Bryan Sykes Finally Meets Eve’s 7 Daughters

Professor Bryan Sykes who studied Otzi the Iceman in 1994 and would go on to author the first genetics book written for public consumption, The Seven Daughters of Eve, passed away on December 10 at age 73. You can read his obituary here.

In 1994, Dr. Bryan Sykes worked on the frozen mummy in the Otztal Alps on the Austrian/Swiss border who would become affectionately known as Otzi.

Sykes initially identified Otzi’s mitochondrial DNA as a member of base haplogroup K. Sykes then identified a living Irish lady with the same sequence. Now we know that while base haplogroup K isn’t terribly common, it’s also not rare and millions of people share haplogroup K, upstream of Otzi.

At that time, however, Sykes suggested Otzi might have been a wayward Irishman. Science has advanced substantially since then and we’ve learned an incredible amount.

Eventually, scientists would determine that Otzi was actually haplogroup K1o, where the “o” stands for Otzi, whose line appears to now be extinct. You can read more, here.

Sykes’ first book, The Seven Daughters of Eve, published in 2001 was followed by other books, none of which garnered the mass appeal of The Seven Daughters book which captured our imaginations. Sykes described 7 European haplogroups and wrote a fictional storyline about how each one exited Africa, what they experienced, and how they migrated to Europe.

This was ground-breaking work at the time.

Ironically, Sykes never named or described haplogroup L or subclades, the true mother lineages in Africa, nor haplogroups M or N, daughters of haplogroup L3 from which all other non-L haplogroups spring.

He initially described and named:

  • Ursula – haplogroup U
  • Xenia – haplogroup X
  • Helena – haplogroup H
  • Velda – haplogroup V
  • Tara – haplogroup T
  • Katrine – haplogroup K
  • Jasmine – haplogroup J

We were captivated by not only their stories, but the fact that they had names and our ancestors seemed to come alive. At that point in time, Sykes believed that these 7 haplogroups were the foundation from which all other haplogroups sprang.

click to enlarge

Phylotree Build 17 published in 2016 shows just how far science has progressed since that time. The Million Mito Project is working to update the tree today.

Although eventually, many of Bryan’s early theories were disproven, his work provided a foundation on which future discoveries were built and the field evolved. All scientists, especially early innovators have to be willing to be “wrong” and have their work improved upon. It’s part of the deal and doesn’t take away from Bryan’s legacy of innovation and inspiration.

My Introduction to Consumer Genetics

I studied genetics in college as part of a science curriculum, but never really connected the dots to either genealogy or ever thought of testing myself for fun. Consumer genetics had not yet been born, and even medical genetics was in its infancy.

Eve’s 7 daughters hadn’t yet been defined or named, and genetics was disconnected from me or anyone I knew, except for peas, cats’ and dogs’ coat and eye color, and humans that had a mutation that caused a significant issue.

In 2001, I lay in bed one night reading the ads in the back of Science News, a weekly news magazine, when I saw the ad for Sykes book that promised to reveal the paths of Eve’s daughters out of Africa. I ordered the book right away and stayed up all night reading when it arrived. It was that good!

I was hooked.

The Seven Daughters of Eve

The Seven Daughters of Eve merged science, my family, and storytelling. All three of which were my loves and manifested themselves in genealogy. Not only was I hooked, but I desperately wanted to know to which clan I belonged. This was genealogy on steroids!

So, apparently, did a lot of other people, because that narrative was something every single person reading the book could relate to.

At the back of each of the Seven Daughters books, readers could tear out a page and send a check for roughly $800 US with the promise of receiving an envelope a few weeks later with a genetic map identifying your clan – meaning which of Eve’s daughters was your “mother.”

I ripped that page out of the back and wrote a check – only to have my husband inform me that he, too, wanted to know his clan. I couldn’t then, and still can’t believe I spent that much money on a “frivolous” DNA test. Little did I know that was just the beginning😊.

Just before the launch of his book, Sykes founded Oxford Ancestors, one of the first companies to test the mitochondrial, and some years later the Y DNA of consumers who could then see who they matched. Oxford Ancestors still exists but has struggled over the years. (I do not recommend them today.)

About 3 months later, I received a single sheet of paper in an envelope, signed by Dr. Sykes at the University of Oxford, and I was THRILLED to learn that I was in Jasmine’s clan. I opened the book and read that section again – because now that was MY story. Of course, today I know it wasn’t exactly accurate but no one knew that then.

I called my Mom. It was her story too. She called my brother. It’s his story too. I told both of my children, who didn’t care one iota – but it’s their story too and hope springs eternal.

Today, I can purchase about 6 full-sequence mitochondrial DNA tests that test 16,569 locations for the cost of a test that at that time only revealed my base haplogroup, “J,” by testing 400 locations.

Still, I was overjoyed and connected to the past across the bridge of time in a place and time that genealogy could never reach. Or so I thought. Clearly, genetic testing has improved immensely and genetics doesn’t just reach across that bridge today, genetics and genealogy are completely intertwined.

Bryan’s book was my initial inspiration – he lured many of the early genealogists and science buffs into the genetics spiderweb where we have gratefully been living ever since. Genetics has done more to unveil my ancestors and their past than any other tool. Bryan turned that tap on with a tiny drip-drip, which, by comparison, today is a tsunami of millions of testers across several major testing companies taking autosomal tests in addition to mitochondrial and Y DNA.

While paper-trail evidence reaches back a few hundred years, assuming the records still exist, DNA in its various forms reaches back hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands of years – connecting us to the rest of humanity by following a breadcrumb trail of mutations back in time.

Sykes’ Later Years

In 2013 and 2014, Sykes analyzed residue from creatures purported to be the Yeti and Bigfoot in his Oxford lab. He attributed the samples to bears and other primates on BBC News. Other researchers disagreed with his analysis, and with each other, and the topic became controversial.

Bryan relished publicity and was never afraid of leading and sometimes bleeding-edge research. In order to succeed, one must be willing to take risks, and Dr. Sykes clearly did. It was his vivre la vie and contagious excitement that inspired others to begin their own journeys of discovery.

While many people don’t know of or about Bryan Sykes today, in the early days, few people didn’t feel strongly about Bryan’s work, one way or the other. Bryan was simply glad that people were talking about genetics. Lots of consumers became enamored and curious and the earliest seeds of the direct-to-consumer genetics industry were planted.

Now that Bryan has progressed to the other side, I’m sure that he is quizzing all of the daughters of Eve about how they are related to each other, where they lived, when they moved, to where, who they married, and is asking everyone to DNA test. Bryan, I have a few requests if you meet up with my ancestors…

Go with the flow Bryan, and thank you.



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Phebe Crumley’s Mother Really IS Lydia Brown (c1781-c1830) – 52 Ancestors #318

This day took its sweet time arriving!

And yes, I’ve used DNA evidence along with every other shred of traditional evidence that I could dig up about either Lydia Brown or her husband, William Crumley. I’ve been trying to prove that the William Crumley who was the father of Phebe (Phoebe) Crumley either WAS or WAS NOT the William Crumley that married Elizabeth “Betsy” Johnson in October of 1817, just months before Phebe’s birth on March 24, 1818, as recorded on her gravestone.

Of course, we all know that gravestones can be wrong.

Mitochondrial DNA testing told me that the mitochondrial DNA of the daughter, Clarissa, born on October 10th, 1817 to William Crumley and his wife, just a few months before some William Crumley married Betsy Johnson, matched the mitochondrial DNA of Phebe.

For good measure, the mitochondrial DNA of the daughter, Belinda “Melinda” Crumley born on April 1, 1820, also matches both Clarissa and Phebe. But again, we know that birth dates have been known to be wrong by several years – not to mention that there’s a possibility that the two women, Lydia Brown and Elizabeth “Betsy” Johnson, could have been related. Nothing is ever simple, it seems.

A group of families including Crumley, Johnson, Cooper and Brown had traveled together for at least a couple of generations and we are unable to document these lines very well.

I even analyzed the handwriting of the various William Crumleys, and of course, there were several.

If you’d like to read the articles about this extremely difficult family to unravel, here’s a list along with a cheat sheet of who was whom. Yes, you need a dance card to keep track of this family.

Phebe’s father was William Crumley (the third) and either Lydia Brown or Elizabeth “Betsy” Johnson was her mother.

This William is the grandfather to Phebe and appears to be who married Elizabeth “Betsy” Johnson. He was the father of William Crumley (the third.)

William Crumley the third married Lydia Brown. The question has always been whether Lydia Brown died in 1817 after the birth of Clarissa, followed by William marrying Elizabeth “Betsy” Johnson who gave birth to Phebe a few months later.

So, was Lydia dead, or wasn’t she?

Mitochondrial DNA results of the three daughters of William Crumley all match each other. I wish those early records hadn’t been so sparse. Unfortunately, the Hancock County, TN records have twice burned.

I think I’ve solved it – finally – based on the signatures of William Crumley.

Jotham Brown is the father of Lydia Brown.

Of course, if Phebe’s mother was NOT Lydia Brown, then Lydia’s parents don’t matter in my tree.


I’ve spent years going through twister-like perturbations trying to identify which William Crumley married Betsy Johnson. Whichever woman gave birth to Phebe in 1818 was my ancestor. Obviously, which William Crumley married Betsey Johnson makes a huge difference in my tree. I mean, I think I have it nailed down, but with this family, I’m never sure. Given all that, I’m sure you’ll understand my angst when an e-mail arrived this week.

When I saw the topic was this family again, I didn’t know whether to be hopeful or cringe.

Marlene, an unpaid volunteer was attempting to help a lady prove that Jotham Brown, Lydia Brown’s father, was a patriot through the Frederick County, VA tax lists.

Marlene, who is very nice, explained:

This is relevant because the revenue from 1782 and 1783 taxes were partly used to fund supplies to support the Revolution, so [Jotham Brown] appearing on the tax list may be considered patriotic service.

Do you have a copy of or a link to this 1782 tax list, in which Jotham Brown appears?

Any assistance you are able and willing to provide is VERY much appreciated!

When I wrote Jotham Brown’s story, I was only looking to place him in Frederick County. It never occurred to me that Jotham might be determined to be a Patriot in the DAR sense because he was on a tax list.

I didn’t need the original tax list, so I utilized a transcribed version of the 1782 Virginia census, provided by another researcher. Marlene reports that Binns Genealogy doesn’t show him on their lists.

A cousin found the Frederick County personal property tax lists for 1782, here, and there is no Jotham Brown in either 1782 or 1783 on the actual tax list. I read page by page.

A couple of days later, I heard from Marlene again about Phebe’s brother, Aaron Crumley.


I just read your 29 Jun 2019 blog about County Formation Petitions and found it very interesting. Your conclusions about which William Crumley married who and when made me wonder if you have looked at the marriage records of Aaron F. Crumley. Since the lady I’m trying to help descends from Aaron F. Crumley [and his 2nd wife] I’ve spent some time on this and note that when Aaron married for the 4th time, at age 63 [2 May 1886], the record in Miami County, Kansas indicated that his parents were William Crumley and [no first name listed] Brown. This leads me to the conclusion that Lydia Brown lived until at least 1823 when Aaron F. Crumley was born, so it must have been a different William Crumley who married Betsy Johnson.

Glory be. Marlene had just found what neither I, nor any of the other Crumley researchers had been able to find for decades. And, she very kindly shared. Thank you Marlene!

Truthfully, I didn’t know that Aaron had married a fourth time.

I showed Aaron’s birth occurring about 1821. The 1850 census Hancock County, TN shows him as age 29, so born in 1821. Other census records show him born in 1822, 1823, or 1824. Regardless of whether Aaron was born in 1821 or as late as 1824, all those years are after the births of all three daughters whose mitochondrial DNA matches each other, including Phebe who was born in 1818.

Aaron’s marriage record shows exactly what Marlene said.

Aaron’s age on May 2, 1886, was given, by him, as age 63, meaning he was born in 1823 or perhaps 1822 if he had not yet had his birthday for 1886. His Civil War draft registration from 1863 shows the same information.

Aaron married Mary Murry, age 32, which makes me wonder if he has previously unknown children from this fourth marriage. Mary’s FindAGrave entry, plus additional information indicates that yes, they did have children.

