MyHeritage Rolls Out Chromosome Browser and Other Features

Recently, MyHeritage rolled out a major update of their DNA software as well as new features, including:

  • Improved Matching
  • Chromosome Browser
  • SmartMatching
  • Ancestral Surnames
  • Shared DNA Matches
  • Shared Ethnicity

You can read their blog posting here.

Additionally, they announced that they have over 1 million people in their data base now, with only 20% being transfers.

Let’s take a look at the improvements.

Note: On 2-8-2018 I updated this article where indicated.

Improved Matching

MyHeritage got off to an incredibly rocky start with their matching algorithm. You can read about their earlier problems here and here.

My most recent check in my account showed less than 100 matches and many were very inaccurate – by orders of magnitude – in both directions. People I knew that I matched elsewhere, I didn’t match at MyHeritage, and people I didn’t match elsewhere, I did match at MyHeritage.

In the first example I checked initially, MyHeritage showed me matching 8 times as much DNA as did at another vendor to the same match. In other words, 8 cM at the other vendor and 64 cM at MyHeritage. Of course, incorrect matching also leads to incorrect relationship suggestions. Clearly something was very wrong.

MyHeritage definitely needed an overhaul and it looks like that’s exactly what they did. Are their changes all improvements? I’d say yes, for the most part, but some inaccuracies still exist along with a few frustrations. They are still actively making improvements.

For example, my match who went from 8 cM elsewhere to 64 cM at MyHeritage previously is now gone altogether at MyHeritage. It would be nice if there was an indicator at MyHeritage of where your match originally tested (if they are a transfer kit) so you could easily compare, but alas, there isn’t.

Let’s take a look at the changes.

More Matches

The first thing I noticed is that I have substantially more matches.

Truthfully, I hadn’t been keeping track because their matching was so awful that it didn’t matter. However, given that I had few in late 2017, less than 100, and I now have almost 3300, I’d say it’s certainly possible that my matches increased tenfold.

Of course, results for kits sold during the holidays are being delivered now, so helps bump match numbers too.

Match Quality Comparison

The person who tested at both Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage that matches me most closely in both places is Bonnie, a proven third cousin once removed.

Estimated Relationship Total cM Longest Block Segments
Family Tree DNA 2nd-4th cousin 69 31 3 (includes X)
MyHeritage 3rd-5th cousin 52.5 30.5 2 (X not reported)

At Family Tree DNA, the X chromosome match is not included in the total cM, but is included in the matching.

The X is not included at all in matching at MyHeritage, which removes the ability to use the distinctive pattern of X matching.

Comparing my match with Bonnie, both vendors report matches on the same chromosomes, other than the X. While the cM amounts are quite similar, the total SNPs are widely divergent with the SNPs at MyHeritage being roughly 4-5 times higher than at Family Tree DNA.

FTDNA cM MH cM FTDNA SNPs MH SNPs
Chromosome 13 22.16 22.08 2574 13,440
Chromosome 16 31.02 30.48 2469 9,600
X Chromosome 49.3 Not reported 1776 Not reported

In case you’re thinking I made a transcription error on the SNPs above, which are dramatically different between vendors, I really didn’t.  I checked three times to be sure.

The MyHeritage values for chromosome 13, above, with the Family Tree DNA table for the same chromosome segment at the bottom, below.

Comparing my chromosome 13 to my parent (below) shows a total SNP count on chromosome 13 of 27,967 SNPs on the entire chromosome, so there is no way that the MyHeritage segment is roughly half of that total.

Based on this information, I would unquestionably view the MyHeritage SNP count as inaccurate. I wonder if this is a result of imputation. Even though we both have results at Family Tree DNA, I have no way of knowing if my match transferred her FTDNA kit (as I did) or if MyHeritage is imputing portions of our matching segments because she transferred a kit from elsewhere. Still, I would not expect the quadrupling of SNP values to be a result of an imputed match when the cMs seem to be quite accurate.

Update: MyHeritage says this discrepancy is the result of imputation, and that this is actually the accurate count.  I compared this same segment at GedMatch with the same results as with Family Tree DNA above.  At the current time, simply be aware that SNP county between vendors that include MyHeritage may be quite different.

Viewing Data

Let’s take a look at viewing more information about my match with Bonnie. There’s a lot more to see. 

Please note that Bonnie is a SmartMatch, but this information takes a few second to fill after the page loads, so it’s easy to bypass a SmartMatch by scrolling past it before the page finishes loading. I’m referring to a delay of 10-15 seconds or more. You can see the example below with the View Smart Matches link and the screenshot above without that link for the same match.

Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that in some cases, the same page fails to show the SmartMatches entirely, so this useful feature is not consistent:(

I was paging through my matches one page at a time looking for SmartMatches, but I finally gave up at about page 300 (of 347 pages total) when I realized I was probably missing many due to the page loading issues. Perhaps they can improve this in time. This problem combined with the inability to sort for only kits with SmartMatches makes this really nice feature terribly frustrating, consuming unnecessary hours.

Update:  On the MyHeritage DNA Results page, to the right of the search box, you will see a little upside-down key looking thing.  It’s supposed to be a funnel representing a filter.  If you click on it, you will discover that you can filter by people who have trees, shared surnames or SmartMatches. Hurray!!!

To view detailed information about a match, click on the pink “Review DNA Match” on the lower right hand corner of your match list. Don’t bother clicking on “view tree” here, because you’ll see their tree in a much-preferred pedigree view when you’re reviewing their DNA information. It’s nice to see the number of people in Bonnie’s tree.

Contact

There has been some discrepancy about whether people who do not have subscriptions can contact their matches. If you have had issues in the past, try again. In a blog article published yesterday, MyHeritage indicates that contacting matches is now free.

Smart Matches

Scrolling down, the next section of my DNA match with Bonnie is called “Smart Matches.” This is quite interesting, because it shows me common individuals in our trees. Please note that THIS DOES NOT MEAN THEY ARE ANCESTORS IN YOUR TREES. In other words, if those people are in your trees and are not your ancestors, they will show in the Smart Matches.

One of my very LEAST FAVORITE things about MyHeritage is that they list women by their husband’s surnames. It’s really quite confusing, so keep that in mind when you’re trying to decipher the SmartMatching.

Update:  You can control how married versus birth surnames are shown in your tree, but needless to say, you can’t control other people’s settings.

Individuals in my tree are shown at left and individuals in Bonnie’s tree are shown at right. It’s interesting that they refer to Bonnie as “he” and “his,” given the female avatar, which suggests that someone someplace entered a gender incorrectly perhaps.

Click on “Review Smart Match” in the bottom right corner, which displays additional information.

At the end of the comparison section, MyHeritage shows you both trees and you can accept or reject the match as the same family.

If you accept the match, MyHeritage then gives you the option of extracting data from your matches’ tree into your tree. I never, EVER do this. This is exactly how undocumented misinformation is spread like wildfire through copy/paste trees and unverified information. Now, if I had the opportunity to review any attached documents or records first…then maybe – but that’s not how this feature works today.

Ancestral Surnames

Scrolling down, the next section is ancestral surnames, as extracted from both trees.

However, it seems there’s a bug here too, because I clearly DO have a tree, as proven by the fact that SmartMatching found ancestors in both trees. SmartMatching can’t happen without both people having a tree.

Update:  I uploaded my tree long ago, and somehow during that process, I got deleted from the tree.  Given that I’m the home person, that caused this glitch, which is now fixed.

Unfortunately, MyHeritage prompted me to build a tree, and when I declined, they added a second tree for me anyway with only my node. Some things are just “too helpful” like having a 2 year old in the kitchen!

Shared DNA Matches

Keep scrolling down to see Shared DNA Matches. This section is quite interesting, because it shows a third person who matches both you and your match. In this case, the person matches both me and Bonnie.

The information at left is how Wilma matches me and the information at right is how Wilma matches Bonnie. What this doesn’t tell me is:

  • If Wilma, Bonnie and I match on a common segment
  • If Wilma, Bonnie and I share a common ancestor in our tree

I can find out both of the above items by looking at my match to Wilma to see if I match her on the same segment where I match Bonnie and by looking at Wilma’s tree, if she has one. What I can’t determine is whether or not Wilma and Bonnie match on the same segment, so this isn’t triangulation, but it’s still a great feature.

Pedigree Chart

Keep scrolling past all of the shared matches to the pedigree chart.

Your pedigree chart will be shown on one tab. Again, mine is missing. However, the tab I’m the most interested in is Bonnie’s pedigree chart. Sure enough, there’s our common ancestral couple.

The great news is that this displays 5 generations in pedigree view.  The really bad news is that if your common ancestor is more than 5 generations back, you can’t see the balance of their tree in pedigree view.  You must go back to the “view tree” option which only shows the tree in “family view” and it often looks like a big spaghetti mess, leaving the viewer unable to determine how the person searched for connects with the tester or home person in tree.  Breadcrumbs or a solid line or something, anything, would be nice! Maybe next version.

Be sure to check your tree settings and permissions at MyHeritage, because one of the options is to allow others, as in all others, to modify your tree. I would strongly recommend against this feature given that there is no ability to restrict this access to specific people.

Update:  MyHeritage indicates that this is not exactly the case and that they are have rephrased their verbiage surrounding these settings as follows:

* You and family site members whom you invited (recommended)
* You and family site managers whom you invited and nominated
* Only you

You can also grant permission for others to download your tree.

Shared Ethnicities

Keep scrolling. Next, you’ll find the shared ethnicities between Bonnie and me.

If you’re wondering about my South American Amazonian ancestors – well, so am I. I do have proven Native American from Canada. MyHeritage has said that they will be doing an ethnicity update sometime in the future. Still, at least MyHeritage did find my Native segments.

Chromosome Browser

Last, but not least, scroll once again to see your matches’ DNA matched with yours on a chromosome browser.

Fly over the pink segments to view the information about that segment, keeping in mind that the number of SNPs may be highly inflated.

Missing Features and Other Considerations

MyHeritage has made much-needed improvements and added some great features, but some functions are still missing:

  • No ability to download matches and match information – this is a significant hindrance. Update: MyHeritage indicates this is coming.
  • Chromosome browser does not support multiple comparisons – just one person at a time, but yesterday MyHeritage announced this feature is coming shortly.
  • No triangulation, but coming shortly.
  • SmartMatch notification does not load consistently or quickly, causing many SmartMatches to be missed. Update: Since you can filter by SmartMatches, this is less important.
  • Cannot select the page for viewing matches.  This means that if you are on page 100 and you get disconnected from the internet, you can’t just start viewing again at page 100 without clicking through the earlier pages.
  • No way to indicate that you’ve “dealt with” a match.  A checkbox or some type of icon would be very nice.
  • Cannot select pedigree view in their trees.  Horribly frustrating.
  • Some features are buggy, as noted in the article.
  • SNPs are inaccurate (increased 4 to 5 times.) Update: MyHeritage is checking on this but believes they are a result of imputation and are accurate.
  • No X matching
  • No ethnicity painting
  • No parental phasing (attributing matches to parental sides with or without parents having tested.)

As long as I’m making a wish list, I’d also like to search by ancestor for matches. I know that sounds somewhat backwards, but it would help me answer the question of whether or not anyone who has that same ancestor in their tree matches me. I wouldn’t categorize this as missing functionality, because no one else has this feature either.

Given where MyHeritage was a year ago, they’ve really made substantial improvements in their DNA product offering and added a chromosome browser along with other features. I really like the concept of SmartMatching that shows common tree matches with my DNA matches although I would really like for this feature to only show direct line ancestors, not every common person in our trees.

