Mom’s Joyous Springtime “Mistake” – 52 Ancestors #189

This is that week.

There’s one day every fall where I feel like I’ll never be warm again. I know that the earth is becoming dormant, gradually descending into what feels like eternal darkness, and I hate it. For months, when there is some semblance of light, it’s either snow or grey. Because I can’t hibernate, I just have to suck it up and dress like the Michelin man until the equivalent day arrives in the spring.

The spring equivalent day generally arrives sometime around the vernal equinox, generally around March 20th, when I actually FEEL hope in my soul. The days are getting longer, there’s light and blue replaces grey in the sky. The sun feels warm again instead of mocking me by peeking out for about 30 seconds per day, and part of the snow has melted. My cousins down south are already posting pictures of tulips on Facebook.

If I look hard in the garden, in polka dot areas where the snow had already melted, I can find something resembling spouts from a plant peeking up.

A robin is staring down at me from a tree branch, and the Sandhill Cranes with their squeaky-gate-hinge cries are complaining loudly because they can’t get to the grasses through the snow in the field behind the house.

Groggy raccoons, skunks and possums are waking up, VERY HUNGRY and staggering around like drunken sailors on their first shore leave. Squirrels are excitedly scampering across the porch, tails held high, retrieving last fall’s nuts.

Hope is in the air.

My body aches less and I cherish any tiny spot of color.

Yesterday, tiny red succulents, above, just an eighth of an inch across poked their heads out, and today, my daughter messaged me early crocus photos from bulbs newly planted last fall. At least there are a few that didn’t serve as chipmunk food. I’m hopeful that my bulbs will emerge shortly.

I am desperate for color and flowers like the most addicted junkie.

Yesterday’s Springs

It’s also this time of year that I harken back to my childhood and recall those long-ago springs of yesteryear. Life just seemed so much simpler and happier then.

Some of my fondest memories are of pink Easter dresses and white patent leather shoes with lacy anklets. I had to wear white gloves to church, but I didn’t care because Easter Sunday, new dresses and wearing gloves made me feel special. Sometimes, I had an Easter hat too, and a new spring coat, if it was a good year. Springtime rituals connected to the re-emergence of Mother Earth.

It was so liberating to shed those old depressing winter clothes and skip along the sidewalk once again, relishing spring green, cherry blossoms and warm breezes.

To me, spring is the most joyful time of year – when my soul sings out loud because nature is exhilaratingly beautiful and fresh. Everything comes alive in a chaotic rush of optimism. Even dandelions are welcome, because they are alive, bright and yellow. Yes, I’m just that desperate, waiting like a kid at Christmas for the first dandelion of the season.

For some reason, this time of year, I always think about spring traditions when I was a child. Perhaps spring elicits these feelings because we didn’t visit much in the winter. Roads were slick and treacherous, and the time between Christmas and warm seemed interminable and difficult.

As winter began to yield its icy grasp, I vividly remember Sunday rides to purchase maple syrup and visit my grandparents. At grandmother’s house, birds began chirping as I listened through freshly opened windows at the drip drip of melting snow splashing around the house, before houses had eavestroughs and downspouts. 

My grandparents’ house had a magical quality, and I always looked forward to some special activity with my grandmother.

Sometimes we baked cinnamon sugar pie dough in the bottom of a pie pan.

Sometimes she “let” me dust her dining room shelves. It’s amazing what you can convince a child to do if you tell them it’s a special honor. I’ve tried that tactic with my husband and kids, and it never worked!

Today, the salt shakers that I used to dust on her shelf are in my display case, chosen by my grief-stricken 4-year-old self as a memento when she suddenly died in the depths of winter-hell.

Sometimes we walked around the yard and looked for the first daffodil and the Easter Bunny. I always knew right where to look for the daffodils, but that Easter Bunny always managed to elude me! However, I did often find a basket he somehow left behind, hidden beneath the Spirea bush, along with some telltale colored eggs! I never did understand how a male rabbit could lay colored eggs, but I digress…

The best times were when my grandmother and Mom and I retrieved the old box of pictures from the attic. Sure, we had sorted through them many times before, but it was always just so much fun.

I asked questions, often the same questions I had asked before. I loved hearing the tales that made the pictures come alive. Mom or my grandmother would tell me the same story over again, sometimes each interleaving sentences with the other – often injecting some new twist or wrinkle. Of course, it was up to me to catch the change and ask a million or so questions.

One particular picture was always sure to cause peals of laughter. We all anticipated it and looked forward to it peeking out from under the pile.

Mom, with a wink, always made up a new story to go with the picture.

I couldn’t wait to find that photo under the others, but it would have been cheating to rifle through, so I tried to wait patiently until it appeared.

Early Photography

When my Mom was young, cameras had film rolls that you loaded onto a spindle. After you took a picture, you had to advance the film using a lever or knob, or you would take a second picture right over the first one. That’s called a double exposure, and it wasn’t a good thing. First, you’d ruin both photos, and you wouldn’t know until you paid to have them processed and printed, often weeks or months later.

By comparison, digital photos today are wonderful.

Mother danced – tap and ballet with some gymnastics thrown in. I think today that’s called expressive dance, and she was always practicing. Everyplace, all the time.

Even in the yard. She and a friend named Mary Lu lived in the same small town and danced together. Both eventually turned professional, as in the American Ballet Company, not exotic, in case you were wondering.

In the spring, they too felt released because they could free themselves by practicing outside.

My grandmother alleged as how spring freed her too. Incessant dance practice wasn’t exactly quiet. My grandfather spent a lot of time in the barn with the chickens.

In 1933, the family acquired their first (used) camera, in trade for chickens from someone who had nothing else to pay with. My grandfather took almost anything in trade during the Depression. In fact, if you couldn’t pay, he would give you what you needed anyway, which is why his hardware store went bankrupt.

A few years later, my mother was allowed to very occasionally use the camera. After all, film and processing was an expensive luxury, and the Great Depression was still in full swing. In fact, it never ended in their minds. Everything was always an unnecessary expense. That terrible dozen years of hardship and fear left an indelible mark on both generations.

Just the same, Mother and Mary Lu commenced taking pictures, but the number of photos they were allowed was strictly rationed.

Pictures had to be planned very carefully! There were no autofocus tools like today and any small movement caused a blurry picture.

Some weren’t entirely in focus.

While Mom had to practice the traditional tap and ballet routines, her joy came from “custom” rather “outrageous” dance routines that combined the two, plus moves and steps of her own not choreographed by either dance style. 

Mother said she and Mary Lu danced in the yard and on the sidewalks of the tiny crossroads village of Silver Lake, as well as on the porch – desperate to be released from the winter confines of a house. The Spirea is blooming in this picture, so I know it’s spring.

Much sought after dancers for their unique performances, they often practiced dual or difficult routines in the grass, because falling outside was softer than on hardwood floors. No one had carpet then and gymnastic pads simply didn’t exist.

The first photos went pretty well.

Until they forgot entirely about winding the film.

I’m not sure exactly why we thought this picture was so funny. Perhaps it was the way that Mom whispered about her doing handstands on her own “behind,” much to my amazement. Like we girls were sharing something super-secret.

Today, this photo belongs to me, and I still can’t look at it without laughing, along with bittersweet memories.

I can hear Mom’s voice in a far-away room. I can see the three of us at the table and hear the rustling of photos in that old cardboard box. I can eavesdrop on the various stories about what this picture was, and how it happened.

Maybe it was Mary Lu who had to walk on her hands, standing on Mom’s behind. Maybe it was when they performed for the circus. Maybe the story didn’t matter, just the fact that we were having so much fun together – three generations at the old wooden table with the rickety chairs, now in my attic.

Maybe it was because I lost my cherished grandmother soon after, and suddenly, there were no more days at the table, sitting in her lap.

I can hear, distantly, over the span of half a century, my grandmother admonishing mother with a smile, “Now Barbara Jean…” when mother made up a particularly good story. Then we laughed, all over again!

I think, in truth, my Mom and grandmother were just amazed at how well this silly mistake turned out. Lemonade out of a lemon. 

When I saw this picture, I always imagined my Mom daydreaming in the springtime about dancing on the big stage – which she went on to do, professionally.

Somehow seeing my beautiful mother’s dreamy young face gave me permission as well, along with the courage to risk making mistakes. I had no idea then how courageous mother actually was.

Afterwards, I would always run outside and dance in the yard. Spinning, doing pirouettes, falling down. I was terrible, but it didn’t matter, because I was doing it with all of my heart and inspiration, unafraid and entirely unphased by potential failure. Failure was only in not dancing.

