring his rows blue.

After I had all three files in one spreadsheet, I sorted the columns by segment size and removed the segments below 3cM.

Next, I sorted the remaining items on the spreadsheet, in order, by column, as follows:

  • End
  • Start
  • Chromosome
  • Matchname

matches-both-parents

My resulting spreadsheet looked like this.  Sorting in the order prescribed provides you with the matches to each person in chromosome and segment order, facilitating easy (OK, relatively easy) visual comparison for matching segments.

I then colored all of the child’s NON-matching segments green so that I could see (and eventually filter the matchname column by) the green color indicating that they were NOT matches.  Do this only for the child, or the white (non-colored) rows.  The child’s matchname only gets colored green if there is no corresponding match to a parent for that same person on that same chromosome segment.

matches-child-some-parents

All of the child’s matches that DON’T have a corresponding parent match in pink or blue for that same person on that same segment will be colored green.  I’ve boxed the matches so you can see that they do match, and that they aren’t colored green.

In the above example, Donald and Gaff don’t match either parent, so they are all green.  Mess does match the father on some segments, so those segments are boxed, but the rest of Mess doesn’t match a parent, so is colored green.  Sarah doesn’t match any parent, so she is entirely green.

Yes, you do manually have to go through every row on this combined spreadsheet.

If you’re going to phase your matches against your parent or parents, you’ll want to know what to expect.  Just because you’ve seen one match does not mean you’ve seen them all.

What is a Match?

So, finally, the answer to the original question, “What is a Match?”  Yes, I know this was the long way around the block.

In the exercise above, we weren’t evaluating matches, we were just determining whether or not the child’s match also matched the parent on the same segment, but sometimes it’s not clear whether they do or do not match.

matches-child-mess

In the case of the second match with Mess on chromosome 11, above, the starting and ending locations, and the number of cM and segments are exactly the same, so it’s easy to determine that Mess matches both the child and the father on chromosome 11. All matches aren’t so straightforward.

Typical Match

matches-typical

This looks like your typical match for one person, in this case, Cecelia.  The child (white rows) matches Cecelia on three segments that don’t also match the child’s mother (pink rows.)  Those non-matching child’s rows are colored green in the match column.  The child matches Cecelia on two segments that also match the mother, on chromosome 20 and the X chromosome.  Those matching segments are boxed in black.

The segments in both of these matches have exact overlaps, meaning they start and end in exactly the same location, but that’s not always the case.

And for the record, matches that begin and/or end in the same location are NOT more likely to be legitimate matches than those that start and end in different locations.  Vendors use small buckets for matching, and if you fall into any part of the bucket, even if your match doesn’t entirely fill the bucket, the bucket is considered occupied.  So what you’re seeing are the “fuzzy” bucket boundaries.

(Over)Hanging Chad

matches-overhanging

In this case, Chad’s match overhangs on each end.  You can see that Chad’s match to the child begins at 52,722,923 before the mother’s match at 53,176,407.

At the end location, the child’s matching segment also extends beyond the mother’s, meaning the child matches Chad on a longer segment than the mother.  This means that the segment sections before 53,176,407 and after 61,495,890 are false negative matches, because Chad does not also match the child’s mother of these portions of the segment.

This segment still counts as a match though, because on the majority of the segment, Chad does match both the child and the mother.

Nested Match

matches-nested

This example shows a nested match, where the parent’s match to Randy begins before the child’s and ends after the child’s, meaning that the child’s matching DNA segment to Randy is entirely nested within the mother’s.  In other words, pieces got shaved off of both ends of this segment when the child was inheriting from her mother.

No Common Matches

matches-no-common

Sometimes, the child and the parent will both match the same person, but there are no common segments.  Don’t read more into this than what it is.  The child’s matches to Mary are false matches.  We have no way to judge the mother’s matches, except for segment size probability, which we’ll discuss shortly.

Look Ma, No Parents

matches-no-parents

In this case, the child matches Don on 5 segments, including a reasonably large segment on chromosome 9, but there are no matches between Don and either parent.  I went back and looked at this to be sure I hadn’t missed something.

This could, possibly, be an instance of an unseen a false negative, meaning perhaps there is a read issue in the parent’s file on chromosome 9, precluding a match.  However, in this case, since Family Tree DNA does report matches down to 1cM, it would have to be an awfully large read error for that to occur.  Family Tree DNA does have quality control standards in place and each file must pass the quality threshold to be put into the matching data base.  So, in this case, I doubt that the problem is a false negative.

Just because there are multiple IBC matches to Don doesn’t mean any of those are incorrect.  It’s just the way that the DNA is inherited and it’s why this type of a match is called identical by chance – the key word being chance.

Split Match

matches-split

This split match is very interesting.  If you look closely, you’ll notice that Diane matches Mom on the entire segment on chromosome 12, but the child’s match is broken into two.  However, the number of SNPs adds up to the same, and the number of cM is close.  This suggests that there is a read error in the child’s file forcing the child’s match to Diane into two pieces.

If the segments broken apart were smaller, under the match threshold, and there were no other higher matches on other segments, this match would not be shown and would fall into the False Negative category.  However, since that’s not the case, it’s a legitimate match and just falls into the “interesting” category.

The Deceptive Match

matches-surname

Don’t be fooled by seeing a family name in the match column and deciding it’s a legitimate match.  Harrold is a family surname and Mr. Harrold does not match either of the child’s parents, on any segment.  So not a legitimate match, no matter how much you want it to be!

Suspicious Match – Probably not Real

matches-suspicious

This technically is a match, because part of the DNA that Daryl matches between Mom and the child does overlap, from 111,236,840 to 113,275,838.  However, if you look at the entire match, you’ll notice that not a lot of that segment overlaps, and the number of cMs is already low in the child’s match.  There is no way to calculate the number of cMs and SNPs in the overlapping part of the segment, but suffice it to say that it’s smaller, and probably substantially smaller, than the 3.32 total match for the child.

It’s up to you whether you actually count this as a match or not.  I just hope this isn’t one of those matches you REALLY need.  However, in this case, the Mom’s match at 15.46 cM is 99% likely to be a legitimate match, so you really don’t need the child’s match at all!!!

So, Judge Judy, What’s the Verdict?

How did our parental phasing turn out?  What did we learn?  How many segments matched both the child and a parent, and how many were false matches?

In each cM Size category below, I’ve included the total number of child’s match rows found in that category, the number of parent/child matches, the percent of parent/child matches, the number of matches to the child that did NOT match the parent, and the percent of non-matches. A non-match means a false match.

So, what the verdict?

matches-parent-child-phased-segment-match-chart

It’s interesting to note that we just approach the 50% mark for phased matches in the 7-7.99 cM bracket.

The bracket just beneath that, 6-6.99 shows only a 30% parent/child match rate, as does 5-5.99.  At 3 cM and 4 cM few matches phase to the parents, but some do, and could potentially be useful in groups of people descended from a known common ancestor and in conjunction with larger matches on other segments. Certainly segments at 3 cM and 4 cM alone aren’t very reliable or useful, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t potentially be used in other contexts, nor are they always wrong. The smaller the segment, the less confidence we can have based on that segment alone, at least below 9-15cM.

Above the 50% match level, we quickly reach the 90th percentile in the 9-9.99 cM bracket, and above 10 cM, we’re virtually assured of a phased match, but not quite 100% of the time.

It isn’t until we reach the 16cM category that we actually reach the 100% bracket, and there is still an outlier found in the 18-18.99 cM group.

I went back and checked all of the 10 cM and over non-matches to verify that I had not made an error.  If I made errors, they were likely counting too many as NON-matches, and not the reverse, meaning I failed to visually identify matches.  However, with almost 6000 spreadsheet rows for the child, a few errors wouldn’t affect the totals significantly or even noticeably.

I hope that other people in non-endogamous populations will do the same type of double parent phasing and report on their results in the same type of format.  This experiment took about 2 days.

Furthermore, I would love to see this same type of experiment for endogamous families as well.

Summary

If you can phase your matches to either or both of your parents, absolutely, do.  This this exercise shows why, if you have only one parent to match against, you can’t just assume that anyone who doesn’t match you on your one parent’s side automatically matches you from the other parent. At least, not below about 15 cM.

Whether you can phase against your parent or not, this exercise should help you analyze your segment matches with an eye towards determining whether or not they are valid, and what different kinds of matches mean to your genealogy.

If nothing else, at least we can quantify the relatively likelihood, based on the size of the matching segment, in a non-endogamous population, a match would match a parent, if we had one to match against, meaning that they are a legitimate match.  Did you get all that?

In a nutshell, we can look at the Parent/Child Phased Match Chart produced by this exercise and say that our 8.5 cM match has about a 66% chance of being a legitimate match, and our 10.5 cM match has a 95% change of being a legitimate match.

You’re welcome.

Enjoy!!

Concepts – Why DNA Testing the Oldest Family Members is Critically Important

Recently, someone asked me to explain why testing the older, in fact, the oldest family members is so important. What they really wanted were talking points in order to explain to others, in just a few words, so that they could understand the reasoning without having to understand the details or the science.