In 1913, Mary Crumley, widow of Aaron F, is living in Portland Oregon with Fred, Frank, and J. Harvey Crumley.

In 1909, in Spokane, we find Frank, Fred, and James K, a blacksmith all living at 2024 Augusta Avenue.

I do think Mary did have children, because the 1910 census shows Mary Crumley living in Spokane, Washington, age 54, widowed, married for 6 years, had 4 children, 2 living. She is living with sons Frank Crumley and Fred Crumley, ages 24 and 21, both born in Kansas.

Mary’s 1910 census entry, of course, tells us that Aaron Crumley died in 1892 at age 69.

While Aaron’s information is interesting, the real gold nugget here, for me, is that marriage entry for Aaron F. Crumley where he gives his mother’s maiden name as Brown.

Not Johnson.

Of course, this makes me wonder why her first name wasn’t recorded as Lydia. Other mothers in these records had first names. But then again, some mothers had no name.

Clearly, Aaron provided this information himself, because no one else would have been applying for his marriage license. He knew who his mother was – this is first-hand information. Thank goodness the clerk wrote SOMETHING down.

It’s a Wrap

We now have genetic evidence with three mitochondrial DNA tests, evidence based on the various William Crumleys’ locations and signatures, and finally, first-person evidence with Aaron providing the maiden name of his mother.

We now know that Lydia Brown lived at least past Aaron’s birth. Aaron appears to be the last child born, or at least the last one we know about.

From this information, we can estimate Lydia’s birth year.

If Aaron was born in 1822 and Lydia was age 41, that would put her birth about 1781.

We know Lydia married in 1806, so she would have been perhaps 21 at the time, putting her birth at about 1785.

I would say it’s safe to bracket her birth between 1781 and 1785, give or take another year or so in either direction.

We know for a fact, based on the 1850 census that says William had been married within the year, that William did marry in 1849 or 1850 before the census to a woman named Pya or Pequa.

The 1830 and 1840 census are inconclusive, although William is shown with a female the right age to be Lydia in 1830. In 1840, William, age 50-60 has no female his own age in the household, but is living with a female aged 60-70 which could be his step-mother, Betsy Johnson, after his father’s death.

The best evidence we have is that Lydia Brown lived beyond Aaron’s birth and probably beyond 1830, passing away sometime between 1830 and 1840 in Claiborne County, TN, likely living near what is now Turner Hollow Road, near Littleton Brooks and Eli Davis. We know from previous research that was where William lived.

One of William’s daughters married a Davis, one married a Walker from down Mulberry Gap Road, and Phebe married a Vannoy who lived nearby. Clarissa and William both went back to Greene County, TN, and married. The children seem to have scattered a bit, possibly after their mother’s death – so maybe Lydia’s death was closer to 1830 than 1840.

Crumley Cemetery

Today, there’s a Crumley cemetery on Burchett Hollow Road in Hancock County, the portion that was previously Claiborne, although Findagrave doesn’t show a mapped location.

Several years ago, my cousin provided a map of the Josiah Ramsey land division. Eli Davis lived near what today seems to be the Burchett Hollow land.

Overlaying that map with this map, today, and following Burchett Hollow to the end, I can see something that very much looks like a fenced cemetery with a few headstones.

The children of Aaron’s brother, John, and their descendants are buried in the Crumley Cemetery.

In the 1840 census, William and his son, John Crumley, are living side by side, between Eli Davis and Littleton Brooks.

I would wager that this land was indeed where the Crumley family lived – and where Lydia died when she was about 50 years old, then buried in a long-lost grave, probably marked with a fieldstone.



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Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

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Triangulation Resources In One Place

I’ve written a number of articles about autosomal DNA triangulation.

I’ve created this repository to provide gather various resources all in one place to make it easier for you to find what you need.

Triangulation Concepts and Tools

What is triangulation, why it is important for genealogy, and how does one go about triangulating? More importantly, why do genealogists care?

In a nutshell, triangulation allows you to discover or confirm your ancestors or ancestral lines when:

  • You match at least two other people (who are not close relatives) on the same reasonably sized segment of DNA.
  • Those matches also match each other on a reasonably sized portion of the same DNA segment where you match both of them.
  • You identify a common ancestor or ancestral couple who passed that segment to all of the people who match on that segment of DNA.

I’ve written two articles that explain chromosome matching, triangulation, and how to use a chromosome browser.

This article explains chromosome matching and triangulation step-by-step to help you sort through your matches.

A chromosome browser is essential to genetic genealogy and specifically, to triangulation, allowing you to visualize your DNA matches on your chromosomes. This article starts at the beginning with what a chromosome browser looks like and explains each step along the way.

It’s important to understand that some people will match you, but won’t match either of your parents, or wouldn’t if your parents were both available to test. The technique of triangulation removes the issue of “false matches” which aren’t identical by descent, because you inherited that DNA segment from an ancestor through one of your parents, but are instead “identical by chance.”

If you’d like to utilize X matching, you’ll want to read this article. The X chromosome has a unique inheritance path, is treated differently by various vendors and you’ll need to evaluate X matches differently.

Genetic Affairs has numerous tools that facilitate and assist with different aspects of triangulation including their AutoClusters, AutoTree, AutoPedigree and AutoSegment features.

How to Triangulate?

Each of the major vendors, except Ancestry, provides a chromosome browser along with some type of triangulation tool. Additionally, third parties who do not perform DNA testing offer great supplemental tools. GEDmatch and DNAPainter both provide triangulation tools, allowing you to take advantage of matches from multiple vendors.

I’ve written step-by-step articles detailing how to utilize triangulation at each vendor:

FamilyTreeDNA is the only vendor that provides built-in parental phasing, even if your own parents haven’t tested. You’ll want to either test at or transfer your DNA file (free) to Family Tree DNA, then pay the $19 unlock for advanced tools. As an added benefit, you can also test and obtain matches to your Y DNA (paternal or surname line) if you’re a male and mitochondrial DNA (mother’s matrilineal line) for either sex in order to further your genealogical research.

MyHeritage is the only vendor to incorporate a triangulation tool with shared matches and AutoClusters into their solution. Of course, MyHeritage also provides traditional genealogical research records that they combine with DNA matches and trees in their Theories of Family Relativity feature, showing potential tree connections between you and your matches to common ancestors. You’ll want to either test at or transfer your DNA file to MyHeritage (free), then pay the $29 unlock for advanced tools.

23andMe doesn’t call triangulation by that name, but they provide the functionality, nonetheless. While 23andMe doesn’t support trees in the normal genealogical manner, they are the only vendor who has created a sort of genetic tree, giving you an idea of how your closest matches may fit into a family tree positionally. You can’t transfer files to 23andMe, so if you want to be in their database, you’ll need to test there.

GEDmatch does not provide DNA testing, but they do provide additional tools. You will find a number of people who have tested at Ancestry and other vendors, then transferred to GEDmatch to use their chromosome browser and other tools to obtain additional matches. GEDmatch is the only vendor who triangulates all of your matches at one time – providing a comprehensive report. You’ll want to transfer your DNA kit to GEDmatch (free) and subscribe to their Tier1 Level to utilize their advanced tools.

DNAPainter doesn’t provide DNA testing but does provide a critical service by facilitating the painting of your DNA matches on your chromosomes, identified by ancestor. This allows you to “walk the segment back in time,” meaning to identify the oldest ancestor to whom you can identify a specific segment. I utilize DNAPainter as a central location to house all of my identified segments from all vendors. You can get started by checking out the DNAPainter Instructions and Resources, here.

Testing and Transferring

It’s important to identify as many triangulated segments as possible, which means it‘s crucial to be in all the databases that support triangulation and provide tools.

All major vendors allow you to download your DNA raw data file once you’ve tested, but not all vendors support uploading other vendors’ files instead of purchasing their test.

You can upload (at least) recent versions of other vendors DNA data files to:

The following vendors do NOT support uploads, but you can download your DNA file from these vendors and upload to the vendors above:

I wrote step-by-step instructions about how to download your files from each vendor and uploading them to vendors who accept uploads in the article, DNA File Upload-Download and Transfer Instructions to and from DNA Testing Companies.

Up your genealogy game by transferring and triangulating.



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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

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Pandemic Journal: Vaccine Day!!! – The Beginning of the End


A vaccine! The beginning of the end of Covid. Thank God. But it’s only the very beginning and we have a long, treacherous road to the end. Thankfully, there’s a map.

This is really all I want – ever. I’ll trade all current and future Christmas and birthday gifts for this one thing.

That long-awaited (has this only been 9 months?) life-saving vaccine is on the way.

V Day – A Vaccine Arrives!

On December 5th, the first Covid19 vaccine was administered to a 90 year old grandma in the UK. On Friday, the FDA approved emergency use in the US, and today (December 13th) the first trucks departed the Pfizer plant in Portage, Michigan, under guard, carrying that life-saving elixir.

I surely hope this vaccine works as anticipated, and:

  • We can produce enough vaccines AND get them into people, not just here in the US but worldwide.
  • We can get enough vaccines into enough arms to stop the burn of Covid through the population.
  • The immunity lasts long enough for everyone to get the first doses before it begins to wear off the earliest people to get the vaccine. Otherwise, the infections won’t stop. (Yes, you can get Covid twice.)

And the most important one:

  • PEOPLE STILL NEED TO TAKE PRECAUTIONS TO PREVENT COVID. Just because the vaccine is now approved for emergency use does NOT mean that we can lessen our guard. Full stop.

If you’d like to read a great article about how the Covid vaccines were developed, including about mRNA, messenger mRNA, click here.

One hospital has produced a great FAQ about Covid vaccines, who will receive them in what priority order, and their development, here.

Dr. Fauci’s Message About Immunity

Dr Fauci says that herd immunity is possible by fall, and “normality” by the end of 2121, here.

Yes, that’s longer than I had hoped, BUT, this IS hope and we can survive this. It’s not forever and we are not condemned to Covid.

While I’m thrilled about the speed with which the vaccine was developed and is beginning to ship – I’m also very concerned that some people will let their guard down – on top of the people who are already not taking precautions to protect themselves and others.

As Dr. Fauci says, vaccines are NOT a substitution for public health measures – they are a compliment to those measures until we reach herd immunity – hopefully with a minimum of new infections and deaths.

Please Don’t Let Your Guard Down

In the US, by the time this article is published, we’ll have hit 300,000 deaths and will be well over 3,000 new deaths per day.

The daily new confirmed infections are going straight up, vertically, in the US, which means the deaths will follow. New milestones are being toppled daily.

I’m sure you haven’t missed the news that the US is continuing to set infection milestones, hospitalization milestones, and death milestones.




With the toll of Thanksgiving travel not yet behind us and the specter of holiday gatherings in front of us, December, January, and probably into February promise to be the darkest, most deadly days we have ever had to deal with in our lifetimes. I can’t help but think of my ancestors who lived during the plague, the Black Death that wiped out between one-third and half of the European population.

The CDC, here, predicts that the US will report between 332K and 362K deaths by January 1st, but truthfully, I fear that might be low, in part because this prediction data is from December 9th and we’re already at 300,000 just a few days later.

The good news is that we, personally, do not have to become victims. Unlike victims of the Black Death, today, we do understand how to protect ourselves even though we may have pandemic-fatigue. Fatigue is far better than death.

The great news is that because of the vaccine, sheltering safely in place is NOT endless now, nor is catching Covid just a matter of time, nor is it inevitable as long as we take proper precautions.

Safety and outsmarting this virus means protecting ourselves (and others) until we can get vaccinated, then waiting for the vaccine to become effective. The CDC offers holiday guidelines here.

If someone in your home contracts Covid, here’s a checklist and how to minimize the risk of caregivers and other family members becoming ill too.

We Must Protect Ourselves

We MUST protect ourselves by staying away from other people outside our home and masking when we can’t in order to emerge on the other side of this ordeal, whole, alive, and not being one of the 10% or so of people infected with Covid who become long-haulers, unable to recover.

Long-haulers aren’t “just tired” – many have significant lung damage and some have irreversible heart damage that is probably life-long. Not just “old people” either – many are younger and were otherwise previously perfectly healthy. And yes, I know some personally. You probably do too, and almost everyone knows someone or has a family member who has died of Covid now.