I still approach life that way today.

We got so much mileage out of that “mistake.”

Whoever would have thought that it would transcend 5 generations.

I’ll be sharing this picture and story with my granddaughters this weekend. Hope and inspiration in this season of renewal seem appropriate attributes to infuse into future generations. One could even argue that perhaps this is the most important legacy my mother could have left – all through a “mistake.”

Clearly, it was no mistake. I’d rather call it divine inspiration or unrecognized potential. Mistakes are often only a matter of perception.

What is your favorite joyful family photo that makes you laugh or inspires you, and why?

Facebook and Psychographic Warfare – You ARE the Product

And I thought the Equifax security breach last year was bad.

The situation exposed this past week with Facebook is not a breach, it’s intentional, has lasted for years and it’s called “psychographic research.” If you are a Facebook user, and what genealogist isn’t today, it has already affected, read targeted, you. Facebook intentionally collected and allowed the collection of various types of information from their user’s profiles that enabled “others” to construct an extremely accurate psychological personality profile for each Facebook user. Those profiles allowed bad actors to tailor content intended to manipulate each individual Facebook user for their own nefarious purposes.

Facebook exploited the trust of every single one of their 1.8 billion users. Yes, that’s billion, with a B. Of those, 214 million are located in the US.

Most genealogists use Facebook routinely to maintain links to family, share photos and participate in various groups that support our genealogy addiction. Unfortunately, while Facebook users receive camaraderie and social media makes our world smaller – we have been being used as unwitting pawns in a heinous psychological experiment.

I’ve always said there is no such thing as “free,” and I know full well that Facebook supports the “free” platform with advertising revenue from advertisers hoping to reach people who like cats, for example, are in my age group or perhaps my geography. I never knew that they were stealthily gathering my information and selling it to unethical companies and organizations whose intention was to manipulate me psychologically and more specifically, attempting to manipulate my vote.

The full intention of these manipulators is to do whatever is necessary to mold your mind, including distribution of incorrect information, remaining blind to infiltration by “bots” and allowing Facebook users to be targeted with the intention of sewing divisiveness. As a result, we have the most polarized, hate-filled and divided country I’ve known in my lifetime.

This wasn’t an accidental security breach, nor even a security breach due to negligence. This was a planned act, sanctioned and even abetted by Facebook. They are complicit.

Without allowing this article to dip into the toxic brew of politics, suffice it to say that the intention of various “bad actors” was full well to sway our election and undermine our democratic system by whatever methods worked, regardless of ethics or morality, and Facebook was a full-on willing partner. User information was sold not just to the highest bidder, but every bidder, who just happen to be the devil(s) incarnate. Not one of the people who did this had “your” best interest at heart, which in and of itself is enough to tell me whatever they want is a bad idea.

What Happened?

If you’re unaware, please educate yourself on what has happened and fully understand that this DOES affect you. Even if you personally have never played a seemingly innocent Facebook game, like Farmville, or clicked on one of those “personality profiles,” “what is your movie star name” links or answered those “tell me 10 things about yourself” postings, one of your Facebook friends surely has…and your data has been collected and used both against you and the underpinnings of our very democracy. While I’m an American, there is evidence that these same shady characters were also involved with manipulating the highly volatile Brexit vote in the UK along with elections elsewhere in the world.

Even more unfortunate, many of the people on Facebook, especially those focused on genealogy, are of or near retirement age. 26% are age 55-64 and 21% are over 65. These people tend to be the most trusting, the least technologically savvy and the most likely to click on those fun links or answer those “20 questions” challenges posted by friends – never suspecting that they are exposing themselves to targeted psychological manipulation by people who are willing to pay to have their poison information planted in your newsfeed.

That total of 47% means that the private data of over 100 million US people of AARP age has been gathered. In 2017, the entire population of the US was 325 million, including children, so roughly 30% of the entire US population has been targeted and unknowingly manipulated by God-knows-who-all.

Think about this for a minute. Look at the things you’ve “Liked” on Facebook over the past few days. For me, it’s been cats, quilts, wildlife, photos, genetic genealogy, DNA articles and my friends and cousins’ feeds. To many Facebook users, a “like” is the online equivalent of waving at your neighbor when you see them drive by.

Nothing revealing in what I “liked”, you might say, but that’s not true. You can tell that I’m both empathetic and science focused. You can tell by looking at the race of my friends along with articles that I “like” that I’m certainly not prejudiced. Combine those things together, along with whatever else Facebook has collected by reading my posts and private messages, and you can easily tell what kinds of propaganda to plant in my news feed to upset me.

Think not?

Post just one article about animal abuse in my feed, and I’m on the phone calling someone to emphatically demand change. For example, the dog last week who died on a United Airlines flight. I’m certainly not flying United if I have any choice whatsoever.

Racism, discrimination, domestic violence or child abuse…same reaction. Now, do you still think you’re not predictable by the trail of psychological breadcrumbs you’re leaving behind?

Ever forward one of those, “If you love Jesus, you’ll forward this” pictures because you certainly didn’t want anyone to think you didn’t love Jesus, or felt obligated or guilty if you didn’t forward?  Well, you were psychologically manipulated and you just told the exploiters about your religious beliefs so you can be targeted and so can everyone of your downstream friends and family members.

Up until now, the viruses we worried about were viruses implanted on your computer.  What Facebook did was to pave the way for these exploiters to plant viruses in your brain without your knowledge.

Even worse, Facebook recently made changes in their algorithm to limit the things you see in your feed, and the ONLY way for you to increase the things you like to see is to “like” even more, or tag the page or account to “show first,” providing Facebook with even more information about you to sell to whomever.

I feel somewhat responsible at this point, because I wrote an article just 10 days ago telling you exactly how to do just that – never suspecting the clandestine information collection that was occurring, or why. So yes, I’ve been exploited too. And I’m furious.

If you thought “Big Brother” was the government all along, you’re wrong. It’s Facebook who will apparently sell to anyone including the devil himself.

Is Psychographic Profiling Accurate?

If you’re doubting the accuracy of psychographic profiling, as I was, take into account the compiled research information about Facebook “likes” by a grad student at Cambridge University. The inspiration for this whole debacle was inspired by this research which indicated that by gathering:

  • only 68 Facebook “likes,” your skin color could be predicted with 95% accuracy
  • 68 likes – your sexual orientation predicted with 85% accuracy
  • 70 likes – they would “know you” better than your friends
  • 150 likes – know you better than your parents
  • 300 likes – know you better than your partner

Massive surveillance designed to capitalize on your emotional and psychological vulnerabilities in the hands of those who do not have your best interest at heart.

Take this one step further and imagine that if it’s obvious that you are strongly opposed to sex trafficking of children, someone who wanted to deter you from voting for a particular candidate might make up a story about that candidate engaged in a sex ring trafficking children. Would you dislike that candidate? If you were on the fence, would it knock you right off? If your answer is yes, then psychographic profiling and manipulation worked. Does it matter whether the information is true? No, not as long as it works. A vote now is worth being caught in a lie later – or at least that’s the theory.

And we were worried about what our DNA might divulge. Absolutely nothing, comparatively speaking.

Educate Yourself

I’m listing a few articles here that describe, in horrifying detail, the inside workings of the stealth Facebook operations by shady operators and the companies, like Cambridge Analytica. They utilized harvested user data by collaborating with Facebook to control what users see and targeting users through their emotionally vulnerabilities. In other words, you were fed information specifically aimed at making you feel one way or another.

Former Facebook operations manager, Sandy Parakilas, yesterday, in a Newsweek article stated that most of Facebook’s users likely had their information acquired by companies exploiting the same terms and conditions that allowed Cambridge Analytica’s data gathering through an app called “thisisyourdigitallife.” While only 270,000 people had played that game on Facebook,” the data of over 50 million was collected from the friends (and friends of friends) of those 270,000 people through exposures exploited by that app with Facebook’s full knowledge and consent – in just 3 months time.

This is both terrifying and nauseating.

The NYT podcast is especially enlightening and explains the timeline and methodology of how a bright young man devised a methodology to harvest Facebook data with the explicit intention of influencing voting behavior to reshape American politics. Realizing his discoveries had become a monster out of control, he resigned in 2014. Now he has become the whistleblower that blew the lid off of this scandal of unprecedented scope and scale, a magnitude undreamed of…at least by most of us. This is the most detailed of all of the resources I’ve found and explains the path from what seemed a relatively innocent and interesting discovery initially to a weaponized massively deployed fear-based political exploitation tool just three years later.