Before I address that question, I want to talk briefly about how Y and mitochondrial DNA are different from autosomal DNA, because the answer to the “oldest ancestor” question is a bit different for those two types of tests versus autosomal DNA.

In the article, 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy, I explain the differences between Y and mitochondrial DNA testing, who can take each, and how they differ from autosomal DNA testing.

Y and Mitochondrial DNA

In the graphic below, you can see that the Y chromosome, represented by blue squares, is inherited only by males from direct patrilineal males in the male’s tree – meaning inherited from his father who inherited the Y chromosome from his father who inherited it from his father, on up the tree. Of course, along with the Y chromosome, generally, the males also inherited their surname.

Y and mito

Mitochondrial DNA, depicted as red circles, is inherited by both genders of children, but ONLY the females only pass it on. Mitochondrial DNA is inherited from your mother, who inherited it from her mother, who inherited it from her mother, on up the tree in the direct matrilineal path.

  • Neither Y or mitochondrial DNA is ever mixed with the DNA of the other parent, so it is never “lost” during inheritance. It is inherited completely and intact. This allows us to look back more reliably much further in time and obtain a direct, unobstructed, view of the history of the direct patrilineal or matrilineal line.
  • Changes between generations are caused by mutations, not by the DNA of the two parents being mixed together and by half being lost during inheritance.
  • This means that we test the oldest relevant ancestor in that line to be sure we have the “original” DNA and not results that have incurred a mutation, although generally, mutations are relatively easy to deal with for both Y and mitochondrial DNA since the balance of this type of DNA is still ancestral.

Testing the oldest generation is not quite as important in Y and mitochondrial DNA as it is for autosomal DNA, because most, if not all, of the Y and mitochondrial DNA will remain exactly the same between generations.  That is assuming, of course, that no unknown adoptions, known as Nonparental Events (NPEs) occurred between generations.

However, autosomal DNA is quite different. When utilizing autosomal DNA, every person inherits only half of their parents’ DNA, so half of their autosomal ancestral history is lost with the half of their parents’ DNA that they don’t inherit. For autosomal DNA, testing the oldest people in the family, and their siblings, is critically important.

Autosomal DNA

In the graphic below, you can see that the Y and mitochondrial DNA, still represented by a small blue chromosome and a red circle, respectively, is inherited from only one line.  The son received an entirely intact blue Y chromosome and both the son and daughter receive an entirely intact mitochondrial DNA circle.

Autosomal DNA, on the other hand, represented by the variously colored chromosomes assigned to the 8 great-grandparents on the top row, is inherited by the son and daughter, at the bottom, in an entirely different way.  The autosomal chromosomes inherited by the son and daughter have pieces of blue, yellow, green, pink, grey, tan, teal and red mixed in various proportions.

Autosomal path

In fact, you can see that in the grandfather’s generation, the paternal grandfather inherited a pink and green chromosome from his mother and a blue and yellow chromosome from his father, not to be confused with the smaller blue Y chromosome which is shown separately. The maternal grandmother inherited a grey and tan chromosome from her father and a teal and red chromosome from her mother, again not to be confused with the red mitochondrial circle.

In the next generation, the father inherited parts of the pink, green, blue and yellow DNA. The mother inherited parts of the grey, tan, teal and red DNA.

The answer to part of the question of why it’s so important to test older generations is answered with this graphic.

  • The children inherit even smaller portions of their ancestor’s autosomal DNA than their parents inherited. In fact, in every generation, the child inherits half of the DNA of each parent. That means that the other half of the parents’ autosomal DNA is not inherited by the child, so in each generation, you lose half of the autosomal DNA from the previous generation, meaning half of your ancestors’ DNA.
  • Each child inherits half of their parents’ DNA, but not the same half. So different children from the same parents will carry a different part of their parents’ autosomal DNA, meaning a different part of their ancestors’ DNA.

The best way to understand the actual real-life ramifications of inheriting only half of your parent’s DNA is by way of example.

I have tested at Family Tree DNA and so has my mother. All of my mother’s DNA and matches are directly relevant to my genealogy and ancestry, because I share all of my mother’s ancestors. However, since I only inherited half of her DNA, she will have many matches to cousins that I don’t have, because she carries twice as much of our ancestor’s DNA than I do.

Mother’s Matches My Matches in Common With Mother Matches Lost Due to Inheritance

920

371

549

As you can see, I only share 371 of the matches that mother has, which means that I lost 549 matches because I didn’t inherit those segments of ancestral DNA from mother. Therefore, mother matches many people that I don’t.

That’s exactly why it’s so critically important to test the oldest generation.

It’s also important to test siblings. For example, your grandparent’s siblings, your parent’s siblings and your own siblings if your parents aren’t living. These people all share all of your ancestors.

I test my cousin’s siblings as well, if they are willing, because each child inherits a different half of their parent’s DNA, which is your ancestor’s DNA, so they will have matches to different people.

How important is it to test siblings, really?

Let’s take a look at this 4 generation example of matching and see just how many matches we lose in four generations. We begin with my mother’s 920 matches, as shown above, but let’s add two more generations beyond me.

4-gen-match-totals

As you can see in the above example, the two grandchildren inherited a different combination of their parent’s DNA, given that Grandchild 1 has 895 matches in common with one of their parents and Grandchild 2 has 1046 matches in common the same parent. Those matches aren’t to entirely the same set of people either – because the two siblings inherited different DNA segments from their parent. The difference in the number of matches and the difference in the people that the siblings match in common with their parent illustrates the difference that inheriting different parental DNA segments makes relative to genealogy and DNA matching.

However, if you look at the matching number in common with their grandparent and great-grandparent, the differences become even greater and the losses between generations become cumulative. Just think how many matches are really lost, given that in our illustration we are only comparing to one of two parents, one of four grandparents and one of 8 great-grandparents.

The really important numbers are the Lost Matches, shown in red. These are the matches that WOULD BE LOST FOREVER IF THE OLDER GENERATION(S) HAD NOT TESTED.

Note that the lost matches are much higher numbers than the matches.

Summary

In summary, here are the talking points about why it’s critically important to test the oldest members of each generation, and every generation between you and them.

Autosomal DNA:

  1. Every person inherits only half of their parents’ DNA, meaning that half of your ancestors’ DNA is lost in each generation – the half you don’t receive.
  2. Siblings each inherit half of their parents’ DNA, but not the same half, so each child has some of their ancestor’s DNA that another child won’t have.
  3. The older generations of direct line relatives and their siblings will match people that you don’t, and their matches are as relevant to your genealogy as your own matches, because you share all of the same ancestors.
  4. Being able to see that you match someone who also matches a known ancestor or cousin shows you immediately which ancestral line the match shares with you.
  5. Your cousins, even though they will have ancestral lines that aren’t yours, still carry parts of your ancestors’ DNA that you don’t, so it’s important to test cousins and their siblings too.

Y and mitochondrial DNA:

  1. Testing older generations allows you to be sure that you’re dealing with DNA results that are closer to, or the same as, your ancestor, without the possibility of mutations introduced in subsequent generations.
  2. In many cases, your cousins, father, grandfather, etc. will carry Y or mitochondrial DNA that you don’t, but that descends directly from one of your ancestors. Your only opportunity to obtain that information is to test lineally appropriate cousins or family members. This is particularly relevant for males such as fathers, grandfathers, paternal aunts and uncles who don’t pass on their mitochondrial DNA.

I wrote about creating your DNA pedigree chart for Y and mitochondrial DNA here.

Be sure to test the oldest generations autosomally, but also remember to review your cousins’ paths of descent from your common ancestors closely to determine if their Y or mitochondrial DNA is relevant to your genealogy! Y, mitochondrial and autosomal DNA are all different parts of unraveling the ancestor puzzle for each of your family lines.

You can order the Y, mitochondrial DNA and Family Finder tests from Family Tree DNA.

Happy ancestor hunting!

Margaret Lentz (1822-1903), The Seasons and the Sundays, 52 Ancestors #124

Margaret Elizabeth Lentz was born on December 31, 1822, New Year’s Eve, in Pennsylvania, probably in Cumberland County near Shippensburg, to Jacob Lentz and Johanna Fridrica Ruhle or Reuhle. Her mother went by the name Fredericka for her entire lifetime, with the exception of the 1850 census where she was listed as Hannah. Using the middle name is the normal German naming pattern.

Margaret Elizabeth, however, was different, parting for some reason with German naming tradition, she was always called by her first name, Margaret.

Margaret was the 7th of 10 children born to her parents, although two of her siblings had died before she was born. Her brother Johannes died as a small child in Germany in 1814, just two and a half years old. In 1813, Fredericka had a daughter, Elizabeth Katharina who would die on the ship coming to America at age 4 or 5. It appears that Margaret Elisabeth was named, in part, for her deceased sister.

Jacob and Fredericka had immigrated from Germany, beginning in the spring of 1817 and finally arriving in January 1819 after being shipwrecked in Norway and surviving two perilous voyages. Their trials and tribulations arriving in America are documented in Fredericka’s article. In 1822 when Fredericka had Margaret, the couple would have completed their indenture to pay for their passage and would likely have been farming on their own, although we don’t find them in either the 1820 nor the 1830 census in either Pennsylvania or Ohio.