However, we CAN stop Covid in its tracks!

Yes – I know the holidays are going to be disappointing without family gatherings – but think of it this way…isolating now means no one will die because of a well-intentioned but ill-advised gathering, allowing us to celebrate in 2021 – with everyone present.

Physical distance does not equal to “apart” or disconnected. Here’s a heart-warming article about how Philippino families, scattered across the globe, address the challenge of gathering remotely.

If you’re wondering how perfectly intelligent people can take themselves down the path of longing to see relatives, miscalculating the Covid risk followed by making risky and deadly decisions, I found this article to be very enlightening. And yes, I see myself here with the temptation and you’ll probably be able to relate, too. I want desperately to see my kids and grandkids, but I know better. Logic and emotion are having the battle-of-the-ages in my head. It’s actually a relief to understand that other people are dealing with exactly the same emotions.

However, I have a terrible example to learn from.

My extended family is now dealing with the results of this very situation following an “immediate-family-only gathering.” One not-old, previously-healthy person is dead, the family is devastated, and ripped in half. The solitary person who refused to wear a mask and infected everyone else is unapologetic. Part of the rest of the family is supporting them but many are blaming them for the death of the family member – and a couple of people (but not the bare-faced person who had Covid and didn’t know it yet) are blaming themselves and suffering excruciating, debilitating guilt. Plus, the person who died did so in agony. While their agony is over, it has only begun for those left behind.

Let’s face it, had the gathering not occurred at all, none of this would be happening – and for the record – you can’t eat/drink with masks on no matter what. How many family gatherings have you been to where no one ate or drank anything? Yea, me neither. And now this family heads into the miserable holidays – probably the first of many. It’s doubtful that this family will ever gather again and they will certainly never be whole.

Please don’t let this be your story too.

I’m not seeing my family and friends now so that I can see them in the future.

1 in 20 People Has Tested Positive – Covid’s Everyplace Now

Covid is so prevalent now that it’s literally every place you’re going to go. One of every 20 people has tested positive in the US since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins data – and it’s getting worse every day.

Not only that, but many people don’t get tested, so the percentage and numbers, both, are actually significantly higher. Think of it this way. If there are 100 people living on your street (4 to a house- 25 houses), chances are 5 of them have tested positive. Their families are exposed and many of them are going to test positive too – or be silent asymptomatic spreaders. They are going to the grocery store, holiday shopping, to restaurants, etc., before they realize they are positive. Assuming they ever know they are positive.

You’re going to those same places in your community – just to pick up a couple of things from the grocery store. How dangerous can that be? You’ve done it lots of times and been fine, right?

Covid is in the air you will be breathing and on the surfaces you’re touching. You’re playing Russian roulette with a virus and given enough opportunities, the virus will infect you and win.

The only escape now is to stay home until the vaccine has the opportunity to work, not just on you, but on the rest of our herd too.

The Vaccine is not the Door in the Escape Room – Yet

Let’s not allow our joyful relief at the vaccine which marks the beginning of the end cause us to let our collective guard down.

We are so close now. We just have to wait to get vaccinated and get through the next few months to come out the other side safely. Those months will be painful, inside that dark and dangerous tunnel, but now we know there’s a path to emerge and there’s a map to get there.

Train, Tunnel, Fall, Jersey, Transportation, Railway

Let’s protect ourselves and each other so that EVERYONE emerges, safe and sound.

We aren’t out of the woods quite yet – but there IS a path, it’s illuminated and that light is not a train! It’s an exit.

Let’s all cooperate so that at the end of this pandemic, that day we can rip those pesky masks off our faces forever, we’re all here to cross the finish line together.

Celebrate (at home) today with wild abandon, but don’t abandon safety measures!

This vaccine is a great holiday gift from the scientists to all of humanity – a gift that will end this plague – and it comes pre-packaged with an early New Year’s Resolution to stay safe.

We can do this!

You’ve got this!

Johann Georg Lenz (1674-1758), Stones Fell on His Body and Back – 52 Ancestors #317

Johann Georg Lenz, known as Jerg, was born on February 21, 1674 in the beautiful wine-region village of Beutelsbach, Germany to Hans Lenz and Barbara Sing.

Martin Goll, the local historian has kindly documented the various families Beutelsbach, here.

Martin, through a German to English automatic translator, provides the following information about Johann Georg Lenz:

Can read and write. Has always stayed with his parents. Has had to be sent to the field 5 times, and has had to endure a few months each time. He was unlucky several times while breaking stones, when stones fell on his body and back.

Cause of death: Old age

Occupation: Vinedresser

Let’s look at what each one of those statements tells us about Johann Georg Lenz, known as Jerg in the village.

If he can read and write, that tells us that Jerg went to school which would likely have been associated with the local church.

“He has always stayed with his parents,” would suggest that he never married, but that isn’t the case. I do wonder if this means that Jerg always lived in his parents’ homeplace, both before and after their deaths. Or perhaps it means stayed in the local village.

Martin Goll located and documented the Hans Lenz home in Beutelsbach. Whether or not Jerg lived here as an adult, he assuredly was raised here.

Homes of the farmers and vinedressers were located in the village, and the men walked up to the vineyards on the hillsides every day.

These vineyards had been long established when Jerg worked those vines, beneath the every-watchful sentry-like ruins of the castle, here. Today, those same vineyards line the hillsides surrounding Beutelsbach, creating artistic flowing designs.

I wonder about the commentary, “sent to the field 5 times.” Based on mandatory military service required for males, I would suspect that’s what this is referencing – not the literal fields where he went to work daily, probably from the time he was a small child, toddling along beside his father and the other village men as they manicured the vines.

1674, the year Jerg was born was after the Thirty Years’ War which had ended in 1648, although peace, such as it was, was short-lived in Germany.

Jerg’s younger brother served in the military at various times, including 1705, and it’s likely Jerg did as well.

Jerg’s occupation is given as that of a Weingärtner, the same as his father and generations of his descendants to follow.

A weingartner is a vine tender in the vineyards, literally a vine gardener or wine grower.

Given his occupation, passed down for generations, it’s unlikely that Jerg would be “breaking stones” in the vineyards, which had already been established for centuries by this time, so I suspect that his wounds from breaking stones would have occurred during his time “in the field” in military service, or perhaps elsewhere.

Photo courtesy of Sharon Hockensmith.

This ancient building in Beutelsbach assuredly stood when Jerg lived there and shows the squares stones used for the first story. Those would have had to be gathered or quarried, and cut and chiseled to shape.

I feel Jerg’s pain though. Having suffered a back injury in my 20s, I can vouch for the fact that while you may heal somewhat, your back is never the same again and you never recover completely. It reminds you exactly who is in charge every single day.

Chronic pain at some level was probably just a fact of Jerg’s life. At least the vineyards were beautiful and peaceful, even if you did have to climb up to them. Beutelsbach is in the valley along the river.

Photo courtesy of Sharon Hockensmith.

Blog reader, Sharon, attended college in Beutelsbach when Stanford rented part of an estate, now the Hotel Landgut Burg, high above Beutelsbach. She returned for a reunion, and was kind enough to share her photos with me and allow me to share them with you.

As steep as this hillside is, I hope Jerg tended the lower regions or rode in the cart or on the wagon.

You can see more photos of Beutelsbach, here.

Photo courtesy of Sharon Hockensmith.

This photo was taken by Sharon from the top of one of those hillside vineyard rows. I can’t help but wonder if any of those vines were tended by Jerg. Probably not, given that grapevines appear to live 100-120 years at the top end – but hey – maybe these vines are the descendants of those earlier vines just like I’m Jerg’s descendant.

You can see the incredibly beautiful vineyards above Beutelsbach, with wildflowers planted between the rows, here. They will take your breath away.


Germany, located in a strategically important location with the Rhine River as it’s east border, and also bordering France, was anything but a peaceful location.

By Ssch – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Wurttemberg, located mostly east of the Rhine except where it bordered the Rhine on its south was positioned in the center of Europe which is on the way to and from almost everyplace. A crossroads that almost every army seemed to tromp through, if not attack. Some of the most chronic offenders were the French although they certainly didn’t have a monopoly on attacking the area that is today modern Germany. .

In 1688, 1703 and 1707, the French entered the Duchy of Wurttemberg and inflicted brutalities and suffering upon the inhabitants.

Jerg was born in 1674, so in 1688, he would have only been 14 years old, not old enough to serve in a war.

However, in 1703, he would have been 29, and 33 in 1707, a prime age to defend Wurttemberg.

It’s likely then that he would have been called into the military “field” and was breaking boulders when injured.

I would think for a back injury to be significant enough to warrant a legacy, the injury would have had to be substantial.

Yet, he died of old age, at age 84. His back didn’t kill him, although it may have felt like it was trying.

Little Ice Age

All of Europe suffered during the 1690s from failed harvests due to a Little Ice Age in which growing seasons were significantly shortened. The result was smaller harvests, less food, and in some locations, starvation, and depopulation.

Massive eruptions of volcanoes in Iceland in 1693 followed by two different volcanoes in Indonesia in 1693 and 1695 likely caused or contributed to these crop failures which continued to some extent through 1699.

One of the worst famines in the seventeenth century occurred in this part of Europe due to the failed harvest of 1693. Millions of people in France, Germany, and surrounding countries were killed. The effect of the Little Ice Age on Swiss farms was severe. Due to the cooler climate, snow covered the ground deep into spring. A parasite, known as Fusarium nivale, which thrives under snow cover, devastated crops. Additionally, due to the increased number of days of snow cover, the stocks of hay for the animals ran out so livestock was fed on straw and pine branches. Many cows had to be slaughtered.

This time of famine also led to economic strife, which in turn led to aggressive behavior of countries towards each other in an attempt to obtain scarce commodities.

Johann George Lenz Marries

People will be people, no matter what. In the midst of the famine and food shortage, Johann Georg Lenz got married.

On January 9, 1698, in the Grossheppach church book, we discover the entry for the marriage of Sybilla Mullers and Hanss Jerg Lentz, short for Johann Georg Lenz/Lentz, of course.

My friend and cousin, Tom, translates:

1st Sunday after Epiphany in the local church was proclaimed, Hanss Jerg Lentz, legitimate son of Hanss Lentz, citizen in Beutelsbach and Sibylla, surviving, legitimate daughter of the late Hanss Rudolph Muller, citizen and smith here; were married in Beutelsbach on the 2nd of February (1698).



This entry says they were married the week before in a church in another village? It’s not like Beutelsbach was far away either – just a mile and a half and a thirty-minute walk. If someone was hoping to “live in sin” in one village claiming they had been married in the other – rest assured that everyone would have known in BOTH villages.

Typically, a marriage was only recorded in the church books where the marriage occurred, by that minister.

Interestingly, this marriage seems to have been recorded in both churches, the home church of both the bride and groom, a week apart, something I haven’t seen before. I can’t help but wonder why.

Beutelsbach record, below, also translated by Tom:

The Purification (of Mary) (February 2nd), (married):

Hanss Georg Lentrz, legitimate son of Hanss Lentz, ciitizen and vinedresser from here and Sibilla, legitimate, surviving daughter of the late Johann Rudolph Müller, former smith from Hoppach (Grossheppach).

Why was this marriage recorded in both churches? Maybe to give genealogists twice the opportunity to find it some 322 years later😊.

The timing of the marriage in terms of the “Little Ice Age” may explain, at least in part, why the newly-married couple might well simply have joined his parents in their home. Houses couldn’t just be built willy-nilly either, so the “best” solution for everyone was likely to combine households.

However, that might not have been the only reason.

Jerg’s Mother Dies

1686 was a terrible year. The preceding ones hadn’t been much better.

Jerg’s parents, Hans and Barbara were married in January 1669, and like normal, their first child followed a few months later, a month before their first Christmas as a married couple. What a joyous Christmas that must have been.

Their next two children were born in 1671 and 1672, and both died within two days of each other in July 1678, at 6 and 7 years of age. I can only imagine their heartbreak. Something was probably contagious in the village and there was likely much more death too. It may not be a coincidence that while the plague was smoldering throughout Europe during this time, 1679 would see a massive outbreak.

Of course, right now I can certainly identify with that.

Johann George, Jerg, was their first son, born in 1674, followed by Daniel in 1675.