Protect Yourself

Ok, now that you know what’s happening, what can you do?

Many people are leaving Facebook and deleting their accounts. The #DeleteFacebook movement is growing.

Be aware that this doesn’t mean that what you’ve already done is gone. Your postings and comments on people’s pages and in other groups will still exist. It’s just your own account that is removed. At least you can’t be manipulated by what is fed to you anymore, but you also won’t be able to connect with family members. For many, and especially older people, Facebook is where friends are and connections make people feel a lot less isolated, especially when mobility or distance is an issue.

Furthermore, the cow has already left the barn, and “they” already have a psychological profile of you, meaning whoever has gathered or purchased your data. Believing “they” will delete that information and never use it is foolhardy.

Yes, you can leave Facebook. That’s clearly the easiest and most direct approach and I’ll show you how to do that in the next section.

If you don’t want to leave Facebook, there are precautionary steps you can take.

First, stop interacting, meaning “liking” things. Yea, I know. Double edged sword.

Second, don’t take any quizzes or post any personal information, at all. Ever. There’s a reason why people with high level security clearances aren’t allowed to have Facebook accounts.

Third, do not, EVER click on those “clickbait” things that give you something interesting for free. I don’t care how great you’ll look airbrushed and all glamoured up on the cover of a fashion magazine, and yes, my friend did look fantastic, BUT – DON’T DO IT! It’s an entryway for the rats. Same with “what would you look like as a woman?” or man, or bald, etc.

Ask yourself when you see something like this – why would someone want to give you something for “free?” Free is often a clandestine trap for the unsuspecting. The more interesting it looks, the more suspicious you should be.

Just. Don’t. Click.

Fourth, take steps through Facebook settings to protect yourself from application platform sharing. Of course, this does nothing to affect what Facebook itself is collecting in order to target you with focused ads. Ever wonder why something you googled outside of Facebook now appears in your Facebook ad feed almost immediately? It’s not coincidence. It’s your digital trail of breadcrumbs.

Here are some great articles about Facebook security and privacy, and how to shore yours up.

I strongly recommend the following FaceCrooks article that not only tells you what to do to protect yourself, but why.

Fifth – do not sign in to applications through Facebook, which provides your Facebook user data to that application, potentially exposing your friends’ data too. These articles explain how to get rid of those pesky apps, including an article by Facebook itself.

Strengthening or Deleting Your Account

I’m going to check my own privacy settings, so come along and then use this same technique to check your own.

Go to Settings by clicking on the down arrow on the top right of your blue bar. You’ll see a dropdown list that includes “Settings.”

Click on Settings.

If you are going to leave Facebook, you can download a copy of your data through the “Download a copy of your Facebook data” link, at the bottom of the list.

By clicking on “Manage Account,” you can delete your account.  Note that delete means permanently.

Don’t want to delete your account and leave Facebook?  Then let’s improve your privacy.

On the left hand side, click on “Privacy” which shows your various selections.  Lock this down to only your friends and allow “only me” to see your friends list.

Next, on the left hand sidebar, click on “Apps.” At the top, you’ll see which applications have access to your Facebook account. I didn’t think there would be any other than WeRelate, the Ancestry app, but I was wrong.

It appears that I have indeed logged into a few sites through Facebook.

Most of these I at least recognize, except one. Who the devil is Hub One and why are they in my account?

Clicking on the pencil icon by the app shows you your options, below.

Looking at what the apps have access to is enlightening. Apps have access to both my profile photo and other public profile information, plus my e-mail address.

Neither the link titled “Choose the Info This App Can Use” nor “Learn How Apps Can Use Your Info” tell me what this app is doing or even “who” this app is.  Both just link to an article. Not useful.

The “Remove Info Collected by the App” simply tells me to contact the developer by clicking the X in the bottom right corner after opening the app. Three strikes, Facebook.

I still don’t know who Hub One is, nor what they are doing, nor any way to find out what data they’ve collected. I couldn’t contact them if I wanted to, because I don’t know who they are.

I resorted to Google and discovered that a company called Hub One says they are a document management company, but Googling a little further, look what I found.

Interesting, a company that says they are an “integrator of mobile and tracking solutions for 4500 enterprises” shows up on my Facebook account and I have no idea why.

Of course, this might not be the same company. The logos don’t look the same, and I have absolutely no way to know. Facebook certainly isn’t telling.

Furthermore, how does one figure out HOW to contact the company that has weaseled their way into my Facebook account. Clearly Facebook knows, because they approved this app for their platform, but they aren’t divulging AND they are putting the onus back on you to figure out who they’ve allowed to weasel in.

Hub One, whoever you are, you’re gone!

I certainly don’t want Bing collecting data about me from Facebook either, which probably explains about those ads mysteriously appearing on Facebook right after I googled “witch costumes” for my granddaughter. To delete, I click on the little X by their app, then continue in the box in the corner.

I use Skype, but why would it want access to my Facebook account? Same question for Norton Safe Web.

Next, click on the square box labeled “Apps, Websites and Plugins.”

You can disable all of the applications. I would suggest doing so by clicking on the bottom right on “disable platform.” That means no application can interact with Facebook by effectively shutting the door entirely. If you’re a blogger, and your blogging platform interacts with your Facebook account to post, you might not want to do this.

Next, click on the square box “Apps Others Use.”

By now, it should be pretty obvious that you’re really only as safe as your most exposed friend – same concept as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

I suspect I’ve disabled some of these options in the past, but look at what’s exposed now. This is the data that can be (and probably has been) scraped from my account through the accounts of my friends who use those apps that allow me to be targeted.

Not anymore, they are all gone now. Don’t forget to “Save.” For some reason, I had to repeat this process two or three times to get it to “take,” so check your selections afterwards. I’ll be generous and call it a glitch or a bug and not cynically suggest that maybe Facebook is trying to retain my “open door” settings.

Dear Facebook

Bottom line.

There is no excuse. Period.

You knew and intentionally betrayed every single one of the people who trusted you by luring your subscribers into a false sense of security. You never told us that WE, our minds, are the commodity that you are selling. You never disclosed the truth. Your behavior is utterly reprehensible, especially given that your small act of contrition in your Facebook posting today only occurred after you were called onto the carpet, very publicly, years into this deceptive behavior.

Kind of reminds me of the unfaithful spouse who has been sleeping with half the town for several years. Finally caught, they’re very sorry, of course. Much like the betrayed spouse, I have lots of questions.

  • I want to know what has been harvested from me.
  • I want the history of what apps, if any, I interacted with, ever, that gathered or might have gathered my information. Don’t make me hunt for it like you made me hunt for the Russian bot information. Put it right there in my feed where I can’t miss it, you know, like you put the other articles you planted for me to read.
  • I want to know who exposed my data.
  • I want to know the identity of the apps on my account. You owe that much to your users, instead of making the victims attempt to figure out who that app is and how to contact them.
  • I want a list of which apps you’ve determined to be acceptable for any Facebook user, who they are and what they are really doing. I want full transparency. Now.
  • I want you to stop manipulating me either through ads or targeted psychological profiling as a result of surveillance designed to determine what to “serve” me in my newsfeed. Stop making me the unwilling victim in your information meat-market.
  • I want to know what you’re doing for your users to right this wrong?

Just like I used to tell my kids, remorse after getting caught isn’t remorse about your behavior, it’s only remorse that you got caught.

Kindergarten rules:

  • Just because you can doesn’t mean you should!
  • Integrity is what you do when no one else is looking.

I guess Facebook and their compatriots in this psychographic war have removed any question about integrity. Now all that’s left is the cleanup, or divorce, your choice.

As for genealogists, make your decision about Facebook. If you stay, spruce up your privacy, protect yourself and one way or another, continue with your valuable genealogical research.

Please feel free to share the link to this article with anyone; friends and family, groups, and especially any Facebook page!

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Ollie Bolton’s Inferred Mitochondrial DNA Haplogroup – 52 Ancestors #188

Try as I might, I’ve never been able to find a second DNA tester to discern my paternal grandmother, Ollie Bolton’s mitochondrial DNA haplogroup.

Why do I need a second person tested, you might wonder?

My aunt Minnie, my father’s sister, tested back in 2004 when full sequence mitochondrial DNA testing was not yet available. She had been estimated to be haplogroup H at that time, based only on the HVR1 region.