Pennsylvania to Ohio

Jacob and Fredericka and their entire family moved from Shippensburg to Montgomery County in about 1829 or 1830.

Fredericka would have been about 7 or 8 years old and probably found riding in a wagon to a new home in a new location quite the adventure. Perhaps she laid in the back on her tummy, kicking her bare feet in the air and watched the scenery disappear.  Or perhaps she rode on the seat with the driver, probably her father or oldest brother, and watched the new landscape appear in the distance. Maybe she cradled a doll on her lap, or maybe a younger sibling.

Margaret Lentz map PA to Indiana

At about 10 miles a day, the trip would have taken about 40 days. They may have made better time, or worse, depending on the weather.

Margaret’s mother may have been pregnant for her last sibling, Mary. For all we know, Mary may have been delivered in that wagon. I shudder to think.

We find Margaret’s parents on tax records beginning in the mid-1830s in Madison Township in Montgomery County, Ohio where they would purchase land from their son, Jacob F. Lentz in 1841.

Margaret Lentz 1851 Montgomery co map

Cousin Keith Lentz provided the 1851 tract map above with an arrow pointing to Jacob Lentz’s land, with his name misspelled, but located in the correct location on Section 3, according to deeds.

Brethren

We don’t have much direct information about Margaret during this time, other than we know the family was Brethren. Jacob and Fredericka had been Lutheran when they left Germany, according to church records, but sometime after that and before their deaths, they converted to the Brethren religion.

Their two oldest children were not Brethren, but the rest of their children were practicing Brethren for the duration of their lifetimes, except for the youngest, Mary, who died a Baptist in Oklahoma – although she assuredly was raised Brethren if her older siblings were.

Jacob and Fredericka’s eldest children, Jacob L. and daughter Fredericka, were born in 1806 and 1809, respectively. Son Jacob remained Lutheran for his lifetime, from the age of 17, according to his obituary. This suggests that perhaps his parents converted when Jacob F. was a teenager, so maybe in the early/mid 1820s. If that is the case, Margaret would have been raised from childhood in the Brethren Church, so she likely never knew anything different.

The Brethren, as a general rule, avoided records like the plague, including church records and what we know today as civil records. They didn’t like to file deeds, wills and especially did not like to obtain marriage licenses. However, because Jacob and Fredericka did not begin life as Brethren and the German Lutherans recorded everything, perhaps they were more tolerant of those “necessary evils.” At least some of their children did obtain marriage licenses and deeds were registered, albeit a decade later, although Jacob had no will.

The Happy Corners Brethren Church was located about two miles from where Margaret lived with her family, at the intersection of current Shiloh Springs and Olive Road on the western edge of Dayton. At that time, Happy Corners was known as the Lower Stillwater congregation, named for nearby Stillwater River.

Lentz Jacob church to home

The current church was built in 1870. At the time Margaret attended, the church was a log cabin and Margaret had moved to Indiana decades before the new church was built.

Marriage

Margaret is recorded in the 1840 census with her family, or at least there is a female recorded in an “age appropriate” location for Margaret. On the last day of 1840, her 18th birthday, she married Valentine Whitehead III, the son of another Brethren family.

I can’t help but wonder if there is some significance to the fact that she married ON her 18th birthday. Was her family for some reason opposed to the union and this was the first day she could marry without her father’s signature? Did he refuse to sign on “Brethren” principles or for some other, unknown, reason?

Was this birthday marriage a celebration or a not-so-covert act of rebellion?

Valentine Whitehead was born on February 1, 1821, so he was about 23 months older than Margaret.

The Whitehead land can be seen on the 1851 plat map about a mile and a half distant from Jacob’s land, in section 12, to the east. The families would have been near-neighbors and given that there was only one Brethren Church in the vicinity, they assuredly attended the same church. Margaret and Valentine had probably known each other since they were children.

Elkhart County, Indiana

The newly married couple wasted little time leaving Ohio and settling in Elkhart County, Indiana. That trip took between a week and two weeks by wagon according to other settlers who undertook that same journey. They were among the pioneers in Elkhart County, but they weren’t the first who had arrived nearly a dozen years earlier and spent their first winter in lean-tos before they could build rudimentary cabins. Many of the earliest families were Brethren too, so by the time Margaret and Valentine arrived, a community had been established for a decade, was welcoming and thirsty for news and letters from “back home.”

The 1850 census suggests that Margaret and Valentine can both read and write.  The final column showing to the right of the form designates ” persons over 20 years of age who cannot read and write.”  That column is not checked.  What we don’t know is whether than means English or German, or both.  We also don’t know how well they might have understood the census taker if the census taker didn’t speak German.

Margaret Lentz 1850 census

The 1850 census confirms that Margaret’s first child, Lucinda, was born on December 13, 1842 in Ohio, but her second child, Samuel, was born a year later in Indiana, as were the rest of their children. From this, we know that sometime between December 1842 and June 1844, at the ripe old age of 21 or 22, Margaret, Valentine and their baby made their way to the frontier grasslands of Elkhart County. She too may have been pregnant on that wagon ride.

Margaret Lentz OH to IN map

I have to wonder if Margaret ever saw her parents again. It’s very unlikely even though they only lived what is today about a 4 hour drive. There were men who made the trip back and forth a couple of times on horseback, bringing news and shepherding more settlers, but women were tied at home with children and tending livestock.

Margaret’s parents didn’t pass away for another 20+ years, 1863 for Fredericka and 1870 for Jacob, so Margaret would have spent a lot of years of missing them, or perhaps sending letters back and forth. Receiving a letter telling you about the death of your parents would be a devastating letter to receive. I can only imagine the excitement of receiving a letter combined with the dread of the news it might hold. Talk about mixed emotions. Did her hands shake as she opened letters as her parents aged? Was she able to read the letters herself, or did she have to have someone read them to her?

When I was a young mother, I was constantly asking my mother something…for family recipes, advice about how to deal with childhood illness or tantrums of a 2 year old, exasperating husbands, and more. I talked to Mother by phone or in person at least once a day. While I was all too happy to leave home as a teen, I grew up quickly and can’t imagine leaving my mother at that age, knowing I would never see or speak with her again. I left the area where my parents lived in my mid-20s, and it nearly killed me, even with telephones and returning to visit every couple of weeks, for decades. There is nothing like the security of knowing Mom lives nearby.

I don’t know if Margaret was brave or foolhearty. Regardless, she would have formed other bonds with older women with advice to offer within the church in Elkhart County. Furthermore, nearly all of the Whitehead family settled in Elkhart County, including Valentine’s parents and most of his siblings, one of whom was also married to Margaret’s brother, Adam. Adam Lentz married Margaret Whitehead who then became Margaret Lentz, which caused a great deal of confusion between Margaret Lentz Whitehead and Margaret Whitehead Lentz.

Adam’s wife, Margaret Whitehead Lentz, died in Elkhart County on July 17, 1844 and is buried in the Whitehead Cemetery under the name of Margaret Lentz and was mistaken for our Margaret Lentz Whitehead for many years.

Margaret Lentz Whitehead marriages

We know that our Margaret spoke German, possibly exclusively, as she lived in a German farming community. The Brethren Church in Elkhart County was still holding German language services into the 1900s and the Brethren families still spoke German, although by then, they spoke English too.  My mother remembered her grandmother, Margaret’s daughter Evaline, speaking German, but her primary language by that time, in the 1920s and 1930s, was English.

The first Brethren church services in Elkhart County were held in private homes and barns, so it’s entirely possible that Margaret took her turn and had “church” at her house, with the entire neighborhood attending and then having a good old-fashioned German “pot-luck” afterwards.

The Whitehead School was established in 1836.

From the book “Elkhart County One Room Schools, The 3 Rs” by Dean Garber, I found the following:

Whitehead School, district #6, began on he west side of present day CR 19 north of CR 48 in Sect 17. Samuel Whitehead 1811-1874 settled in what became known as the Whitehead settlement, southwest of New Paris, Indiana. About 1836 a round log cabin with a clapboard roof was built on his property. This first schoolhouse was about 12X16 in size and was replaced by a wood frame building and was in use until the 1880s when it was replaced by a brick school building. For some reason this school is not shown on any of the county maps before 1874. But it has been found that David B. Miller born in 1838 did attend this school in 1854. This school closed in 1913 because of the consolidation of the township schools.

In the 1850s, Valentine Whitehead taught at this school.

This 1874 plat map of Jackson Township in Elkhart County, below, shows a school on the D. Whitehead property on the northeast corner of Section 8, and the “D. Ch” across from a cemetery on the border between sections 8 and 17. “D Ch” means Dunker Church and the cemetery across from the church is the Whitehead Cemetery.

Margaret Lentz 1874 Jackson Twp map

The Whitehead descendants erected a marker in the cemetery in 1939 commemorating the early Whitehead settlers.

Margaret Lentz Whitehead memorial

The verbiage on the commemoration stone says that 9 of Valentine Whitehead’s children settled in Elkhart County with him, including Valentine Jr. and his wife, Margaret Lentz. Three of Valentine Sr.’s children remained in Ohio. According to Whitehead genealogists, the Whitehead family began purchasing land in Elkhart County the 1830s and moved from Ohio in the early 1840s. It’s likely that they formed the “Whitehead Wagon Train” and all relocated together to the prairie frontier so that they could mutually assist each other with clearing land, building homes and establishing farms. Land was plentiful in northern Indiana, but was all taken in Montgomery County, Ohio.