Of course, SmartMatching doesn’t automatically mean the common tree ancestor IS THE ancestor that the matching DNA segment descended from, but it’s a wonderful piece of information and points my research in that direction. Other people with the same ancestor matching on the same segment (especially if they triangulate) adds weight to that evidence.

Yesterday, in a webinar that I have not yet had the opportunity to view in its entirety, MyHeritage announced that they will add the ability to match multiple people in the chromosome browser in addition to triangulation.  You can view the 90 minute webinar for free here.

Triangulation combined with SmartMatching of ancestors would be an extremely powerful tool.

As with any company that you test with or upload your DNA data to, be sure to fully read and understand ALL OF the terms and conditions, including any privacy policy and settings. Be aware that MyHeritage is an Israeli company and is not bound by either US or EU laws in the same way that companies who are headquartered in those locations are bound. I’m not saying that this is either bad or good, just that it’s different than the other primary vendors.

Transfers

MyHeritage and Family Tree DNA are the two DNA testing vendors that provide free autosomal matches, other than GedMatch who is not a testing vendor but also provides free matching.  You can read more in the article Autosomal DNA Transfers – Which Companies Accept Which Tests?

If you’re not fishing in all 3 of those ponds by transferring your DNA results, now might be a good time to transfer. You just never know which relative you might catch!

_____________________________________________________________________

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Anna Ursula Schlosser (1633-1701) and the Ides of March, 52 Ancestors #181

As we unraveled the story of Irene Charitas Schlosser and her parents, my friend Tom provided critical information that unlocked the name of Irene’s mother, Conrad Schlosser’s wife. I can’t thank Tom enough for his painstaking work and his infinite patience with me!

Conrad Schlosser’s wife is mentioned in a baptism. Her given names are Anna Ursula.

My heart lept into my throat. Another ancestor identified, at least partially.

Anna Ursula.  I rolled her name across my tongue and pronounced her as mine! And I as hers, of course.

Much of Anna Ursula’s life story comes to us through her husband and sometimes by inference. Just when I thought I knew something about Anna Ursula, I discovered in fact that I did not. I love/hate it when this happens!

Introducing Anna Ursula

I thought I knew that Anna Ursula’s life didn’t begin in Steinwenden, because I thought that she and Conrad immigrated as a family to the area about 1684 from Switzerland. At that time Anna Ursula would have been married to Conrad (Cunradt) Schlosser for between 25 and 30 years meaning that she would have spend half a century or so living in Switzerland.

Ummm….no.

After I published Conrad Schlosser’s story, new information came to light from a reader, Chris, who has sent me invaluable information, both before and since. I can’t thank Chris enough either! Between Chris and Tom, I have been truly blessed.

In particular, Chris found the following information in this article:

“Johann Jakob Hauser around 1660 constructor of the “moor mill” in Steinwenden. During the 30 years war, the region Steinwemden, including among others the villages Weltersbach and Steinwenden, was heavily depopulated. It is only in a tax list in 1671, that inhabitants are again listed, among them Johann Jakob Hauser, miller in Steinwenden. [compare the copy from 1800 of a not conserved original; copy printed in: “Weltersbach. Streifzüge durch die Ortsgeschichte”, a.a.O., page 19]. Around 1660, Johann Jakob Hauser and CONRAD SCHLOSSER rebuilt the moor mill. In the 1680s, the mill was owned by Johann Schenkel.”

Wow.  Just wow.

Of course, there are several tidbits of incredibly valuable information here.

First, if Conrad Schlosser was living in or near Steinwenden in 1660, the family clearly did not migrate from elsewhere in 1684.

Second, I need desperately to find the list of families in 1671, because it’s very likely that Anna Ursula’s family is among these people. Conrad would most likely have married a local girl and settled down nearby – which is where they are found in 1685, after the beginning of the church records in Steinwenden in 1684.

And yes, I have already tried to find the book in the library in Salt Lake City library. The German title of the book is Weltersbach: Streifzüge durch die Ortsgeschichte and WorldCat says it’s only available at a library in Munich and another in Frankfurt. Anyone local to either, have the book or know of a resource?

Steinwenden

We do know that Anna Ursula wasn’t born in Steinwenden, the village, in the location where it exists today, because that village and region was entirely depopulated during the 30 Years War, but she could have been born not terribly far distant.  We just don’t know, but we do know that her family had to be in the general vicinity for Anna Ursula to meet and marry Conrad Schlosser about 1660.

An original text in German written in 1980 titled “The History of Steinwenden” by Roland Paul, historian of the Palatine Region of Germany, provides information about the region. Translated and adapted for English by Dr. Claus Kirchner, Eric Dysinger, and Anne Dysinger, they state:

Researchers believe that the name Steinwenden can be traced back to the old Germanic word “winne” (as compared to the village name “Winden” in Southern Rhineland Palatine), which translates to “terrain with pastures.” Such large pastures always existed south of the village in between Steinwenden and Weltersbach, in the valley of the Moorsbach stream. The first part of Steinwenden (“Stein”) most likely refers to the remains of the original Roman estate, located between Wiesental, Bruehl and the present-day Roemerstrasse (i.e., Roman street). The village name of Steinwenden can therefore be explained as “pasture close to stones” (or stonehouse, or stonewalls).

You can see the Mohrbach in the aerial view today, beneath the village. Is that where the mill Conrad rebuilt was located?

The name Steinwenden dates to at least 1180 AD but the population living in Steinwenden after the 30 Years War would not have been the descendants of the first settlers because Steinwenden was completely abandoned during the 30 Years War and apparently until about 1660.  That’s likely why the mill was being rebuilt – people were once again beginning to settle in the region.

Quoting again:

Even 8 years after the Peace Treaty of Westphalia, our homeland was in a desolate state as reflected in a 1656 entry in the direct tax book number 12: “Nobody resides yet in the district of Steinwinden [most likely the complete aforementioned area]”. This was due to the fact that the former inhabitants who fled from their homes during the war did not return. The resettlement of the area started around 1660 with, among others, the Swiss immigrants playing a major role in the noteworthy reconstruction that began under difficult circumstances and lasted for decades. The reformed church books contain the names of some of the resettlers: Berny, Buechi (Bichy, Bihy), Brennermann, Freyvogel, Hunzinger, Koller, Kyburtz, Zinsmeister and many more. Immigrants from Germany also moved to the region.

Steinwenden in 1684 consisted once again of six families, totaling approximately 25 residents. More than one hundred years later, in 1791, this number had risen to 305.

This provides us with even more fascinating tidbits. We know that no one lived in Steinwenden in 1656.  We know based on church records that Conrad and Anna Ursula were there in 1685 and that Conrad was in the region in 1660, so it stands to reason that they were one of the six families mentioned in 1684. And I’d bet that they were related to the other 5 households.

We also know that in 1685, Anna Ursula’s daughter had already married one of the Swiss immigrants because they had a child baptized.

What We Do Know About Anna Ursula

We don’t know Anna Ursula’s maiden name, but we do know that her daughter was named for her so we need to be careful not to mistake the daughter for the mother (or vice versa) in the church records.

The mother, Anna Ursula Schlosser, a widow, died on March 15, 1701. According to her death record in the Steinwenden church register, she was born in 1633, during the 30 Years War.  It’s unlikely that she was born in Steinwenden since no one was living there in 1656 and the article states that the earlier residents did not return. It was in 1660 that the rebuilding began.

Burial: The 15th of March 1701, Anna Ursula, surviving widow of the late Cunradt Schlosser, 68 years old.

The church record above indicates that not only Anna Ursula died, but so did her daughter two weeks prior to Anna Ursula’s death, as did her 21 year old son a week later.

Steinwenden Church Records

The Steinwenden Reformed Church records begin in 1684. In those records, we find various records of Anna Ursula and her children.

The historical records tell us that in 1684, just before the Swiss arrived, the village only had 6 families with a total of 25 people. That’s not much, especially for a location that could clearly accommodate more, and had in the past.

I’d guess that in 1684 or 1685 when the Swiss began arriving, they probably had their pick of relatively good land, not to mention that all of the trades would be needed as the village grew. However, Conrad and Anna Ursula who had settled in that area 20+ years earlier surely had already laid claim to the best lands.

The first records for any of the known surnames associated with this family are found in the marriage on April 28, 1685 of Anna Maria Schlosser to Melchior Clemens.

The second record is found on June 5, 1685 when Johann Nicholas Muller, son of Irene Charitas Schlosser and Johann Michael Muller was born and died the next day. I wonder if that was the first burial in the churchyard for this family group. This tells us that Irene became pregnant in about September of 1684. We don’t know where or when they were married, although it’s very likely in the church local to Steinwenden – wherever that was at the time. We know that the Steinwenden church records begin in 1684. The church may have already been established, although with only 6 families, that seems unlikely.

We know that Johann Michael Mueller was born in 1755 in Zollikoffen, Canton Bern, Switzerland.  Between 1755 and 1785, we know that he married the daughter of Anna Ursula and Conrad Schlosser, but in which church is a mystery.  This tells us that the Muller/Mueller/Miller family was in the region by at least 1784.

Michael Muller’s Cousin

A 1689 record mentions that Jacob Ringeisen of Schweitz was “serving for his cousin Michael Muller.”

Records in Steinwenden for Jacob Ringeisen begin in 1686 for Hans Jacob, or simply Jacob Ringeisen and wife Susanna.

A death record is found for Jacob on June 1, 1691, stating he was born in 1654, but no location is given although his occupation is schreiner, a carpenter. I wonder if Jacob Ringeisen was born in Zollikoffen, given that he is listed as a cousin to Michael Muller.

We believe that Johann Michael Miller was born in Zollikoffen, Switzerland in 1655 based on a record in the Reformed (Calvinist) Church there. Zollikoffen is about 161 km from Geneva, the center of the Calvinist faith. Zollikoffen is about 400 km from Steinwenden, much of the way along the Rhine River. The Schlosser family in Steinwenden was Calvinist as well.

Graffschaft Felkenburg

I have often wondered if we compiled all of the earliest church records in Steinwenden and created a family tree that we would find that all of the Swiss families were related in some fashion. I would suspect that these families were interwoven long before they arrived in Steinwenden, and that they arrived as an interrelated family group. If we are ever able to find them in Switzerland, Jacob Ringeisen’s unusual name may be the key.

Hoping to find some clue about the location these immigrants came from, I asked my friend Tom to take a look. The only clue is the following entry in the church records:

28 April 1685 at Steinwenden were married Melchior Clemens, emigrant from Graffschaft Felkenburg with Anna Maria, legitimate daughter of Cunradt Schlosser, the same (place?).

Does “the same place” refer to Steinwenden or Graffschaft Felkenburg? Where was Graffschaft Felkenburg? It’s not locatable on a map today. If any reader has any idea about where to find this village, please let me know.

Chris provided me with yet another document: Fritz Braun, “Schweizer und andere Einwanderer sowie Auswanderer im ref. Kirchenbuch Steinwenden (1684-1780)”
In: Mitteilungen zur Wanderungsgeschichte der Pfälzer 1960, Folge 3/4, S. 17-32

This translates to “Swiss and other immigrants and emigrants in the reformed church book of Steinwenden (1684-1780).” Tom came to my rescue and found the actual document.

Conrad Schlosser isn’t found in this list of immigrants/emigrants. I was initially disappointed, but then again, this article only features families that moved in or moved out – not founder families. Therefore Conrad’s family is omitted, which makes me sad because if the area was entirely depopulated, we know he had to come from someplace – although I swear I do have some mystery ancestors who were born under rocks or brought by storks!

Now I’m wondering if we can infer the names of the “founder families” by comparing that 1671 tax list (assuming I can actually find a copy) and this list of immigrant/emigrant families and the families in the tax list but not in this document are the founder families.  Anna Ursula’s parents would be among those founder families.

This isn’t just back door research, it’s crawling through the upstairs window by shimmying up the trellis!

Recreating the Family

Anna Ursula, the mother, was born in 1633, someplace.

Given social marriage practices of the day, she probably married Conrad Schlosser about 1653 and her first child would have followed about 1654. Those would have been glorious days of young love, assuming that her first child or children lived.

Based on the evidence we have through the church records, it’s possible that her earliest children died, unless of course she married late, in about 1659 when she would have been 26.

Given that the Steinwenden church records don’t begin until 1684, this begs the question of where she and Conrad were married and where her children were baptized.

I’ve created a possible childbirth timeline, based on Anna Ursula’s known children and her birth year, assuming she married about age 20. Notice all the years where there are no children listed, implying deaths.

  • 1654
  • 1656
  • 1658
  • 1660? – Irene Charitas Schlosser born approximately 1660, married Johann Michael Mueller (first child born in Steinwenden in 1685)
  • 1661 – Anna Catharina (never married)
  • Before 1665 – Anna Maria (married Melchior Clemens in 1685)
  • 1664 – Carl Schlosser (began having children in 1701, died in 1731)
  • 1666
  • 1667
  • 1669
  • 1670
  • 1672
  • 1674
  • Probably about 1676 – Anna Ursula (the daughter) was confirmed in 1692 and married in 1696 to Johann Calman Hoffbauer.
  • 1678
  • 1680 – Johannes Peter buried July 21, 1691, age 11
  • 1680 – Johannes, buried March 22, 1701, age 21

There were no children born after 1680 when Anna Ursula would have been 47.  Of course, as luck would have it, the church records began 4 years later.

Certainly there were more children born to Anna Ursula – the question is only if any survived. That’s a lot of blank spots. There would have been even more children born, about a year apart instead of two years, if some of the babies died at birth. The list above presumes the children lived long enough to be weaned, meaning births occurred approximately every two years.

Clearly, Anna Ursula dealt with a lot of grief in her life. Since the only death records of Anna Ursula’s children in Steinwenden after 1684 are recorded, she probably buried at least 9 children before the records began. Not to mention her parents and probably siblings and their children too.

Let’s see what we know about Anna Ursula’s children that lived, in approximate age order.

Irena Charitas Schlosser and Michael Mueller Sr.

Irene Charitas Schlosser was married to Johann Michael Mueller (Sr.) probably sometime about 1684 or maybe early 1685 given that she was probably born sometime between 1660-1665, give or take a couple years.

The marriage of Irene Charitas is not recorded in Steinwenden, but the birth of children is duly recorded every couple years in the church records beginning in 1685.

Tragically, Irene only had one child that lived to adulthood unless Irene Charitas Schlosser Muller had a child or children before 1685 that lived, but for whom we find no records at all. Her known children are:

  • June 5, 1685 – Johann Nicholas Muller born and died the next day. Godparents: Hanns Georg Scheimocher; Nickel Stahl; Hans Georg ?, wife.
  • July 9, 1688 – Johann Abraham Muller born and died (within a few months – date illegible). Godparents: Abraham Wochner, tailor; Hans Bergter from Krotelbach; Mar. Magd., H. Hofmann’s wife.
  • April 30, 1687 – Samuel Muller born and died the same day, shortly after birth. Godparents: H Samuel Hoffman and his wife.
  • June 7, 1688 – Catherina Barbara born, died July 21, 1691. Godparents: Maria Catharina, wife of Jonas Schror ………..Samuel Lo.., the tailor
  • April 24, 1691 – Eva Catherine Muller born and died on June 29, 1691, 2 months old, just 5 days after the child above died. Godparents: Eva, wife of Hans Ulrich? Berny, Catharina, wife of Hans Georg Dreysinger; Kilian ?, Michael Frey.
  • October 5, 1692 – Johann Michael Mueller who died in the US in 1771, age 78 years. Godparents: Johann Michael Schuhmacher; Balthasar Jolage; Christina, wife of Hans Bergter (Bergtol) from Krodelbach (Krottelbach). Johann Michael Mueller’s eventual wife was a Berchtol.

Irene Charitas’ husband, Johann Michael Mueller, died on January 31, 1695.

The fate of Irene Charitas is uncertain. She may have died before Michael’s death, or she may not have. There is no church record reflecting her death. However, the widow of Johann Michael Mueller, by the name of Anna Loysa Regina married Jakob Stutzman in the Steinwenden church on September 29, 1695. This, of course, suggests that Irene Charitas died long enough before Johann Michael Mueller for him to remarry before his own death in January 1695. That means that Irene would have died between October 5, 1692 and January 31, 1595, so 2 years and a couple months gap. If this was the case, where is Irene Charitas’ death record or Johann Michael Mueller’s remarriage record? He clearly died in Steinwenden, so there is no reason to think he had moved.

Further complicating the matter, in later records pertaining to Johann Michael Mueller Jr., Jacob Stutzman’s wife is referenced as the mother of Johann Michael Mueller. We know when Johann MIchael Mueller was born, so he had to be the son of Irene Charitas. Needless to say, this is very confusing because the records contradict themselves.

There is evidence pointing in both directions, so for now, I’m going to leave the question of Irene Charitas’ death unresolved. We will visit this topic in the future in a separate article.

At Anna Ursula’s death, she had buried all but one of her daughters and all but one of Irene Charitas’ children. She had also buried her son-in-law and she may have buried Irene Charitas as well.

Anna Catherine Schlosser

Born in 1661, Anna Catharina Schlosser didn’t marry and died March 3, 1701, just two weeks before her mother.

Anna Maria Schlosser and Melchior Clemens

Based on church records, we know that Irene’s sister, Anna Maria Schlosser was married to Melchior Clemens on April 28, 1685 in Steinwenden. What goodies can we dig up about her?

The baptism of Johann Michael Clemens, son of Melchior Clemens & Anna Maria Schlosser is a very important family record, because Michael Muller is a godparent and it confirms the family connection a second time! (Thanks so much to my friend Tom for finding these images and translating the records.)

  • January 31, 1686 – Johann Michael, parents: Melchior Clemens & and Anna Maria from Steinwenden. Godparents: Hans Georg Schuhmacher; Michael Muller and Jacob Orsels wife.

While their first child was born and baptized in Steinwenden, the rest were not. Apparently Melchior was Catholic, because their subsequent children were baptized in a Catholic church. I wonder what kind of a scandal or family rift that caused!

The Thirty Years War that ended in 1648 was a bitterly fought and extremely devastating war that depopulated much of Germany, including Steinwenden. While the issues were not entirely religious, there was certainly a Catholic versus Protestant component.

I’m guessing, but I don’t know, that Anna Ursula was at the baptism of each of her grandchildren regardless of which church, Protestant or Catholic, they were baptized in.

The next two children were baptized in the Catholic Church in Glan-Munchweiler, about 7 miles from Steinwenden.

  • February 17, 1689 – baptized Joes (Joannes) Severinus, legitimate son of Melchioris Clemens & Anna Maria, his lawfully wed wife of Stenweiller. Godparents: Joes (Joannes) Valentinus Brenler; Severinus Clemens, both of Ramstein & Anna Catharina of Stenweiller.
  • August 26, 1691 – baptized Anna Appolonia, legitimate daughter of Melchioris Cleman & Anna Maria, his lawfully wed wife of Stenweiller. Godparents: Jacob Crentz & Anna Margreta both of Stenweiller.

Appolonia’s marriage was also recorded in this church in 1712:

On the 26th of May 1712, no impediments having been found, were married in the church before witnesses the honorable young man Joes (Joannes) Nicolaus Heller, legitimate son of the honorable Thomas Heller & Catharina his wife of Reweiler with the virgin, Anna Appolonia, legitimate daughter of the honorable Melchioris Clemens of Stenweiler.

The rest of the children were baptized in the Catholic Church in Ramstein, about 4 miles in the opposite direction from Steinwenden.

  • May 4, 1694 – the Sunday after Easter was baptized the legitimate son: Joannem Sepherinum Clement, born of the honorable parents: Melchiori Clement & Anna Maria. Godparents from Steinweiler: Sepherinus Clement of Ramstein and his wife, Anna Magdalena, both Catholics & the honorable young man, Carolus Schlosser, Calvinist of Steinweiler.

It’s very unusual to find a protestant acting as the godparent for a Catholic child.

Twenty-one years later, we find this child’s marriage record as well.

On the 22nd of January 1715 were married Severus Clemens of Steinwenden & Margareta Catharina Zinsmeisterin of the same Steinwenden.

  • December 3, 1697 – baptized Reginam Catharinam, legitimate daughter of the honorable married couple Melchioris Clemens, hunter & Anna Maria his wife. Godparents: Joes (Joannes) Jacobo Breull, young man & Regina Catharina Steurin, both of Ramstein.
  • September 29, 1700 – Baptized Anna Christina, legitimate daughter of Melchioris Clemens & Anna Maria, his lawfully wed wife. Godparents: Lady Anna Christina, famous nobleman and the famous Lord Ernesti Schmedding,?

We find Anna Christina’s marriage as well. These children were clearly raised Catholic.

On the 4th of November 1722 were married, Jacobus, legitimate son of the deceased Theodorici Wuest of Obermohr & Christina, legitimate daughter of the late Melchioris Clemens of Steinwenden.

It would normally be unusual that more of Anna Maria’s siblings did not stand up with her children when baptized, but given the religious split, the fact that there were any Protestant godparents at all is rather amazing. What does surprise me is that Anna Maria’s mother wasn’t a godparent, which suggests that the rift between mother and daughter might have been quite wide and deep after Anna Maria’s switch to Catholicism.

I do wonder what the occupation of hunter for Melchior entailed at that time.

On the first of July 1713 died Michael (Melchior) Clemens of Steinwenden and was buried in the cemetery there.

We don’t know how old Melchior was, but if he was about the same age as his wife, he would probably have been about 20 when he married in 1685, so 48-50 at his death. I wonder if his occupation had something to do with his demise.

I also wonder why Michael wasn’t buried in consecrated holy ground, given that he was Catholic. It was noted that he was buried in Steinwenden – and I’m presuming this would have been in the Protestant church cemetery. There was no Catholic church in Steinwenden at that time.

It appears that all 5 of Anna Maria’s children lived, the last being born just half a year or so before Anna Ursula’s death. I wonder what happened to Anna Maria after Melchior’s death. I found no further records.

Carl Schlosser

Born in October 1664, Hans Carl Schlosser, son of late Cunrad Schlosser, married Agnes Hunan in Steinwenden on January 27, 1701, just about 6 weeks before the deaths of his mother, sister and brother. Carl died on January 16, 1731, just 11 days short of his 30th anniversary, aged 66 years and about 3 months.

This is Anna Ursula’s only son who reached adulthood and had children. Carl married late in life, age 37, but at least Anna Ursula had the opportunity to see him married. Unless she was grievously ill, I’m sure she attended.