Minnie was 96 at that time and passed away just 8 months shy of her 100th birthday. Yes, this family seems to have a longevity gene. Minnie’s sister died at 99 and her father, William George Estes, at age 98. Her great-great grandfather, John R. Estes at 98 and his father, George, at 96. Now, if I could just figure out which gene it is that confers longevity, maybe I could figure out if I have it and more effectively plan the rest of my life😊

Later, when I ordered an upgrade to the Full Mitochondrial Sequence, my aunt’s DNA was no longer viable.

Ever since, I’ve been trying to find someone, anyone, descended appropriately from this line to do a full sequence mitochondrial DNA test – without luck.

A few days ago, I received a notification from Family Tree DNA that my aunt has another HVR1 match. Normally, I don’t even bother to look anymore, but for some reason, I did that day.

What I saw amazed me, for two reasons.

First, apparently her originally estimated haplogroup H was incorrect and has since been updated. She is now haplogroup J. This happened during the upgrade to mitochondrial version 17 where many new haplogroups were introduced, including J1c1e, shown repeatedly on her match list above.

It’s very difficult to estimate a haplogroup based on just HVR1 mutations. As it turns out, haplogourp defining location T16368C is also found in haplogroup H3x. My aunt has additional mutations that aren’t haplogroup defining, but that do match people in haplogroup J1c1e, but not H3x.

Second, Minnie matches a total of 72 people at the HVR1 level. Many haven’t tested beyond that level, but a good number have taken the full sequence test. Based on the fact that she matches the following people with full sequence haplogroups, I’d say she is very probably a haplogroup J1c1e, based on this alone:

  • Haplogroup J1c1e – 28
  • Haplogroup J1c3b -1

Haplogroup “J only” matches don’t count, because they did not test at the full sequence level.

What’s the Difference?

This begs the question of the difference between haplogroup J1c1e and J1c3b. These two haplogroups have the same haplogroup defining mutations through the J1c portion, but the 1e and 3b portions of the haplogroup names signal different branches.

In the chart below, J1c1e and J1c3b both have all of the mutations listed for J1c, plus the additional mutations listed for their own individual branches.

Haplogroup HVR1 HVR2 Coding Region
J1c C16069T, C295T, T489C, C462T, A10398G!, A12612G, G13708A, G3010A,  T14798C
J1c1e T16368C T10454C T482C, T3394C
J1c3b C13934T,  C15367T

There’s a hidden gem here.

Since haplogroup J1c1e includes a haplogroup defining mutation in the HVR1 region, and haplogroup J1c3b does not, we can easily check my aunt’s results to see if she carries the mutation at location T16368C.

Look, she does.

Furthermore, the only other subgroup of haplogroup J that my aunt matches that includes this mutation is haplogroup J1c2m1 which also carried a mutation at A16235G, which she does not have. This eliminates the possibility that she is haplogroup J1c2m1.

Given the information we do have, and given that it’s extremely unlikely that I’ll ever find a tester, I’m good with inferring that Ollie Bolton’s haplogroup is J1c1e.

J1c1e

What can we learn about the origins of haplogroup J1c1e?

My aunt’s matches map shows the following European cluster.

The top 3 matches have taken the full sequence test.

The pattern is quite interesting. Looks like someone crossed the English Channel at some point in time, probably hundreds to thousands of years ago.

The haplogroup J project at Family Tree DNA has not yet been regrouped since the conversion to mitochondrial V17, so the J1c1e individuals are included in the J1c1 group.

Of course J1c1 is the mother haplogroup of haplogroup J1c1e, so the map above shows the distribution of people who are haplogroup J1c1. There are other subgroups of J1c1 that have their own map and would be included in this map if they didn’t have their own subgroup. I’m sure haplogroup J1c1e will have its own group as soon as the admins readjust people’s groupings based on the new haplogroup divisions.

According to the paper, A “Copernican” Reassessment of the Human Mitochondrial DNA Tree from its Root, by Behar et al, published in 2012, the age of the birth of haplogroup J1c1 is approximately 10,090 years ago, with a standard deviation of 2228 years, so a range of 7863-12319 years ago.

Of course, haplogroup J1c1e was born some time later. Unfortunately, the mitochondrial tree aging has not been updated to incorporate the new information included in the V17 migration which includes the definition of haplogroup J1c1e.

Where was haplogroup J1c1 born 7863-12319 years ago? Probably the Middle East, but we really don’t know positively.

Not Just Ollie’s Haplogroup

The great thing about mitochondrial (and Y DNA) testing is that it’s not just the haplogroup of the person who tested.  For mitochondrial DNA, it’s the haplogroup of their mother and their mother on up the mother’s direct matrilineal line.

In Ollie’s case, all of these people carry haplogroup J1c1e.  It descended to Ollie, and then to all of her children, including her son. Only her female children passed it on.

Summary

It’s amazing what we can learn from a mitochondrial DNA match – and in this case, someone who only had the HVR1 region tested. Minnie was fortunate to have a  haplogroup defining mutation in the HVR1 region along with other mutations that match J1c1e individuals. Luck of the genetic draw.

Some of those additional mutations may also be haplogroup defining in the future.

I never thought I’d unearth this information about my grandmother, Ollie Bolton, especially since I only started out with a shred of information. I’m so glad I checked one last time.

Never give up.

Never stop checking!

Note to self: Patience is a virtue! Probably even a more critical virtue if you also inherited that longevity gene.

GDPR – It’s a Train and It’s a Comin’

In the recent article about Oxford Ancestors shuttering, I briefly mentioned GDPR. I’d like to talk a little more about this today, because you’re going to hear about it, and I’d rather you hear about it from me than from a sky-is-falling perspective.

It might be rainy and there is definitely some thunder and the ground may shake a little, but the sky is not exactly falling. The storm probably isn’t going to be pleasant, however, but we’ll get through it because we have no other choice. And there is life after GDPR, although in the genetic genealogy space, it may look a little different.

And yes, one way or another, it will affect you.

What is GDPR?

GDPR, which is short for General Data Protection Regulation, is a European, meaning both EU and UK, regulation(s) by which the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, and the European Commission intend to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the European Union (EU). It also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU/UK and processing of data of residents of the EU/UK by non-EU/UK companies.

There are actually two similar, but somewhat different regulations, one for the UK and one for the EU’s 28 member states, but the regulations are collectively referred to as the GDPR regulation.

Ok, so far so good.

The regulations are directly enforceable and do not require any individual member government to pass additional legislation.

GDPR was adopted on April 27, 2016, but little notice was taken until the last few months, especially outside of Europe, when the hefty fines drew attention to the enforcement date of May 25, 2018, now just around the corner.

Those hefty fines can range from a written warning for non-intentional noncompliance to a fine of 20 million Euro or up to 4% of the annual worldwide turnover of the preceding financial year, whichever is GREATER. Yea, that’s pretty jaw-dropping.

So, GDPR has teeth and is nothing to be ignored.

Oh, and if you think this is just for EU or UK companies, it isn’t. It applies equally to any company that possesses any data of any EU or UK resident in their data base or files, providing that person isn’t dead. The law excludes dead people and makes some exceptions for law enforcement and other national security types of applications.

Otherwise, it applies to everyone in a global economy – and not just for future sales, but to already existing data for anyone who stores, transmits, sells to or processes data of any EU resident.

What Does GDPR Do?

The intent of GDPR was to strengthen privacy and data protections, but there is little latitude written into this regulation that allows for intentional sharing of data. The presumption throughout the hundreds of pages of lawyer-speak is that data is not intended to be shared, thereby requiring companies to take extraordinary measures to encrypt and anonymize data, even going so far as to force companies to store e-mail addresses separately from any data which could identify the person. Yes, like a name, or address.

Ironic that a regulation that requires vendor language be written in plainly understood simple wording is in and of itself incredibly complex, mandating legal interpretation.

Needless to say, GDPR requirements are playing havoc with every company’s data bases and file structure, because information technology goals have been to simplify and unify, not chop apart and distribute information, requiring a complex network of calls between systems.

Know who loves GDPR? Lawyers and consultants, that’s who!

In the case of intentional sharing, such as genetic genealogy, these regulations are already having unintended consequences through their extremely rigid requirements.

For example, a company must appoint a legal representative in Europe. I am not a lawyer, but my reading of this requirement suggests that European appointed individual (read, lawyer) is absorbing some level of risk and could potentially be fined as a result of their non-European client’s behavior. So tell me, who is going to incur that level of risk for anything approaching a reasonable cost?

One of the concepts implemented in GDPR is the colloquially known “right to be forgotten.” That means that you can request that your data and files be deleted, and the company must comply within a reasonable time.