Elisabetha was born in 1677, and nothing else is known so it’s presumed that she must have died.

Anna Maria was born in December of 1678, 5 months after her sisters died, followed by Johann Jacob in 1680 and Philipp in 1681.

Additionally, Martin born in 1683 died 17 days later.

In April 1684, Jerg’s maternal grandparents both died. That’s 6 deaths if you’re counting, in less than a decade.

Finally, there was Barbara Lenz who was born on July 2nd, 1686. This must have been a difficult delivery, because Barbara, the baby’s mother, died 8 days later, on July 10th. The baby, Barbara, died 17 days after her mother.

Barbara’s daughters who died in 1678 had died on July 11th and 13th. This entire family must have dreaded every July which was probably remembered as a month of death.

Jerg was 12 years old when his mother died. At that time, he had 4 younger siblings ranging in age from 11 years on down to 20 months.

What were they to do?

The Burial

You can see a drawing of the church in Beutelsbach in 1883 with the adjacent cemetery, here. The description reads, “View over the fortified cemetery to the church with its half-timbered house.”

Sharon’s photo shows that same area today – and it’s almost exactly the same except the stream is now a street. Jerg would have walked up those steps many, many times.

Jerg might have vague memories of burying his sisters two days apart in 1678, when he was 4 years old.

He might have remembered burying his sister, Elisabetha, depending on when she died.

Jerg would have remembered burying his younger brother, Martin when he was 9 years old in 1684.

Jerg would have remembered burying both of his maternal grandparents in this same cemetery,11 days apart, in April of 1684 when he was 10 years old. His mother must have been horribly distraught. I wonder if whatever took them is the same thing that took both daughters two days apart in 1678.

In July of 1686, with the birth of Barbara, Jerg’s mother must have suffered terribly. Who knows what went wrong, but something very clearly did. Barbara died 8 days after giving birth and followed her parents into the cemetery just 27 months later.

Then, 17 days later, yet another funeral for the baby named after her mother.

Whatever happened during that birth, it likely affected both mother and child. In a German village, had the child been alright, a wetnurse could certainly have been found.

In addition to Jerg having suffered an incredible amount of grief in his short 12 years, his father, Hans, would have been grief-stricken too.

Worse yet, how was Hans supposed to go and work in the fields without a wife to care for the household and children? He did have a daughter who was 17, but she couldn’t keep house and take care of all those children herself. She needed to attend school and prepare for her own married life.

Life After 1686

I’d wager that Hans and his children banded together as best they could, with the help of their relatives who, of course, were their neighbors in this village – at least for the next 13 months until Jerg’s father did what any sane German man did under those circumstances. He remarried to a widow.

Jerg gained a step-mother and perhaps step-siblings. His step-mother would go on to “mother” him for 17 years, 5 years longer than his biological mother had been able to do.


When Jerg married Sybilla Muller in 1698, a few days before his 24th birthday, there would have still been three of his siblings living at home. His oldest sister had married 5 years earlier.

Daniel, at 22, would have been quite valuable as a hand in the vineyards where his “stupid eyes,” probably meaning crossed eyes or eyes that don’t look the same direction at the same time wouldn’t have prevented him from working with the vines. Daniel was unable to learn to read. Jerg’s father was in his mid-50s by then, and probably couldn’t work as hard as he used to. He was likely very grateful for both Jerg and Daniel.

Anna Maria who at age 20 was being courted by suitors, or at least one suitor, would marry later that year.

Johann Jakob at 18 and Philipp at 17 would have worked shoulder by shoulder with their father and their brothers, Jerg and Daniel, in the vineyards. All 4 boys spent their life as vinedressers and vintners. Neither of these younger brothers would marry until 1716 and 1717, although Daniel married in 1702.

Daniel, according to Martin Goll, spent most of his life with his parents too, except for a year that he spent working on field walls in Bittenfeld, 10 miles up the road.

It’s this note about Daniel that might, indeed, shed light upon why his brother, Jerg, was breaking stones, if not due to serving in the military. Field walls. While the fields today above Beutelsbach don’t appear to have walls, some fields did and do have walls. In some locations, hillsides had to be reinforced and on others, vines grew up walls.

We won’t ever know what Jerg was doing when he injured his back so severely, or why those stones fell on him, but we do know that he managed to work throughout his life in spite of his disability, dying on April 7, 1758 in Beutelsbach, beneath his much-loved vineyards, as an 84 year-old man.

He joined both his first and second wife, along with his parents and all but one of his siblings, Daniel, in the cemetery – although Daniel followed just 7 months later. Six of his own children awaited him there as well. Jerg only outlived two of his children and his third wife.

Life was harsh, hard and often devastating. Very hard. While our current pandemic is a once-in-a-hundred-years event – the plague festered, ebbed and emerged continuously in Europe. Losing children today to death is the exception rather than the rule, while for them, losing half their children to death before adulthood was “normal.” Death, warfare, and often hunger was their nearly constant companion.

Yet, somehow, Jerg mustered his strength and courage to survive all of those challenges.

It makes me feel good to know that my ancestor overcame a chronic back issue too, one severe enough to be recorded for posterity, becoming part of his legacy. Jerg gives me hope and inspiration to persevere. If Jerg can do this, before the days of physical therapy, hot baths, ice packs, and Tylenol while laboring long hours in the vineyard – so can I.



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New Discoveries Shed Light on Out of Africa Theory, and Beyond

For many years, the accepted out-of-Africa Y DNA tree branches and calibration, meaning when that exit occurred, have focused on the exit of a single African lineage, CT-M168 which then, after leaving Africa, was believed to have split into three distinct branches:

  • C-M130 – exclusively non-African
  • DE-M145
  • FT-M89 – exclusively non-African (became F-M89)

Not long after, DE split into:

  • D-M174 – exclusively non-African
  • E-M96 – largely African

Obviously, if CT-M168 exited Africa and then branched into the other branches after its exit, either some branches had to have migrated back to Africa, or, there was something we didn’t know.

Turns out, there were multiple “somethings” we didn’t know.

D Divides – Thanks to Men in Nigeria

In August 2019, the paper A Rare Deep-Rooting D0 African Y-Chromosomal Haplogroup and Its Implications for the Expansion of Modern Humans Out of Africa was authored by Haber et al.

I wrote about the haplogroup D split in the article Exciting New Y DNA Haplogroup D Discoveries. 

Haber et al Paper

Abstract from the Haber paper:

Present-day humans outside Africa descend mainly from a single expansion out ∼50,000-70,000 years ago, but many details of this expansion remain unclear, including the history of the male-specific Y chromosome at this time. Here, we reinvestigate a rare deep-rooting African Y-chromosomal lineage by sequencing the whole genomes of three Nigerian men described in 2003 as carrying haplogroup DE* Y chromosomes, and analyzing them in the context of a calibrated worldwide Y-chromosomal phylogeny. We confirm that these three chromosomes do represent a deep-rooting DE lineage, branching close to the DE bifurcation, but place them on the D branch as an outgroup to all other known D chromosomes, and designate the new lineage D0. We consider three models for the expansion of Y lineages out of Africa ∼50,000-100,000 years ago, incorporating migration back to Africa where necessary to explain present-day Y-lineage distributions. Considering both the Y-chromosomal phylogenetic structure incorporating the D0 lineage, and published evidence for modern humans outside Africa, the most favored model involves an origin of the DE lineage within Africa with D0 and E remaining there, and migration out of the three lineages (C, D, and FT) that now form the vast majority of non-African Y chromosomes. The exit took place 50,300-81,000 years ago (latest date for FT lineage expansion outside Africa – earliest date for the D/D0 lineage split inside Africa), and most likely 50,300-59,400 years ago (considering Neanderthal admixture). This work resolves a long-running debate about Y-chromosomal out-of-Africa/back-to-Africa migrations, and provides insights into the out-of-Africa expansion more generally.

In 2003, five Nigerian men were sequenced yielding haplogroup DE, but the sequencing technology since that time has improved dramatically. In 2019, those early samples were resequenced by Haber and analyzed in combination with information not available in 2003.

Resequencing yielded a new ancient clade, branching from the DE lineage close to the divergence of the D and E split. The lineage formed by the Nigerian sample was named D0 (D zero) by the authors to avoid needing to rename the downstream branches. It should be noted that the authors used the older letter-number-letter naming method coined as “nomenclature by lineage” from the first YCC paper, rather than the SNP naming method called “Nomenclature by mutation,” aks shorthand – hence their concern about renaming branches. Having said that, typically the base branch names are retained for reference, regardless, and D0 is clearly a base haplogroup.

The Nigerian samples were narrowed from 5 to 3 quality samples. Those three samples had been collected from unrelated men in different villages from different cultures who spoke different languages. Their Y DNA estimated date of convergence, meaning their most recent common ancestor (MRCA,) is about 2500 years ago.

The results of full genome sequencing are far more robust today and the theories about the exit of mankind from Africa are informed by Neanderthal genomic information. All people worldwide have about 2% Neanderthal genome, but African peoples do not – other than the North African region where back-migration has occurred.

This split in the tree increases the early lineages from 4 to 5 with DE now including the following three branches:

  • D0 – exclusively African (became D2-FT75)
  • E – mainly African
  • D – exclusively non-African (became D1-M174)

Out of Africa Theories

The three out of Africa theories proposed by Haber are illustrated below with Figure 2 from their paper. Please note that dates are estimates and different calculation methodologies produce different date ranges.

click to enlarge

Haber et al put forth the above three theories in their paper.

You’ll note that:

  • Option B shows haplogroup CT exiting Africa as was originally believed, but with D0 and E back-migrating, and E-M35 eventually leaving again, with other E haplogroups remaining.
  • Option C shows CT splitting in Africa with C, DE and FT exiting Africa about the same time, with D0 and E back migrating and E-M35 leaving again.
  • Option D shows CT and DE both splitting in Africa, with only C, D and FT exiting out of Africa initially, together, in one single event, with E-M35 following later.

Option D, of the above options, is the most parsimonious model, meaning the fewest amount of complex items needs to occur and is, therefore, most likely to have actually happened. Option D does not include or require any back-migration to occur and accommodates all of the haplogroups found exclusively in Africa along with those found only outside of Africa.

Dr. Miguel Vilar, anthropologist and former Lead Scientist for National Geographic’s Genographic Project provides the following comment about Option D and introduces Option E.

  • Option E – Haplogroup CT splits into two branches CF and DE within Africa, then haplogroups D and E split followed by CF and D leaving Africa. However, this requires C and F to split after D and E have already split, which is not the current calculated sequence of events. This sequence would constitute a new Option E scenario, where haplogroups CF and D (or pre-D1) leave Africa, with E following later.


It turns out that the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome appears to be the tie-breaker between scenarios B, C, and D.

All non-Africans carry about 2% Neanderthal in their genomes, worldwide. This means that the Neanderthal had to have interbred with the migrants who left Africa before they dispersed widely. They carried that Neanderthal DNA with them as they dispersed throughout the world, indicating that the entire population that existed at that time, shortly after the exit from Africa, and survived, was intermixed between the two populations.

African peoples do not carry Neanderthal admixture. Therefore, had there been back-migration of haplogroups D0 and E, African peoples would also carry some Neanderthal, and they do not which effectively removes the options of B and C.

To date, scenario D, which also includes other archaeological evidence, is the best fit between the three Haber models, plus Dr. Vilar’s Option E. The Haber paper is short and a good read.

Y Haplotree Updates

FamilyTreeDNA included the changes to haplogroup D, incorporating their own findings.

Michael Sager, the phylogeneticist at Family Tree DNA who is responsible for the Y DNA tree gave a great presentation in early 2020 at Genetic Genealogy Ireland, which you can view here.

The latest tree at Family Tree DNA looks like this, with haplogroup D split into Asian and African lineages.

New Haplogroup F Lineages

So where did the haplogroup F lineage go after having left Africa? New discoveries at FamilyTreeDNA provide some clues.

Before the new haplogroup F branches were added, the haplogroup F tree looked like this. There were known basal F lineages, but FamilyTreeDNA did not have any Big Y testers that belonged to those branches of haplogroup F and were not at that time making use of NGS results from academic studies to define tree branches.