Cousin Keith Lentz visited Elkhart County in 2015 and located the land owned by Valentine Whitehead and Margaret Lentz Whitehead near the intersection of County Roads 50 and 21. Margaret’s brother, Adam Lentz who married Margaret Whitehead, owned land just a couple miles up the road.

Margaret Lentz Keith map

Thanks to Keith for providing this map.

Valentine Dies

The first decade of Margaret’s married life blessed her with 4 children and a migration to the Indiana frontier. Valentine and Margaret became established in their new community and like all farm families, lived by the routine of the seasons and the Sundays. Sunday was church and sometimes a bit of leisure or rest. Baths in washtubs were taken on Saturday night, hair was washed, and on Sunday morning, women wore their best dresses and prayer bonnets and rode in the wagon to church, after feeding the livestock of course. Little changed in the next hundred years, except you rode to church in a car or buggy.

The rest of the week was work from sunup to sundown, and sometimes longer by candlelight.

However, life was not to remain rosey for Margaret.

Margaret, the bride at 18 was a widow at 29 with 4 children and one on the way. Margaret was 2 months pregnant for Mary when Valentine died. Mary was born in February 1852 after Valentine’s death on July 24, 1851.

Margaret buried Valentine in the Whitehead Cemetery, just down the road from where they lived and across the road from the church she attended every Sunday.  I wonder if she sat in church and stared out at the cemetery, where he lay.  Did she wander over to visit his grave every Sunday?

I surely wonder what took Valentine at age 30 in the middle of summer. I wonder about things like appendicitis, farm accidents, falling from a horse or perhaps something like typhoid.  The only clue we have is that Valentine did write a will on June 3rd, 1851, recorded in Will Book 1, page 59 and 60 wherein he does not name his wife but does name children Lucinda, Jacob, Samuel and Emanual.  This executor was Adam Lantz (Lentz) and Samuel Whitehead and Robert Fenton were the witnesses.  If Valentine was ill, then he was ill from June 3rd until August 10th when he died.

In the book, “The Midwest Pioneer, His Ills, Cures and Doctors” by Madge Pickard and R. Carlyle Buley published in 1946, we discover that Elkhart County was plagued by “bilious disorders” and typhoid.

For fifty years after their first settlement the river towns along the Ohio and the Wabash suffered from malarial diseases.

In the middle 1830’s the people of Elkhart County had an epidemic of typhoid and pneumonia and in 1838 almost half the population was affected with bilious disorders. The wave of erysipelas which enveloped the whole Northwest in the early 1840’s struck Indiana with unusual severity. Dysentery, scarlatina, phthisis (consumption), pneumonia, bronchitis, occasionally yellow and spotted fevers, whooping cough, and diphtheria appeared in many parts of the state. The summer of 1838 was a bad one, and “the afflicting dispensations of Providence” laid many low along the Ohio, the Wabash, the Illinois and lakes Michigan and Erie.

The Milwaukee Sentinel of October 9, 1838, boasted that, notwithstanding the fact that the season had been bad in most sections, Wisconsin had no prevailing diseases. The Sentinel and the Green Bay Wisconsin Democrat reported that canal work had been suspended in Illinois and Indiana, that the people were much too sick to harvest crops, and that there was nothing that looked like life, even in the populous towns. The Daily Chicago American, May 2, 1839, declared that “the whole West was unusually sickly” the preceding fall, that Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana suffered most, but that Illinois was affected only among the Irish laborers along the canal lines.

There were those who felt that the habits of the settlers were as much to blame for prevailing illness as the environment. James Hall of Vandalia, in years to come to be the West’s most famous historian and advocate, took this view. In his address at the first meeting of the Illinois Antiquarian and Historical Society in 1827 he stated that the pioneer’s exposure to the weather, his food — too much meat and not enough fresh vegetables, excessive use of ardent spirits, and lack of attention to simple diseases, were more responsible than the climate.

Again in 1845 came a “disastrous and melancholy sickly season” in the West; the South Bend St. Joseph Valley Register noted that it was the seventh year from the last bad outbreak, as if that explained it.

Granted, this doesn’t say anything about 1851, but it is suggestive of a recurring health issue in this area – and the family did live along Turkey Creek which fed the Elkhart River, emptying in a swampy area a few miles distant.

Margaret Lentz Valentine stone

Margaret’s children with Valentine were:

  • Lucinda born Dec. 13, 1842
  • Samuel born January 7, 1844
  • Jacob Franklin born October 10, 1846
  • Emmanuel born January 15, 1849
  • Mary J. born February 11, 1852

The book Pictorial and Biographical Memoirs of Elkhart and St. Joseph Counties of Indiana published by Goodspeed in 1893 says:

Valentine Whitehead removed to Indiana at an early day, having married Margaret Lentz in Ohio and settled on a woodland farm of 160 acres in Jackson Twp., Elkhart Co, which he did much to improve prior to his death which occurred July 24, 1851. He was a member of the German Baptist church, a democrat in early life and afterward became a Republican in political principles, although he but seldom exercised the privilege of suffrage. Five children were the result of this union, Lucinda wife of Joseph B. Haney was born Dec 13, 1842, Samuel, a carpenter of Goshen was born in 1845, Jacob is a farmer of Bates Co, Missouri, Emanuel of Kosciusko Co., Indiana is married to Elizabeth Ulery by whom he has 4 children, Argus, Jesse, Clayton and Calvin. Mary J., born February 11 1852, is the wife of John D. Ulery. After the death of her husband, Mrs. Whitehead married John D. Miller of New Paris who was born near Dayton Ohio in 1812, a son of David Miller. To her union with Mr. Miller 3 children were born, Evaline, Ira and Perry. Mr. and Mrs. Miller are residents of Jackson Twp., Elkhart Co.

We don’t know how Margaret survived after Valentine’s death. Her children were too young to help on the farm, at least not significantly, the oldest being 9.

However, Margaret’s father-in-law and eight of Valentine’s siblings lived in close proximity, as did some of Margaret’s siblings.

  • Adam Lentz and his wife, Margaret Whitehead were in Elkhart County by 1844 when Margaret Whitehead Lentz died. Adam remarried to Elizabeth Neff in 1845 and remained in Elkhart County until sometime between 1867 and 1870 when he moved on to Macoupin County, Illinois.
  • Benjamin Lentz moved to Elkhart County between 1854 and 1859 and remained until his death in 1903.
  • Margaret’s sister Mary who was married to Henry Overlease (Overleese) moved to Elkhart County between 1852 and 1854. She and Henry moved on to Illinois between 1866 and 1870.
  • If Louis or Lewis Lentz was Margaret’s brother, he was living a couple counties away, in Peru in Miami County – too far away to help Margaret. He moved from Ohio between 1857 and 1859.

Marriage to John David Miller

Five years later, on March 30, 1856, Margaret Lentz Whitehead married the Brethren widower, John David Miller. His wife had died a year earlier, in March of 1855, leaving him with 7 children, ages 4 to 22.

The Lentz and Miller families were both from Montgomery County before arriving in Elkhart County, so not only did they know each other, their families knew each other the generation before as well. Margaret and John David probably knew each other as children and attended the same church, although he was a decade older than Margaret.

Margaret Lentz John David Miller marriage

At the time of their marriage, their living children were stairstepped.

Margaret Lentz blended family

Hester Miller had already married, but the rest of the children were at home when Margaret married John David Miller. They had 11 children living with them between the ages of 4 and 18.

The 1860 census in Elkhart County shows the two families merged.  This census indicates that John David Miller can read and write, but Margaret cannot.

Margaret Lentz 1860 census

It’s no wonder census documents confuse genealogists. This was a blended family and although Margaret’s children from her first marriage are listed last, they are not listed with their Whitehead surname.

Three of Margaret’s children are listed, but two are missing. Jacob Whitehead was born in 1846, so would certainly still be living at home in 1860 as would Samuel who was born in 1844. Where are these children? They aren’t found living with relatives or elsewhere in the county either, and we know they survived to adulthood.

Furthermore, John D. Miller’s age looks for all the world to be 21, but he was 47. Maybe they wrote the 4 and forgot the 7. Lastly, some of the children’s ages are illegible as well, and Martha Miller, who would have been age 13, is missing entirely and we know she lived to marry and have children.

Margaret and John David Miller have had two children of their own by 1860, Louisa Evaline born March 29, 1857, my mother’s grandmother, and Ira, born July 26, 1859.

Margaret Lentz 1870 census

In the 1870 census, the last child born to Margaret and John David Miller, Perry, is also shown. I wonder where they came up with that name? It’s certainly not a family name. Perhaps Brethren naming traditions were changing a bit.

According to Rex Miller, Ira Miller’s grandson, Perry Miller born in 1862 died at the age of 18 from appendicitis, so about 1880.

The 1870 census does not show that Margaret is unable to read and write.

The 1880 census shows Margaret and John Miller with their three youngest children and a Whitehead grandson.