However, what does “the right to be forgotten” mean, exactly? Does it mean a company has to delete your public presence? What about their internal files that record that you WERE a customer. What about things like medical records? What about computer backups which are standard operating procedure for any responsible company? What happens when a backup needs to be restored? If the company tracks who was deleted, so they can re-delete them if they have to restore from backup, then the person isn’t deleted in the first place and they are still being tracked – even though the tracking is occurring so the person can be re-forgotten.

Did you follow that? Did it make sense? Did anyone think of these kinds of things?

Oh, and by the way, there is no case law yet, so every single European company and every single non-European company that has any customer base in Europe is scrambling to comply with an incredibly far-reaching and harsh regulation with extremely severe potential consequences.

How many companies do you think can absorb this expenditure? Who do you think will ultimately pay?

Younger people may not remember Y2K, but I assuredly do, and GDPR is Y2K on steroids and with lots of ugly teeth in the form of fines and penalties that Y2K never had. The worse scenario for Y2K was that things would stop working. GDPR can put you out of business in the blink of an eye.

Categories of “Processors”

GDPR defines multiple levels of “processors,” a primary controller and a secondary processor plus vaguely defined categories of “third party” and “joint controller.”

The “controller” is pretty well defined as the company that receives and processes the data or order, and a “processor” is any other entity, including an individual person, who further processes data on behalf of or as a result of the controller.

There appears to be no differentiation between a multi-million-dollar company and one person doing something as a volunteer at home for most requirements – and GDPR specifically says that lack of pay does not exempt someone from GDPR. The one possible exception that exists in that there is an exclusion for organizations employing less than 250 persons, ”unless processing is likely to result in a risk to the rights and freedoms of the data subject.” I’m thinking that just mentioning the word DNA is enough to eliminate this exemption.

Furthermore, GDPR states that controllers and processors must register.

Right about now, you’re probably asking yourself if this means you if you’re managing multiple DNA kits, working with genetic genealogy, either as a volunteer or professionally, or even managing a group project or Facebook group.

The answer to those questions is that but we really don’t know.

ISOGG has prepared a summary page addressing GDPR from the genetic genealogy perspective, here. The ISOGG working group has done an excellent job in summarizing the questions, requirements and potential effects of the legislation in the slide presentation, which I suggest you take the time to view.

This legislation clearly wasn’t written considering this type of industry, meaning DNA shared for genealogical purposes, and there has been no case law yet surrounding GDPR. No one wants to be the first person to discover exactly how this will be interpreted by the courts.

The requirements for controllers and processors are much the same and include very specific requirements for how data can be stored and what must be done in terms of the “right to be forgotten” requests within a reasonable time, generally mentioned as 30 days after the person who owns the data requests to be forgotten. This would clearly apply to some websites and other types of resources used and maintained by the genetic genealogy community. If you are one of the people this could affect, meaning you maintain a website displaying results of some nature, you might want to consider these requirements and how you will comply. Additionally, you are required to have explicitly given consent for every person’s results that are displayed.

For genetic genealogists, who regularly share information through various means, and the companies who enable this technology, GDPR is having what I would very generously call a wet blanket effect.

What’s Happening in the Genetic Genealogy Space?

So far, we’ve seen the following:

  • Oxford Ancestors has announced they are shuttering, although they did not say that their decision has anything to do with GDPR. The timing may be entirely coincidental.
  • Full Genomes Corporation has announced on social media that they are no longer accepting orders from EU or UK customers, stating that “the regulatory cost is too high for a small company” and is “excessive.” I would certainly agree with that. Update; On 3-31-2018 Justin Loe, CEO of Full Genomes says that they “will continue to sell into the EU via manual process.”
  • Ancestry has recently made unpopular decisions relative to requiring separate e-mails to register different accounts, even if the same person is managing multiple DNA kits. Ancestry did not say this had to do with GDPR either, but in reading the GDPR requirements, I can understand why Ancestry felt compelled to make this change.
  • Family Tree DNA recently removed a search feature from their primary business page that allowed the public to search for their ancestors in trees posted to accounts at Family Tree DNA. According to an e-mail sent to project administrators, this change was the result of changes required by GDPR. They too are working on compliance.
  • MyHeritage is as well.
  • I haven’t had an opportunity to speak privately with LivingDNA or 23andMe, but I would presume both are working on compliance. LivingDNA is a UK company.

One of my goals recently when visiting RootsTech was to ask vendors about their GDPR compliance and concerns. That’s the one topic sure to wipe the smile off of everyone’s face, immediately, generally followed by grimaces, groans and eye-rolls until they managed to put their “public face” back on.

In general, vendors said they were moving towards compliance but that it was expensive, difficult and painful – especially given the ambiguity in some of the regulation verbiage. Some expressed concerns that GDPR was only a first step and would be followed by even more painful future regulations. I would presume that any vendor who is not planning to become compliant would not have spent the money to have a booth at RootsTech.

The best news about GDPR is that it requires transparency – in other words, it’s supposed to protect customers from a company selling your anonymized DNA out the back door without your explicitly given consent, for example. However, the general consensus was that any company that wanted to behave in an unethical manner would find a loophole to do so, regardless of GDPR.

In fairness, hurried consumers bring this type of thing on themselves by clicking through the “consent,” or “agree” boxes without reading what they are consenting to. All the GDPR in the world won’t help this. The company may have to disclose, but the consumer doesn’t have to read, although GDPR does attempt to help by forcing you to actively click on agree.

I’m sure we’ll all be hearing more about GDPR in the next few weeks as the deadline looms ever closer.

May 25, 2018

Now you know!

There’s nothing you can do about the effects of GDPR, except hold on tight as the vendors on which we depend do their best to navigate this maze.

Between now and May 25th, and probably for some time thereafter, I promise to be patient and not to complain about glitches in vendors’ systems as they roll out new code as seamlessly as possible.

Gluttons for Punishment

For those of you who are really gluttons for punishment, here are the actual links to the documents themselves. Of course, they are also guaranteed to put you to sleep in about 27 second flat…so a sure cure for insomnia.

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Finding George McNiel’s Brother, Thomas, Using DNA – 52 Ancestors #187

The story of the Reverend George McNiel includes the oft-repeated 3 brothers story, and one of the three brothers in this version was named Thomas, or so the legend goes.

I’m used to 3 brothers stories, sometimes used to explain men of the same surname but with no paper trail connection, and I had rather discounted this particular version. I’ve just heard this same story about different families too many times.

That is, I discounted it until droplets of doubt arrived, served up by records in Spotsylvania County where George McNiel lived. In 1754 records included Thomas McNial, then again in 1761, followed by records of one Thomas McNiel in Caswell County, NC about the same time that the Reverend George McNiel migrated from Spotsylvania County to Wilkes County, NC.

From the book, Apprentices of Virginia, 1723-1800:

James Cartwright, a white male, son of Thomas Cartwright decd, was to be apprenticed to Thomas McNial on October 1, 1754 to learn the occupation of a tailor. This is from the Spotsylvania County court order books, 1749-1755, pages 62 and 497.

James Pey, a white male, to be apprenticed to George McNeil on March 1, 1757 to learn the occupation of tailor. From Spotsylvania will book B 1749-1759, page 307.

Robert Mitchell, a white male, was apprenticed to Thomas McNeil on Sept 7, 1761 to learn the occupation of tailor. Spotsylvania County will book B, 1749- 1859, page 540.

I discovered that both George and Thomas were tailors, or at least had tailors on their plantations. Was this possibly an indicator that these men might have both been tailors themselves. With the same surname and same occupation, perhaps that they were related in some way? Was this just a coincidence, or could the “brothers” story be true?

Generally, tailors weren’t needed in the farming countryside, so that tidbit might well mean these men worked either in cities or in wealthy households before immigration. If they were tailors, they themselves would have been apprentices someplace.

More than a decade ago, I worked with another researcher who descended from Thomas McNeil who lived in Caswell Co. He made his will dated April 20, 1781 in which Thomas named his three sons; Thomas, John and Benjamin.