Since then, among the thousands of new Big Y test results, a few haplogroup F lineages have been identified.

click to enlarge

The view of the Y DNA tree at FamilyTreeDNA shows the locations of the various test results. Please note that people in the F-M89 haplogroup may simply have not tested beyond that level today, and would benefit from the Big Y test.

The Y tree now includes the new branch F-F15527 (F1) with four immediate subclades with samples from Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the southern border of China, as shown on this map.

What Does This Mean???

Goran Runfeldt, the head of Research and Development at Family Tree DNA says:

Finding F1 exclusively in Southeast Asia is significant because it represents the first split of haplogroup F.

Additionally, it gives some clues about where haplogroup F was before it split between F1 and GHIJK, which represents all the haplogroups F through T.

It is also significant that they all belong to different branches, four immediate subclades of F1, dated to circa 48,000 years ago. This shows a rapid expansion where several lineages quickly diverged then and survived for tens of thousands of years until present day. It is very likely that we will discover other ancient lineages in this part of the tree as more people from this part of the world take a high coverage Y-DNA test.

Michael Sager adds:

We have many distinct lineages close to the root of F (F1a, F1b, F1c, F1d, G, H, IJK.) All of these (and more) arose within a couple thousand years. All of these descendants in conjunction provide excellent support for the theory that F was long out of Africa. We did not have that clear support for haplogroup D as we had a ~20ky bottleneck to account for as well as Ds closest relative, E, being in Africa.

I asked Dr. Vilar for his opinion about the expansion of haplogroup F.

The discovery of new F1 lineages in Southeast Asia suggests that there was both a rapid and a broad expansion of paternal lineages across Eurasia some 55,000 years ago. Rapid because we see F lineages in China and Southeast Asia shortly after modern humans leave Africa some 60,000 years ago.

The pattern in haplogroup F is similar to that of its “cousin lineages” in haplogroup C, which likely moved through South Asia to Southeast Asia and even Australia shortly after its exodus from Africa.

Unlike F, haplogroup C is also found in Central Asia and the Americas, so the two paths may not have been exactly the same.

However, the range of F was also broad, since it gave rise to an older son (GHIJK) years earlier, and much further west. GHIJK likely arose in western Asia, where descendants G, H, and IJ were all born in the following millennia.


Thank you to the following individuals for their review of and input to this article:



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

Thank you so much.

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Great Holiday Ideas for Genetic Genealogists

Each year I look for gift ideas for genealogists, and in particular those working with genetic genealogy. I’m publishing one article a week during the month of December and the great news is that you can shop right from home. No need to go anyplace.

I’m only featuring products that I use because there is so much out there today that’s downright scammy. You’re safe with these.

You’ll notice I’m including small businesses, many of whom depend heavily on genealogy conferences. Obviously, conferences aren’t in-person this year and I’m trying to support those folks and do my part to keep them in business until we can all meet again and greet each other with big hugs. How I long for that day!

These items are great gifts to give, to send to someone as a hint for yourself, or to even buy for yourself. Hey, it’s been a tough year. You’re deserving. I’m buying a t-shirt from BlingGenealogy and upgrading some DNA tests.

Some of these products are affiliate links and others are not. If there is an affiliate linked item, I always appreciate the click-through. I receive a small commission and it doesn’t cost you any more. It’s also how I keep this blog free for everyone.

This week, I’m writing about things from vendors that need to be shipped while there’s still time; DNA kits, of course, and goodies from BlingGenealogy!

DNA Test Sales

DNA kits are the first item because, without DNA tests, none of the rest of genetic genealogy is possible.

I would encourage you to think about which close relatives in your family have not yet tested. The closer, the better, including any upstream relative or their children if they aren’t available for testing. For example, if your uncle or great-uncle is deceased, test as many of his children as possible.

Testing your children won’t help your genealogy, and neither will your siblings if BOTH of your parents have tested. Otherwise, test your siblings too. They inherited DNA from your parents that you didn’t which is every bit as important to your genealogy as your own DNA.

Prices are at a seasonal low right now. If you and your closest relatives are not in every database, there’s no better time.


    1. Family Finder autosomal test for $59, click here
    2. Y DNA (direct paternal, males only) begins at $99, click here
    3. Mitochondrial full sequence (direct maternal, both sexes) is on sale for $139, click here

You can also purchase upgrades for kits that have already taken one type of test by clicking here to sign on and then viewing the “Add Ons and Upgrades” link at the top of your page.

One thing I noticed this week is that lots of people have taken the Family Finder autosomal test, but not the Y DNA or mitochondrial DNA tests. I was searching for a specific surname line and very few of the men who match in Family Finder had taken a Y DNA test. Please consider those tests as Add Ons. They will help you connect with family members and jump-start your genealogy.

The flip side is true too – if you’ve taken the Y DNA or mitochondrial, but not the Family Finder test. please do!

Everything’s on sale as shown in the chart below.

MyHeritage, Ancestry and 23andMe

Other vendors’ DNA kits are on sale too:

Bling Genealogy

Jeannette, known affectionately as the Genealogy Bling Lady creates handmade genealogy items. Yes, they really are hand made by her and her mother.

They are amazing too – both the ladies and their creations.

I always look forward to visiting the BlingGenealogy booth. I’ve purchased jewelry, t-shirts, denim shirts with DNA double helixes and haplogroups, double helix zipper pulls, facemasks, and other goodies.

If you look across the top tab on the BlingGenealogy website, you’ll notice categories for Clothing, Masks, DNA, American history, Jewelry, and more.

This year to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower landing and my two Mayflower ancestors, I’m going to purchase a Mayflower rhinestone bling t-shirt.

Jeannette will add your Mayflower ancestor’s name if you include the “Mayflower Name Listing” item in your shopping cart. Take a look, here or at her main site, here.

You don’t need to have a Mayflower descendant to love this shirt – if your ancestors sailed on any ship, it honors their passage and I know Jeannette will work with you to replace the word Mayflower with another ship name, a surname or just a few waves.

Oh, and look, there’s a limited edition Mayflower Broach too.

Hmmm, I’ve been really, really good this year. 😉

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DNA Tidbit #5: What’s Your Goal?

You probably see this all the time on social media:

“I just got my DNA results. Now what?”

No further information is given.

The answer is, “What is your goal?”

Why did they test and what are they hoping to learn?

DNA Tidbit Challenge: Define goals for answering genealogy questions, allowing you to focus your efforts.

Your DNA testing goal depends on a number of factors including:

  • What test you took, meaning Y DNA, mitochondrial or autosomal.
  • Where you tested and the tools they offer.
  • What you’re hoping to achieve. In other words, why did you test in the first place?

For a short article about the difference between Y, mitochondrial, and autosomal DNA, please click here.

For more seasoned genealogists, we may have taken all the tests and answered many questions already, but still, our research needs to be guided by goals.

I regularly check my matches. I still think I may have had a half-sibling that is yet to be located. After I confirm that no, I don’t have any new close matches, I then look at the rest, making notes where appropriate.

Recently, late one night, I thought to myself, “why am I doing this?” Endlessly scrolling through new matches and randomly seeing if I can figure out where they fit or which ancestor we share.

But why?

Originally, I had two broad goals.

  • I wanted to find Y line males in each line and other males from the same supposed line to confirm that indeed the ancestral line is what the paper trail had identified.
  • To confirm that I am indeed descended from the ancestral lines I think I am, meaning no NPEs. As a genealogist, the only thing I’d hate worse than discovering that I’ve been researching the wrong line for all these years is to keep doing so.

Given that I’ve confirmed my connection to ancestors on most lines back several generations now, what are my goals?

Broad and Deep

I’ve realized over the years that goals are both broad and deep.

Broad goals are as I described above, in essence, spanning the entire tree.

My broad goals have changed a bit over time. I’ve located and tested descendants of many Y lines, but I’m still working on a few. I’ve confirmed most of my lineage back several generations by matching the DNA from other children of the same ancestor and using tools like triangulation and DNAPainter to confirm the segment is actually from the ancestral couple I think it is.

I’ve added the goal of breaking down brick walls.

This means that I need to look deep instead of broad.

Deep means that I need to focus on and formulate a plan for each line.

Looking Deep

I’ve identified three specific deep goals and put together a plan with action steps to achieve those goals.

  • Deep Goal #1 – Collecting and Using Y and Mitochondrial DNA

I like to “collect” the Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA results/haplogroups of my ancestors for different reasons. First, I’ve discovered surprises in where their DNA originated. For both Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA, you can identify their continent of origin as well as confirm ancestors or break down brick walls for that one specific line through matches and other tools at Family Tree DNA.

Looking at my tree, my closest ancestor whose Y DNA or mtDNA I don’t have is my great-grandmother, Evaline Miller (1857-1939) who had 4 daughters who all had daughters. You wouldn’t think it would be this difficult to find someone who descends to current through all daughters.

How do I go about achieving this goal? What are some alternatives?

  • Track and ask family members, if possible.
  • Find descendants using MyHeritage, Ancestry and Geneanet (especially in Europe) trees. Bonus – they may also have photos or information that I don’t, especially since this isn’t a distant ancestor.

click to enlarge

Ancestry’s ThruLines shows your matches by ancestor, so long as the connection can be made through trees. Unfortunately, in this case, no one descends correctly for mitochondrial DNA, meaning through all females to the current generation which can be male. BUT, they might have an aunt or uncle who does, so it’s certainly worth making a contact attempt.

  • I can also use WikiTree to see if someone has already tested in her line. Unfortunately, no.

However, I don’t know the profile manager so maybe I should click and see how we might be related. You never know and the answer is no if you don’t ask😊

Deep Goal #2 – Confirming a Specific Ancestor

I want to confirm that a specific ancestor is my ancestor, or as close as I can get.

What do I mean by that?

In the first couple of close generations, using autosomal DNA, we can confirm ancestral lines and parentage. We can confirm our parents and our grandparents, but further back in that, we have to use a combination of our tree and other tools to confirm our paper genealogy.

For example, as we move further back in time, we can’t confirm that one particular son was the father as opposed to his brother. In closer generations, autosomal DNA might help, but not beyond the first couple of generations. Second cousins always match autosomally, but beyond that, not so much.

Using Y DNA, if we can find a suitable candidate, I can confirm that my Estes ancestor actually does descend through the Estes line indicated by my paper trail.

I need to find someone in my line either to test or who has already tested, of course.

click to enlarge

If they do test and share their match information with me, and others from that same line have tested, I can see their earliest known ancestors on their Y DNA match page.

If someone from that line has already tested and has joined a surname project, you can see their results on the public project page if they have authorized public project display.

click to enlarge

This is also one way of determining whether or not your line has already tested, especially if you have no Y DNA matches to the expected surname and ancestor. If others have tested from that ancestor, and you don’t match them, there’s a mystery to be unraveled.

To see if projects exist for your surnames, you can click here and scroll down to the search box, below.

Please note that if someone else in your family takes the Y DNA test, that doesn’t guarantee that you descend from that ancestor too unless that person is a reasonably close relative and you match them autosomally in the expected way.

Confirmation of a specific ancestor requires two things without Y DNA testing:

  • Sharing autosomal matches, and preferably triangulated segments, with others who descend from that ancestor (or ancestral couple) through another child.
  • Eliminating other common ancestors.

Of course, Ancestry’s ThruLines are useful for this purpose as are MyHeritage’s Theories of Family Relativity, but that only works if people have linked their DNA results to a tree.

My favorite tool for ancestor confirmation is DNAPainter where you can paint your segments from FamilyTreeDNA, 23andMe, MyHeritage and GEDmatch, either individually or in bulk. You can’t use Ancestry DNA information for this purpose, but you can transfer your Ancestry DNA file to those other vendors (except 23andMe) for free, and search for matches without retesting. (Step-by-step transfer instructions are found here.)

Here’s an example of a group of my matches from various companies painted on one of my chromosomes at DNAPainter. You can read all about how to use DNAPainter, here.

I identify every match that I can and paint those segments to that ancestor. Ancestors are identified by color that I’ve assigned.

In this case, I have identified several people who descend from ancestors through my paternal grandmother’s side going back four generations. We have a total of 12 descendants of the couple Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann (burgundy), even though initially I can only identify some people back to either my grandparents (mustard color) or my grandmother’s parents (grey) or her grandparents (blue). The fact that several people descend from Henry and Nancy, through multiple children, confirms this segment back to that couple. Of course, we don’t know which person of that couple until we find people matching from upstream ancestors.