Unfortunately, Anna Ursula did not live long enough to greet any of Carl’s children:

  • December 18, 1701 – Anna Regina died immediately after baptism, Godparents: Hanss George Deysinger, Anna Christina, wife of Wilhelm Pfeiffer from Weltersbach, Regina, wife of Johann Nickkel Haffner from Limbach.
  • December 24, 1702 – Anna Margaretha Schlosser, was baptized quickly and died soon afterwards. Same Godparents as above.
  • July 29, 1705 – Anna Ursula, Godparents: Johann Wigant, legitimate son of Philipp Dulman, miller in Glan-Munchweiler, Anna Ursula legitimate daughter of the late Andreas Rabe of Stenweiler, Anna Elisabeth legitimate daughter of Wilhelm Pfeiffer of Weltersbach.

Now, of course, I’m wondering about whether or not Anna Ursula Rabe was named after our Anna Ursula, and if those two women are related in some fashion.

Finally, 4 years later, a child lived.

  • August 19, 1708 – Anna Catharina, Godparents: Catharina Barbara, daughter of Philipp Cullmann, miller in Munchweiler; Anna Apollonia, daughter of Melchior Kleemanns (Clemens) from Steinwenden; Wilhelm, legitimate son of Hanss Wilhelm Berny from Steinwenden.
  • March 17, 1711 – Maria Barbara, Godparents: Maria Lysbeth, wife of Simon Friess, smith in Steinwenden; Catharina Barbara, daughter of Philipp Cullmann, miller from Munchweiler; Theobald Lang from Steinwenden.
  • November 12, 1713 – Regina Catharina, Godparents: Margaretha Catharina, daughter of Jacob Zinssmeister from Steinwenden; Regina Elisabeth, Tobias; Johann Michel, legitimate son of Jacob Crentz from Steinwenden. This child died on October 8, 1724 at age 11.
  • November 26, 1716 – Johannes, Godparents: Johannes Schlecht, carpenter from Steinwenden; Samuel Kirch from Weltersbach; Maria Madl., wife of Bartel Deisinger from Steinwenden; Barbara, wife of Theobald Lang of Steinwenden. This child died on March 20, 1720 at age 4.
  • September 24, 1719 – Anna Margreth, Godparents: Anna Margreth, surviving widow of Michel Jung of Steinwenden; Andreas Zinssmeister, son of Jacob Zinssmeister of Steinwenden; Seibert Clemens of Steinwenden.

It appears that 4 of 8 children born lived, or at least we don’t find death records. That mortality rate was normal at the time, but it breaks my heart just to think about losing any children, let alone that many – half.

Anna Ursula Schlosser married to Johann Calman Hoffbauer

Anna Ursula (the daughter) was married on June 26, 1696 in Steinwenden.

  • March 17, 1697 – Baptism of Johan Carl, Parents: Calman/Culman Hoffbauer & Anna Ursula from Steinwenden. Godparents: Hanss Carl Schlosser; Eva Ersabeta Hoffbauerin, ?.

February 13, 1698, Johann Culman Hoffbauer, master shoemaker, age 26, was buried.

Anna Ursula wasn’t even married 2 years before she was left a young widow with a baby who would celebrate his first birthday without his father.

Hans Peter Schlosser

The burial record for Hans (probably Johann) Peter Schlosser on July 31, 1691, Anna Ursula’s son, tells us that he was age 11 at his death. He was one of Anna Ursula’s youngest children, if not the youngest, and would have been born about 1680.

With this child’s death, Anna Ursula may have lost her baby. However, based on the death records, if the years are accurate, Hans Peter and Johannes who died in 1701 the week after his mother may have been twins.

Living Children (When Anna Ursula Died)

Even though Anna Ursula clearly had more children than the records in Steinwenden indicate, it appears that only 7 lived long enough to be recorded in the Steinwenden church.  Of the surviving children, two died in 1701 in the same month as Anna Ursula.

  • Anna Ursula may have buried daughter Irene Charitas as well.
  • The fate of daughter, Anna Ursula, is unknown along with that of Irene Charitas.
  • At Anna Ursula’s death, only daughter Anna Maria is known positively to be alive.
  • Anna Ursula buried her son, Hans Peter, in 1691, three years before her husband’s death.
  • Anna Ursula’s son, Johannes died a week after she did.
  • I strongly suspect the death of her daughter, Anna Catharina, two weeks prior and her son, Johannes, a week later were somehow connected with the cause of Anna Ursula’s death.
  • Anna Ursula’s only other son, Carl, lived until 1731.

Chronology

I wanted to assemble a chronology of Anna Ursula’s life in Steinwenden. Based on the church records, we actually know what she was doing on certain days. I’ve tried to bracket similar events. Happy event rows are peach colored. Sad events are blue. As you can see, a great many are bracketed together with a birth and death following in short order. Yellow rows are the only grandchildren who lived. Of course, those are very happy events!

Putting these events in chronological order made me realize just how difficult and grief-filled Anna Ursula’s life was. The sad fact is that this was probably somewhat “normal” for the time.  Life was extremely difficult for our ancestors. Some days I’m amazed that against the odds, I exist at all.

Anna Ursula’s children are noted in green at the top in the white rows. At Anna Ursula’s death, only two children, in green, were living except for Johannes, at the bottom, who died a week later. At least she didn’t have to bury him. It’s unknown if the two daughters in teal were living at Anna Ursula’s death

Anna Ursula only lived for a total of 16 years after church records began chronicling her life.

In that time, she:

  • Buried her husband in 1694 (grey)
  • Buried her son in 1691 (red)
  • Buried her daughter in 1701 (red)
  • Possibly buried a second daughter between 1692 and 1695 (teal)
  • Buried 2 son-in laws (gold) in 1695 and 1698, seeing one if not two daughters widowed
  • Buried at least 5 grandchildren (light blue rows not otherwise marked)
  • Died perhaps knowing a second son would probably perish as well, which he did a week later (red)

Take a look at July of 1791. In 8 days Anna Ursula’s daughter lost two children, and Anna Ursula lost her own son two days later. Three deaths and burials in 10 days. That’s beyond brutal.

Looking at the death index for 1691, we don’t see an epidemic, so it appears that these three deaths were clustered in this family, and only this family. On June 1, 1691, 6 weeks before the 3 Schlosser deaths in 10 days, Johann Michael Mueller’s cousin, Hans Jacob Ringeysen, died as well at age 37. He may have been living near this extended family group.

During the 16 years in Steinwenden church records, Anna Ursula’s daughter, Irene Charitas buried at least 5 children plus her husband, leaving her, best case, with a 2 year, 3 month old child. Worst case, Anna Ursula’s daughter, Irene Charitas, had also died during that time.

While I’m sure that Anna Ursula was thrilled that her namesake daughter was married on June 26, 1696, and had a child on March 17, 1697, she would have been devastated when her daughter’s husband died 11 months later, leaving her youngest daughter a widow with a small child.

How would Anna Ursula have helped her widowed daughters, given that she was already a widow herself?

Perhaps she depended on her eldest son, Carl, who hadn’t yet married. At this point, in 1698 it’s entirely possible that the following people were living in one household together, simply trying to pool their resources and put food on the table:

  • Anna Ursula, then 65
  • Her oldest son, Carl, then about 35
  • Daughter Irene Charitas in her early 30s (if she was living) with son Johann Michael Muller, age 6
  • Daughter Anna Ursula in her 20s, a widow with an infant boy
  • Daughter Anna Catharina, about 37, having never married
  • Youngest son Johannes, about 18

I cannot imagine this was a happy family under the circumstances.

Anna Ursula’s dance with tragedy didn’t end in 1698 with her son-in-law’s death. She may have been estranged from her only other married daughter, Anna Maria.

Anna Ursula’s daughter, Anna Maria, became Catholic about 1689, which may have effectively left her dead to her mother. There is no way to know today, more than 300 years hence how icy that relationship became, or if it ever thawed. Anna Ursula did not name a daughter after her mother or a son after her father, nor did either parent stand up with her children as a godparent.

Estrangement is also a form of death, sometimes more painful because it is a choice.

What Happened in 1701?

Anna Ursula’s adult daughter, Anna Catharina, died twelve days before Anna Ursula’s death in 1701 and her son, Johannes, a week after her death. What killed these people?

Anna Ursula would have been 68 years old when she died, a long life for that time in history. Her daughter, age 40 and her son, only 21, also perished in that horrible March of 1701. Did that leave her daughter, Anna Ursula, widowed 4 years almost to the day before her mother’s death, again homeless with her child? Had daughter Anna Ursula remarried and moved on, or died? We simply don’t know.

Checking FamilySearch church records for deaths in Steinwenden in 1701, we don’t find many.

In total, there is one death in January and one on February 21st, 1701 but that woman was born in 1615 and was elderly.

Beware the ides of March.

The next 3 deaths in the church records are the Schlosser family members:

  • March 3, 1701 – Anna Catharina Schlosser born 1661, father Cunrad Schlosser
  • March 15, 1701 – Anna Ursula Schlosser born 1633, widow of Cunrad Schlosser
  • March 22, 1701 – Johannes Schlosser born 1680, father Cunrad Schlosser

Given that these three individuals all died in less than 3 weeks, but no one else in the village died during that time, I’d wager that we weren’t dealing with something like the flu, but instead with something fatal but localized. Dysentery is a virus and highly contagious. Typhoid is bacterial, but is also highly contagious and can be passed from person to person. Cholera is caused by water contaminated by fecal matter and is contagious as well, but perhaps not as highly so as Dysentery and Typhoid. Food poisoning has been suggested as another possibility.

Was this the same thing that struck a decade earlier, in July of 1791, killing three family members in 10 days then as well? I wonder if the church records for other time periods carry similar tales for other families. What was going on in Steinwenden?

I find it very strange that three people in the same household died in less than 3 weeks, including a young (presumably healthy) male age 21, but no other deaths occurred in the community. German farm villages were organized such that the houses were built against each other in the town, generally walls adjoining. Everyone used the same water supply and there was little space between neighbors.

This contemporary photo of Steinwenden, shows the way that houses were constructed at that time on the same street with the Protestant church, which would be located in the historic part of town.

In the above satellite view, the village isn’t terribly large, even today, and the cemetery may well be located behind the church. Note that the older buildings across the street to the right of the church, on the corner, are the same white side-by-side Raisch buildings as pictured above.

The undated photo above of historic Mutterstadt in the early 1900s, a village in the same region of Germany, shows the way that houses were traditionally constructed in villages. Side by side, with the farmers going outside the village to tend their fields each day. It would be very unusual for something contagious to strike only one family.

Were these deaths really just bad luck?  That’s difficult to believe.

The next death in the 1701 church records isn’t until August, and there are only two more for the entire year. The Schlosser family experienced 3/8th or nearly half of the deaths in the entire village that year in March.

Perhaps we don’t know the full story. This makes me wonder about other scenarios. What happened to this family in 1691 and 1701 that didn’t happen to any other family? Sadly, the church records stand stubbornly mute.

Regardless of the cause of death, it was a very difficult time for this family.

Still, I can’t help but wonder what actually happened. I surely wish the minister had recorded a cause of death. A few strokes of the pen would make all of the difference.

Anna Ursula’s Mitochondrial DNA

Anna Ursula’s mitochondrial DNA would be available to us today through her female children through a continuous line of females until the current generation, which can be male.

Did Anna Ursula have any female children that had female children?