Thomas McNeil’s will:

In the name of God Amen I Thomas McNeil of Caswell Co NC being weak of body but sound of mind and memory do April 20th 1781make this my last will and testament in the manner following. I give unto my living wife Ann the use of all my personal estate during her life or widowhood. I give unto my son Thomas a tract of land lying on Sanderses Creek containing 200 acres which land I bought of my son John and my desire is that my said son John do make a right of said land to my son Thomas. I give unto my son Benjamin 150 acres joining the lines of Andrew Caddell and my son John Land to him and his heirs forever. I give to my daughter Mary 100 acres of land lying on Henley’s Creek joining Wilson Vermillions line to her and her heirs forever. At the death of my loving wife that my sons Thomas and Benjamin have each of them a horse and saddle and a bed which horses to be of the value of 10 pounds in specie also the plantation working tools I desire may be equally devided between them. I further give unto my daughter Mary one feather bed and furniture and two cows and calves after the death of my loving wife. All of my negroes and their increase after the death or marriage of my loving wife be by three honest men equally divided amongst my 8 children, or the survivors of them, to wit John, Thomas, Benjamin, Elizabeth Roberts, Nancy Vermilion, Mary, Patsey Hubbert and Lois to them and their heirs forever. Lastly I nominate and appoint my wife Ann , my son John and my son-in-law Wilson Vermillion and George Lea (son of William) executors of this my last will and testament revoking all other wills by me made in witness whereof I have hereunto sett my hand and seal…signed. Witnessed George Lea, Lucy Lea, John Clixby. Proved Dec court 1781.

At that time, no relationship had been established between this Thomas and the McNeil’s of other counties.

That McNeil researcher was unable to recruit a male McNeil family member to DNA test, so for more than a decade, this research languished with no way to answer the question of whether George McNiel and Thomas McNeil were indeed brothers.

Migration

Beginning in Spotsylvania County, the journey to Wilkes County is about 337 miles, and the old rutted wagon road passed through Caswell County on the way. At about 10 miles per day, that’s a total of about 34 days, assuming nothing went wrong. It makes you wonder if Thomas just got tired of the wagon lurching and bumping along the trail and said, “I’m done, drop me off here” about 3 weeks into the trip.

It’s about 135 miles from Caswell County to Wilkes County, with Wilkes being in the mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway. At that time, this was the frontier, and the mountains, the barrier to the next one.

Were Thomas and George Brothers?

Today, we have an answer, or at least a probable answer, thanks to Y DNA testing.

Aside from paper documentation, which we don’t have, the only way to obtain relationship evidence is by DNA testing, specifically the Y chromosome passed from father to son in every generation and not mixed with any DNA from the mother. This means that the Y chromosome is passed intact from father to son for many generations, except for an occasional mutation. The Y DNA of men who were brothers in the 1700s should match very closely.

The Rev. George McNiel’s Y DNA line is represented by two known descendants from different sons’ lines, so we know the haplotype of his DNA, meaning the STR value numbers that cumulatively read like a DNA fingerprint.

I hadn’t checked the Y DNA results of my cousin who tested to represent the Reverend George McNiel’s line in some time, so I decided to take a quick look. What a welcome surprise was waiting.

At 67 markers, our George McNiel’s descendant’s best match is to a descendant of Thomas McNeill of Caswell County. Wooohoooo!

Unfortunately, the match has not taken the Family Finder test, which might show how closely he matches to the descendants of George utilizing autosomal DNA. Of course, given how many generations back in time those men lived, their descendants might not match autosomally. But then again, some might!

Not only that, but George’s descendant matches more closely to Thomas’s descendant than to another descendant of George. Just the way the DNA dice rolled in terms of when mutations happened.

Looking at the public McNiel project display, there are several McNeil men along with other spelling variants that fall into the Niall of the 9 Hostages grouping characterized by haplogroup R1b>L21>M222.

Please note: You can click to enlarge any graphic.

These men look to have descended from a common ancestor far back in time. You can easily see that there are specific clusters of men who match each other on particular allele values. My cousin who tested to represent George McNiel’s line is highlighted in blue.

Unfortunately, not one man in this group has taken the Big Y test for further haplogroup refinement. Hmmm, we might have to do something about this.

Matches Happen

But, there’s more information on my cousin’s McNiel match page that wasn’t there before. Much more. Each match provides clues that I’ve compiled into the following table:

GD* Ancestor Location Comments
1 – 50th percentile at 3 generations Thomas McNiell 1724-1781 Caswell Co., NC Probably George’s brother
3 – 50th percentile at 4 generations Thomas MccNiell married in 1750 Rombout, NY Ancestry shows Thomas married to Rachel Hoff, English christening records shows a Thomas Macneil born to Gilbert MacNeil in Witton Le Wear, Durham, England in 1699.
5 – 50th percentile at 6 generations Hugh Neel b 1750 Ireland Ancestry shows born Ireland, lived in Camden Co., SC, died after 1792 in KY
7 – 50th percentile at 12 generations Edward McNellis 1816-1888 Died Glennageeragh, Tyrone, Ireland Father may have been Frank who died in Glenncull, Ballygawley, County Tyrone

*GD=Genetic Distance. The percentile was calculated by using the TIP calculator which estimates the average number of years to a common ancestor. I used the 50th percentile number of generations.

The information gleaned from these matches, in closest to furthest match order, above, can yield clues to where our McNiel line was before immigration in addition to further back in time.

The oral story says that George came from Edinburg, Scotland after studying for the Presbyterian ministry which tells us that he might have traveled to Edinburgh from elsewhere. There is no evidence to either confirm or refute this historical nugget. If George left from Edinburgh, it stand to reason that Thomas probably did too.

At a genetic distance of 3, a second Thomas McNiell, was reportedly born in Witton Le Wear, which is found about 95 miles south of Coldstream, which sits right on the border of England and Scotland. As you can see on the map below, Coldstream isn’t far from Edinburgh.

This does assume the Thomas born in Witton Le Wear is the same Thomas subsequently found in New York. I have not verified that information.

The Neel line with a genetic distance of 5 was born in Ireland, but they don’t know where.

The match with a genetic distance of 7 hails from Glennageeragh. On the map below, at the blue dot, we find the location of Glennageeragh Townland in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.

County Tyrone was one of the seated plantation regions, meaning that many Scots immigrated here. However, there is much more history involving the McNiel family in County Tyrone from before the Plantation Era when displaced Scots were settled in Ireland.

The picturesque townland of Glenncull, near Glennageeragh, where Edward McNellis’s father may have died is shown in the photo below.

Interestingly, the town of Ballygawley is also known as “Errigal-Kerogue” or “Errigal-Kieran”, supposedly from the dedication of an ancient church to St. Kieran (Ciarán of Clonmacnoise). It was in the Clogher (barony), along the River Blackwater, Northern Ireland. Some of the remains of the old church were known, and an ancient Franciscan friary, founded by Conn O’Neill, 1st Earl of Tyrone. In the churchyard was a large stone cross, and a holy well.

Conn O’Neill was born in 1480 and died in 1559, both in Ireland. In 1541 he travelled to England to submit to the Henry VIII as part of the surrender and regrant that coincided with the creation of the Kingdom of Ireland and was subsequently made Earl of Tyrone.

Conn Bacach O’Neill was the son of Conn Mór O’Neill, King of Tír Eógain (Tyrone), and Lady Eleanor Fitzgerald. Con Mor O’Neill was the son of Henry Ó Néill, King of Tír Eógain. Eleanor Fitzgerald was the daughter of Thomas FitzGerald, 7th Earl of Kildare. Con Bacach O’Neill was the first of the Ó Néills whom the English, in their attempts to subjugate Ireland in the 16th century, brought to the front as leaders of the native Irish. His father, the King of Tír Eógan, was murdered in 1493 by his brother.

Conn’s grandson, Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, was born in 1550 and came to the throne in 1587, crowned in 1595, and died in 1607.

George and Thomas McNiel were born sometime around 1720. Based on oral history, it’s suggested that they came to Maryland from Scotland sometime around 1750, as adults. The story further reveals that George had studied at the University of Edinburgh for the Presbyterian ministry and that the brothers argued about religion on the ship, during the long Atlantic crossing. George reportedly “saw the light” and became Baptist, but one of the brothers was so upset about the religious discussions during this adventure that he changed the spelling of his name to McNeill.

If that’s true, then the unhappy brother must be the third missing one, possibly named John, because Thomas and George lived in the same vicinity from about 1750 to at least 1761.

My observation is that names were spelled every-which-way in records during that time, with very little consistency – so a name change without other evidence would not indicate a dispute.

So, Is Thomas George’s Brother or Not?

Unfortunately, we can’t draw an entirely 100% firm conclusion.

The first piece of evidence is that the Y DNA clearly did not rule out a relationship. In fact, it confirmed a close relationship, but we can’t say how close from Y DNA alone.

We already know that George’s descendant matches Thomas’s descendant more closely that George’s second descendant.

So, yes, it’s very, very likely that these two men were brothers or closely related.