What about that purple person? I don’t know how they match to me – meaning through which ancestor based on genealogy. However, I know for sure at least part of that matching segment, the burgundy portion, is through Henry Bolton and Nancy Mann, or their ancestors.

Deep Goal #3 – Breaking Down a Brick Wall

Of course, the nature of your brick wall may vary, but I’ll use the example of not being able to find the parents of an ancestral couple.

In the above example, I mentioned that each segment goes back to a couple. Clearly, in the next generation, that segment either comes from either the father or mother, or parts from both perhaps. In this case, that oldest burgundy segment originated with either Henry Bolton or Nancy Mann.

In other words, in the next generation upstream, that segment can be assigned to another couple.

Even if we don’t know who that couple is, it’s still their DNA and other people may have inherited that very same segment.

What we need to know is if the people who share that segment with us and each other also have people in their trees in common with each other that we don’t have in our trees.

Does that make sense? I’m looking for commonality between other testers in their trees that might allow me to connect back another generation.

That common couple in their trees may be the key to unlocking the next generation.

Caveat – please note that people they have in common that we don’t may also be wives of their ancestors downstream of our common ancestor. Just keep that in mind.

Let’s shift away from that Bolton example and look at another way to identify clusters of people and common ancestors.

In order to identify clusters of people who match me and each other, I utilize Genetic Affairs autocluster, or the AutoCluster features incorporated into MyHeritage or the Tier 1 “Clusters” option at GEDmatch.

Based on the ancestors of people in this red cluster that I CAN identify, I know it’s a Crumley cluster. The wife of my William Crumley (1767/8 – 1837/40) has never been identified. I looked at the trees of the people in this cluster that I don’t know and can’t identify a common ancestor, and I discovered at least two people have a Babb family in their tree.

Babb was a near neighbor to William Crumley’s family, but I’ve also noticed that Babb married into this line downstream another 3 generations in Iowa. These families migrated from Frederick County, VA to Greene County, TN and on, together – so I’ll need to be very careful. However, I can’t help but wonder if my William’s wife was a Babb.

I need to see if any of my other matches have Babb as a common name. Now, I can search for Babb at any of the testing vendors to see what, if anything, I can discover.

Genetic Affairs has a combined AutoCluster and AutoTree/AutoPedigree function that compares and combines the trees of cluster members for you, here.

Goals Summary

Now, it’s your turn.

  • What are your genealogy goals that DNA can assist with?
  • Are those goals broad or deep?
  • What kind of DNA test can answer or help answer those questions?
  • What tools and research techniques fit the quandary at hand?

I suggest that you look at each ancestor, and in particular each end-of-line ancestor thinking about where you can focus to obtain answers and reveal new ancestors.

Happy ancestor hunting!



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Thank you so much.

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Steffan Koch (born before 1595), Lutheran Pastor in Fussgoenheim – 52 Ancestors #316

Steffan Koch was probably named Johann Steffan Koch. Koch translates to “cook” in English, which I suspect may hold an invaluable clue as to the family history at the time surnames were first adopted in the region where his family lived in Germany.

Were it not for the Durkheim marriage document of his daughter, Margretha, we would know absolutely nothing about Steffan – not even his name.

My friend, Tom, translates:

On the same day (9 Sept 1650) Hans Georg Kirsch and Margretha, legitimate dau of M Steffan Koch, former pastor in Fussgonheim.

This record is absolutely fascinating for more than one reason.

  • First, this 1650 marriage does not take place in Fussgoenheim, but in Durkheim.
  • Second, the word “former” here could mean either of two things, or both. Former in this context often means deceased. However, Tom, a retired German genealogist is of the opinion that in this case, “former” probably means that he used to be the pastor in Fussgoenheim. Of course, it could mean both – that he was the Fussgoenheim pastor, and that’s he’s deceased.
  • Third, regardless of whether “former” means currently deceased or not, it clearly means former in the sense of “used to be,” because in 1650, the 30 Years’ War had just ended and no one had returned to Fussgoenheim. The question is, when was he the pastor?

Therefore, this marriage record provides us with extremely valuable information not available anyplace else.

We know Steffan was a minister and that the Koch family originally lived in Fussgoenheim before the Thirty Years’ War.

Von Immanuel Giel, CC BY 3.0,

While no buildings remain from this time, this early house in Fussgoenheim probably dates from the rebuilding that occurred in the late 1600s or early 1700s and is similar in nature to the homes in Fussgoenheim when Steffan was the pastor there.

Fussgoenheim’s Lack of Records

There are no records from Fussgoenheim during or before the Thirty Years’ War. The church and all homes were burned and destroyed – along with all of the fields. In that time, homes were clustered centrally in villages, with barns attached, and the fields stretched out lengthwise behind the houses.

This arrangement provided at least some protection for the families.

The History of Fussgoenheim book tells us that there was a “court box” of court records, along with the Weistum, a document detailing accepted village customs, family history, and land ownership from 1627/28 that did survive, but was subsequently destroyed by the devastation in the War of Palatinate Succession (1688-1697) when the village was again burned to the ground.

Hereditary rights in this part of Germany at this time were not based on the eldest son receiving everything, but distributed among the heirs, including lessee rights to the farming the church properties. Therefore, from time to time, a Weistum, or summary, was produced and recorded, along with the various responsibilities.

For example, there were two schools and two mayors, one in the upper and one in the lower village, but one court with representatives of each “half” attending. The church marked the division between the two halves. The village fell under the jurisdiction at that time of two noble families, not one. Since time immemorial, according to the Weistum, one of the tasks shared by the entire community was the maintenance of the bells and the clock – oh – and yes, free wine for everyone.

Fussgoenheim produced two history books, both in German, one published in 1993 and one in 2001. By scanning select pages and using both Google and DeepL translators, I was able to sift through information about this timeframe.

Martin Luther

Before looking specifically at religion in Fussgoenheim, it’s important to note that Martin Luther only nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle church door in Wittenberg in 1517, sewing the first seeds of the Protestant Reformation. The Holy Roman Empire frowned on his activities, to put it mildly, and in 1521, he was banned and exiled, which only served to strengthen his resolve. Upon being freed in 1522, he decided it was time to act forcefully. From then until the actual Reformation in 1534 and until his death in 1546, Luther continued to guide his followers away from the Catholic tenets, rituals, and traditions, although he did call his services “Lutheran masses.”

By the time of his death, the Lutheran faith was sweeping across not only Germany, but much of the rest of Europe – and along with it, sowing division among the people, as you might imagine, and raising the ire of the established Catholic church. Luther’s ideas and concepts represented radical change that were believed to be heresy by many and the true salvation by others.

Lutheranism Comes to Fussgoenheim

The Fussgoenheim history book tells us that the transition to the Lutheran faith from Catholicism happened in Fussgoenheim no earlier than 1553 when Count von Falkenstein decreed the Reformation in this region. In 1560, the Count of Leiningen, who ruled over Fussgoenheim directly, converted to Lutheranism. In 1567, a request was made for a Lutheran pastor for the Fussgoenheim church, which was denied. Clearly, by this time, the conversion had occurred and the residents had little choice in the matter given that they were serfs, peasants, living under noble rule.

Another clue as to the effective date of the Lutheran conversion is a stone with the date of 1563 in a wall that was demolished in 1832 in the Fussgoenheim parish house that is believed to represent the date of the first rectory.

We only know the name of one other minister before the Thirty Years’ War in Fussgoenheim – Elias Roschel. The only two gravestones remaining from before 1700 are the 1605 and 1606 stones of Roschel’s wife and son. Until 1732, when Jacob Tilman von Hallberg, a noble who established another Catholic church, there was only one Lutheran church in the village, with one pastor at a time. Fussgoenheim was small and didn’t need more than one church.

These two stones are embedded in the outer wall of the nave of the church in Fussgoenheim which was reconstructed sometime about 1726, based on documents where von Hallberg was complaining because the townspeople did not (or would not?) pay for the building of the Lutheran church. Extant Lutheran church records also began in 1726.

This information tells us several things.

  • First, the local pastors were not local men. A call was issued and a Lutheran minister, when approved, came from elsewhere to serve the local congregation. Googling did not reveal where Lutheran ministers were trained at that time, but given that Catholic priests had to train in special seminaries, I’d wager that Lutheran ministers did too. The Lutheran faith was different than Catholicism but still used the same foundation pattern. Martin Luther was heavily involved with the University of Wittenberg.
  • Second, this tells us that although Steffan Koch was the pastor in Fussgoenheim before the war, it’s unlikely that his family originated in Fussgoenheim. We find no Koch families in the church records after the war, although that’s not necessarily unexpected because many families did not return to their original location from 30 years prior.
  • Third, the stones from 1605 and 1606 tell us that Elias Roschel was probably the minister in 1605 and 1606, so Steffan Koch was likely the minister sometime between 1606 and when the village was abandoned. But when was that, exactly?

Palatinate Campaign

Steffan Koch was probably the minister sometime between 1605/1606 and 1620.

The 30 Year’s War started in 1618 with the Bohemian revolt. The Spanish Hapsburgs committed to eradicating Protestantism from the face of the earth, with Jesuit-educated Ferdinand famously saying, “I’d rather see my lands destroyed than tolerate heresy for a single day,” and he set about ruthlessly doing exactly that.

By Barjimoa – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Not only was Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands profitable to the Holy Roman Empire, it was also a hotbed of Protestants – and the “Spanish Road” ran directly through the Palatinate. France, also strongly Catholic, sided with Spain and Italy, and the battle lines were drawn. Unfortunately, France also bordered the Palatinate.

Fussgoenheim, with fertile farmland and desirable vineyards, was nestled between the Rhine River and the Palatinate Forest, southwest of Mannheim, within about 40 miles of the French border.

By 1620, the Palatinate Campaign had begun, and the Pfalz was no longer simply “collateral damage,” but targeted directly.

In August 1620, 25,000 soldiers left Brussels and invaded the lower Palatinate. Disease followed the soldiers as well, infecting the troops as well as the residents.

For two years, battles raged incessantly until the villages were depopulated and the final cities, one by one, fell. In September of 1622, the Heidelberg fortress fell, followed by Mannheim on November 2nd and Frankental, without a fight, on November 29th.

Only two cities, Durkheim and Speyer still held. Both of those, on the other hand, were nearly completely destroyed in 1689 during the Nine Years’ War.

In 1626, all Protestant clergy had to leave the country on pain of death. Fortunately for the Germans, the Swedish King came to their aid and took back much of the land and cities previously lost, including Frankenthal. Between 1630-1634, many of the Protestant pastors returned to Germany, but shortly thereafter, France would attack directly through the Palatinate. Fussgoenheim was always “on the way” to everyplace it seemed, because the roads followed the river.

I can’t help but wonder where Steffan Koch and his family were sheltered during this time. What I wouldn’t give for his journal. As refugees, it’s unlikely they had more than literally the clothes on their back. While they may have found temporary refuge in cities, they would not have been residents, and therefore second-class citizens, serfs, with virtually no rights. Non-residents would have been the last to receive any type of assistance, including food.

While these military campaigns killed the residents and caused the remainder to flee by the fall of 1622, the war itself was far from over and would continue until a truce was finally called in 1648.

By then, the human and economic toll was devastating. The war was no longer really about religion, but about control and who would rule Europe.

Those who hadn’t starved or died had abandoned the farms, villages and cities, decades earlier. In some regions, the loss was 90% of the population, such as in Oberamt Zweibrucken and 87% in Kaiserslautern. In 1635 alone, 50% of the inhabitants of Speyer died of hunger and plague and the rest were impoverished and starving. How could they have even buried that many people? That year in Speyer was bracketed by years of plague and famine.

A peasant begs for mercy in front of his burning farm; by the 1630s, being caught in the open by soldiers from either side was tantamount to a death sentence

Constant troops, looting, combat operations, and decimation of both the population and farms meant that there wasn’t food for anyone – and the soldiers on both sides, often mercenaries, took what little could be found.

In 1649, the Deidesheim tax role noted that in many taxable places, including both Fussgoenheim and Ruchheim, “no living soul can be found anymore.”

The parish descriptions of the 19th-century lament the loss of tradition:

Now follows the time of the third Big Years War, whose darkness, as far as Fussgoenheim is concerned, has not been illuminated by anything shines as through the complete darkness that lies above it. For there are no after-judges are available, neither from priests nor others.

Twenty years after the end of the war, by about 1670, still, only 30 people lived in the village of Fussgoenheim.

By 1670, we know that Jerg Kirsch and his wife, Margretha Koch were two of those people. If children were counted among the 30, then their children would have accounted for another 6 or 7, if not more. We know of a total of 7 sons and no daughters, so it’s likely that they had children we are unaware of.

We also know that Jerg was co-lessee of the Jostens estate, so there was at least one other family involved who might well account for another 10 people. At that time, the former monasteries and religious orders owned much of the land in the Palatinate, and in Fussgoenheim.

The archivist at neighboring Schaurenheim was exactly right when he said that only a handful of families returned to any of these villages during this time after the war, and then very, very slowly. It’s likely that the villages were rebuilt by the offspring of those few families intermarrying.

However, the villages would again be abandoned in 1684 due to the Nine Years’ War, also known as the War of Palatinate Succession, when the rest of the Fussgoenheim records were destroyed. Still, some families returned, yet again.

Those hereditary rights to farm the land were likely powerful draw cards – and although rebuilding represented untold hours of labor – it was still better than nothing accompanied by no hope for better.

Questions – More Questions

I have so many questions.

  • Where was Steffan Koch from, before Fussgoenheim?
  • When did he serve the Fussgoenheim congregation?
  • When did he and his family leave Fussgoenheim?
  • Did they go directly to Durkheim, now Bad Durkheim, or did they attempt to shelter in other locations first?
  • Based on the description of Steffan as the former pastor in Fussgoenheim, it’s possible that he married a local gal.
  • Was Steffan deceased in 1650?
  • Did Steffan and his family have to leave the country in 1624, and if so, where did they go? Was Margretha born there?
  • Why did they come back?
  • Why was Steffan not involved as a pastor in the church in Durkheim?
  • What did Steffan do to support his family during that time, assuming he did not die in Fussgoenheim?
  • Did either Steffan or his wife survive the war? What about their children?

Steffan might have known Elias Roschel. In fact, if the wife and son died after Elias himself, Steffan might have been the minister to perform those funerals. If Elias died after this wife and son, Steffan could have been the minister to bury him.

Based on the dates we do have, we can estimate Steffan’s age, very roughly.

He was a pastor in Fussgoenheim, which tells us that he was an adult before 1618.

If his daughter was born between 1620 and 1630, based on her marriage date of 1650, it’s very likely that Steffan indeed did survive to leave Fussgoenheim and she was born in Durkheim or wherever they were living between 1618 and 1630.

Assuming Steffan’s daughter was born about 1630, and his wife was his same age, they could have been newly married, or married for 25 years when Margretha was born. We know Steffan was an adult by 1618, and let’s assume he would not be a pastor until he was at least 25 years old. This brackets his birth year between 1585 and 1593.

If Steffan lived to see his daughter marry, he would have been between 57 and 65 years of age.

Not elderly by today’s standards, but between the war, starvation, plague, and what would be considered normal health issues – it’s unlikely that Margretha’s parents were in the church with her on September 9, 1650. They were probably buried just outside, in the churchyard.

Steffan’s Religion

Steffan Koch was a man of the cloth. A believer in a new, or relatively new, religion, Protestantism, born of the desire to reform Catholicism. He probably knew people who had personally known Martin Luther.

Steffan was probably inspired with a convert’s fire – and he literally risked his life and those of every family member to defend those beliefs.

This wasn’t just a religion, but a movement questioning papal authority, errors, abuses, and discrepancies in the Catholic Church, such as the selling of indulgences.

Indulgences were sold in order to raise money and in order to reduce the amount of punishment one had to undergo for a sin.


Steffan would have been either first or second-generation Protestant. If he was born between 1585 and 1593, his father would have been born before 1565/1573, about the time that various regions in the Palatinate were converting.

Steffan’s grandparents would have been born Catholic and were probably practicing Catholics, so Steffan might well have been viewed as quite the rabble-rouser and trouble-maker, not just by the authorities, but by his family as well.

Clearly, Steffan’s beliefs were steadfast and unmovable, and he was completely committed. The church where he was assigned to serve would become his family away from home, even if his family, or at least some members, were supportive. Unquestionably, Steffan was on the leading edge of a new movement and any change that radical is bound to make many people uncomfortable for a variety of reasons.

Steffan would have known first-hand of the trials and tribulations being suffered by converts. He would have heard from other ministers when he was studying and from his family as well if they were the first generation to convert. He would have likely been warned and was prepared to suffer because anyone who has ever been on the leading edge of anything that’s disruptive to religious beliefs knows full well they’re on the bleeding edge.

Yet, Steffan clearly could not have understood or even imagined the magnitude of the suffering to come – although he did have the example of Christ’s life, especially at the end. Would that be enough to sustain him? We don’t know.

Steffan may have felt that the trials and tribulations he, his wife, and family had to undergo and suffer through were divinely ordained.

Having said that, I have to wonder if his wife and children survived the war. What about his parents, siblings and their children?

If they did not die a natural death, how did Steffan frame his understanding of the “purpose” of their deaths? How did he correlate a loving God with the fact that millions of people were dying? Did he not wonder why an all-powerful God did not stop the invading armies – either physically like the Red Sea parting, or by causing them to have a change of heart?

Did Steffan not wonder how a loving and caring God could allow his followers and believers to starve – including innocent children – perhaps his own?

How did Steffan reconcile this in his mind, with his family and parishioners who would have looked to him for guidance as a man of the cloth – even if he wasn’t the active pastor in Durkheim?

How did the heartache and utter devastation affect his faith? Did his faith sustain him in those dark days, or did he question his decisions of the past that led to the horrific suffering of the time in which he lived?

For. Thirty. Long. Years.

11,000 days of Hell on Earth.

Was his faith somehow reinforced or shaken? After all, the Catholics weren’t suffering.

What did he say if he was preaching funerals for those who starved to death?

Was Steffan angry with God?

The Comet

According to the article, Jeremiah in the Village: Prophecy, Preaching, Pamphlets, and Penance in the Thirty Year’s War, in 1618, at the height of the Lutheran apocalyptic fervor, a great comet blazed across the European sky, visible from September 6-25, sparking more than 100 pamphlets warning of God’s anger and prophesying doom. Pastors preached from the Old Testament in the spirit of the prophet, Jeremiah, in lengthy mournful lamentations that would come to be known as jeremiads.

As the war unfolded, ministers used the misery and suffering to call for more pious action. Seeing themselves as the chastened Israelites, ministers admonished that only increased religious action and adherence could save their countrymen. Jeremiah stated that God punished those who deviated from his commandments. Therefore, the Germans suffering such horrible devastation were undergoing punishment for their sinfulness and lack of repentance. God even sent a comet to warn them, yet they still had not adequately repented.

I shudder to think how the father or mother felt who watched their home burn, their children die and even their spouse perish. The guilt must have been as devastating as the war itself – to be blamed for something so incredibly beyond your control or even influence.

Conrad Dietrick, a Lutheran minister, on New Year’s Day 1619 published a pamphlet of his sermon that was very straightforward:

  • What comets are
  • What they mean
  • What we should do as a response to the meaning

Then, he answered his own questions:

  • God sent the comet as a warning because sin abounded in Germany, although that theme had been ever-present since the Turkish threat in the 1580s.
  • Mend your ways.
  • Stop disregarding God’s commandments and live a moderate and pious life.
  • God might not have to follow through on his threat to destroy his people if they heeded the celestial warning and subsequent warfare and live within the bounds of Lutheran discipline.

One pamphlet called out the deadly sins of the parishioners responsible for the devastation, such as the following, therefore making Germany responsible and subject to punishment:

  • Excessive pride and display
  • Swearing
  • Fornication
  • Disobedience to authority

Oh, and by the way, good deeds alone aren’t enough to get you out of this pickle and earn God’s Grace, because your sins are very deep.

Preachers and pamphlets were the social media, television and radio of the day.

By the end of the war, in 1648, one pamphlet published regarding the Treaties of Westphalia opened with the comet’s prophesying appearance in 1618 and closed with the war ending, “by God’s Grace,” in 1648. In other words, the people were suffering and had suffered through their own choices and actions. No one was going to feel sorry for them. They deserved what God saw fit to do to them, and probably worse.

It’s interesting to note, that whether true or not, the idea that the comet had appeared for 30 days across the skies was connected to the fact that the war had lasted for 30 years. In other words, by that time, the comet wasn’t just a warning, it was simply accepted as having been an accurate prophecy of what was to come.

During the war, the ministers attempted to make the essence of the sermons reach home in their communities – tailoring the message as needed. As the war dragged on, they became discouraged that their parishioners, the “common men,” were apparently unable to either understand or fulfill their messages. Many pastors became increasingly desperate for the much-needed change within their congregation necessary to end the war and suffering, and their sermons became increasingly reproachful and filled with missionary zeal.

They continued to predict that war would devastate Germany, and they would continue to be correct. Preaching itself became a form of prophecy and the ongoing war and atrocities only confirmed the message.

Sermons of one minister included the following New Years’ Day messages:

  • 1623 – Amos 4:6-12 – On the 3 punishments of the land/dearth, war and devastation with which God now afflicts our dear Germany because of its sins and how we should properly view them.
  • 1624 – Haggai 1:6-7 – Laid out reasons why it has happened that in these times no happiness, blessing, and increase for timely nourishment can be found.
  • 1625 – How we should act when we hear of foreign war preparations, recruiting, and troop movements.
  • 1626 – Habakkuk 1:12 – Why the armies on the march are an instrument of God’s punishment.
  • 1627 – Ephesians 5 – How one may properly get along in the current troubled times of war.
  • 1628 – How Christian subjects should pray for their rulers in these troubled times.
  • 1629 – Jeremiah 47:6-7 – The Lord’s sword – that is the word of the Prophet Jeremiah wherein the only proper cause is laid out, why one sighs and calls in vain for peace and an end to the war.”
  • 1632 – Jeremiah 15:11 – Land ruin and war consolation.
  • 1636 – The year of the plague in Ulm, the minister stated that 15,000 people had died that year, including thousands of beggars and refugees from neighboring villages. About one third were deaths of citizens from Ulm. Some days as many as 170 died – going on to say that those figures of death and misery needed no more explanation other than that provided in Psalm 107:17-20.

17 Fools by reason of their transgression, and because of their iniquities are afflicted.

18 Their soul abhorreth all meat and they are brought to death’s door.

19 Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivereth them from their distress.

20 He sendeth his word and healeth them, and delivereth them from their graves.

  • 1637 – Jeremiah 14:19-20 – Hammer of Peace, wherein is reported, what the causes are that the Peace that we have longed for for so many years has not come at all or let itself be seen.
  • 1638 – Psalm 14 – Heartfelt Zionish New Year’s Sigh – This was the year that cannibalism was reported in Breisach during a siege.

One preacher said 8 times in a funeral oratory for a minor noblewoman, “O, that we have sinned so much.” The topic and images of both punishment and penance, along with exhortations, were common themes in the sermons of Lutheran pastors during the war. They repeatedly referred to and lamented, “Oh woe, oh woe, the great sinfulness.”

How did the residents feel who heard these sermons that clearly placed the blame for the war and their great suffering squarely on their own shoulders?

In 1630, the shoemaker, Hans Heberle, in Neenstetten wrote as a preface to his journal that he began with the 1618 comet:

Anno 1618 a great comet appeared in the form of a large and horrible rod of punishment, with which God mightily threatened us because of our sinful lives, which we deserved many times over and still deserve today…what it means – what also will come of it – that is something we may cry hot tears over, as we, alas, experience now and have experienced from 1620 up to 1630 and which can’t be described.

Depending on one’s perspective, two other dates for the “beginning” of the war are given in contemporaneous literature; 1617 which is the 100 year anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, a particularly galling event to Catholics, and 1619 when Ferdinand was elected Holy Roman Emperor.