Margaret Lentz 1880 census

The 1880 census indicates that Margaret cannot read and write.

The 1900 census is our last census glimpse of the family before John and Margaret’s deaths. By now, both John and Margaret are elderly, with no children or grandchildren living with them. At their age, I don’t know if that is a blessing or a curse.

Margaret Lentz 1900 census

The 1900 census may hold the key to why 2 of the past 4 census schedules said Margaret could read AND write and 2 said she could not.  In 1900, the categories of read and write are separated and the census says Margaret can read but cannot write, and that she can speak English.  It also tells us that they have been married for 45 years, and that Margaret has had 9 children, with 8 living.

This also gives Margaret’s birth year and month as December 1821 which is a little perplexing because her death certificate gives her year of birth as 1822.

Interestingly enough, they had a boarder who was a medicine peddler. You know there’s a story there!

When Margaret married John David Miller, she moved to his farm. I don’t know what happened to the Valentine Miller land, but it stands to reason that his children would have inherited that land (or the proceeds therefrom) as soon as they were of age.

It’s not like Margaret had far to move.

On the 1874 plat map below, you can see the J. Miller (John David) property abutting the D.B. Miller property, in green. D. B. Miller is John David’s brother, David, based on the 1860 and 1870 census.

Margaret Lentz 1874 Jackson Twp map

You can see on the plat map above that John David Miller’s land was about a mile from the school and a little more than a mile from the church. A section of land is one mile square. The land owned by Margaret and Valentine was about another mile and a half or so further south, not shown on this part of the map.

The Whitehead School was located on the western edge of section 5 and 8. Both the Whitehead and Miller children would have attended this school as it was the only school in the area.  We know from the census that the children attended school.

The Brethren Church on the Whitehead land was the first Brethren Church, other than meeting within members’ homes, in Elkhart County. Margaret Lentz Whitehead and John David Miller would have known each other for decades, and been well acquainted since moving to Elkhart County. John David, I’m sure, was at Valentine Whitehead’s funeral, and Margaret would have attended Mary Miller’s.

I wonder if Margaret and John David’s marriage was one of love or convenience, or maybe a bit of both. It surely stands to reason that with a combined family when they married of 12 children, many of them small, they both needed a spouse badly in a culture and economy where couples shared work and responsibilities. Farming was almost impossible without a helpmate. Someone had to work the land and do the chores, daily, and someone had to cook and clean and watch the children. One person couldn’t do both.

To help put things in perspective, I’ve created the map below which shows the approximate locations of important landmarks.

Margaret Lentz Jackson Twp map

The top arrow is the Baintertown Cemetery, also known as the Rodibaugh Cemetery where most of the early Millers are buried including John David Miller, Margaret Lentz Whitehead Miller and John David’s first wife, Mary Baker. It stands to reason that the child born to Margaret and John David Miller that died is buried here as well, although the grave is not marked.

The bottom arrow is the land where Valentine Miller lived with Margaret Lentz Miller.

The arrow above that is the Whitehead Cemetery, also known as Maple Grove along with Maple Grove Church of the Brethren.  The arrow directly above that at the intersection of 142 and 21 is the location of John David Miller’s land where Margaret Lentz Whitehead Miller lived for more than half of her life.

The house built by John David Miller which incorporates the cabin first built when he first arrived in the 1830s still stands today. This is where Margaret Miller would live for almost half a century, the most stable period of her life, although it got quite “exciting” towards the end.

Margaret Lentz home

This property today is located at 67520 County Road 21, New Paris, Indiana. It sits sideways because the road has been substantially changed since the house was built.

John David Miller Photo

This is the only semi-decent picture we have of either Margaret or John David.

The above people are John David Miller and Margaret Lentz Whitehead Miller seated in the front row. Rear, left to right, Matilda Miller Dubbs, David Miller, Eva Miller Ferverda, Washington Miller and Sarah Jane Miller Blough. Matilda and Washington are children from John David’s first marriage and the other three are Margaret’s children with John David.

Margaret raised the Miller children and was their step-mother for substantially longer than their own mother, Mary Baker, was able to remain on this earth. I think after that long, and after raising step-children as your own, you tend to forget that they are step-children aren’t yours biologically – that is – until something brings it to light…which would happen soon for Margaret.

Margaret Lentz outside home2

These are two traditionally garbed Brethen elders, noting her full length skirt, apron and prayer bonnet and his beard, hat and dark clothing.

Rex Miller allowed me to scan this photo of John David Miller and Margaret by their home. The woman looks to be the same person as above and the part of the house looks to be the center section today, which Rex indicated was the log cabin portion.

Margaret was destined to outlive yet another husband.

John David Miller died on Feb. 10, 1902 of senile gangrene. He wrote his will in 1897, but in 1901, before his death, his son David B. Miller filed an injunction in court asking for a guardian to be provided for his father who, in his words, “had a substantial estate and could no longer manage his affairs.” I can only imagine what a ruckus this must have caused within the family. One knows that there had to be some event or situation arise to cause this level of concern. However, before the case was heard, John David died.

John David had a very controversial will that left everything to Margaret until her death, and then one third of John’s estate was to be divided between Margaret’s nephew and Margaret and John David’s three children, with the balance of two thirds of his estate to be divided among his children by his first wife.

Things don’t always work out as intended. By law, Margaret had the right to one third of his estate as her dower, in fee simple, meaning in full ownership. She elected to take her one third as indicated by the following widow’s election. The balance of John’s estate would them be divided according to the will.

Widow’s election recorded on page 111.

The undersigned widow of John D. Miller decd late of Elkhart County Indiana who died testate and whose last will and testament has been duly admitted to probate and record in the Elkhart Circuit Court hereby make election as such widow to hold and retain her right of dower in the personal estate of said decedent and to hold and retain her right to one third of the lands of which her husband died testate notwithstanding the terms of the said will, and she refuses to accept any devise or provision whatever made by said will in her favor, for, or in lieu of her said statutory right as widow in and to the personal property and real estate of said decedent.

Margaret (x her mark) E. Miller

Margaret was no push-over.

Recorded in Deed Book 108-422, Margaret then sells her dower to Eva Ferverdy, Ira and Miley Miller, Perry A. Miller and Edward E. Whitehead for $2241.66 which is 1/3rd of W ½ of NW ¼ and the N ½ of SE ¼ Section 5 Twp 35 Range 6e on Sept. 25, 1902.  She probably desperately needed that money to live, in the days before social security and retirement benefits of any type.

Later, recorded in book 112-440, the same group who bought the land above sells the land to George and Alice G. Method for $5000.

Margaret died on July 4th, 1903, just 17 months after John David. I’m sure the stress level on the poor woman with the infighting between her children and his children must have been nearly intolerable. Several of the children lived within the community and it’s not like Margaret could ever get away from the situation. It would have followed her to church, which was likely the only place she ever went. I’m sure it was the talk of the community, and it didn’t end until after her death.

Cousin Rex indicated that Perry died at age 18, but he was still alive when his parents died. In fact, Perry died at age 44 on December 22, 1906 in Goshen.

John David’s estate was controversial, to say the least, and eventually the bank became the estate’s administrator. One of the children, Perry, and Margaret’s nephew, Edward Whitehead, had done a great deal in the years before John’s death to help the elderly couple and had never been reimbursed for their efforts or expenses. They submitted receipts to the estate and those charges were disputed by the older set of children by Mary Baker. There was obviously a great deal of resentment between the two sets of children. Finally, in the end, Washington Miller refused to contribute $10 of his portion of the estate (near $1000 in the settlement) for his father’s tombstone. Edward Whitehead, the nephew, paid Washington Miller’s share. That is surely the last, final insult one could inflict on a parent. Edward Whitehead obviously cared a great deal for his uncle by marriage, John David Miller.

The inventory for John David’s estate is as follows, and the widow took everything except the wheat, rye and corn against her 1/3 dower. Otherwise, she would have been left with, literally, an empty house to live in until she died. At that time, all of the estate was considered to be the property of the man, so the contents of their entire house were listed and valued.

Number Items Appraised Value
1 Jewell oak heating stove 4.00
1 Eight day clock .25
1 Sewing machine .05
4 Rocking chairs 1.50
1 Bedstead and spring 1.25
1 Old rag carpet 25 yards .50
1 Bureau 1.00
1 Stand .10
1 Bedstead .05
1 Bedspring and bedding 2.00
1 Rag carpet 15 yards .50
1 Ingrain carpet 15 yards .50
12 Winsor chairs 1.50
1 Dining table .25
1 Cupboard .50
1 Dough tray .25
1 Kitchen sinc .10
1 Hanging lamp .25
1 Pantry safe .50
1 Churn .05
1 Milch trough 1.25
15 Milch crocks .45
1 Lounge .05
1 110 lb lard 11.00
1 Cooking stove and furniture .50
1 Cross cut saw and brush cythe .05
1 Bucksaw .10
1 Log chain .05
1 Horse 3.00
1 Cow 30.00
1 Ladder and maul 1.25
1 Wheelbarrow and ax .75
1 Spring seat .25
30 Chickens 7.50
30 Acres growing wheat land lord ½ 150.00
32 Acres rye landlords 2/5 40.00
66 Bushels corn 38.34
1 Small looking glass .05
A few Old dishes, spoons, knives and forks 1.00
20 Bushels corn in crib 9.00
Total 309.69

This is as close as we’ll ever get to a peek into Margaret’s house. We know from this inventory that she sewed, on a machine, which was valued at 5 cents, the same as a bedstead and half of a kitchen sink. It was worth one fifth of a chicken which was worth a quarter.

Rag carpets were homemade. My mother still made them throughout her lifetime. Ingrain carpets, on the other hand, were commercially made, causing me to wonder about that in a Brethren household too.

By Birmingham Museums Trust – Birmingham Museums Trust, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39737099

I learned to sew on an old treadle sewing machine exactly like the one above, which was likely identical to Margaret’s machine. Electricity wasn’t available in farm country in the early 1900s, so a treadle machine which replaced hand sewing was a true luxury. I wonder how well this “convenience” was tolerated by the conservative Brethren who were very resistant to change.

Margaret Lentz Whitehead Miller died on July 4, 1903 and is buried beside John David Miller in Baintertown Cemetery. It’s sad that her last year and several months were spent tied up in a family conflict that I’m sure mentally consumed her waking hours. She made several trips to the courthouse in that time period and she clearly took care of her three Miller children’s interests relative to their father’s estate.

Margaret Lentz signature

On one document located in John David’s estate packet, we find the signatures of Margaret plus her three Miller children. Margaret could not write, so she made her mark, a rather unsteady X.

Perry, Ira and Evaline bought their mother’s dower share of the estate and subsequently sold the land. Margaret did not have a will or an estate, so we don’t know what happened to that money, but I’m suspecting that she distributed it among her children before her death. Her children from her first marriage had already shared in their father’s estate and were already well established.

Margaret Lentz stone

As it turns out, John David’s tombstone was Margaret’s as well, with a small marker on either side for each of his wives.

Margaret Lentz Miller 07

It has always been stated that Margaret’s middle name was Elizabeth, but given that her daughter’s name was Evaline, now I’m wondering…

Margaret’s Children

Recently, Indiana death certificates have become available through Ancestry.  Previously, obtaining a death certificate for someone involved begging, then submitting 2 forms of ID, explaining why you wanted the death certificate, signing a form, swearing you were a direct descendant of that person, and more begging, waiting, and about $30 or so – with nu guarantee of results.  Oh and all while patting the top of your head and rubbing your belly while standing on your head…in a corner…taking a selfie.

Now all you have to do is sign on and search, although the indexing leaves much to be desired.  Death certificates provide us with a unique view of Margaret’s children, at least those who had the good judgement to die in Indiana.  Death certificates begin about 1899 and detecting trends might alert us to a health condition that could be hereditary.  Additionally, most death certificates provide a burial location.

1. Lucinda A. Whitehead, Margaret’s oldest daughter, was born on December 13, 1842 in Montgomery County, Ohio. She died on January 30, 1935 in Milford, Kosciusko County, Indiana, just over the border from Elkhart County at the age of 92 of a cerebral hemorrhage. She married Joseph B. Haney on October 7, 1860 in Elkhart County at the age of 17. He died in 1920.

Margaret Lentz Lucinda Whitehead

According to her death certificate, she was buried in the Baintertown Cemetery, also known as the Rodibaugh Cemetery, where Margaret is buried as well.

Margaret Lentz Lucinda Whitehead death

Lucinda had 4 known children:

  • Emma Rose Haney born in 1861.
  • Allen Ottis Haney born Sept. 24, 1862 in Milford, Kosciusko County, Indiana and died May 8, 1953 in Florida.
  • Harry Haney born in 1864.
  • Cecil Marie Haney born Sept. 4, 1884 in VanBuren, Kosciusko County, Indiana,  died February 9, 1977 in Rochester, Fulton County, Indiana and is buried in the Baintertown Cemetery. Cecil married Bert Eugene Dausman and had daughters:

Dorothy Loretta Dausman (1902-1987) who married Edward Poppenger or Pippinger and had one daughter

Helen Nadine Dausman (1905-1994) who married Joseph Osborn Perkins and had one daughter

Trella B. Dausman (1909-1983) who married Laddie Straka

2. Samuel Whitehead, Margaret’s oldest son, was born June 7, 1844 in Elkhart County, Indiana and died on April 26, 1923 in Goshen, Elkhart County of chronic bronchitis.

Margaret Lentz Samuel Whitehead death

Samuel is buried in the Baintertown Cemetery. He married Henrietta Dietz on November 18, 1865 in Elkhart, Indiana.

Margaret Lentz Samuel Whitehead stone

Samuel and Henrietta had:

  • Lizzie Whitehead (1867-1937)
  • Charlie Whitehead (1869-1939)

Samuel later remarried to Martha J. Vail on March 26, 1874 and they had the following children:

  • Earl R. Whitehead (1875-1945)
  • Mabel J. Whitehead (1883-1953)
  • Ina Whitehead (1886-1971)
  • Hazel Whitehead (1888-1958)
  • Ross Whitehead (1889-1958)
  • Boyd A. Whitehead (1894-1968)
  • Carlisle Whitehead (1897-1967)

3. Jacob Franklin Whitehead, Margaret’s second son, was born October 10, 1846 in Elkhart County and died on April 1, 1932, in Adrian, Bates County, Missouri where his uncle, Adam Lentz had settled. He is buried in the Crescent Hill, Cemetery He married Eva Bowser (1847-1933) on May 21, 1865 in Elkhart County.

Margaret Lentz Jacob Whitehead stone

They had:

  • John Bertus Whitehead (1879-1961)
  • Charles Whitehead born 1872
  • Maggie Whitehead born 1875
  • Claudie Whitehead born 1883

4. Emmanual Whitehead, Margaret’s third son, was born January 15, 1849 in Elkhart County, died on April 10, 1924 in Kosciusko County, Indiana and is buried in the Salem Cemetery.

Margaret Lentz Emanuel Whitehead stone

Emmanuel married Elizabeth Ullery on November 26, 1871 in Elkhart County, Indiana and they had:

  • Argus Burtis Whitehead (1875-1962)
  • Jessie Whitehead born (1877-1947)
  • Clayton S. Whitehead born (1879-1949)
  • Calvin E. Whitehead (1881-1971)

Margaret Lentz Emanual Whitehead history

Emmanual Whitehead remarried on February 9, 1900 to Sarah Foster (1856-1940).

5. Mary Jane Whitehead, Margaret’s second daughter and last child by Valentine Whitehead, was born February 11, 1852. She died on Sept. 30, 1930 in Nappanee, Elkhart County, Indiana of angina pectoritis and was buried at the Union Center Brethren Church cemetery.

Margaret Lentz Mary Jane Whitehead death

Mary Jane married John D. Ullery (1846-1928) on March 10, 1872 in Elkhart, Indiana.

They had:

  • Edward W. Ulery (1872-1942)
  • Margaret Elizabeth Ulery (1874-1959) and married Albert Mutschler on June 10, 1897 in Elkhart County, Indiana. They had one daughter:

Mary L. born July 1898

  • David Leatherman, an adopted son, who died in 1903

It’s somehow ironic that my line of the family never heard the “shipwreck story” of Jacob and Fredericka Lentz, but buried in the John Ulery biography we find that same story, handed down for posterity – but somehow never making it to the current generation.

From the book, Pictorial and Biographical Memoirs of Elkhart and St. Joseph Counties, Indiana; Chicago, Goodspeed Brothers; 1893:

JOHN D. ULERY. During the forty-six years that have passed over the head of the gentleman whose name stands at the head of this sketch, he has witnessed a wonderful transformation in Elkhart county, and during all these years he has been an active observer of the trend of events. He has not been merely a “looker on in Venice,” but a citizen who has, through his enterprise, his integrity and his public ¬spirit, contributed his full share to the magnificent development of the section in which he resides. He comes of an honored ancestry, for the well-known old pioneer, Daniel Ulery, was his father, from whom he inherited many of his most worthy characteristics. He was the third of his children and first saw the light of day on the old home farm in Union township, February 3, 1846, and like the majority of farmer’s boys of that region, obtained his initiatory education in what was known far and near as the Ulery School. This he alternated with tilling the soil until he had almost attained man’s estate, when he quit school to devote his attention to agricultural pursuits, which calling occupied his time and attention until he was about twenty-seven years of age. He then, on March 10, 1872, united his fortunes with those of Mary J. Whitehead, who was the youngest child born to Valentine and Margaret (Lentz) Whitehead; the former was a son of Valentine and Elizabeth (Rodebaugh) Whitehead, who were of German descent and were early pioneers of Pennsylvania and Ohio. Valentine lost his wife, Elizabeth, in Ohio, after which he removed to the Hoosier State and died in Elkhart county in 1867, at which time he was a retired farmer and nearly ninety years of age. He was the father of eleven children, all of whom are dead, with the exception of three: Louis, Peter and David. Valentine, one of the children of the above mentioned family, was the father of Mrs. John Ulery. He removed to Indiana at an early day, having mar¬ried Margaret Lentz, in Ohio, and settled on a woodland farm of 160 acres in Jackson township, Elkhart county, which he did much to improve prior to his death, which occurred on July 24, 1851. He was a member of the German Baptist Church, a Democrat in early life and afterward became a Republican in political principle, although he but seldom exercised the privilege of suffrage. Five children were the result of his union: Lucinda, wife of Joseph B. Haney, was born December 13, 1842; Samuel, a carpenter of Goshen, was born in 1845; Jacob is a farmer of Bates county, Mo.; Emanuel, of Kosciusko county, Ind., is married to Elizabeth Ulery, by whom he has four children–Argus, Jesse, Clayton and Calvin; Mary J. is the wife of John D. Ulery. After the death of her husband, Mrs. Whitehead married John D. Miller, of New Paris, who was born near Dayton, Ohio, in 1812, a son of David Miller (a more complete sketch of this gentleman is found in the sketch of David B. Miller). He has resided for years in the vicinity of New Paris, where he is highly honored and esteemed. Mrs. Miller is now seventy-one years of age, but is still healthy and active. To her union with Mr. Miller three children were given: Evaline, Ira and Perry. Mr, and Mrs. Miller are residents of Jackson township, Elkhart county. Mrs. John D. Ulery was born in this county, February 11, 1852, and has presented her husband with two children : Edward W., born December 13, 1872, who has the principal charge of the home farm and is a steady, kindly and intelligent young man, and Lizzie, who was born November 28, 1874, and is an accomplished young lady. Mr. Ulery is classed among the foremost citizens of Union township, and is at the head of his business, owing to the energy and en¬terprise he has displayed. He owns an exceptionally fertile farm of 135 acres, on which are probably the best buildings of any farm in the township. He is a man of wealth and owns an interest in the Nappanee Furniture Company, as well as in other paying interests. He has followed in his father’s footsteps in regard to meeting with accidents, as well as in other respects, for on July 4, 1881, he was badly injured by a reaping machine and for about a year thereafter was an invalid. He is deservedly classed among the public-spirited and intelligent men of the county and is warm personal friends can be numbered by the score. Mrs. Ulery is a member of the German Baptist Church. Her maternal grandfather came to this country at an early day, having started from his native land a rich man. The voyage by water occupied nine months, and upon landing he found himself without means, owing to the tyranny and dishonesty of the captain of the vessel. On this voyage some three hundred souls died. Mr. and Mrs. Ulery took to rear as their own child, David A. Leatherman, who, at that time was six years of age, and the orphan son of John and Elizabeth Leatherman, gave him every advantage and provided means for him to graduate from the University at Valparaiso, Ind. He is a young man of much promise and at the present time is a traveling man. He remained with his foster parents until he was twenty years old and still holds them in grateful and honored remembrance, for they proved to him a friend in his need and were always as kind and thoughtful of his wants as though he were one of their own family. This is but one instance of the many kind and disinterested actions done by Mr. Ulery in his walk through life, and clearly indicated the true character of the man.

Margaret Lentz had 4 children with John David Miller, three of whom lived. We don’t know the name of the 4th child or when they were born, although I suspect 1861. John David’s obituary says that 4 children were born to Margaret and John David, 3 of whom survive, which is also confirmed by the 1900 census.

6. Evaline Louis Miller, Margaret’s first child with John David Miller was born March 29, 1857 in Elkhart County, Indiana and died on December 20, 1939 in Leesburg, Kosciusko County, Indiana of an inflammation of the heart (acute myocarditis) following a 3 month kidney infection (nephritis).

Margaret Lentz Evaline Miller Ferverda death

She is buried in the Salem Brethren Church cemetery.

Hiram and Eva Ferverda stone

Evaline married to Hiram B. Ferverda on March 10, 1876 in Goshen, Indiana.

Ferverda family

The photo above is Eva Miller Ferverda with her husband Hiram and their entire family, including my grandfather John Ferverda, 2nd from right in the rear. Hiram died in 1925, and their youngest child was born in 1902, so I’d estimate that this photo was taken close to 1920, or perhaps slightly earlier, based on the WWI stars in the window and a son in uniform.

Evaline Louise Miller Ferverda had 11 children:

  • Ira Otta Ferverda (1877-1950) who married Ada Pearl Frederickson.
  • Edith Estella Ferverda (1879-1955) who married Tom Dye. They had the following daughter:

Ruth Dye

  • Irvin Guy Ferverda (1881-1933) who married Jessie Hartman.
  • John Whitney Ferverda (1882-1962) who married Edith Barbara Lore.
  • Elizabeth Gertrude Ferverda (1884-1966) who married Louis Hartman and had the following daughters.

Louisa Hartman married Ora Tenney

Helen Tenney married Norman Nine

Lisa Nine

Roberta Hartman married Rulo Frush

Carol Frush married William Slaymaker

Nadine Slaymaker

                              Nancy Slaymaker

  • Chloe Evaline Ferverda (1886-1984) and married Rolland Robinson and had one daughter:

Charlotte Robinson married Bruce Howard

Susan Howard married Richard Higg

Mary Carol Howard married David Bryan

Kerrie Bryan

Julie Bryan

Sally Howard

  • Ray Edward Ferverda (1891-1975) who married Grace Driver.
  • Roscoe H. Ferverda (1893-1978) who married Effie Ringo and Ruby Mae Teeter.
  • George Miller Ferverda (1885-1970) who married Lois Glant.
  • Donald D. Ferverda (1899-1937) who married Agnes Ruple.
  • Margaret Ferverda (1902-1984) who married Chester Glant and had the following daughters:

Mary Glant married Varrill Wigner.

Kari Anne Wigner

Joyce Ann Glant married Delferd Zimmerman

Nancy Zimmerman

                      Beth Zimmerman

7. Ira J. Miller, Margaret’s 2nd child with John David Miller was born July 26, 1859 in Elkhart County and died on December 17, 1948 in Elkhart County of coronary breast disease.

Ira Miller death cert

Ira is buried in the Baintertown Cemetery.

Margaret Lentz Ira Miller stone

Ira married Rebecca Rodibaugh on November 23, 1882 in Elkhart and they had the following child:

  • Everett Miller born 1897

Margaret Lentz Ira Miller

The above photo is Ira J. Miller with his wife, Rebecca. The photo below includes Ira Miller and his sister, Evaline Louise Miller Ferverda.

Margaret Lentz Ira and Evaline Miller

Last row, rear left to right, Rebecca Rodibaugh Miller, Ira Miller, one of Eva Miller Ferverda’s children,

Middle row, Eva Miller’s child, Eva Miller Ferverda

Front row, Mame Smoker Miller and Everett Miller (son of Ira.)

8. Perry Miller, Margaret’s final surviving child was born on June 25, 1862 in Elkhart County and died on December 22, 1906 in Goshen, Indiana of a bowel obstruction.

Perry Miller death cert

Perry buried in the Violett Cemetery in Goshen.

Margaret Lentz Perry Miller stone

Perry married Mary Jane Lauer on October 2, 1881 in Elkhart, Indiana and they had the following children:

  • Maud Miller born 1882-1902, buried with her parents
  • Purl Miller born 1885-1960, a painter, buried in the Violett Cemetery
  • Otto M. (Ottie) Miller born 1889-1976, a railroad engineer

DNA – Mitochondrial and Autosomal

You’d think with all of the people who descend from Margaret, someone who descends through all females would have taken a mitochondrial DNA test, but apparently not. If anyone has, please let me know.

If you haven’t and you descend from Margaret through all females to the current generation, where males can test too, I have a DNA testing scholarship for you!

The individuals bolded in the section above descend through Margaret Lentz Whitehead Miller through all females.  These individuals or their descendants through all females from Margaret carry Margaret’s mitochondrial DNA and are eligible to test.

Testing for Margaret’s mitochondrial DNA will tell us about her deep ancestry and help us learn the path our ancestors took to and through Europe.

Margaret still has more secrets to reveal about herself.

Identifying Lentz DNA vs Miller DNA

One of the challenges we have in genetic genealogy is that when we autosomally test descendants of couples, like Margaret Lentz and John David Miller, we can’t tell which DNA comes from which parent.

However, because Margaret had children with a different husband, Valentine Whitehead, if some of the descendants of Margaret’s children with Valentine were to take an autosomal DNA test and they match the DNA of the descendants of Margaret through John David Miller – then we’ll know that the matching DNA comes from the Margaret’s Lentz line and not the Miller line.

Anyone descended from Jacob Lentz and Fredericka Reuhle Lentz through children other than Margaret who have DNA tested and match the descendants of Margaret and John David Miller – that DNA is also Lentz DNA as distinguished from Miller DNA.

Let’s do a little experiment to see if we can isolate snippets of Margaret Lentz’s DNA.

I have 4 people who have tested that are descendants of Margaret Lentz Miller, all through her children with John David Miller. I have two Lentz males who have tested that descend from different sons of Jacob Lentz and Fredericka Reuhle. People in the bottom row are all testers.

Margaret Lentz chart

Benjamin, Margaret and George Lentz are siblings. The relationship of the people in the pink box to the descendants of Benjamin and George in the next generation are 1st cousins. Within the pink box, the relationship is different. Evaline and Ira are siblings, but Evaline and Ira are 1st cousins to both Whitney and Ira (son of George) as are Ira (son of George) and Whitney to each other.

Let’s see if any of the two Lentz males match the DNA of the 4 descendants of Margaret Lentz Miller. If so, those matching segments would have been inherited from Margaret Lentz by her children.

In order to do this easily, we’re going to run the chromosome browser at Family Tree DNA for each of the Lentz men, William and C., individually, against all 4 of the people who descend from Margaret Lentz.

Ironically, the two Lentz males, William and C. Lentz, don’t match each other above the vendor’s testing threshold, but do match each of the other 4 individuals.

William and C. Lentz do, however, match each other on 3 segments above 6cM at GedMatch where you can adjust the matching thresholds.

Margaret Lentz Gedmatch

After selecting the four pink descendants of Margaret and comparing on the chromosome browser to each of the Lentz men, we’re going to download their matching segments to each of the Lentz men and drop those results into a common spreadsheet.

In this example, I’m using William Lentz as the background person we’re comparing against, and the 4 pink testers who descend from Margaret Lentz Miller are the 4 people being compared to William.  On William’s chromosome displayed below:

  • Rex=orange
  • Barbara=blue
  • Cheryl=green
  • Don=bright pink

Margaret Lentz chr browser

At the top of the chromosome browser you’ll see a selection on the left side next to the Chromosome Browser Tutorial that says “download to Excel (CSV format).” That selection will only download matching segments of the people you’re comparing, so I made that selection.

Margaret Lentz chr browser2

I repeated the process for C. Lentz as compared to these same 4 pink people, and combined the results into one spreadsheet where I color coded the results of the two Lentz men differently and deleted the segments below 3cM. C. Lentz is blue and William Lentz is apricot.

Margaret Lentz William and C

This chart took my breath away. We are literally looking at segments of Margaret Lentz’s DNA inherited by her descendants (assuming there no other family connection between these individuals.)

Let’s sort this in segment and chromosome order and see what we come up with.

Each of these rows is able to “stand alone” since we already know how these individuals are related.  They are closely related, 3rd cousins, and we’re trying to see which of their DNA is from a common source – meaning the Lentz DNA from Jacob Lentz and Fredericka Reuhl.

However, even though these individual matches work, due to the close known relationships, triangulation groups are always preferable.  But first, let’s look at matching groups.

Margaret Lentz match groups

In the chart above, I colored the 5 columns beginning with chromosome green when there is more than one match that includes any part of the same segment. Remember, we can’t see triangulation on this spreadsheet, because we only looking at matches to William and C. Lentz individually. These are just match groups at this point.

I added the column “Match Set” so that you can easily see the different matching groups. Because the green color used to indicate matching groups butts up against neighboring groups, it’s difficult to tell where one group ends and the next begins, so I’ve indicated that in the “Match Set” column by labeling each matching set of DNA.

The yellow match sets aren’t to siblings and may well triangulate.  The match sets colored green in the Match Set column are to both Don and Cheryl, who are siblings, and you can’t count matches to siblings in triangulation groups.

  • A match is when any two people match – like Barbara and William Lentz.
  • A match set is when any two pairs match on the same segment.
  • Triangulation occurs when any three people match on any portion of the same segment of DNA AND share a known common ancestor. Without the known ancestor or ancestral line, it’s just a match set.

Match set 1 doesn’t count as triangulation because William matches Don and Cheryl both who are siblings. Triangulation needs to occur between more distant matches.

Match set 2, which is yellow, could triangulate. To verify triangulation, we need to verify that Barbara matches Don on this part of the same segment.

I went back to Barbara’s chromosome browser and indeed, she does match Don on part of this same segment.  This segment does triangulate, as shown below – because all three people match each other on a portion of this same segment.

Margaret Lentz triangulation

The actual overlapping segment between all three individuals is from 121,679, 417 through 128,527,507 for probably about 6cM.

Of course, now if I could just find a Lenz descendant from upstream of Jacob, or a Reuhl upstream of Fredericka that matches some of these folks, I could determine if Margaret’s DNA is Lenz (Lentz) or Reuhl.

If you’re thinking this could go on forever, you’re right – except that the further out in time, the less likely to find a match, let alone on a common segment. It’s a genetic genealogical end of line instead of a more traditional one. What a fun challenge though.  And hey, there’s always hope that someone from Germany or another line that immigrated will test and match. That’s the beauty of DNA. You can learn from autosomal matches, Y DNA matches and mitochondrial as well, so you have three genetic educational opportunities for each ancestor.

Summary

Margaret’s early life is shrouded in a bit of mystery, other than we know she was born in Pennsylvania and was raised Brethren. Her first entrance on her own is when she married on her 18th birthday. Celebration or rebellion, or both? We’ll never know, but marrying ON her 18th birthday does cause the question to be asked.

Margaret’s life seemed to be typical in every way, which for women of that timeframe means we find them in census records and not much else. However, that would change in July of 1851 when her husband, Valentine Whitehead, suddenly died.

Margaret was just two months pregnant at that time with her 5th child, a daughter that would never meet her father. Margaret probably farmed for the next 5 years as best she could, in addition to being a mother to her children. Yes, she had the resources of the Brethren community, but the fact that she did not hurriedly remarry suggests she might have been far more independent that most women of her time. She also didn’t sell out and go back home, to Ohio, to her parents. That must have been a temptation for a young widow under 30 with 5 children. Was she simply that iron-willed, resilient and determined?

Five years later, Margaret remarried to John David Miller. They combined their 12 children into a blended family and added 3 more of their own, for a total of 15 altogether. If the photo of John David and Margaret indeed is in front of the cabin portion of their home, they did not add on during their lifetime and lived in just the cabin portion – a small house for such a large family.

John David’s obituary tells us that Margaret had 4 children after their marriage, but only 3 survived. There was a span of 3 years between Ira and Perry, so the child who died was likely born in 1861. There are no candidate children buried either at Baintertown or in the Whitehead Cemetery, but many graves don’t have markers. It appears that Mary Baker Miller didn’t have a marker until John David Miller died, more than 50 years later.

However, looking at the births of Margaret’s children, she may have had one more. Her first child wasn’t born for 2 years after she was married – something almost unheard of at that time. She could well have had a first child that died and Lucinda, born two weeks shy of Margaret’s 20th birthday could have been her second child.  The 1900 census doesn’t reflect that in the number of birthed vs living children, but the census has been known to be incorrect.

Margaret may have buried her first child in the Happy Corners cemetery where her parents would later rest. If so, that grave too is unmarked.

Margaret bore her last child when she was just 6 months shy of her 40th birthday.

By the sunset years of Margaret’s life, her 8 children who survived childhood gave her 38 known grandchildren, at least one and likely seven whose funerals she attended. Multiple grandchildren are noted once in the census, and then no more. There were likely additional grandchildren born who didn’t live long enough for a census to be taken. Unfortunately, losing multiple children was a way of life and expected before the era of modern medicine, in particular, antibiotics.

Margaret and John David Miller both lived to be quite elderly. He apparently became senile before he died, just shy of his 90th birthday and Margaret died not long afterwards of progressive heart disease.

Unfortunately, the blended family that seemed to work so well, from outward appearances anyway, came unraveled before John’s death. His children from his first marriage petitioned the court for guardianship, which appears to have driven a significant wedge between the two sets of children. That rift never healed, and in fact, became worse after John David’s death, pushing Margaret to the point where she withdrew her dower rights from John’s estate, deeding that third to her Miller children. John’s children from his first marriage would have been far better to let the will stand uncontested, but they didn’t.

It’s through this contested will that we discover that while Margaret’s children can read and write, she cannot – or at least she can’t at 80 years of age. We don’t know if she could have signed her name when she was younger.

Margaret was no pushover – and if those 7 Miller children thought they could push their elderly step-mother around, they were wrong. I bet both John David’s and Margaret’s funerals were “interesting,” to say the least, given the division within the family.  John David’s funeral was at the house, not the church, so I’d wager that Margaret’s funeral took place at home too.  I have to wonder what she might have thought, watching from above.  Was she chuckling to herself, or was she angry?

Even at her advanced age and in ill health, it appears that Margaret was still something of a spit-fire. She didn’t let her Brethren religion keep her from going to the courthouse and taking care of business several times in her last year.

Margaret died of hydro pericardium, an accumulation of fluid in the membrane that surrounds the heart. She also had mitral incompetency which means the mitral valve of the heart does not close properly, eventually causing congestive heart failure.

Margaret Lentz death

This ailment would not have manifested itself suddenly. It’s likely that as she cared for her aging husband, she was short of breath herself. As the stressful situation following his death unfolded, her health was worsening as well.

Margaret passed away on the 4th of July. Independence Day indeed!  Margaret’s death leaves me wondering once again if this was her way of making a triumphant exit statement, much as her marriage on her 18th birthday was her grand entrance.

I suspect that Margaret was part rebel, in spite of her Brethren upbringing.  In any case, she appeared to be a lot more independent  than was acceptable for Brethren girls or women – and it showed from time to time!

Perhaps I came by that trait honestly and it’s carried from generation to generation in some of those DNA segments!