Autosomal tests could potentially help. I’ve e-mailed and asked the McNeil matches if they would consider upgrading to a Family Finder test. However, in a situation like his, without some paper documentation, given the number of generations between now and then, there is no way to prove absolutely that George and Thomas were brothers, as opposed to cousins, or uncle/nephew, etc.

While we can’t positively prove that George and Thomas were siblings, we can potentially look a bit further back in time by determining the terminal SNP of our McNiel line. Perhaps it’s time for me to order a Big Y test for George’s descendant.

I’m hopeful that looking back in time through the lens of the Big Y test will unwrap even more about the early history of the McNiel men, before the adoption of surnames or where these men lived when surnames were adopted. From that surname-adoption location, whereever it was, it appears that the McNeil men by whatever spelling spread throughout Ireland, Scotland and to parts of England.

Perhaps George and Thomas McNiel descended from a long line of adventurers.

And to think all of this information emerged from George’s descendant’s Y DNA matches. Amazing!

Oxford Ancestors Announces Closure – Plus How to Protect Your DNA

Dr. Bryan Sykes, founder of Oxford Ancestors has announced that Oxford Ancestors is withdrawing from the direct to consumer genetic marketplace as Bryan retires to live abroad.

Please note that you can click to enlarge any graphic.

Oxford Ancestors Began Testing in 1996

Oxford Ancestors was the first company to test mitochondrial DNA outside the academic environment available to the public after Dr. Sykes authored his book, Seven Daughters of Eve. Although the book is incredibly outdated today, it was at that time a groundbreaking book that introduced regular air-breathing humans, not scientists, to the DNA of their ancestors.

In essence, it started our love affair with our DNA that continues with millions having tested today.

In the back of the Seven Daughters book was an order form, and in 1999, I quickly ordered my first DNA test to find out which of Eve’s 7 daughters’ clans I belonged to. For about $900, I received a one page chart in the mail with a star placed on Jasmine’s node telling me that I was a member of Jasmine’s clan.

Such was the humble (and expensive) beginning of my two-decade fascination with genetic genealogy. It’s true that every journey of 1000 miles (or 18 years) begins with one tiny step.

Dr. Sykes later added a 10 marker Y DNA test for males along with a searchable data base that hasn’t been functional in years.

In essence Oxford Ancestors could have been the innovation force to lead the genetic genealogy revolution, but it wasn’t. Oxford Ancestors introduced a few new products here and there over the years, but seemed out of touch with the needs and desires of genetic genealogists.

One Last Time

I dug deeply into my own personal archives looking for my user name and password, hoping to check my matches at Oxford Ancestors one last time. I noted from a series of e-mails that there had been sign-in and password problems for years, and sure enough, none of my or my husband’s user names or passwords works today.

It really doesn’t matter much, given that only 400 mtDNA locations were tested, not even the full HVR1 region – compared to 16,569 locations in the full sequence test at Family Tree DNA.

My husband’s Y DNA tests are irrelevant too, with only 10 STR markers.

Hubby and I both retested years ago at Family Tree DNA, as did any other serious genealogist. I’m just incredibly, incredibly grateful that my deceased mother’s DNA was stored at Family Tree DNA who retains customers’ DNA for 25 years to afford the individual (or their legal heirs) the ability to upgrade with new tests as the technology improves. If mother’s DNA was at Oxford Ancestors, I’d probably be singing an entirely different song right now.

Sign In

If you’re interested in trying to sign in to Oxford Ancestors one last time, do so soon.  Dr. Sykes says the data base will remain online for a few months, but with the GDPR deadline looming on May 25th, I’d speculate that the data base might be taken offline just before that date.

It was difficult to find the location to sign in, but it looks to be in the green section of the Database Search Zone, (bottom option at left on the sidebar) that brings you to this page with the green sign-in box at right.

Genetic History of Early Testers Gone Forever

The saddest part of this obsolescence event is that because Dr. Sykes’ project began in 1996, he assuredly has samples from many individuals who have passed away. His data base, when no longer available in any capacity (even though it hadn’t been working correctly in years) will take with it the genetic results and genetic history of many individuals that will be irreplaceable. Never recoverable. Gone forever.

Even though only a few genetic locations were tested, in some cases, some knowledge is better than no knowledge – especially if those people didn’t test elsewhere and/or their line has died out.

I hope that some effort might be made to transfer ownership and stewardship of the database (perhaps) to a nonprofit type of entity (ISOGG?) who would strive to maintain the database in some format.

It’s heartbreaking to see 21 years of DNA samples from Oxford Ancestors join the defunct data bases of both Sorenson (purchased by Ancestry) and Ancestry’s own Y and mtDNA data bases – both of which met the same fate. Lost forever.

It’s akin to deleting the lineage stories of our long deceased ancestors. Kind of like burning the genetic library. Travesty isn’t a strong enough word.

While this may be the best answer for Dr. Sykes personally, who undoubtedly deserves to be able to retire, it remains a tragedy for mankind (not to mention the testers’ families) to lose the earliest pieces of history collected and compiled in this field.

Nothing is Forever

Nothing is forever, unfortunately.

We all need to make preparations to protect our own DNA and genetic records.  However, because the strength of genetic genealogy is not individual results in isolation, but in comparison to others’ results, we still need the ability to compare.

Unfortunately, both YSearch and MitoSearch, formed as free public entities allowing people to upload their results and compare lost their reason d’etre when other companies stopped performing Y and mtDNA tests. There’s no reason to maintain an external site to allow comparisons from multiple companies when there is only one company testing Y and mitochondrial in this field now, and you can compare directly in their own data base.

Family Tree DNA maintained those services, for free, for years. They have graciously allowed the data bases to remain available, but they have not updated them in a long time and the code is exceptionally old.

Preventative Steps to Take NOW

If you don’t have your results elsewhere, either sign in to Oxford Ancestors or contact them, NOW, to obtain and archive your results.

Be sure to update your beneficiary form at Family Tree DNA, and be sure that your family knows about your DNA results, location, sign-in user name/password and your desires.

Other vendors don’t offer a beneficiary designation, so be sure that your family knows about your DNA locations and how to sign in. Instruct your executors as to how to deal with your DNA at locations that require a subscription. You may want to include a clause in your will providing direction.

Download your DNA results and raw data files for Y, mtDNA and autosomal. Label and date them carefully. Archive in multiple locations, on multiple computers and on multiple kinds of media. Be sure at least one copy is stored outside your home in case of disaster.

Upload your Y and mitochondrial results to YSearch and Mitosearch, if possible. If you download directly from Family Tree DNA (at the bottom of your matches page,) even though an error message is returned during that process, your results are still being added to the data base. You can confirm by clicking on the “Upload to YSearch (or MitoSearch)” button at the bottom of the Y (or mito) matching page again, and your YSearch (or MitoSearch) ID will be displayed. I would not suggest depending on this resource either, given its age and the fact that it is far beyond its anticipated lifespan.

One of the best things you can do with your autosomal results to assure availability is to be sure they are stored in different locations. Fortunately, several companies facilitate uploading information from other sites, which you can later download if need be. In other words, “spread the love” in the form of your DNA file. You benefit now by fishing in multiple pools for matches and later by making sure your DNA is not just in one place.

Download and transfer autosomal raw data files from:

To:

Of these, both Ancestry and MyHeritage either restrict the services or the size of your (free) tree utilized for matching, so unless your heirs maintain a paid subscription at some level, your results may not be able to be utilized to their full matching capacity. Both provide some level of free matching without full services.

Not every vendor accepts all results from the other vendors due to chip incompatibilities. You can see which vendors accept whose files, and versions, here.

To make your DNA results immortal and insure that they continue to reap benefits not just for you, but for your descendants and those who you match as well, transfer your results to as many (legitimate) places as possible and please, please upload or create a corresponding tree.

Genetic genealogy today and in the future relies on DNA test results compared to others AND genealogy. Preserve both!

Your DNA is the legacy that only you can provide. Don’t let a company’s data base closure rob your descendants.

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Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate.  If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase.  Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay.  This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 900 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

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

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

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

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA, or one of the affiliate links below:

Affiliate links are limited to:

Facebook – Newsfeed, Page Changes, Targeted Scams and Genealogy

As you may or may not have noticed, your Facebook feed has probably changed lately.

Many people depend on social media for connectivity with family, valued groups such as genealogy and DNA, and to some extent to receive notifications from companies with whom we do business.

Facebook announced on January 11th that they would be making significant changes to their proprietary algorithm that prioritizes what is shown in your feed. You can see Mark Zukerberg’s post here.

What does that mean to you?

Let’s talk about three things today.