It seems that the more pious believers suffered inwardly, feeling responsible for the devastation by their failings. The less pious certainly suffered, but not from the added layer of guilt.

Most people seemed to believe what they were being told and accept the horrible responsibility for what befell them. In the words of one man, “our sins are more than the stars in the heavens, more than the sand on the sea, more than the dust on the earth. Because we have sinned excessively, the punishment has overwhelmed us.”

The ministers and people of the Palatinate, along with the rest of Germany, tried their best to make sense, through the lens of religion, of a situation over which they had no control. Anything resembling normalcy was entirely absent. By the time the war had ended, not only were millions dead as a result, untold more had died not directly due to the war, but due to age or being displaced, having begun their lives in bucolic villages where they expected to live out their lives.

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

We don’t know if Steffan Koch lived to see the end of the war and his daughter’s marriage in 1650, but another pastor celebrated the end of the war in 1648 with one last passage from Jeremiah 33:47:

Thus says the Lord: In this place of which you say:

It is a waste without man or beast,” in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man or inhabitant or beast, there shall be heard again the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord: “give thanks to the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the Lord.

Indeed, two years later, Steffan Koch’s daughter would be the voice of the bride in the church in Durkheim.

The Church of St. Johannis in Durkheim

The church in Fussgoenheim was destroyed during the Thirty Years’ War, so we have no record of what that church looked like, or even who was buried in the churchyard. The books of baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and burials, written in Steffan’s own hand was destroyed.

We don’t know much about Steffan’s life after Fussgoenheim, aside from the fact that Durkheim is one of only two cities that stood, and that his daughter married into another Fussgoenheim family in 1650. Of course, we don’t know that Jerg Kirsch’s parents were actually from Fussgoenheim before the devastating war, or if the couple returned there because Jerg was able to obtain an order to become the co-lessee of the Josten’s estate in 1660.

What we do know is that from the time Steffan left Fussgoenheim, probably between 1620 and 1622, likely before the birth of his daughter, Margretha in about 1630, the church in Durkheim, for however long he lived, was his church home.

To the best of our knowledge, Steffan was never the pastor there, because he was not referenced as such in Margretha’s marriage record. Given that he certainly didn’t die until after Margretha was conceived, it’s likely that he spent at least some time in Durkheim, in the church there which does survive.

I would wager that Steffan helped the pastor there as he could – perhaps filling in when necessary. Durkheim suffered terribly from both plague and starvation during the war, so there would likely have been many funerals, some occurring hurriedly so that the body or bodies could be quickly buried.

So much suffering, so much need – so many who would welcome the comforting hand and prayers of a minister, even if Steffan wasn’t their official minister. He was still a man of God, having answered a higher calling. He would have known what to say to provide comfort for the grieving.

I can only extrapolate about how Steffan felt in Durkheim. It must have been some torturous combination of every-single-day terror, gratitude for surviving, at least so far, grief at the life they had to leave behind, grief over what their family, friends, and neighbors were suffering, probably grief over the deaths of his own family members, hunger, and overwhelming guilt if he indeed believed that God was punishing him for his lack of…well…pretty much everything. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to see your child starve and die if you believed their suffering was doled out by God because YOU weren’t pious enough.

On the other hand, Steffan may have somehow taken comfort in his religion. Given that his faith would have been strong enough to commit his life to convincing others that Lutheranism was indeed the way and the light, he probably believed that whatever happened was “God’s will” and that those who passed over were indeed sitting at the feet of God in Heaven – relieved from their earthly worries here.

Or, maybe some combination of all of that.

Since I don’t know what or how he felt but do know what the church looked like, I’d like to take a walk with Steffan and perhaps, to be able to glimpse at least this much through Steffan’s eyes.

Walking in Steffan’s Footsteps

The church of St. Johannis, or St. John, now known as the Castle Church was built in Durkheim sometime before 946, obviously as a Catholic church. Around 1300, the current church, minus the current spire, was built on the original foundation. Ironically, the church was built in part with indulgences for those believers who visited the church – one of the very things that caused Martin Luther to part ways with the Catholic Church.

In 1504 and 1508, burial crypts and a chapel were built on to the church and would have been present when Steffan walked those hallways.

Durkheim was not a small town. This illustration from 1450, 200 years before Margretha was married in the church there, shows that the houses were clustered closely together.

Limburg Abbey was destroyed in 1504, the remains resting high above Durkheim. You can take a stunning flight over by drone, here. While Steffan wouldn’t have had this bird’s-eye-view, he would have seen the ruined Abbey above the town – and you can see the town from the drone footage. Wow, just wow.

The Hardenburg castle stood sentry over Durkheim when Steffan trod these streets, although it lies in ruins today.

This 1630 drawing of the church with the Latin school across the yard doesn’t’ show the wooden crosses marking the graves in the churchyard. Steffan and others stood here all too often. I can’t help but wonder about mass graves during that time of inordinate death resulting from warfare, plague, and starvation.

By comparison, you can see the church today, with the churchyard now paved with brick or cobblestone. I can’t help but think of the generations of people whose ashes rest below. And yes, my mind does wander to bones and DNA.

This engraving, from 1650 shows the fortress and the church that Steffan attended, and where his daughter, Margretha, was married that very year. This scene would have been very familiar to the Koch family.

This drawing from 1787 shows the ruined abbey in the distance

Today, the church which sports a tall spire that was replaced in the 1800s nestles in the modern city of Bad Durkheim.

The ancient streets and a few old houses remain today, probably rebuilt after the devastating 1689 fire.

You can still walk up to the church on the old cobblestone streets, approaching from the rear, here. Steffan probably walked this pathway hundreds if not thousands of times. I have to wonder if the residents sought refuge inside the church from time to time as troops advanced.

Only the walls of the church remained after the church was burned in 1689, taking roughly 20 years to repair and rebuild. These walls stood when Steffan walked in the churchyard surrounding the church, now covered with bricks.

Von Immanuel Giel – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The original church was constructed at different times. Beautiful stonework with quarried stone corners on the rear of the Leininger burial chapel that was added in 1505. The door allowed the Count to exit the service without going through the church proper.

Von Immanuel Giel, CC BY 3.0,

The church is beautiful, even without the new spire.

Walking around the church, we can see the burial chapel, built in 1505 and already more than 100 years old when Steffan lived there.

I wonder if the vine harkens back to the time before the churchyard was bricked or paved with cobblestones. We can’t see the beautiful door on this side of the church very well.

Steffan walked through the larger double side doors on the other side of the church. The door in place at that time would have led to the churchyard and was probably the doorway through which coffins were carried after the funeral service on their final journey.

The size of this side door and stones shows just how massive this church is and gives us some idea of why it took 35 years or so, from about 1300 to 1335, an entire generation, to build.

Inside the burial chapel, we find this stone of Agnes von Leiningen-Hardenburg who died in 1586. Did Steffan perhaps seek solitude in the quietness of this chapel from time to time? As refugees, they probably lived in cramped and noisy quarters with other families.

In the same burial vault, the stone of the Count who built the chapel beside his consecration cross.

Inside the burial crypt.

Today, the tombstone of the Limburg abbot who died in 1531 has been moved outside, but when Steffan sat inside this church, this stone was there was well. I wonder how Steffan felt about this, given that the Abbott was clearly Catholic at that time, and the devastation Steffan was living through day-to-day was wrought by a war with Catholics and Catholicism.

Von Altera levatur – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Another stone moved outside shows the alliance coat of arms of the Lords of Weingarten and those of Sickingen.

Von Immanuel Giel, CC BY 3.0,

Steffan would have walked past, and perhaps stopped to tough this double epitaph carving of Count Emich XII. and Maria Elisabeth von Pfalz-Zweibrücken in the castle church, carved in 1612. She died in 1629, so it’s certainly possible that Steffan was present at her funeral.

Behind the figures is a relief of the Hardenburg Castle, home of the Leiningen family.

Von Immanuel Giel, CC BY 3.0,

Did Steffan absentmindedly run his fingers along these carved branches, leaves, and acorns, silently praying for strength?

A lovely, friendly gargoyle that Steffan saw and perhaps loved too. Did he tell his children or grandchildren stories about this mythical beast? Gargoyles are said to protect what they guard against evil or harmful spirits. If the gargoyle’s mouth was open, it was devouring a giant. This gargoyle looks kind of like it’s contentedly chewing its cud.

This south aisle, facing west, probably looked much the same, without the modern accouterments, of course. Did the thick walls deaden the city sounds, allowing deep reflection?

Perhaps the single most iconic item of the Lutheran faith representing inclusion into the flock, both earthly and Heavenly, is the baptismal font. This font survived from 1537 and if any of Steffan’s children were baptized in this church, this was the font in which that holy ritual occurred. Given that he was a minister, Steffan may have baptized his children himself.

I can close my eyes and witness that act of faith, love, and devotion.

Von Immanuel Giel – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0,

While the stained glass windows and cross are new, the nave is not. Steffan may have preached here and assuredly prayed in this sacred space; for safety, for deliverance, for himself, for his family, and for so many others. But more than anything, Steffan probably prayed to find a way to live better, more religiously, more piously, in order that God would not be angry with him.

Punishing anyone with warfare punished everyone with warfare. Steffan would have prayed to find a way to be a more convincing leader, not so much for himself, but for the other parishioners who suffered for 30 years, and more. If only, if only, he could successfully obtain God’s Divine assistance to convince them. If God would just grant him the words that would be convincing enough.

Not unlike how many of his descendants feel today, in the midst of another plague that could, in fact, be affected and slowed by convincing enough people to do so. A direct link from me to Steffan, across 400 years, almost exactly.

Given what Steffan went through, whether or not he survived the actual war and accompanying horrors, I’d expect that prayer is what defined his life – and probably his death. A lifetime of increasingly desperate prayer.



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Holiday Idea – Books at

This week’s holiday gift idea is books at isn’t just a bookstore, they are a small genealogy-focused publishing company. Translated, this means that without them, none of the books you find here would be available. Or, minimally, it would be much, much more difficult for genealogical authors to find a publisher meaning most of those books would never come to fruition. When purchasing books, please consider supporting this business that supports the industry we love.

Who doesn’t like to curl up by the fireplace this time of year with a hot drink and a book? My idea of a good book is something genealogy or history related. Maybe I should warn you – I’m a book junkie – attracted to bookshops (and maps shops and quilt shops) like a moth to a flame!

For the holidays, you can order books for others and for yourself too. Kind of like packing cookies – one for them, one for you😊

When we are researching our ancestors, often we overlook books that could really be useful.

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Let’s take a look at

They have all kinds of books available three ways:

  • Traditional printed books in their online store (2364 to be exact)
  • Ebooks (772)
  • An online subscription model that includes access to 740 ePub books for either $49.95 for 3 months or $99.95 for a year

Search and Filter

Personally, I seldom get past the first page without a bright shiny object catching my attention.

However, tear yourself away and look at the search section, at the right of the main page.

Filtering by region is generally state and country.

Subject filters are where I can easily disappear. There are so many options. Let’s say, for example, that I want to search for Native American topics.

There are 155 books about Native Americans. But wait, there are also 6 about Palatines and 16 about Pennsylvania Germans, both of which also pertain to my genealogy.

I think I need to make a list and convince Santa I’ve been good – or maybe just order them myself!

You can also filter by time period.

Ok, I’m curious – what kinds of books are in the Middle Ages category?

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Those look quite interesting. Do you know if your ancestor was one of the Magna Carta Barons? Or descended from Charlemagne?


Have a favorite author? Type in a surname and see if they have published something at Let’s try Elizabeth Shown Mills, someone just about every genealogist knows – and if you don’t, no time better than the present.

Good Gravy! Elizabeth has 16 items available. I had no idea.

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Her legendary foundation book, “Evidence Explained” is here, of course, but also several more including this gem about her FAN Principle – Friends and Neighbors.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve used the FAN Principle successfully. In a nutshell, you track your ancestors by accumulating evidence about their associates – friends and neighbors (FAN). You can order this Biographer’s Guide for yourself and let Elizabeth explain exactly how this works.


Last, on the Blog tab, you can enjoy lots of really useful free articles.

Check out now. What are you going to order, and how do you hope it will benefit your research?



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

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Products and Services

Genealogy Research