Of all of the children born to Anna Ursula Schlosser, only daughter Anna Maria who married Melchior Clemens (Clements) had daughters that lived at least long enough to marry.

  • August 26, 1691 – Anna Appolonia Clemens, Godparents: Jacob Crentz & Anna Margreta both of Stenweiller. In the Catholic church of Glan-Munchweiler.

On May 26, 1712, Joes (Joannes) Nicolaus Heller, son of Thomas Heller and Catharina his wife of Reweiler, with the virgin, Anna Appolonia, daughter of Melchioris Clemens of Stenweiler.

  • December 3, 1697 – baptism of Reginam Catharinam Clemens, Godparents: Joes (Joannes) Jacobo Breull, young man & Regina Catharina Steurin, both of Ramstein. In the Catholic church in Ramstein.
  • September 29, 1700 – Anna Christina Clemens, Godparents: Lady Anna Christina, famous nobleman and the famous Lord Ernesti Schmedding, ?. In the Catholic church in Ramstein.

On November 4, 1722, Christina, daughter of the late Melchioris Clemens of Steinwenden married Jacobus Wuest of Obermohr in the Catholic church of Ramstein.

At least two of Anna Ursula’s granddaughters married, as noted above, increasing the chances of female descendants.

I find no records of these daughters, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Ancestry shows trees that spell Heller as Keller. Three daughters are shown, with daughter Anna Katharina Keller born in 1714 and dying in 1783. Perhaps someone connects.

We have three candidates for maternal lines to carry the mitochondrial DNA of Anna Ursula, and I have a DNA testing scholarship for anyone descended from these three daughters through all females to the current generation. In the current generation, males and females both can test because women contribute their mitochondrial DNA to all of their children, but only females pass it on. Therefore, male children carry their mother’s mitochondrial DNA – and that of their direct line female ancestors.

In Summary

It’s rather amazing how much we discovered about Anna Ursula Schlosser, despite not having any church baptismal records for her or her children. We’re quite fortunate to have Anna Ursula’s death record. Maybe some of Anna Ursula lives on today in the DNA of her descendants!

Unlock Transfer Results at Family Tree DNA for $10 – 2 Days Only

Just a very quick note to my readers to let you know that Family Tree DNA has lowered the price of their unlock for autosomal transfers from other companies to just $10 through January 28th.

Transferring your DNA from the following vendors to Family Tree DNA is free, as is matching.

  • Ancestry
  • MyHeritage
  • 23andMe (V3 and V4 only at 23andMe meaning kits tested before August 2017)

If you want access to the more advanced tools at Family Tree DNA, you need to unlock those tools which normally costs $19.  The $10 price is a great value and it’s a one time cost – not a subscription.

Tools you’ll receive access to with the unlock include:

  • Chromosome Browser
  • myOrigins (ethnicity estimates)
  • ancientOrigins

Savings Code

Click here and use code ATULJAN18 during checkout to reduce the unlock price to $10!

Transfer Instructions

If you thought about or started the transfer process before but never finished, now is a great time to upload and save.

Having difficulty or need some help?  Here you go!!!

Downloading from Ancestry

If you need instructions for downloading your Ancestry raw data file, click here.

If you are having trouble uploading your Ancestry raw data file to Family Tree DNA, you can use the free tool here to fix file compatibility issues.

Uploading If You Already Have a Family Tree DNA Account

To upload an autosomal DNA file from another supported vendor, if you have an account at Family Tree DNA already:

  • Click here to sign on
  • Click on the “DNA Tests” button at the top of your page
  • Click on Autosomal Transfer and follow the instructions

Uploading If You Don’t Have an Account at Family Tree DNA

  • Click here
  • Click on the DNA Tests button at top left
  • Click on Autosomal Transfer and follow instructions.

Don’t forget to unlock your results once your transfer is complete!

You just never know what big genealogy fish might be swimming in this pond! Just this morning, I received a new close match and I hope one is waiting for you too.

Quick Tip – Working With Match Notifications from Family Tree DNA

Have you ever wondered WHY you received yet another match notification e-mail from Family Tree DNA?  Do you have trouble finding the new match they are referring to?

When you receive a match notification from Family Tree DNA that you have new matches, it’s exciting, ESPECIALLY if you have a high resolution match.

However, sometimes match notifications can be confusing, so here are 4 quick tips for you to get the most out of those match notifications.

Of course, the first thing you want to do is to click on the blue “VIEW MY MATCHES” link to see who’s new in the genetic neighborhood.

However, you may not see a new match when you first view your page. Here are some reasons why and the resolution is super easy.

Tip 1 – Your Match May Show at Different Levels

Both mitochondrial and Y DNA matching occurs at different levels depending on two things:

  • The level that you have tested
  • The level at which the match occurred

This means that in the case of the notification above, I’m only going to find my match at the HVR1 or entry level results of my mitochondrial DNA.

However, when you click to sign in to your account through the e-mail message link, you AUTOMATICALLY see your highest level tested first.

This match is for my HVR1 level, but the first match screen I see upon signing in is full sequence results, so I won’t see my new match at this level.

Many people don’t think about the fact that they’re looking at their highest testing level, and the match may be at a lower testing level.

If your match matches you at the highest level, they are likely, but not guaranteed to match you at the lower levels too.

Whether you do or don’t match at lower levels depends on where the various mutations fall in the tested portion of your genome.

In other words, you could match at the full mitochondrial sequence level, but NOT at the HVR1 or HVR2 levels – and vice versa of course.

This is true for both mitochondrial and Y DNA which both test at various levels.

Tip 2 – Select Dropdowns to See Other Levels

You’ll notice the dropdown box, below.

Be sure to view your matches at the level that the e-mail indicates.  In my case, I need to switch to the HVR1 level.

Look, there’s my new match!  I can tell that the first person only tested at the HVR1 and HVR2 levels, and not at the full sequence level, so there is no possibility that I’ll match them at that level.

That is, unless they upgrade.

I’m going to contact my match and ask about their earliest known ancestor.  They didn’t provide that information, nor do they have a tree, so I’m going to suggest both.  If we find some commonality at that level, maybe they’ll become inspired to upgrade to the full mitochondrial level test and we can see if we continue to match there as well.

Men’s Y DNA results have different drop down match level options of course, but in essence the concept of matching at different levels is the same.

Tip 3 – Match Thresholds

Both Y and mitochondrial DNA have different matching criteria at various testing levels.

The mitochondrial DNA match threshold is shown below:

This explains why a match might show at a higher testing level, but not at a lower level. If you have one mutation and the mismatching piece of DNA occurs in the HVR1 mitochondrial region where one mismatch means you won’t be considered a match, you’ll match at the full sequence level but not at either the HVR1 or HVR2 levels.

Mismatches are shown as genetic distance on your matches page. In other words a genetic distance of 1 means you mismatch at 1 location at that testing level.  You can read about genetic distance here.

Y DNA match thresholds are shown in the table below:

For Y DNA, if your one mutation occurs in the first 12 markers, you won’t be shown as a match at that level (unless you are both in a common DNA project,) but you will be shown at higher match levels as a match.

Tip 4 – Changing Match Notifications

What, you don’t want so many match notifications?

You do have the ability to disable match notifications at any level, but be aware that DISABLING MATCH NOTIFICATIONS ALSO DISABLES MATCHING at that level. Therefore, I don’t recommend disabling match notifications beyond the HVR1 or 12 marker tests, and I personally don’t have any disabled. I do not want to miss that fateful match under any circumstances!

To change your notifications, click on the orange “Manage Personal Information” link below your profile picture on your personal page.

Then, click on “Match and E-Mail Settings” where you’ll see the following:

If you make changes, be sure to click the orange “Save” button, or it won’t.

Summary

When you receive a new match notification from Family Tree DNA, don’t forget to check each level for matching. Sorting by match date will show you which matches are the most recent.

Look for common ancestors, surnames (Y DNA) and locations.  Reach out to your matches and most of all, enjoy!

_____________________________________________________________________

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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.

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DNAGedcom Client

DNAGedcom provides an incredibly cool tool that has helped me immensely with my genealogy research, particularly at Ancestry and Family Tree DNA. This tool doesn’t replace what Ancestry and Family Tree DNA provide, but augments the functionality significantly.

I’ve been frustrated for months by the broken search function at Ancestry, and the DNAGedcom tool allows you to bypass the search function entirely by downloading the direct line ancestral information for all of your matches. So let’s use my Ancestry account as an example.

Utilizing DNAGedcom

After installing the DNAGedcom tool on your system, sign on to your Ancestry account through the tool. The tool downloads all of your matches, the people you match in common with them, and the ancestors in your matches’ trees.

The best part about this is that the results are then in a spreadsheet file that you can simply sort utilizing normal spreadsheet functions. I wrote about using spreadsheets for genetic genealogy in the article, Concepts – Sorting Spreadsheets for Autosomal DNA.

In my case, this means I can see everyone who I match that has an Estes, or any other surname, in their tree. I don’t have to look at my matches’ trees one at a time.

You can read about this very cool tool at this link, including how to subscribe for either $5 per month or $50 per year. Many functions at DNAGedcom are free, but the Ancestry tool is available through a minimal subscription which helps to support the rest of the site.

After subscribing, the DNAGedcom client will become available to you on your subscriber page at DNAGedcom.

Please note that you can click to enlarge any image.

After you subscribe, you’ll see the link for the Ancestry download tool, along with other resources.

You will want to follow the installation directions, exactly, to download the DNAGedcom client onto your PC or Mac in preparation for downloading your Ancestry match information onto your system. This is painless and goes quickly.

Next, you will be prompted to sign in to both DNAGedcom and Ancestry, through the tool, and then you will be prompted for three separate steps at Ancestry:

  • Gather Matches – took about 10 minutes
  • Gather Trees – let’s just say you might want to run this one overnight, and on a directly connected system, not wifi. Mine was about 25% complete at the 2 hour mark
  • Gather ICW – another several hours, but you can do other things on your system at the same time

The downloaded files will be stored on your computer as .csv files. On my PC, the default location was in the Documents directory and the files are named as follows:

  • a_Roberta_Estes (the ancestors of my matches)
  • icw_Roberta_Estes (the people I match and who I match in common with them)
  • m_Roberta_Estes (information about the match, such as cMs, etc.)

It’s important to make a note of this, as I didn’t find the file names documented elsewhere.

The good news is that even though these steps take a long time, having all of this information in a place where you can sort it and use it effectively is extremely useful. You can run the various steps at night or when you aren’t otherwise using your system.

In addition, if someone is sharing their DNA results with you on Ancestry (which they can under the settings gear), you can download the same data for their account – and then you can look for commonalities between groups of results using the DNAGedcom Match-O-Matic tool, also described in the introductory document.

Using the Downloaded Files

Personally, what I wanted to do was to search for all occurrences of a particular surname. Fortunately, it was Claxton or Clarkson, not Smith.

Simply using Excel (after saving the results file in Excel format), I was able to quickly sort for these surnames, an example shown below. Hmmm, I wonder if Claxon is relevant too. I never considered that possibility – nor would I have ever seen Claxon in a surname search, because I wouldn’t have searched for Claxon..

I’m brick walled on the Claxton line in Russell County, Virginia in about 1799. My ancestor, James Lee Claxton, was born someplace in Virginia about 1775. Utilizing Y DNA, we know of another man, also named James Claxton, born about 1750 first found in Granville and Bertie County, NC, who sired an entire lineage of Claxtons who migrated to Bedford County, TN.  However, that James is not the father of my ancestor, because that James had a different son named James. Other than these two distinct groups, we can’t seem to match with anyone else who has tested their Y DNA at Family Tree DNA, so my hope, for now, is an autosomal match with a known Claxton line out of Virginia.

(Shameless plug – if you are a Claxton or Clarkson male, please test your Y DNA at Family Tree DNA and join the Claxton DNA project. If you have Claxton or Clarkson ancestry from any line, and have taken the Family Finder test or transferred autosomal results from another vendor, please join the Claxton/Clarkson DNA project at Family Tree DNA. If you have Claxton or Clarkson ancestry and haven’t yet DNA tested, please do.)

Therefore, my goal is to find matches to other Claxton or Clarkson individuals who don’t share a known common known ancestor with me. Because we don’t share a known common ancestor, of course, these people would never be shown as an Ancestry green leaf “DNA+tree match,” nor is there another way for me to obtain a surname list like this at Ancestry.

After finding Claxton candidates, then I can refer to the other downloaded files or sign on to my account at Ancestry to look at the match itself and other ICW matches. Hopefully, some of my matches will also match some of my Claxton cousins as well, which would suggest that the match might actually be through the Claxton line.

The DNAGedcom client also downloads the same type of information from 23andMe, which isn’t nearly as useful without trees, as well as from Family Tree DNA.

Thanks so much to www.dnagedcom.com.

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Leapfrogging: Should We Believe Our Elders? – 52 Ancestors #180

You might notice that weekends are normally when I publish my 52 ancestor stories – and this isn’t exactly a normal 52 Ancestors story – but it pertains. Trust me for a minute.

Halt the Presses

This is what happens when you THINK you have correct information for your ancestor – or any topic really – and for some reason, you discover that you don’t.

Generally, the reasons fall into three categories:

  • New information not previous available
  • Misinterpreted information, sometimes based on incomplete information
  • Incorrect information from “elders”

The reason the 52 Ancestors story I had planned for today isn’t publishing is a result of items 1 and 2.  Fortunately for genealogists today, records previously buried in dusty cellars and church books in tiny villages are now being imaged and indexed along with other information relevant to rebuilding our ancestor’s lives.

While it’s irritating to have written an entire article and THEN discover something new – it’s actually a VERY POSITIVE outcome, because the new information was a wonderful development as the result of their spouses’ article published last week.

So while I need to rewrite this week’s and the original article, I will write with gratitude!

The third situation, incorrect information from elders, is a bit more awkward – and yes, I’ve been tripped up with that one too.

Who Are The Elders Anyway?

In most every culture, the elders are those who have lived long enough to amass wisdom – or they are more focused on a particular subject.  In traditional societies, these might be healers, shamans or hunters.

Today, the genealogical elders might be individuals focused on genealogy, genetic genealogy specialists, or the people in our own family who are literally, older, who know more about our family because they knew their grandparents who passed away long before we were born.

Additionally, because we all begin as novices, book authors and people who already have trees online are perceived as “elders” in this sense, because they have more experience than the novice. This extends to other people on social media, whether they have any expertise at all.  It’s impossible for the novice to tell.

Uncle George – The Good Elder

Let me give you an example.

My father died when I was a child and his family lived in another state 500 miles distant.  I didn’t know any of his side of the family until as a young adult, I decided I wanted to find out if there were any living family members.  I literally called the telephone “operator” and told her to connect me to any Estes in Tazewell, Tennessee. I remember her asking, “But which one, there are several?”  I was excited!

The operator selected an Estes at random and a couple phone calls later, I was talking to Uncle George who everyone assured me knew all about the genealogy of the Estes family. Indeed, he was the family elder I needed to connect with. He told me he had known my grandfather, Will Estes. He refrained from telling me the juicy details. At that time, I didn’t even know there were juicy details about my grandfather. I would learn about those later from one of the crazy aunts.

A few months later, I went to visit Uncle George, who was not my uncle at all, but my first cousin once removed.  The term “Uncle” in that part of the country is a term of endearment showing respect and kinship with someone.

Uncle George was kind enough to share his recollections with me, along with photos, dates and burial locations.  He was the collector of such things, the family archivist.  It’s somehow ironic that Uncle George had no biological offspring, although he was very fond of his second wife’s children.

At this point in my life, I wasn’t a genealogist, or at least I didn’t realize I was.  It’s a sneaky addiction you know! A slippery slope and once you’re there, it’s too late to do anything about it.  If you are reading this article, you very clearly know whereof I speak😊

Leapfrog Knowledge

When I met Uncle George and his brother, Uncle Buster, both of whom I adored, Uncle George was in his 70s and we were separated by almost half a century.

That means that he was in every sense my elder and looked uncannily like my father – so much so that when he opened the door the day I met him for the first time – I stood on the step literally dumbstruck, seeing the ghost of my two decades deceased father.

Uncle George and me in the back of his pickup truck.

We sat on the couch during my visit, side by side as he pulled one note and photo after another out of “the box” and shared them with me, recounting the story of each one.  I was transported back in time.

He told me that he was quite young, but that he remembered standing at the graveside of his grandfather, my great-grandfather, Lazarus Estes when he was buried in 1918.  He asked, “Do you want me to take you there?”  Now remember, I wasn’t a genealogist yet – but I truly believe it’s right about here in the story that I was infected with this lifelong affliction.

I excitedly said yes, and off we went – to view a grave WITH NO HEADSTONE.

How many of your ancestors’ graves are unmarked? What would it be worth to you to go with someone who had stood at that grave when they were buried and knew exactly where it was located?

This is what I’m referring to as leapfrogging.  That happens when you find someone old enough that they have personal knowledge of incidents and people at least two and sometime three generations before your own available family memories.

In my case, I had no memories available to harvest, except for the Crazy Aunts who we’ll mention in a minute, because my father had died.  Finding Uncle George who had carefully taken notes was a godsend.

His personal knowledge was remarkable.  Of course, I wish desperately now I had asked more questions – so many more questions.

Uncle George is who told me about the cabin that burned, and with it, my father’s brother.  He planted the willow tree on the spot where that cabin once stood.  And where I later stood too, grieving a half century later for my grandparents and that poor child.

Uncle George knew both Lazarus Estes and Elizabeth Vannoy Estes, my great-grandparents.  Granted, they were old when he was young, but he could take me to where their cabin stood, show me where they dipped their water with a gourd from the stream and tell me about what his father told him as well.

Uncle George’s father, Charlie Tomas (yes, it’s really spelled that way) knew his parents of course, but he also knew his grandparents, in particular, his grandmother Ruthy Dodson Estes who died in 1903 when Charlie would have been 18.  It’s because Charlie shared this knowledge with Uncle George that we knew that she suffered terribly from rheumatoid arthritis and had to be carried from her cabin to Lazarus’ when she could no longer care for herself.  It’s through Charlie that we knew where Ruthy’s unmarked grave was located as well.

Ruthy’s husband, John Y. Estes didn’t die until 1895, but he left Tennessee for Texas before Charlie was born, so Charlie would never have known him.

This leapfrogging begins to break down here, but we’ve connected in some tangible way with George acquiring either first or second hand knowledge of people born in 1820.

Furthermore, Uncle George knew that his great-great-grandmother’s name was Nancy Ann Moore.  He was accurate.  How do I know?  Because I found their marriage license in Halifax County Virginia from 1811 some years later. Because Uncle George knew her name, I knew I had the right John Estes in Halifax County and that allowed me to search further and connect back in time to earlier generations – breaking through the brick wall of how my Estes line connected to the descendants of Abraham Estes.

Uncle George’s recorded notes leapfrogged back in time from the 1980s to 1811, an amazing 170 years!

What didn’t Uncle George know?

He didn’t know where the family came from in Virginia, but he unknowingly held the piece of information that allowed me to make that discovery.

He didn’t know where John R. Estes who had died in 1887 was buried, although he presumed it was in the family cemetery.  At least Uncle George TOLD me he was presuming.

This is the important distinction.

I didn’t know enough about genealogy at that point to understand what to ask.  He knew enough to tell me and thankfully, I heard him.

When interviewing elders, it’s important to discern what they know and how, as opposed to what they are inferring based on other knowledge, and it’s critical to record what they say verbatim.  By that time, I had finished college, so note-taking was second nature – thankfully. I find my notes from those conversations that include items I’d forgotten, and I know at the time I thought I’d never forget – but I did.

As I read back over my notes from my visits with Uncle George, I discovered that I had forgotten things that seemed unimportant at the time, but were valuable puzzle pieces later when I had a clue.

To the best of my knowledge, Uncle George never provided me with a piece of inaccurate information.  In some cases, he didn’t know all of the details, which I later discovered, but they never disproved what he had told me.

But then, there were the Crazy Aunts.

The Crazy Aunts

The crazy Aunts were elders too when I met them, about the same time.  They were my father’s sisters.

Uncle George didn’t forewarn me that the aunts were crazy. He didn’t tell me that they um, created or embellished stories with added drama, at will, it seems.

Now, I do have to admit, some of their stories did turn out to be true, and ALL OF THEM were quite interesting. Sometimes far more interesting than the truth.

Of particular interest to me was the “fact” that Elizabeth Vannoy was “half Cherokee through her mother and her brothers moved to Oklahoma and claimed head rights.”

That’s a lot of very specific information.

And guess what?

None of it was true.

I’ve tracked down every bit and disproven that entire statement, piece by piece, including genetically through Y DNA and mitochondrial haplogroups and ethnicity tests of descendants.  Elizabeth Vannoy was not half Cherokee.  Her family wasn’t even living in the right location, to begin with, and the evidence continues from there.

This isn’t the only instance of receiving incorrect information from the aunts.

However, Aunt Margaret did indeed provide me with family photos, none of which I had or would have had without her generosity.

This begs the question of whether Aunt Margaret was conveying something she was told or whether she was playing fast and free with the truth, or maybe conveying the story as she wanted it to be.

I don’t have the answer to that.

What I do know is that I believed it for a very long time.  I know that my father believed it too.

Verifying Elder’s Stories

Stories conveyed by the elders are absolutely invaluable.  However, we have to evaluate every piece of that information individually, divorcing ourselves from the emotions we hold for tellers.

Yes, we know that you love grandpa and you can’t conceive of grandpa every lying to you – but maybe grandpa didn’t tell a Pinocchio.  Maybe he told the truth as he believed it.  Maybe he only modified the facts a tidbit to protect someone – perhaps you.

For example, when I was young, there was a sign in front of our house that said “colored people not allowed.”  Colored meant me…because my father’s family was “dark” and my father firmly believed that he was indeed Indian, attending to Powwows held in secret at that time because they were illegal.

Was he partly Indian?  Yes, I do believe so, based on a variety of evidence.

Was his grandmother half Indian through her mother who was 100% Cherokee?  No, unquestionably not, including mitochondrial DNA evidence that shows her haplogroup as J1c2c! That European mitochondrial haplogroup alone proved unquestionably that her matrilineal line is not Native. Her father’s haplogroup I is also European.

Perhaps that tidbit conveyed by the crazy aunts substituted Native for African.  Perhaps their parents or grandparents, in the early 1900s were trying to explain why they were so dark and trying to protect their family from rampant “zero tolerance” discrimination.

We will never know today.  What I do know, and can prove is that the information provided by the aunts was inaccurate.  I cannot speak to the intention.

Talk, Record, Share, Correct

This brings me back to my commentary about my 52 Ancestors stories.  I need to correct two stories already in print and delay one that was scheduled to be published today – because I need to correct information based on newly discovered facts.

However, those facts would never have come my direction had I NOT published what I had, with sources and references.

I’ve heard a number of people say that they don’t share trees or stories because they aren’t “finished” or they are afraid of perpetuating bad information.  I share that concern, but imagine if Uncle George hadn’t shared what he knew with me.

That information would be gone today, forever irretrievable.

Here’s my advice.

  • Do your best.
  • Verify as much as possible.
  • Share your sources and your research path.
  • Document what you can and state clearly what you do not know, items that need followup or areas where you are suspicious, and why
  • Negative evidence is still evidence. For example, “I checked and John Doe is not in the marriage/death/court/deed/will/probate records in XYZ County between 1850 and 1900.”  That provides invaluable information, even though you didn’t find any documents.  It’s not at all the same as not having checked.
  • Correct the stories or narrative as soon as you discover either an error or something new.

We believe our elders because when we find them, they are more knowledgeable than we are.  They have the benefit of time and sometimes location and there is no reason for us to NOT believe them.  After all, they are the ones we are turning to.

Like everyone, elders, no matter how much we love and respect them, are human, and they convey what they were told.  We can’t go back in time and evaluate why their elders thought or said what they did.  We don’t know if someone assumed that an individual was buried someplace or knew it by standing at their graveside. And we don’t know if they got information from the equivalent of Uncle George or a Crazy Aunt.

We also don’t know what was omitted, or why.

For a long time, I believed that John Y. Estes must surely be buried in the Estes Cemetery too, between his parents, wife and deceased children.  It made perfect sense.  That is…until I discovered quite by accident that he left his family in Estes Holler in Claiborne County Tennessee, walked to Texas (twice) not long after his youngest child was born and was in fact buried in the Boren Cemetery the middle of a field in Montague County, Texas in 1895. Imagine my surprise making this discovery, which, by the way, I verified in person, taking the photo of his headstone myself in 2004.

None of the elders told me that really important tidbit. Could be because they didn’t “know,” but somehow I think it might have had more to do with the “d” word.  Divorce. Or maybe because he left his family. It could also have something to do with the fact that he fought for the confederacy in the Civil War while most of the neighbors and family fought for the north. Or maybe some combination of the two made him easy to forget.

The other glaring omission is that Joel Vannoy, father of Elizabeth Vannoy, who died in 1895 was institutionalized in an “insane asylum” for “preachin’, swearin’ and threatenin’ to fight.”  Lazarus transported him to the asylum in Knoxville, and everyone in “Estes Holler” which connected with “Vannoy Holler” was aware of the situation.  It was no secret at the time, as I later discovered. Uncle George’s father, Charlie clearly knew this, and knew Joel as well.  I surely wish Uncle George had told me.  He was a kind man and didn’t want to speak ill of anyone, alive or dead.

The Crazy Aunts would have told something that juicy in a heartbeat, so I’m going to presume they didn’t know! They weren’t raised in Estes Holler.

The truth is the truth, no matter how flattering or unflattering.  Our ancestors are unique individuals, warts and all.

We hold a sacred duty to the ancestors to tell their stories, the truth, verified where possible by DNA evidence, because now WE have become those leapfrogging elders.

Researching and Visiting Ireland

With my recent articles about Ireland, I’ve had lots of questions about visiting Ireland and researching Irish ancestors. Let’s talk about both!

Ireland is a wonderful place to visit. The people are genuinely friendly and outgoing, perhaps moreso than anyplace else in the world.

You can read about my adventures and share some of Ireland in the following articles:

Who Are The Irish?

The Irish are an ancient people with roots in the Neolithic hunter gatherer tribes who constructed the megalithic monuments more than 5000 years ago, followed by the Celts, Vikings, Normans and English. Today’s Irish are an amazing people with a wonderful sense of humor and unparalleled flexibility in the face of adversity. In other words, they are experts at making lemonade out of lemons. I suspect that’s what has at times made the unbearable, bearable, and ultimately insured their survival.

Let me give you an example.

I sat down on a tour bus for a short ride of about 10 minutes between two destinations.

A man traveling with a retiree’s club tour sat next to me, as all of the other seats were occupied.

Before sitting down, the man who I’d estimate to be on the far side of 4 score years, asked if he could sit beside me. I replied, “By all means, sit right down.”

He did and asked me if I was from the US. Laughing, I asked, “What was your first clue?” I obviously have a very distinct US accent.

We both laughed.

Then he looked at me, kind of sized me up, and asked, absolutely deadpan, “Will ye marry me?”

I could tell that this was just something he did and he was enjoying the shock value.

I told him that the ride was about 10 minutes and we could negotiate. He cheerfully said “OK!”

We started chatting about the location we had just visited and nothing in particular. In other words, the proposal was an ice-breaker and no serious negotiations were ensuing. (I was wearing a wedding band.)

Then, I asked him what women normally say when he proposes like that.

He looked at me and said, I his lovely Irish brogue, “Well, obviously no one has said yes yet or I wouldn’t still be askin’.”

I wish I could write in Irish brogue, which is what would be needed to truly convey this exchange.

I laughed till I cried. We parted friends. He has probably already forgotten about me, especially if someone has since taken him up on his proposal, but I’ll never quire forget him! After all, how many women get proposed to between Knowth and New Grange?

If you’re thinking he was the exception, he wasn’t – although granted, no one else proposed. However, many Irish extended themselves in the 10 days I visited and were exceptionally friendly and helpful at a level that many Americans would consider a borderline invasion of personal space.

For example, this is Edna, a lady that said hello in a pub during hurricane Ophelia and a few minutes later, we were best buddies.

This is simply consummate Ireland. In her words, “We do this all the time.”

Oh, and by the way, that’s a baby sized Guinness in my hand, just to see if I liked it.  I did, and thank you Edna! What a fun time we had in the middle of a hurricane.

Why Ireland?

Ireland has experienced significantly more migration and emigration than many other locations due to both religious conflicts and famine. When visiting the UCD Library, the curators of the Irish Folklore Project stated that there are far more Irish descendants scattered outside of Ireland than inside. In other words, the diaspora is larger than the homeland. I believe the diaspora is estimated to be about 70 million people with Irish roots, versus about 7 million current population by combining Ireland and Northern Ireland.

In my case, the Scots-Irish migrated to the US in early days, between 1717 and 1770, populating areas of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina. The Appalachian Mountains probably felt much like home.

The Scots-Irish were only Irish for a little more than a hundred years. Before that, they were Scottish and were only transplanted to Ireland in the early 1600s, beginning about 1606 when the Protestant Scots were settled in what is now Northern Ireland, near Ulster.

Most families stayed for 4, maybe 5 generations before leaving again for better opportunities, beginning about 1717 and included an Irish famine that occurred between 1740-1741.

We know in Ireland that the Scots-Irish lived in what is now Northern Ireland, in the Ulster Plantations.

A second wave of emigration occurred during a second Irish famine that occurred between 1845-1852.

Finding Family

And now, for the bad news – many Irish genealogy records were destroyed in the bombing and subsequent fire in Dublin that destroyed almost all of the records held in the Irish Public Record Office in 1922, making research before that time challenging at best.

Therefore, DNA testing is likely to help Irish families and descendants more than most. DNA has the power to help piece together the past and overcome those missing records. The Irish, at least those interested in genealogy, aren’t nearly as reticent to test as continental Europeans. But then again, continental Europeans generally haven’t lost their records at quite the same level as the Irish.

If you’re one of those people who are lucky enough to discover the location of your family homeland in Ireland – or home road or farm, you may want to visit. Even if you can’t find the exact location, Ireland isn’t a large country, and you may be able to get close.

Other researchers visit to perform the actual research in various archival facilities.

Regardless, I have a few tips and hints for you about what to expect, what to do, what not to do, and more.

Driving

JUST DON’T!!! The Irish drive on the “wrong side” of the road and the rules are different. You’ll get yourself or someone else killed. Seriously, don’t…really! Need convincing? Look at this intersection. Any idea what you’re supposed to do?

Parking is extra and in many places, you simply can’t, so you’re MUCH BETTER to take a taxi or a bus in larger cities.

Hire a driver. I hired Brian O’Reilly and I can’t say enough good things about him – not only as a driver but as a tour guide.

I would hire Brian again in a heartbeat and I now count him among my friends. Brian works with a cooperative of several other private drivers and guides, so if Brian isn’t available himself, he will help you arrange transportation and guide service for your needs. He can also respond on relatively short notice. Brian O’Reilly’s e-mail is Brian.oreilly101@yahoo.ie. Tell him Roberta sent you and that I said “hello.”

Brian and I had a really great time and I learned so much about the Irish culture I would never have learned on a canned tour.

Hire a taxi, not a chauffeur, when hiring a driver. Why? Because taxis can use bus lanes while chauffeurs cannot. And yes, that makes a huge difference in terms of when you arrive, often by a factor of two in Dublin.

Taxis, in general, take forever to arrive to pick you up. Plan for extra time. They are often a half hour late due to traffic.

Public busses, especially in the morning and evening peak hours are often full, meaning you may not be able to board and will have to wait for the next bus. If you take public transportation, have exact change ready.

Bus schedules are merely suggestions. Be prepared to wait for up to half an hour, standing, in whatever weather is occurring.

Locations

Ireland is not handicapped accessible like we are used to in the US. Many if not most restrooms are either upstairs or downstairs in restaurants and few have elevators, called lifts. Many public buildings don’t have public restrooms and will send you across the street or down the block for a restroom.

Tipping

People that Americans would typically tip, such as servers in restaurants, are paid differently and they don’t expect a tip. Some people round up to the nearest Euro. Tipping is neither necessary or expected.

As an American, it’s very difficult for me not to tip.

Money

Ireland uses the Euro, but Northern Ireland uses the English sterling pound. And no, they don’t take each other’s money.

Not everyplace accepts credit cards. Some taxis do, but be prepared to pay an uplift of about 4% for the privilege. And the card reader doesn’t always work. Have cash available.

Almost no businesses accept American Express.

Notify your credit card companies that you will be traveling, and when. I have also put free alerts on my cards so that I know when they are being used.

Restaurants and Food

Most restaurants won’t split bills between people. That’s your problem.

Some restaurants add a fee for large parties. Large is defined by the restaurant and they may not tell you in advance.

Service EVERYPLACE is slow. Some excruciatingly slow. Plan on dinner taking literally all evening. It’s normal and part of the Irish experience.

Pub food is better than just about anyplace else.

Water served with meals is available if you ask, but doesn’t arrive automatically. It may or may not have ice.

Furthermore, ice is a precious commodity. In the hotel, only one ice machine was available for 6 floors and no ice bucket, just plastic cups stacked beside the ice dispenser.

Many restaurants, including pubs, don’t have mixed drinks, such as margaritas. They have well drinks, such as scotch and water, wine and beer. Want Kahlua? Nope, but everyone has Baileys Irish Cream – after all – it’s Ireland.

Guinness is the national beer. Drink Guinness, or at least try it. The locals say that you can ask for a couple drops of currant to sweeten the beer, but I liked it without. It tastes a bit roasty. When in Rome…or Ireland.

Carry-out is referred to as take-away. Not everyplace offers take-away.

In some parts of Europe, like the Netherlands, sharing food is frowned upon, but I didn’t notice anything like that in Ireland. Either that or they were too nice to tell me.

Bathrooms

Europeans do not use washcloths or facecloths. I purchased a pack at the dollar store at home and left them behind as I traveled. What else are you going to do with a wet washcloth?

There are often two flush buttons on the toilet. Generally, the small one is for little flushes and the larger one is when bigger flushing is needed. Yes, I had to ask Brian because it seemed that neither worked reliably.

And then sometimes, you find something like this.

If in doubt, just push buttons until you find one that achieves the desired effect.

Those funny things on the walls are towel warmers.

We could learn from the Irish!

Your appliances may turn on with a switch at the baseboard near the plug. Why? I have no idea, but plugs often don’t work if you don’t turn them on.

Rain

Rain is a fact of life in Ireland. It’s how the Emerald Isle stays Emerald. Be prepared. It may rain and be sunny 10 minutes later, or vice versa. Every. Single. Day.

Often, umbrellas are useless due to the wind. Mine turned inside out, making me look like some sort of confused ninja parachutist.

Geography

Ireland is an island and the lower 4/5th is the country of Ireland, also known as the Republic of Ireland.

Northern Ireland, created in 1921, although historically part of Ireland, is a different country today, ruled under the British monarchy and is part of the United Kingdom. There are no longer any border checkpoints between the two, but with Brexit, that might change. If you’re planning to travel between the two, be prepared in terms of currency and a passport.

Language

In Ireland, the official language is English, but many speak Gaelic. Because the English historically tried to exterminate the Gaelic language, when Ireland regained control of its own government, they included a clause in the constitution that everything in Ireland is offered in two languages – up to and including road and other signage.

However, their English is spoken with a very heavy Irish brogue which is both beautiful and frustrating. Like someone said, two people separated by a common language.

Pharmaceuticals

Medications like Dramamine and cold medicine, things we typically purchase over the counter are behind the counter at pharmacies in Europe, including Ireland. Pharmacies are typically not open past 5 PM and many not before sometime between 10 and noon.

Don’t assume you can pick up any medications at the convenience store, because you likely can’t. Not to mention, convenience stores are few and far between, so not convenient as we think of them. My hotel, even though expensive, did not have a shop – only two vending machines. Take what you might need, plus extra.

Hotels

Plugs in hotels are often not located conveniently to a nightstand, so either take a European conformant (based on the country you are visiting) extension cord or plan otherwise.

My hotel in Ireland did provide shampoo, but no conditioner and no washcloths. Take your own supplies, just in case.

Hotels rooms also do not generally include microwaves or refrigerators.

Expect to pay for parking at hotels.

Many hotels offer “Afternoon tea” or “High tea” which is an afternoon event that includes tea, biscuits (cookies) and small finger sandwiches. It’s an upper class social event, people often “dress,” and sit and talk. My hotel did not offer tea, the one across the street did, for 45 Euro. Another Dublin hotel at the upscale end charged 95 Euro. I think this is a case of if you need to ask how much, don’t go. I didn’t but I was told that I should have high tea at least once in my life.  Guess I’ll have to go back!

Here’s a link to more info about tea time.

No clock or alarm in the hotel room. My cell phone was probably more reliable anyway and I had to get up to turn the alarm off, since there were no plugs bedside.

Hotels and Climate Control

Most hotels and B&Bs don’t have air conditioning. Neither do other buildings including public buildings, so you’ll need to grin and bear it. It’s seldom beastly hot, but it can be very close and humid.

My hotel room had a lovely set of French doors and a balcony, permanently sealed shut. I also had two windows, only one of which would crank out about 2 inches. That’s not much to obtain any type of air movement within the room.

Heat in hotels, especially in older buildings is generally by radiator, not by thermostat, if heated at all. You will need to turn a knob on the radiator when entering the room to turn the heat on – and if you get too hot, there is no way to cool off. So be careful.

I stayed at the Clayton Ballsbridge, which I do NOT recommend for various reasons including consistently very poor service combined with an attitude that I was being unreasonable to expect decent service, like you know, clean cups, replenished tea, etc., daily, in my room that cost over $190 per night. Not to mention it took two and a half hours to get a bowl of stew in the restaurant.

Perhaps this is the down side to tipping being included in the price of the meal – little motivation for good service.

People staying in B&Bs were generally happier than people who stayed in hotels.

Electronics

You will need items that will plug in to 230 volt, 50 Hz power which have a different plug than in the US.

This is not necessarily just a converter issue, but a voltage compatibility issue. Check the voltage on your device.  In my case, a heating pad did not work using a converter, so I had to purchase one that would. Then I needed an extension cord, which I didn’t have. Plan accordingly.

You will need multiple converters so that you can charge your phone, etc. Here’s a page that discusses converters and sockets.

Plugs are often not placed conveniently.

Phones

OMG, the bane of my existence. Phones hate me, truly, and always have.

I can call Ireland from the US, but I cannot seem to call anyone in Ireland on my US cell phone while in Ireland, and I tried every combination I could think of and that anyone suggested. I suspect, but don’t know, that it had to do with a US phone being in Ireland, so it was confused by which type of country access code it needed. I could, however, message one person, thankfully. I never could manage to communicate with another.

Here’s my suggestion. Find someone in Ireland, maybe at the hotel front desk, that you can practice with. Once you figure out what you need to do on your phone to call them, it should work when dialing others in country too.

Beware of cell phone roaming and data charges. Understand how to turn off roaming by putting your phone in airplane mode. Before traveling, call or visit your phone carrier and understand what you can and cannot do with what kind of data without being charged. It’s extremely easy to run up a cell bill over $1000 and never realize what is happening. Case in point, your phone is always roaming to update Facebook and similar apps.

Mind you, I couldn’t make a bloody call, but the phone found ways to connect so that I’d be charged!

Tours

Unless you arrange for a private tour, which I did with Brian, tours generally leave from the downtown area at the beginning of the day, which means you’re going to encounter heavy rush hour traffic getting to the tour site. Allow adequate time, more than you think you’ll ever need, because the tour will leave without you otherwise.

Private tours cost more, especially for one person, but by the time you have 3 or 4 people or so, depending on the tour, the cumulative cost won’t be more and you’ll be much MUCH happier. Plus, a private tour can cater to your desires – like a coffee break, bathroom stop, a quilt shop along the way, or anything else of interest.

Seasons and Stores

Some businesses are seasonal – including restaurants. If you are not visiting in the high tourist season of June-August, I would strongly suggest calling ahead if you are planning on visiting a particular location.

Small businesses may or may not be open on a whim. Seriously. Always call.

Genealogy and Research Assistance

I asked these fine folks, shown here on a day trip in front of Carrickfergus Castle in Belfast, about their recommendations for Irish genealogical research:

  • Michelle Leonard, professional genealogist at Genes & Genealogy, out of Glasgow, Scotland (red hair, above)
  • Martin McDowell, professional genealogist (martin.mcdowell3@talktalk.net) as well as Development and Education Director with The North of Ireland Family History Society (right, above)
  • Dr. Maurice Gleeson, coordinator of Genetic Genealogy Ireland (left, above)

These people work with Irish records, as well as genetic genealogy every day, and they know what they are doing.

Martin recommends https://www.irishgenealogy.ie/en/ where both church and civil records can be found free of charge. He suggests that of the best pay sites for Irish records is http://www.rootsireland.ie/, though its accuracy depends on the quality of the transcription.

The North of Ireland Family History Society where Martin serves as the Education & Development Officer provides a website detailing their holdings: http://www.nifhs.org/, including a full PDF of everything in the library: http://www.nifhs.org/library-list/

Maurice mentions that the PRONI and GRONI sites are specifically Northern Ireland:

Michelle points out that irishgenealogy.ie has all of the Northern Ireland BMDs prior to January 1, 1922. She points out that if you’re searching for a marriage that took place in 1906, search for it on irishgenealogy.ie where you will get the image for free as opposed to on GRONI where it will cost you £2.50 for the same image.  On the other hand if you’re searching for a marriage that took place prior to 1882 in Northern Ireland you will find it on irishgenealogy.ie but there will be no image so it’s best to go to GRONI and pay the £2.50.

My personal experience is more limited, being only a consumer of Irish research, not a professional researcher. Having said that, I DON’T recommend the Ulster Historical Foundation. I completed their form and requested an initial assessment for 35 pounds sterling on July 4th, and I’m still waiting to hear back, today, many months later, after my trip to Ireland is complete. They could at least have told me they were too busy to accommodate my needs.

The web site says they are extremely busy and to expect a delay of 4-6 weeks, but never contacting the person requesting the research is unacceptable.  It’s a good thing I was able to find a private researcher (Martin McDowell) who was willing to take an “emergency” case at a late date. Unfortunately, my situation because “an emergency” because I waited for the Ulster Historical Foundation, expecting they would be able to assist my research. Thank you Martin McDowell for being my hero and Maurice Gleeson for helping me find Martin!

I do recommend the Irish Folklore Center as well as John Grenham’s blog and website.  To find where surnames are clustered in Ireland, a surname map which combines information from 1848 through the 1911 census is available here.

For genetic genealogy, I strongly suggest the videos produced at Genetic Genealogy Ireland which now form a library on the GGI YouTube channel, all for free. Also, the ISOGG Ireland page provides an extensive list of Ireland specific resources.

By the way, a big thank you to all of the volunteers, including the speakers, who work together to produce Genetic Genealogy Ireland. GGI is an all-volunteer effort, and without these people, and Maurice Gleeson coordinating the entire event, it wouldn’t happen!

You might want to attend the Belfast Genetic Genealogy Ireland Conference on February 17-18 sponsored by Family Tree DNA. You can read more here including the great lineup of 13 free sessions and speakers focused on genetic genealogy!

Safety

As big cities go, I felt safe in Dublin and Belfast, or as safe as I feel in any large city, although I was never in the Belfast city center. I felt a lot better having Brian with me, directing me and explaining what I should and should not do and where I shouldn’t go, and why.

Time

I intended to visit six locations:

  • Dublin
  • The Cliffs of Moher
  • Giant’s Causeway
  • Wicklow Mountains
  • Boyne Valley – Knowth, New Grange and Tara
  • Belfast

Partly due to the hurricane, and partly due to fatigue, I scrapped the Cliffs and Giant’s Causeway trips.

Those two trips are long, meaning 12 hour days and that doesn’t include dinner. They are difficult in the rain and when it stays dark later in the morning and gets dark early in the evening. Those trips, in addition to the 8 hour days for the other trips, were just too much, on back to back days.

If I had planned for an additional 3 or 4 days in Ireland, it would have given me the opportunity to rest between tours or see a few additional sights in Dublin on the down days.

Even with that consideration, the late fall is not the best time of year for visits to either the Giant’s Causeway or the Cliffs of Moher from Dublin.

Ireland is Wonderful

Go.

Enjoy.

Eat pub food.

Drink Guinness.

Connect with your roots!

If you need to test your DNA before you go, I recommend Family Tree DNA for Y (patrilineal for men) and mitochondrial (matrilineal for both genders) DNA testing, as well as Family Finder autosomal for cousin matching across all of your genealogy. If you would like to know more about these various types of tests, please read 4 Kinds of DNA for Genetic Genealogy.

In my case, I could not personally test for the Y DNA of my McDowell ancestor – so I found a McDowell male from my line to take that test. Were it not for his results that included a match to a man who knew exactly where the McDowell’s lived in Ireland, I would never have known where my McDowell line originated and been able to visit and traverse the road where they lived. So think in terms of testing appropriate relatives to unlock secrets about your ancestors!

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