  • Messages that no longer appear in your news feed.
  • Why this is happening and ways to address that problem.
  • Creepy targeted scamming, what to do about it and security preventions.

Group Messages Not Appearing in Newsfeed

The first thing that happened is that the postings from several groups I am quite fond of just quietly disappeared from my newfeed. After a few days, I though it was quite odd that I hadn’t seen any activity, so I checked the group to see.

They were still quite active, but I had received nothing at all.

I then checked other groups and found the same thing.

Here’s how to fix this part of the problem.

Go to the page of the person, group or business you want to follow and see regularly.

Click on the “Following” button, where you will see the following options:

  • See First
  • Default
  • Unfollow

Click on “See First.”

You can select any number of groups, businesses and personal accounts to “see first.”  That just means that they are the items you want to see before anything else in your newsfeed, if Facebook decides to post their item to your timeline.

Unfortunately, that’s only half the problem. Tagging to “See First” doesn’t mean you’ll see everything, but you can do other things to increase the number of items from any particular group that you will see.

Facebook’s New Policy Restricting Content Delivery

Several years ago, I created a business page for DNAexplain.  That was a big mistake.  I should have simply have created a group type page.

Live and learn.

What I’m about to explain pertains to businesses both large and small, consulting and community pages. It may also apply to others, but these are the ones I know of for sure. The remedy for how to fix this problem applies to all Facebook pages, so read on.

On the DNAexplain page, shown below from my administrator’s view, you can see at the bottom left hand side of the posted article, it says “150 people reached” which is a small percentage of the people who follow this page. Facebook does that on purpose so I will pay to reach more people – which also means that you probably won’t see my content unless I pay.

If I click on that blue “150 people” link, then the box with the green checkmark that looks like leaves shows up, above the link. It says that I can pay $10 to boost this point to reach up to 4,000 people.

If I then click on “Boost Post,” I receive a menu.

I can then target this posting to various groups of people, in differing locations.

When you see those “Sponsored” items in your news feed, they come from a business, community or consulting page that paid to have their content more widely distributed.

For me to reach all of my page subscribers instead of about 10% of them, I have to pay for every single posting. So far, I’ve published more than 950 articles, so the total outlay at $15 per article for Facebook to deliver this content to the people who have “liked” my page would have cost me $14,250. I don’t know if the fees vary depending on the size of the business or the number of subscribers, but I do know this isn’t just painful, it’s impossible for a small business that offers a blog with free content.

This new policy doesn’t just apply to “business pages.”  For example, one of my favorite pages is Northern Michigan Wildlife Photos which is listed as a “community” and posts free wildlife photos, with nothing for sale. Before the change, they reached their subscribers with no problem, but no longer.

They were on the verge of shutting the page down because Facebook applied a “governor” to the number of subscribers their postings reached, reducing them from 31,000+ to just a few hundred. Of course, they could pay to reach more. Fortunately,  various subscribers told them how to improve the situation by having people change their feed to “see first,” but IN ADDITION also by doing the following:

  • Like every post, which means you’re more likely to see future posts, and so are others
  • Comment on posts

The more you interact with a Facebook site (person, group or business), the more often Facebook will think that you want to see their content. So, the strategy for seeing as much of a particular person or page as possible in your newsfeed is to BOTH tag to “See First” AND like and comment on every posting in that group or on that person’s page.

Scammers Directly Targeting People

The third and last thing I’d like to chat about is that scammers are directly targeting people by a type of electronic stalking. Yes, that’s really creepy.

How does this work?

A scammer often utilizes the photo of someone looking either “interesting” or “respectable” or even animals, like puppies and kittens.

They send you a friend request. You think, “looks good, what can it hurt,” especially if they are friends with someone you know, leading you to believe they are legitimate, and you accept.

The answer is that it can hurt a lot.

I am normally extremely vigilant, but I fell for this recently, because I was individually targeted.

A man whose name I had never seen before commented on a thread I was included in, on someone else’s genealogy topic feed. We chatted about the topic and common interest. Then he friended me.

I accepted, without checking further. After all, we had just been chatting.

Mistake.

What I didn’t realize is that someone else had quickly grabbed his photo, set up a fake account with only one letter different in the surname, and quickly friended me. So, yes, “someone” was watching and specifically targeted me.

My first actual warning was this:

Just so you know, I didn’t take this screen shot until after I had quickly unfriended Adam, so that’s why the top of the message says we’re not connected on Facebook. He tried to refriend me immediately. Adam, whose real name certainly isn’t Adam, is a pro at this game and knows exactly what to do.

A real contact would have not begun with “How are you today?” but with a continuation of the topic we were chatting about minutes before. Scammers try to chat you up and gain your confidence. I’ve seen this before, so my red internal neon danger sign was flashing bright red.

A couple years ago, my 94-year-old cousin died. About 6 weeks later, he was apparently risen from the grave, because he requested me to friend him on Facebook. Ironically, the scammer appeared to have lifted his photo either from his website (yes, he had a website at 94) or his obituary.

I’m guessing the obituary, because the next step after the “hello,” just like above, mentioned something about Sally, his daughter who was identified in the obituary. And yes, the next steps were to attempt to scam me after trying to gain my confidence with some of these exact same words.

By the way, right now one of the big scams is people attempting to get you to purchase iTunes gift cards as a form of currency.

I knew my cousin was dead, so there was no doubt in that case, barring a miracle of Biblical proportions. Although I must admit, I did tell the scammer how amazing it was that he was risen from the dead and it wasn’t even Easter.

I reported this fake account to Facebook and they took care of it within minutes, but the threat is greater than you simply being scammed.

These bad actors then friend everyone on your friend list. If you have a public friend list, they don’t even have to trick YOU into friending them to gain access to your friends.

If you have your friends list locked down, it’s better, but nothing is 100%. If you do accept their friend request, they can see, and target, all of your friends and family.

Here’s what to do to prevent this from happening.

  • With every friend request, click on the link to their page and look to see how many friends are listed, how many common friends are listed, and their activity. A barren account is a sure sign of a scammer.
  • Just because there are common friends listed doesn’t mean the scammer didn’t trick those people too.
  • Ask yourself why this person would be friending you.
  • If you still have questions, copy their Facebook profile photo, and search using Google’s reverse photo search where you drag and drop or paste a photo and Google searches for other instances of that photo. You’ll be surprised how many different people one photo may be if scammers are utilizing it heavily.

Unfriending and Blocking Scammers

If you accepted a friend request, then realized it was a mistake, quickly click on their personal page, then on the friends button, then unfriend them. That makes your page unavailable to them.  You can take it one step further by blocking them as well, which means you can’t see them and they can’t see your page at all.

Secondarily, you may need to block their private messages to you, which you can do by opening the message they sent to you, then click on the gear, then click on “block message.”

Reporting Scammers to Facebook

Lastly, you should report suspicious activity to Facebook. In my experience, Facebook has been quite prompt in addressing fake accounts and removing them once notified.

Of course, those same people will creep up again, kind of like whack-a-mole, but you’ve at least taken care of this one.

To report them to Facebook, on the scammers cover photo on their fake page in the bottom right corner, click on the little three dots.

You’ll see “Help us understand what is happening.” Click on “Report this profile.”

Then, on the next page, you can report the account as fake.

Conversely, on your own page, you can click on the question mark at the top right and click on “Report a Problem.”

While you’re there, do a privacy checkup too.

Help

As the old proverb says, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

The best resource I’ve found about Facebook ins, outs, privacy and security is FaceCrooks whose website you can search by keyword.  You can also follow them at this link on Facebook.

Remember to “Like” their page and set your display setting to “See First.”

In particular, please read the article, How to Lock Down Your Facebook Account for Maximum Privacy and Security.

Don’t let the bad guys scam you, trick you into friending them or use you, your Facebook page and your friend list as a free ticket to friending and scamming others.

And yes, before you ask, please feel free to share this article far and wide. That’s the purpose!

_____________________________________________________________________

Standard Disclosure

This standard disclosure appears at the bottom of every article in compliance with the FTC Guidelines.

Hot links are provided to Family Tree DNA, where appropriate.  If you wish to purchase one of their products, and you click through one of the links in an article to Family Tree DNA, or on the sidebar of this blog, I receive a small contribution if you make a purchase.  Clicking through the link does not affect the price you pay.  This affiliate relationship helps to keep this publication, with more than 900 articles about all aspects of genetic genealogy, free for everyone.

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

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

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

Thank you for your readership, your ongoing support and for purchasing through the affiliate link if you are interested in making a purchase at Family Tree DNA, or one of the affiliate links below:

Affiliate links are limited to: