Free Webinar: 10 Ways to Find Your Native American Ancestor Using Y, Mitochondrial and Autosomal DNA

I recorded 10 Ways to Find Your Native American Ancestor Using Y, Mitochondrial and Autosomal DNA for Legacy Family Tree Webinars.

Webinars are free for the first week. After that, you’ll need a subscription.

If you subscribe to Legacy Family Tree, here, you’ll also receive the downloadable 24-page syllabus and you can watch any of the 1500+ webinars available at Legacy Family Tree Webinars anytime.

In 10 Ways to Find Your Native American Ancestor Using Y, Mitochondrial and Autosomal DNA, I covered the following features and how to use them for your genealogy:

  • Ethnicity – why it works and why it sometimes doesn’t
  • Ethnicity – how it works
  • Your Chromosomes – Mom and Dad
  • Ethnicity at AncestryDNA, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage DNA
  • Genetic Communities at AncestryDNA
  • Genetic Groups at MyHeritage DNA
  • Painted ethnicity segments at 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA
  • Painting ethnicity segments at DNAPainter – and why you want to
  • Shared ethnicity segments with your matches at AncestryDNA, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage DNA
  • Downloading matches and segment files
  • Techniques to pinpoint Native Ancestors in your tree
  • Y DNA, Native ancestors and haplogroups
  • Mitochondrial DNA, Native ancestors and haplogroups
  • Creating a plan to find your Native ancestor
  • Strategies for finding test candidates
  • Your Ancestor DNA Pedigree Chart
  • Success!!!

If you haven’t yet tested at or uploaded your DNA to both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage, you can find upload/download instructions, here, so that you can take advantage of the unique tools at all vendors.

Hope you enjoy the webinar and find those elusive ancestors!

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Disclosure

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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

FamilyTreeDNA’s Chromosome Painting Just Arrived!!!

FamilyTreeDNA’s long-anticipated chromosome painting for ethnicity results just arrived!

Videos and a White Paper!

Along with the release, Family TreeDNA has also provided several resources.

Dr. Paul Maier, Population Geneticist at FamilyTreeDNA created a three-part video series that explains MyOrigins V3 and the science behind the results – in normal language that air-breathing humans can understand. These are absolutely wonderful and only about 10 minutes each, so be sure to watch – in order!

MyOrigins 3.0 white paper that explains the science in more detail is here! If nothing else, at least skim and look at the pictures. It’s actually an amazing document.

Your Painted Results

To view your results, sign on to your account and click on Chromosome Painting!

Click on any image to enlarge

There it is – your beautiful new painted chromosomes with your Continental or Super Population results painted on your chromosomes!

Look, there are my AmerIndian segments, in pink.

What Can I Do?

You can download your segment file too – in the upper right-hand corner.

You can also download your segment match file found under the chromosome browser tab and sort your segments to see who matches you on these segments. I provided instructions, here.

Of course, you’ll see both sides, meaning paternal and maternal matches, so it will be necessary to determine on which “side” your segments of interest originate, and who matches you on that side of your tree.

We will discuss these strategies and how to implement them in future articles.

A little birdie tells me that DNAPainter will have an import soon so you can upload your chromosome painting file to integrate with your match painting.

Right now, just viewing and appreciating your chromosome art that represents our ancestors is amazing. Did you find any surprises? Who else wants to print and frame this?

If you don’t have results at FamilyTreeDNA, you can upload DNA results from the other three major testing companies and pay a $19 unlock to receive your very own chromosome painting. Upload/Download instructions are found here.

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Disclosure

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

Books

Genealogy Research

DNA Beginnings: How Many DNA Matches Do I Have?

People often want to know how many DNA matches they have.

Sounds simple, right?

At some vendors, the answer to this question is easy to find, and at others, not so much.

How do you locate this information at each of the four major vendors?

What else do you need to know?

I’ve written handy step-by-step instructions for each company!

Matches at FamilyTreeDNA

Sign on at FamilyTreeDNA and under autosomal results, click on Family Finder Matches.

At the top of the next page, you’ll see your total number of matches along with matches that FamilyTreeDNA has been able to assign maternally or paternally based on creating/uploading a tree and linking known matches to that tree in their proper place.

Your parents do NOT need to have tested for the maternal/paternal bucketing functionality, but you DO need to identify some relatives and link their tests to their place in your tree. It’s that easy. Instructions for linking can be found in the “Linking Matches on Your Tree” section of this article (click here), along with information about how that helps you, or here.

Obviously, if your parents have tested, that’s the best scenario. For people who don’t have that option, FamilyTreeDNA is the ONLY vendor that offers this type of feature if your parents have NOT tested.

At FamilyTreeDNA, I have 7313 total matches of which 3169 are paternal, 1402 are maternal and 6 are related to both parents.

Hint – your siblings, their children, your children, grandchildren, etc. will be related to you on both your paternal and maternal sides.

If you don’t have an autosomal DNA test at FamilyTreeDNA, you can upload one from Ancestry, 23andMe, or MyHeritage for free. Click here for instructions.

Matches at MyHeritage

At MyHeritage, sign on and click on DNA, then DNA Matches.

At the top of your matches page, you’ll see your total number of matches.

At MyHeritage, I have 14,082 matches.

Matches are not broken down maternally and paternally automatically, but I can filter my matches in a wide variety of ways, including shared matches with either parent if they have tested, or other relatives.

If you don’t have an autosomal DNA test at MyHeritage, you can transfer one from Ancestry, 23andMe, or FamilyTreeDNA for free. Click here to begin your upload to MyHeritage.

Click here for instructions about how to download a copy of your DNA file from other vendors.

Matches at Ancestry

At Ancestry, sign on and click on DNA, then DNA Matches.

On your matches page, at the top, you’ll see a number of function widgets. Look for “Shared DNA.”

Click the down arrow to expand the Shared DNA box and you’ll see the total number of matches, along with the breakdown between 4th cousins or closer and distant matches.

Sometimes the number of matches doesn’t show up which means Ancestry’s servers are too busy to calculate the number of matches. Refresh your screen or try again in a few minutes. This happens often to me and always makes me question my sanity:)

I have 53,435 matches at Ancestry, of which 4,102 are estimated to be 4th cousins or closer and 49,333 are more distant.

For close matches only, if your parents have tested at Ancestry, when possible, Ancestry tells you on each match if that person is associated with your father’s side or your mother’s side.

You can’t upload DNA files from other vendors to Ancestry, but you can download a copy of your DNA file from Ancestry and upload to either FamilyTreeDNA or MyHeritage. Click here for instructions.

You can also download a copy of your tree from Ancestry and upload it to either of those vendors, along with your DNA file for best results.

Matches at 23andMe

23andMe functions differently from the other vendors. They set a hard limit on the number of matches you receive.

That maximum number differs based on the test version you took and if you pay for a membership subscription that provides enhanced medical information along with advanced filters and the ability to have a maximum of 5000 matches.

In order to purchase the membership subscription, you need to take their most current V5 test. If you tested with an earlier product, you will need to repurchase, retest or upgrade your current test which means you’ll need to spit in the vial again.

Please note the words, “up to 5000 relatives,” in the 23andMe verbiage. They also say that’s “over 3 times what you get” with their test without a subscription.

23andMe handles things differently from any other vendor in the industry. They made changes recently which created quite a stir because they removed some capabilities from existing customers and made those functions part of their subscription model. You can read about that here and here.

The match limit on the current 23andMe V5 test, WITHOUT the subscription, is 1500. If you tested previously on earlier kits, V2-V4, 23andMe has reinstated your prior maximum match limit which was 2000.

So, here’s the maximum match summary for 23andMe:

  • Earlier kits (V2-V4) – 2000 maximum matches
  • Current V5 kit with no subscription – 1500 maximum matches
  • Current V5 kit with subscription – 5000 maximum matches

Except, that’s NOT the number of matches you’ll actually see.

23andMe handles matching differently too.

23andMe matches you with their other customers up to your maximum, whatever that is, then subtracts the people who have not opted-in to genealogy matching. Remember, 23andMe focuses on health, not genealogy, so not all of their customers want matching.

Therefore, you’ll NEVER see your total number of allowed matches, which is why 23andMe cleverly says you “get access to up to 5000 relatives.”

Let’s look at my V4 test at 23andMe. Sign on and click on Ancestry, then DNA Relatives. (Please note, Ancestry is not Ancestry the company, but at 23andMe means genealogy results as opposed to medical/health results.)

At the top of your DNA Relatives page, you’ll see your total number of matches, before any sorting filters are applied.

23andMe does not automatically assign matches maternally or paternally, but if your parents have tested AND opt-in to matching, then you can filter by people who also match either parent.

I have 1796 matches at 23andMe, which means that 204 or 11% of my matches have not opted-in to matching.

You can’t upload DNA files from other vendors to 23andMe, but you can download a copy of your DNA file from 23andMe and upload to either FamilyTreeDNA or MyHeritage where you will assuredly receive more matches. Click here for instructions.

Summary

Each vendor has its own unique set of features and operates differently. It’s not so much the number of matches you have, but if you have the RIGHT match to break through a particular brick wall or provide you with a previously unknown photo of a cherished family member.

I encourage everyone to fish in all 4 of these ponds by testing or uploading your DNA. Uploading and matching are both free. Advanced tools require a small one-time unlock fee, but it’s significantly less than testing again. You can find step-by-step instructions to walk you through the process, here.

Have fun!!!

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Disclosure

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

Books

Genealogy Research

DNA Beginnings: What is a Match?

Before we evaluate matches at each of the four major vendors, FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage, Ancestry and 23andMe, let’s discuss what a DNA match is, what it means, and what it does NOT mean.

A Match to Another Person

Each of the four major vendors, but not some other vendors, provide matches to you and other individuals in their database.

This example from FamilyTreeDNA shows my mother’s match list listing me as her closest match, along with a kit I uploaded from Ancestry when I was recently updating upload/download article instructions for my readers. You don’t need to upload multiple kits to vendors.

Every vendor’s match list looks different, as is the information they provide. We will cover each vendor’s match list individually in future articles in this DNA Beginnings series.

Each vendor has different criteria for matching, but in essence, using that vendor’s match criteria – your DNA and the DNA of a person you match are identical on a section of DNA of a vendor-defined length.

Each of those vendors identifies the people who match each other and opt-in to matching in one way or another,

When you sign on to your account at each vendor, you’ll see a match list. Each of those people on that list match your DNA:

  • At or above the vendor-defined centiMorgan (cM) threshold. You can read more about centiMorgans here.
  • At or above the vendor-defined SNP threshold, meaning the number individual contiguous matching locations.

Each vendor has their own thresholds and internal algorithms that define matches. For example, a match of 8 cM with 1500 SNPs refers to both the length of the match (cM) and the density of locations within that segment of DNA that match between two people. Only matches above each vendor’s threshold appear on your match list.

Matches smaller than or beneath those vendor thresholds are considered less likely to be valid matches, so are excluded and do not appear on your match list.

Imputation Affects Matching

Different vendors test their customers’ DNA on different DNA chips:

  • Different chips test a different amount of DNA, but generally roughly 700,000 SNP locations
  • That 700K locations of DNA can be in different locations in your genome

In other words, just because two vendors both test 700,000 locations doesn’t mean they test the same 700,000 locations.

Even the same vendor will, over time, implement different DNA testing chips or modify the SNP locations tested on the same chip.

These different chips, chip versions and SNP locations are not fully compatible with each other, so the vendors use a technique known as imputation to level the playing field between non-identical files.

This is particularly relevant for vendors that accept uploads from other vendors.

In this example, we have 3 vendors and 10 different SNPs, or DNA locations.

  • Vendor 1, on their first Version 1 chip, tested locations 1-8.
  • Vendor 1, on their second V2 chip, tested locations 3-10.

Therefore only 6 locations, 3-8, were “common” between those two different chips used by the same vendor.

  • Vendor 2, on yet a different DNA testing chip version (V3) tested locations 1-4 and 7-10.
  • Vendor 3 on chip version V4 tested locations 2-5, 7, 8 and 10.

There are only 4 locations out of 10 tested by all the vendors’ chips.

If the vendor’s match criteria is that 10 locations in a row must match, then none of these people will match each other.

Sometimes differences occur because of chip differences, and sometimes a difference occurs because a location doesn’t read well for some reason.

In order to compensate for the differences in DNA locations tested/reported, a technique called imputation is widely used.

Imputation uses scientific probability techniques to fill in the blanks based on DNA that typically neighbors or “travels with” the nucleotides or DNA values, (T, A, C or G), found in the customer being tested.

Imputation allows all of those blanks to be filled in for all customers for each of those 10 locations, assuming the “missing DNA” is close to tested DNA locations.

It’s thanks to imputation that customers can download their raw DNA files from one vendor and upload to another for matching, even though the vendors don’t use the same exact chip.

Sometimes imputation is incorrect. Matching can be affected in both directions, meaning that some people will be on each other’s match lists who actually don’t match on a particular segment. Others would actually match if all of those locations were tested.

The highest quality matches are between people who tested at the same vendor, on the same chip or at two different vendors who use exactly the same chip. However, that’s often not possible and isn’t within the control of the customer.

False Positive Matches

This translates to, “You’re a match but not really” and is a headache for genealogists.

False positive matches show as a match between two people on their match lists, but they aren’t actually valid matches for genealogy.

  • A false positive match could occur as a result of imputation, of course.
  • A false positive match could also occur because the two people match because part of the DNA of their mother and part of the DNA of their father at those locations just happens to combine to appear as a match.

For purposes of these examples, presume that each of these matches exceeds the vendor’s match criteria so would be shown on your match list.

In our example, Person 1 and Person 2 match at all 10 locations, so they would appear on each other’s match lists.

However, if we could see the DNA of Person 2’s parents, we would see that Person 2 DOES match Person 1, but is NOT a valid match. Person 3 inherited the first 5 DNA locations from their mother and the second 5 DNA locations from their father.

While Person 2 technically is a match to Person 1, they aren’t a legitimate match because the segment of DNA that matches does not descend from the same parent. This means that the DNA did not descend in one piece from ONE ancestor, but clearly descended in pieces from two ancestors – one maternal and one paternal.

Therefore a technical match that is not a genealogical match because the DNA is inherited in part from both parents is known as a false positive and is said to be Identical by Chance, or IBC. You can read about IBC matches here.

False Negative Matches

A false negative match is just the opposite. False negatives occur when two people are NOT reported on each other’s match lists when they actually would match if all of the DNA at the various required locations were tested, read, and reported accurately. In other words, if imputation were not necessary.

  • False negatives can be caused by imputation not working as accurately as we would hope. Imputation is a probability tool, and it’s not perfect.
  • False negatives can also be caused by differing match thresholds at different vendors.

For example, if one vendor reports matches at 6 cM and above, and a second vendor reports matches at 8 cM and above, the same two people who match at 7 cM will match at the first vendor, but not at the second.

The only way you would ever know about a false negative match, because they aren’t reported, is if you simply happen to match at a vendor who allows smaller thresholds.

Also, keep in mind that each vendor creates their own imputations algorithms, so two different vendors using imputation on the same file may produce different results.

Determining Valid Matches

So, how might you determine which matches are actually valid matches?

That’s a great question.

There are useful “hints:”

  • If your parents have tested, a valid match will match one of your parents on that same segment of DNA. If your match does NOT match one of your parents, it’s a false positive match and invalid for genealogy.
  • If only one of your parents has tested, and your match does NOT match the tested parent, you can’t presume that person automatically matches your other, non-tested parent. That match could match your non-tested parent, or could be IBC.
  • If neither of your parents have tested, check to see if your match also matches close relatives who have tested, but not your descendants. For example, if a match also matches your aunt or uncle, or first cousins, that increases the probability that the match is probably valid.
  • The larger the match, the more likely it is to be a valid match. For example, matches in the 6-7 cM level are IBC about half the time. By the time you’re evaluating matches at the 20 cM level for a single segment, they are accurate almost all the time.

Keep in mind that each matching segment must be confirmed separately, and not every vendor shares the locations of the segments that match.

So What Is a Match?

  • A match is a person who is found on your match list at one of the major vendors.
  • A match at one vendor may not be on your match list if you both have DNA at another common vendor due to various reasons including the vendor’s match criteria, imputation, or file compatibility issues.
  • A match may be false positive, or IBC which means that person is not an accurate match for genealogy. This is especially true for smaller segment matches.
  • A false positive match can occur because of erroneous reads, imputation, or because your match is identical by chance.
  • The larger a matching segment of DNA, the more likely it is to be an accurate match meaning you and your match share a common ancestor.
  • The best way to tell if your match is valid is to compare your match to both of your parents as well.

A match is not a guarantee that you share a common ancestor unless you are matching to close relatives. You won’t match a close relative if the match is not valid.

What About You?

What is your plan to verify that your matches are valid?

Have your parents tested their DNA? Either of both parents?

If so, ask for your parents to upload their DNA with you to each vendor where you upload your own results.

At each vendor, you’ll have different matches. That’s exactly why we fish in multiple ponds.

I always work with my closest matches first, because I’m the most likely to be able to easily identify our common ancestor.

Locate your closest known relatives from both your mother’s side and your father’s side at each vendor. These people will be extremely helpful for our next article about shared matches.

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Disclosure

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

Books

Genealogy Research

The Final, Really, Really Final Goodbye – 52 Ancestors #340

The final goodbye might not be what you think it is, or when. It certainly wasn’t what I expected.

I thought the final goodbye was when I buried my loved one. Or maybe the final goodbye was the goodbye just before they died when I was saying farewell, in person, for the last time. At least in this realm.

Of course, we might not know when we talk to them the last time that it is indeed the final time. That depends on how, when and where they pass over to the other side.

It Depends

My biological father died unexpectedly when I was a child. I had no concept of a ”final goodbye” at that age. I presumed he would live forever.

I didn’t get to attend his funeral either – so there was no closure at all until I was an adult. In other words, there was no final goodbye other than the last time I saw him which I thought was a “normal” goodbye. Maybe we are all better off that way.

Final, when we do know, just seems so…well…final. So much left unsaid – so many feelings we just can’t put into the right words. Feeling the need to say everything we can think of that maybe we should have already said. After all, we know we’re not going to get another chance.

Sometimes We Know 

I definitely knew the last time I saw my older brother, John, that it was the last time. He was suffering from end-stage cancer. He, however, had not accepted that he was approaching death – so for him it was definitely NOT the final goodbye. And because he was still fighting, I couldn’t exactly say goodbye either. I certainly wasn’t going to steal his hope, but I knew nonetheless.

My brother, Dave, died just a few months before John. That goodbye was torture. We BOTH knew – and our time together had been so short. We had only found each other as adults and had grown extremely close – only to be ripped apart by death.

I wanted that discussion to be anything BUT goodbye – yet there we were. He was fighting a losing battle and knew it. We spoke words of gentle love one final time. I assured him that I would see to it that he did not suffer. Trust me, you did not want to be the people who tried to stand in the way of that promise.

The Grim Reaper Knows No Justice

My brave sister, Edna, had survived breast cancer, complete with a double mastectomy and multiple rounds of debilitating chemo. We thought she was finally in the clear and then the sucker punch happened.

A heart attack followed by her death about 24 hours later. Edna and I had never said “goodbye” but she was no fool and realized as she endured her cancer therapy that chances weren’t good that she would survive. So while we tiptoed gingerly around the topic, we both knew what was going on.

Finally, finally, ever so tenuously we celebrated reports that Edna was cancer-free. We both began to breathe again. Edna and her husband decided to move to the mountains. Their life was back on track, or so we thought.

Edna was a realist.

Edna had just visited the doctor for a checkup again when she came home and insisted that they needed a vacation. Not later – now. Edna knew something she wasn’t sharing with the rest of us.

In a small Arizona mountain town, a few days later, Edna had a heart attack. Cancer is known to cause blood clots.

She died the next morning.

I never made it to Arizona in time to say goodbye, yet I knew when she passed. And I mean exactly when. I was on the phone with the nurse, because I knew something was very wrong. Then she coded. I literally sat there listening to the hubbub at the nurse’s station as they tried to revive her.

I knew she was gone.

While Edna and I left life unlived, we hadn’t left things unsaid.

I didn’t want to see Edna suffer from more cancer treatments. When I found out that her cancer had recurred, I knew that Edna’s exit was timely and exactly what she would have wanted.

Laughter as the Last Memory 

The last memory of my mother before her stroke was laughing.

I called Mom often as I drove home from work (hands free, with headset.) That spring day, I had stopped in the road to shepherd a mother goose and her goslings out of the road.

I quickly told Mom I was stopping and why. She admonished me to be careful and said she knew I would rescue the vulnerable and helpless, no matter what. She heard me “shooing” them because I left the cell phone laying on the seat of the car. I also realized later that if something “bad” had happened, she would have heard that too.

But the “bad” thing didn’t happen to me – it happened to her.

The next morning I received a call from my sister-in-law, Karen, that Mom had fallen. In reality, Mom fell because she had experienced a stroke, but we didn’t know that yet. Karen stopped to check on Mom and found her on the floor.

That’s the call no one ever wants to receive. I left work immediately, quickly packed a bag, and left for the hospital.

Hours and hundreds of miles later, Mom could still squeeze my hand, slightly, I think. I realized when she opened her eyes reflexively that she was blind. She couldn’t speak nor could she move. Then, Mom lapsed into a deeper coma. Two miserable weeks later, she FINALLY transitioned. So yes, I got to say many words of goodbye, but I doubt she heard them – at least not with her earthly ears. And if she did, her brain probably couldn’t process them.

Looking back, I’m so incredibly grateful that our last communication before that fateful call was us laughing at the goose escapade.

A Loving Transition

My wonderful step-father, Dad, knew he was ready and wanted to go on. We both knew he was leaving soon, a result of worsening chronic disease.

At that time, my life was a total MESS, in all caps, with my (former) husband having experienced a massive, debilitating stroke at age 47. Needless to say, I found myself in a position as complete bread-winner with extreme medical bills following his 6-month hospital stay, caregiver to a paralyzed man with neurological deficits, and a parent with two children who were suffering terribly in their own right. I was only able to get away one time for a few hours to visit Dad. There was no help on my end and we lived 6 hours apart.

Dad smiled broadly when I entered the hospital room. As ill as he was, love and joy radiated from his face when he saw me. He had a tracheostomy and could talk, at least a little. We both knew time was short.

We shared with each other how lucky we both were to have found each other as family, and how much we loved each other. Dad has never left me, even though he left this earth.

Horror

His son, Gary, my step-brother, died unexpectedly in very difficult circumstances the day after Thanksgiving six years after Dad passed away.

His death was so horrible that I’m not sharing the details with you. The only thing worse than getting “that call” at 5 in the morning is for “that call” to be “that kind” of death.

My step-brother’s death was entirely unexpected and there were no goodbyes at all other than standing in shock, graveside, as something containing the words “ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” was read. I have blocked much of that week from my mind.

As much as I thought these were all final goodbyes, they really weren’t.

The Final Resting Place

Of those people I just mentioned, three, my Mom, step-Dad and step-brother are all buried within sight of each other in the quaint country cemetery down the road a few miles from the farm. I attended all of their funerals and said goodbye, sobbing, sitting on white folding chairs under a make-shift tent in the cemetery.

There is no comfort in funerals for me.

I said goodbye to John graveside as we buried him in a cemetery near where he lived, just a week or so after we didn’t say goodbye in his room at “rehab” that was really hospice.

My biological Dad is buried near the house in Dunkirk, Indiana where he lived with my step-mother. The process of filling in the blanks in his life, setting his gravestone and finally, just 4 years ago, visiting his grave accompanied by a supportive friend provided the closure I had never achieved previously.

One stiflingly hot summer June day in 1990, I stood by my sister, Edna’s grave at her service and tried to read a poem. It took three of us, me plus two of her grandchildren to get all the way through that reading. We would read until we couldn’t anymore, then pass it to the person beside us.

The poem, “A Little Step Away” (by O. J. Hanson) was found in Edna’s Bible and she had read it at her son-in-law’s funeral a few years before.

I found some modicum of comfort in the closing stanza:

It cannot be, for they live on
A little step away.
The soul, in everlasting life,
Has found a better day.

Today, Edna’s granddaughter lives across the road and other family members are close by, so I know she’s not alone.

That goodbye seemed so unfair. It was a cruel joke for her to suffer so, believe she was cancer-free, and then be gone so soon.

I said goodbye to my wonderful brother Dave when the preacher didn’t show up at his funeral and I unexpectedly gave an impromptu eulogy. I still laugh at that and Dave would have too.

Dave was cremated and never buried, so there is no “place” to visit to commune with him. There may have been ashes to ashes but those ashes are still transitory someplace. I just talk to him from time to time.

Dave took this photo through his semi-truck window someplace on the road on one of his last runs. To me, this is where Dave “is,” aside from watching over me.

For my daughter, Rachel, who was born prematurely, died a few hours after birth and was “disposed of” by hospital personnel, there will never be closure. As part of me, she accompanies me wherever I go. Like Dave, there is no “place” to say goodbye or visit – so she just travels along in my heart.

Cemeteries

While funerals don’t bring me comfort, the cemetery is at least a place to go to reflect, honor, and sometimes to talk to our departed family members.

It’s a place to visit after that “final” goodbye. Even though we know the essence of who they “were” isn’t “there” anymore – we go anyway. For them. For us. To grieve. To honor their life. To take flowers. To perform whatever loving maintenance we can do for them. Pull a weed or two. Plant something. Anything.

To tell them we are so sorry they aren’t here with us any longer in the flesh and that we had to say that goodbye in whatever form it manifested.

But those…those were not the final goodbyes – even though I thought they were at the time. In fact, I thought they were right up until this summer.

The Tombstone

There is ying and yang to everything in life.

A grave and tombstone marks the location of the last remains of our loved ones. We can stand or sit on the grave and be just 5 or 6 vertical feet away. We purchase a marker in tribute so our family members will never be forgotten. Our last “thing” to do for them – something intransient that remains with them forever, or at least until the ravages of time erode their names on those stones.

Of course, that’s just for graves in cultures where gravesites are not reused. For those whose graves are later shared with another, who are cremated or never buried for some reason, we have to adjust our thinking to something else. Find another way to memorialize and honor both their lives and absence. There won’t be any place for their descendants, if they have any, to search for, find and visit in another hundred years, or two. There is no tombstone which gives us at least the illusion of permanence.

Of course, sooner than later, their tombstone, or lack thereof, will be irrelevant to us. We’ll have joined them. Maybe it’s not just the funeral that’s for the living, but the grave too.

The Final, Really, Really Final Goodbye

I hadn’t been back to Mom and Dad’s graves in two or three years. They aren’t exactly on the way to anyplace. The last time I visited, I told them I didn’t know when I’d be back again.

Clearly, that was with the expectation that I would return. I did, a few weeks ago, but this time was very different.

This time is the final, really, really final goodbye.

I know I’m likely never returning. I know better than to say “never” in the absolute sense. Why would I never return to my parents’ and brother’s graves?

One of three things:

  1. My own time is limited
  2. I’m unable to return for some reason
  3. I’m moving even further away with nothing to bring me back

I’m fine. It’s number 3.

I’m excited for this new chapter to begin, but I never, ever expected the emotional response of that the final really, really final goodbye.

That Last Visit

I needed to make a final trip to Indiana and decided to take Mom and Dad a special bouquet of flowers this time. Normally, I purchase bouquets of live flowers, but I wanted something to last a little longer – even though I know they will be thrown away a few months from now.

Two bouquets of silk flowers have lived in my house for years. My favorites. My daughter gave me a hand-made gift a year or so ago that was gifted in a basket. I arranged the silk flowers for my mother in the basket as I didn’t want to leave a glass container in the cemetery.

I knew my daughter would want to be included.

When Mom was so ill, my daughter took off work, which she could ill-afford at the time and stayed with me at Mom’s side those final incredibly difficult days waiting for Mom to pass. I was extremely grateful and I know Mom, somehow, knew she was there.

The day that I went to the cemetery the last time was part of an emotion-filled weekend with multiple goodbyes in different ways.

By the end of the weekend, I felt I had been put through the emotional shredder.

Back Roads and Corn Fields

It had been three years since I had returned to Galveston, a tiny crossroads village with a 4-way flasher on the way to exactly no place.

I made my way across the back roads of Indiana and realized that the corn is as tall as me, or taller. A tractor was mowing hay. Kids were playing in the sprinklers in yards. It smelled like summer.

An old gas station was frozen in time at an even tinier intersection with maybe 10 houses.

Nothing much had changed. The hazy mid-summer Hoosier countryside is timeless.

While the real estate market in the rest of the country is smoking-hot right now, not so in rural Indiana. For sale signs that have clearly been planted in the front yard for months based on the unmowed grass around the signs and the washed-out words tell the tale that no one wants to move there.

The center lines of the small roads are worn off by years of local traffic. Many intersections have crosses and flowers strapped to the posts of stop signs – signaling a fatal accident took place there.

I remembered my own accident at one of those crossroads when another driver ran the stop sign. The corn was too high to see them approaching and I only caught the briefest glimpse of them before that horrible crash some 40 years ago.

On this particularly hot summer day, I was glad to finally arrive at the cemetery – as a visitor.

The cemetery where Mom rests used to be a cornfield and is two or three blocks long and maybe half as wide. Those are city blocks, not country blocks😊

I have a permanent note in my phone so I can locate exactly where Mom and Dad are buried without driving around and feeling like an idiot. I can always get close but never seem to remember exactly.

The note didn’t matter much this time. It’s unfair to cut trees down in a cemetery.

I realized as I was updating that note that I really didn’t need to do that because this was my last visit. But I did it anyway, just in case. Never say never.

My Mom is buried just to the right of Dad with her own gravestone. His first wife is buried on the other side, and beside both of them, his daughter, Linda, with a tiny baby-sized tombstone.

Linda would have been my step-sister, but she died as an infant, right after Christmas. She’s still my step-sister, technically, but I never knew her.

I always remember her for Dad, since he can’t anymore. And his first wife, Martha, gets to share his flowers too.

I pulled into the grass near the hand pump for water, opened the back of the car, and arranged the bouquets.

It was beastly hot and humid with the sun beating down. Just like I remembered life on the farm. You started to sweat the minute you moved and you were sticky within about a minute. Drenched within 10.

I stayed an hour or maybe more. I lost track of time.

I needed to talk to my parents – to fill them in about a few things.

And yes, I mean talking out loud.

It’s OK if you think I’m crazy. I embraced that years ago😊. And both of my parents already knew that – in spades – so it’s not news to them either!

I purchased a small Lunchable type snack at the local convenience store at the crossroads, spread my car quilt out on the ground, and sat down to break bread with Mom and Dad.

One last picnic together. Well, me, them, some ants and a box of Kleenex.

One last hot summer lunch with no AC and not even a fan. Just like time travel.

Yes, I could have sat in the car, but it wouldn’t have been the same. Things look different from the ground-level perspective.

Besides, I was closer to them, to the earthly loam that Dad plowed.

I could see that pesky Morning Glory that I always thought was a flower and Dad insisted was a weed. Now the Morning Glory gets to mock Dad and grow right in front of his tombstone and there’s not a doggone thing he can do about it.

I shared turkey and cheese with both Mom and Dad.

Mom didn’t like peanuts, so Dad got her share of those. That was always our special shared snack.

I explained to them that I was leaving and not coming back. For good this time. I explained that just like when I left Indiana all those years ago, I was alternating between excited, hopeful, and terrified.

Leaving everything behind that you’ve ever known is daunting, to put it mildly. There’s always the nagging voice asking if you’re SURE you’re doing the right thing or making a grievous error. I remember Dad encouraging me before when no one else did – and he would be now too.

I know that I’ll die far from their resting place and far from anyone else in the family as well.

I had a few other things to catch them up on too. It has been a while.

I asked for their help on a couple of matters if they have any agency whatsoever in that direction.

You might notice the Hershey Bar. Mom loved those and I bought that as a special treat for Mom. We found a huge one for her last Christmas. Of course, we didn’t know it was her final Christmas at the time. We gave it to her as a joke, along with a hammer and chisel, but she loved it and consumed it entirely in about 3 weeks. It might just have been the best gift she ever received!

Mom will always be remembered for Hershey Bars and her first, second and third desserts😉

I’m sure the local ant population loved everything too. It didn’t matter. I did what I needed to do.

I took a few flowers from Mom and Dad’s bouquet and placed them on Linda’s grave.

I always tell Linda how much Dad loved her and how I wish I had known her. We were close in age and would have been such good friends. Some people squander opportunities. She never had one.

I’m glad Dad is with her now. He grieved her death his entire life. His final goodbye to her was a hello, I think.

Gary is buried closer to both roads. I always take Gary a single flower, generally a rose. That’s the tradition and has been for the more than two decades since he died. Gary’s life always feels so incomplete to me – artificially cut short.

You can see Gary’s stone from Dad’s and vice versa.

I know that doesn’t make any difference either, but still, I’m glad they are buried in close proximity so that Gary is not alone. I hope Gary is at peace. He was not in this life.

They Are Free

I know their souls and spirits have all flown. I know their bodies are inanimate.

I expected that the final farewell had taken place when I said goodbye to their mortal presence, or maybe when we buried them – not years and decades later when I said my last goodbye at their grave.

I thought my grieving was done.

It wasn’t.

I cried.

I sang.

I danced.

I played both I Hope You Dance and Amazing Grace.

For them.

For me.

For peace.

The final, really, really final goodbye.

Ancestors

Countless times I have looked back at my ancestors’ lives in awe – at what they endured and survived. I’ve often wondered how they did it. Often those women had no choice in the family decision about leaving for another location and saying that final goodbye in the cemetery.

Many, MANY women left not only their parents, grandparents, and siblings buried in unmarked graves, locations burned forever in their hearts, but they left rows of babies behind as they moved on.

One of my German ancestors buried all but one child.

Two more buried children “at sea” which means throwing the bodies overboard after they died in their arms. I can only imagine the agony of those poor mothers and the rest of the family. The crossing for new opportunities would always be marred by that memory.

Others had lost spouses that remained in another country or state. Almost everyone left living family members that they knew they would never see again in this lifetime.

Of the women, most never had the opportunity to choose or even influence their destiny. All they could do was to say their goodbyes, one way or another.

They said a grief-stricken goodbye to each family member as they drew their last breath, lovingly washed and prepared their body for burial, cried in the church at the funeral, and mourned as the dirt hit the wooden casket in the grave.

They too discovered that, as painful as that was, it wasn’t the end of grief and that there was yet one more final, really, really final goodbye to be said before the ship sailed or the heavily-laden creaking wagon rolled out for the new frontier. A piece of their soul stayed behind.

Part of me will forever rest in the cornfield in Indiana that’s now a cemetery where my family members sleep.

I’ve done what I can.

Rocks and a Penny

On my Mom’s stone rests a rock from where her father, John Ferverda, was raised on his father’s farm, and another from the farm where our immigrant Ferverda ancestor settled.

On the way, I found a lucky penny – a tiny message from the universe perhaps. I tucked it in. Maybe for a visitor in the future.

Mom’s work is done here.

So is mine.

I hope that someday, someone else will put flowers on Mother’s grave.

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Disclosure

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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Announcing DNA Beginnings – A New Series

Welcome to DNA Beginnings. This exciting, upcoming series will be focused on the new DNA tester who may also be a novice genealogist and is unsure of quite what to do.

People ask, “Where do I even start?”

If this is you, welcome!

Which Vendors Will Be Covered?

This series will consist of one article for each of the four main DNA vendors:

Topics

Each article will cover two primary topics:

  • Matches
  • In-common-with or shared matches between you and other people

Along with:

  • Why each match type is important.
  • What matches and shared matches can tell you
  • How to make use of that information

More Information

For those who are ready – at the end of each article, I’ll include links with instructions for using more advanced tools at each vendor.

Get Ready!

While you’re waiting, you can upload your DNA data file from some vendors to other vendors, for free! That way you’ll have matches to work with, in multiple places. You’ll match different people at each vendor who are related to you in different ways. You never know where the match you need will be found – so fish in multiple ponds.

If you’ve tested at any vendor, you can download your raw DNA file. Downloading your raw DNA data file doesn’t affect your DNA file or matches at the vendor where you tested. The file you’re downloading is just a copy of the raw DNA file.

Just don’t delete the DNA test at the original vendor. That’s an entirely separate function, so don’t worry.

Uploading your raw DNA file to another vendor, for free, saves the cost of retesting, even if you do have to pay a small fee to utilize that vendor’s advanced tools.

Which Vendors Accept Upload Files?

Which vendors accept raw DNA data file uploads from other vendors? The chart below shows the vendors where you’ve tested on the left side, and the vendors you want to transfer to across the top.

To read this, people who have tested at FamilyTreeDNA (from the left column) can upload their raw DNA file to MyHeritage, but not to 23andMe or Ancestry. Note the asterisks. For example, people who tested at MyHeritage can upload their DNA file to FamilyTreeDNA, but only if they tested after May 7, 2019.

From to >>>>> FamilyTreeDNA MyHeritage 23andMe* Ancestry*
FamilyTreeDNA N/A Yes No No
MyHeritage Yes** N/A No No
23andMe*** V3, V4, V5 V3, V4, V5 N/A No
Ancestry V1, V2 V1, V2 No N/A

* Neither 23andMe nor Ancestry accept any DNA file uploads from any vendors. To receive matches at these two vendors, you must test there.

** FamilyTreeDNA accepts MyHeritage DNA tests taken after May 7, 2019.

*** Vendors do not accept the early 23andMe V2 file type used before December 2010.

None of these vendors accept files from LivingDNA who uses an incompatible DNA testing chip, although LivingDNA accepts upload files from other vendors.

Step-By-Step Instructions for Transferring Your Raw DNA Files

I wrote articles about how to download your raw DNA file from each vendor and how to upload your DNA file to vendors who accept DNA uploads in lieu of testing at their site.

You’ll save money by transferring your DNA file instead of testing at each vendor.

Transfer your file now and get ready to have fun with our DNA Beginnings articles!

Share and Subscribe – It’s Free

Feel free to share these articles with your friends and organizations. Anyone can subscribe to DNAexplained (this blog) for free and receive weekly articles in their inbox by entering their email and clicking on the little grey “Follow” button on the upper right-hand side of the blog on a computer or tablet screen. Hint – if you received this article in your email – you’re already subscribed so you don’t need to do anything. If you’re not subscribed already, just filling the info and click on “Follow.”

Every genealogist and genetic genealogist starts someplace and DNA Beginnings is a wonderful opportunity. The first article in the series will be arriving later this week!

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Disclosure

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 Uploads

Genealogy Products and Services

Books

Genealogy Research

Clock is Ticking: In 28 Days, Ancestry CAN DO ANYTHING THEY WANT With Every Image In Your Tree

See all these photos I’ve uploaded to Ancestry?

According to Ancestry’s new updated Terms of Service dated August 3, 2021, Ancestry will be able to use these photos, and anything else I’ve ever uploaded or saved, in any way they want, for any purpose, forever. And there’s nothing I can do about it except:

  • Don’t upload anything beginning now
  • Delete anything previously uploaded or saved during the next 28 days (before September 2, 2021)

This Means

  • Ancestry can now do whatever they want with anything you upload to your ancestry tree beginning August 3, 2021.
  • This includes anything you’ve shared with anyone else and THEY’VE uploaded to Ancestry trees too.
  • Or, if Ancestry has offered one of your images/photos as hints to someone and they have accepted that hint and added your image to someone in their tree.
  • This includes any image or information that you have saved that was associated with anyone else’s tree.

Yes, if you haven’t guessed, I’m gritting my teeth…and that’s putting it mildly.

In the past, I’ve ENCOURAGED people to upload photos because it makes your tree more attractive – as cousin bait.

I wanted to encourage other people to upload photos of my ancestors, because I want to find photos that I’ve never seen. Furthermore, I want to share photos and family history with my cousins.

However, that does NOT, DOES NOT, extend to Ancestry claiming my photos for their own use – regardless of whatever that use is – forever. Once uploaded, there’s no taking this decision back and there’s no revoking that permission at Ancestry.

Judy Russell’s Blog Article

I’m not a lawyer, but Judy Russell* certainly is and she has addressed this new information in her blog, here, titled “One big change at Ancestry.”

https://www.legalgenealogist.com/2021/08/04/one-big-change-at-ancestry/

I reached out to Judy with a couple questions which she was kind enough to answer:

Q1: What about photos and stories I’ve already uploaded, before this new change in Ancestry’s Terms and Conditions?

A1: Judy says that relative to materials previously uploaded, Ancestry says the new terms take effect 30 days from the date you’re informed – which was August 3. Judy presumes, and therefore I do too, that this means that customers (or anyone who has uploaded anything) to trees have 30 days to remove anything they don’t want to give Ancestry the right to use in any way they wish.

I’m using the word “give” very loosely here. Ancestry is taking that right by modifying the terms and conditions and notifying you – which started the clock. That 30 days began on August 3rd which means that if you do NOT remove something already uploaded or saved, Ancestry retains the right to use it any way they see fit, forever.

Q2: What about external web links I’ve posted in the profiles of each of my ancestors?

A2: Ancestry can’t utilize anything from the link itself.

I’ve added web links to the stories I’ve written about each ancestor to that ancestor’s Ancestry profile card.

I was pretty sure that since I only posted the link that Ancestry CANNOT take anything contained within these stories so long as NO ONE ACTUALLY COPIES THE ARTICE, PHOTOS OR IMAGES AND POSTS THEM TO THEIR TREE at Ancestry.

So, please, PLEASE DO NOT UPLOAD anyone’s work except your own and only then if you intend to grant Ancestry perpetual (forever) rights to do anything they want with everything you upload.

As for me, I’m deleting every single one of the images I’ve ever uploaded. I will leave the links to my articles, but I will add a note to each of those articles asking people to NOT copy, paste and/or upload anything from my articles to Ancestry – and I’ll explain why. I WANT my cousins to use these articles for their own research, and to share with others – but I have absolutely NO INTENTION, EVER of “giving” this information to Ancestry to use unrestricted as they see fit.

Read, Read, Read

As always, Judy encourages everyone to thoroughly read any new terms of service or modifications issued by ANY vendor because these documents change the contract you have with that vendor.

The vendors do NOT have to notify you via email or message. I did NOT receive any email and found out about the Ancestry change via Judy’s blog.

Where does Ancestry post these notifications? You can find this one on the top of your page when you sign in which is typical. If you don’t sign in, don’t specifically look for these notifications, and don’t READ what they say – you’re not protecting your rights!

By the way, Judy notes that you still OWN the actual content, so you can still continue to use it in any way you see fit that doesn’t violate someone else’s copyright. However, by uploading, you have granted Ancestry the contract right to do anything they want with anything you upload and you cannot do anything about that after the fact. This change is already in effect as of August 3rd for anything newly uploaded.

However, right now, you still have time to delete images you uploaded previously.

DELETE EXISTING IMAGES, PHOTOS, STORIES OR WHATEVER YOU’VE UPLOADED

If you want to remove anything currently uploaded, do it BEFORE September 2nd and DO NOT UPLOAD ANYTHING ELSE if you are not willing to allow Ancestry permanent unfettered ability to utilize your documents and images.

To delete an image at Ancestry, click on the profile card of the person in your tree. Then click on Gallery where you’ll see all of the images you’ve saved or uploaded. To delete, click on the trash can and then SELECT “DELETE FROM TREE.

If you just click on “Remove from Gallery,” it’s not deleted entirely from your tree, just disconnected from that person.

According to Ancestry:

Removing/detaching a photo from someone’s Gallery disconnects the photo from that person, but leaves it connected to the tree. Deleting a photo, on the other hand, permanently removes the photo from both the person and the tree.

Delete each image separately.

FamilySearch

Judy mentioned that in 2013 she previously wrote that Sharing at FamilySearch is Forever too*. The difference being, of course, that FamilySearch is entirely free, available to everyone, and benefits only genealogists. In other words, FamilySearch doesn’t charge and is not profiting off of utilizing our images.

It’s still something you should be aware of so you can make an informed decision.

What About MyHeritage?

I felt sure this was NOT the case at MyHeritage. Just to be positive, I reached out to Gilad Japhet, Founder and CEO of MyHeritage to confirm that MyHeritage does NOT in fact retain any rights to their customer’s work or images. I asked Gilad to differentiate between Ancestry’s new terms and conditions and MyHeritage’s terms and conditions.

Here’s what Gilad said:

The differentiation is that Ancestry is now apparently availing themselves irrevocably to content uploaded by users. Not just photos, but also family tree data.

On MyHeritage, I confirm this is not the case. On MyHeritage, the user can delete any content, including family tree data and photos, and MyHeritage will then destroy it permanently (and cease to hold on to it, nor assert any rights whatsoever to it).

Regarding the use of images: as part of the informed consent on MyHeritage, which is used mainly in the context of DNA testing, users may grant MyHeritage permission to also use photos for MyHeritage’s internal research (for example, to develop an algorithm that guesses when a photo was taken, or to learn how to repair scratches in photos). That informed consent can be withdrawn.

In the past, MyHeritage has asked permission to use one of my images and reference one of my ancestor articles (by using a link) in their blog – a courtesy that I much appreciated. This is exactly how a customer relationship SHOULD work.

Special Thanks

I want to say a special thank you to Judy Russell for answering my questions in addition to writing her blog article(s) keeping us all informed about legal matters.

Also a special thanks to Gilad Japhet for getting back to me so quickly and for establishing and maintaining customer-friendly and respectful policies at MyHeritage.

Citations:

*Judy G. Russell, “One big change at Ancestry,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 4 Aug 2021).

*Judy G. Russell, “Sharing at FamilySearch is Forever,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 13 May 2013).

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Disclosure

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

Books

Genealogy Research

Join Me for Free Webinars in August and “Webtember”

Legacy Family Webinars provides free webinars every month. Check out the upcoming schedule, here.

You can register for free and watch live. If you’d like access to the ever-growing Webinar Library, you can subscribe, here, and watch any webinar, anytime.

I’m presenting a free webinar in both August and September.

10 Ways to Find Your Native American Ancestor Using Y, Mitochondrial and Autosomal DNA

On Friday, August 27th at 2 PM Eastern, I’ll be presenting “10 Ways to Find Your Native American Ancestor Using Y, Mitochondrial and Autosomal DNA.” You can register for free, here.

If you’re trying to figure out if you have a Native ancestor or you’d like to confirm those family legends, this webinar is for you.

Webtember Free Month-Long Genealogy Conference

Legacy Tree Webinars is sponsoring a free month-long virtual conference every Friday featuring 7 or 8 speakers each week. There are so many sessions I can’t wait to see.

Here’s the conference pdf listing all of the speakers and schedule.

On September 3rd at 11 AM, I’ll be presenting Paint Your Way Up Your Tree with MyHeritage and DNAPainter.

I love combining these two wonderful tools to easily discover which ancestors contributed my DNA segments. Once you know who contributed each segment, you also know how (through which line) you’re related to the other people you match (and who match each other) on that same segment. This is going to be so much fun!

Everyone can watch the Webtember presentations for free through the end of September.

I hope you’ll join us.

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Disclosure

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

Books

Genealogy Research

The Origins of Zana of Abkhazia

Recently, Margaryan et al published a paper titled The genomic origin of Zana of Abkhazia.

Margaryan was the lead author on the 2020 paper, the Population genomics of the Viking world. I wrote about that in the article, 442 Ancient Viking Skeletons Hold DNA Surprises – Does Your Y or Mitochondrial DNA Match?

Why are people interested in the origins of Zana? Who was Zana?

Zana

Zana was initially believed to have been a member of a group of Afro-Abkhazian people who lived in the Caucasus in the later 1800s.

Known as the African Caucasians, the Abkhazians of African descent lived in and near the settlement of Adzyubzha on the east coast of the Black Sea.

By Unknown author – livejournal.com, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8701583

This photo of an Afro-Abkhazian family is from “Caucasus. Volume I. The peoples of the Caucasus”, St. Petersburg., Kovalevsky P. I., 1914.

It’s uncertain how this group of African people came to live in this region, but they seem to have arrived when the region was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire in the 1600s, possibly as slaves to work the citrus plantations. In 1927, two Russian men visited the village and met elderly Africans. The Russian men felt that an Ethiopian version of their arrival story was likely accurate since there were several parallels between the names of the villages in Ethiopia and the Afro-Abkhazian villages.

By the 1800s, they spoke only the northwest Caucasian Abkhaz language.

The origins of Zana herself are cloaked in myth. One thing is for certain. Zana was exploited horribly.

How much of the story of Zana’s origins is accurate, and how much was concocted to justify her subsequent treatment is unknown.

The Story

Zana was reportedly living wild and naked in the forest in the Caucasus region. These mountains had long been rumored to hold creatures similar to Bigfoot, called Almasty in Russia.

The story goes that a traveling noble merchant, possibly Edgi Genaba, heard about an apewoman living in the forest and paid the local men to capture this poor creature sometime between 1850 and 1870. The locals forced her into a spike-lined pit.

The nobleman paid the men, named his captive Zana, shackled her, took her home, and enclosed Zana in a cage where she dug a hole in which to sleep. A slightly different version of the story says that Zana was sold from man to man until Genaba bought her.

Zana was apparently covered in thick red hair, powerfully muscular and at 6 feet 6 inches in height, towering over the local residents. When given clothes, she reportedly would shred them.

Genaba charged people who would come and gawk at the naked caged “apewoman” who could not or did not speak.

Zana did not try to escape and eventually, she was granted some reprieve by “only” being chained to a fence.

Eventually, Zana was taught to do chores and in essence, became a servant. She was also provided with alcohol. The local men repeatedly raped Zana while she was drunk.

Zana reportedly had a total of 6 children by unknown local men, although only four can be relatively assured and two proven. Zana apparently took the first two babies to a river to wash them, but the children died. After that, the local women took the following four children away from Zana to protect them since she apparently didn’t understand how to care for an infant.

None of Zana’s children had her thick hair. They all spoke normally and had families. Pictures remain of two of her children, a daughter, Kodzhanar and a son, Khwit. You can see photos of Kodzhanar, Khwit and Khwit’s children, here, in a supplement to the paper.

Zana died after living in captivity for about 20 years, having been taken advantage of, first by Genaba and eventually, by the village men as well.

But Zana’s exploitation didn’t even end there.

Dr. Bryan Sykes, once a respected geneticist, in his later years, became a Bigfoot hunter. After analyzing DNA evidence from Zana’s granddaughter and relatives, along with the remains of her son, Sykes suggested that Zana belonged to a “sub-species of modern humans,” and called her “half human and half ape,” according to a Daily Mail article published in April of 2015. Sykes published a book in 2015, whose title I refuse to print, in which he suggests that Zana’s ancestors exited Africa 100,000 years before and she and her ancestors had, in essence, become a Caucuses Bigfoot – or Almasty in the local vernacular. However, Sykes also states that Zana was 100% African, had genes from west Africa, yet resembled no west African group of people. If you’re scratching your head saying to yourself that those things are contradictory – you’d be right.

Thankfully, Margaryan has now published a respectful academic paper about Zana.

The genomic origin of Zana of Abkhazia

Margaryan paper abstract:

Enigmatic phenomena have sparked the imagination of people around the globe into creating folkloric creatures. One prime example is Zana of Abkhazia (South Caucasus), a well-documented 19th-century female who was captured living wild in the forest. Zana’s appearance was sufficiently unusual, that she was referred to by locals as an Almasty—the analog of Bigfoot in the Caucasus. Although the exact location of Zana’s burial site was unknown, the grave of her son, Khwit, was identified in 1971. The genomes of Khwit and the alleged Zana skeleton were sequenced to an average depth of ca. 3× using ancient DNA techniques. The identical mtDNA and parent-offspring relationship between the two indicated that the unknown woman was indeed Zana. Population genomic analyses demonstrated that Zana’s immediate genetic ancestry can likely be traced to present-day East-African populations. We speculate that Zana might have had a genetic disorder such as congenital generalized hypertrichosis which could partially explain her strange behavior, lack of speech, and long body hair. Our findings elucidate Zana’s unfortunate story and provide a clear example of how prejudices of the time led to notions of cryptic hominids that are still held and transmitted by some today.

Hypertrichosis

Hypertrichosis, also known as “werewolf syndrome” is an extremely rare condition in which an abnormal amount of hair grows on the body. While this condition can develop later in life, it can also be congenital, or present at birth.

In some cases, hair grows all over the body, but in others, only grows in some places.

While Zana’s hair growth suggests hypertrichosis, Zana may have had other challenges as well given that she was nonverbal.

In medieval times, people who suffered from hypertrichosis often lived in courts and functioned as entertainers. In the 19th and 20th centuries, you could find them as performers in circuses and sideshows.

Congenital hypertrichosis, present from birth, can be inherited.

Petrus Gonsalvus, born in 1537 and referred to as “the man of the woods” spent his life in royal courts in Italy and France. He had seven children, four of whom apparently inherited the mutation for this condition from Petrus.

Petrus and his children with excessive hair, two of whom are shown above, were not considered fully human, although their court life allowed them to be well documented.

Petrus married Lady Catherine and their story may have been at least a part of the inspiration for the fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast, published in 1740, 122 years after Petrus’s death.

Zana’s Son, Khwit’s Y DNA

Due to Zana’s circumstances, we have no idea who Khwit’s father was. Khwit and the father himself may have not known either, given how Zana was treated by the local men who raped her. Furthermore, Zana’s children were taken from her and she was non-verbal, so even if she did know, she couldn’t have told her children.

Khwit’s Y DNA provides tantalizing clues.

FamilyTreeDNA’s analysis of Zana’s son, Khwit’s Y chromosome places him in the R-Z2103 subclade of R1b associated with the Yamnaya culture, and more specifically on branch R-Y4364 which has its highest frequency in the Caucasus.

You can see that the flags beside the subgroups above R-FTA50400 are all represented in the Caucasus region; Armenia, Russian Federation, Turkey, and the Palestinian Territory. They also reach into the surrounding areas: Italy, Poland, Greece, Germany, and then beneath Khwit’s branch, we find Scotland represented by subclade R-FTA49702. Khwit and the man from Scotland share 14 variants that branch subclade R-FTA50400 from R-FGCLR459.

Scotland? Well, that’s unexpected.

Looking at the block tree, below, you can see that while the two men are related back in time, it’s distant and they are separated by many private variants.

How long ago did the common ancestor of Khwit and the Scotsman live?

Goran Runfeldt, Head of Research and Development at FamilyTreeDNA, indicated that an early estimate would be that the common ancestor of Khwit’s father and the tester from Scotland would have lived in the Caucasus about 2200 years ago.

He stated that additional Big Y-700 testing is underway and a more definitive MRCA date may be able to be established.

Zana’s Mitochondrial DNA

Of course, Zana’s children all carried her mitochondrial DNA. Her daughters passed Zana’s mitochondrial DNA on to their children as well.

Fortunately, Zana’s mitochondrial DNA helps reassemble the pieces of Zana’s history.

I reached out to Dr. Miguel Vilar, a member of the Million Mito team member in the hope of revealing more of Zana’s puzzle. Dr. Villar is a molecular anthropologist at UMD and former lead scientist for the Genographic Project.

Dr. Vilar offered:

The DNA data and old stories together paint a very sad picture for the historical figure of Zana. The PCA plot of the autosomal DNA suggests she was genetically related to the Dinka pastoralist people from South Sudan, a marginalized group known to be above average in height and body size. Further, Zana’s mtDNA results place her on a basal branch of L2b1b, which geographically would align with an East Central African origin.

The combination of Zana’s height, body size, hair, and (apparent) inability to speak certainly advanced or at least fostered the story of Zana not being human.

Unfortunately, these combined features seemed to justify the non-human treatment of Zana by the local residents, particularly the men.

Contemporary DNA analysis proves Zana was fully human with African origins. She was not admixed with non-African DNA. How she or her family came to the Caucasus, or when, is unknown, but it likely has to do with the Ottoman Empire slave trade that began in the 16th century. The legend of Zana has probably grown and changed with time and retelling.

Ethics

Clearly, Zana’s original situation and later exploitation have been an ethical quagmire.

The authors of the Zana paper perhaps sum this up best:

Following her capture in the forest, Zana was deprived of her basic human rights, and treated as a slave: she was kept in captivity, likely forced to have sexual relations with local men, and worked in forced labor conditions. After she passed away, the accounts on her mythical figure attracted several scientists to unearth her story and her son’s bones were exhumed. Our study intends both to reveal the true human nature of Zana and grant her and her descendants’ remains the dignity they deserve.

Zana’s story isn’t over. Additional testing and analysis are being performed. Based on those findings, if any, we may be able to add another chapter to Zana’s story.

Zana, like everyone else, deserves the truth, even if unraveled and told posthumously. We can’t right the historical wrongs today, but at least we can correct the record.

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Robert Vernon Estes: Still Missing, But Not Forgotten – 52 Ancestors #339

Today was an incredible day – one I’ve been working towards and looking forward to for more than a year. One that Robert Vernon Estes earned more than 70 years ago.

Robert was a POW, captured in Korea on November 30, 1950.

Bobby is still MIA since he was never officially reported as either captured or known dead through official channels and his body was never returned.

He was declared dead, however, in 1954 after a fellow POW after release reported that Robert had died sometime around January 31, 1951.

This military photo in the Monticello paper is the only known photo of Bobby and we wouldn’t have that were it not for an incredibly tenacious volunteer at the White County Historical Society. I can’t thank her enough.

Our family has dispersed to the wind. Bobby is my father’s brother’s child. Bobby’s parents divorced as did my parents. I knew Bobby had died in the military, but had no details. Bobby’s father was involved in some type of accident that caused brain damage.

Bobby’s mother died before he was declared dead. I don’t know what happened to his step-father. Bobby’s brother went his own way and a generation or two later, the family had scattered to the winds.

Bobby died at 19, never married and had no children.

Seventy years later, I am Bobby’s closest remaining family member and as such, was the Gold Star Family representative at today’s memorial service. I think officially Gold Star family members are limited to immediate family – but my invitation addressed me as a Gold Star family member and I filled in for others now deceased.

I’m honored to represent Bobby, the first cousin I never knew, but who I’m named after.

I have written about Robert Vernon Estes twice.

Indiana War Memorial Foundation

The Indiana War Memorial Foundation had planned to honor Indiana’s Korean War MIAs in 2020, but had to postpone the event until this summer.

Today dawned hot and humid – a typical Indiana summer day with the exception of the high level smoke that made the atmosphere hazy in addition to hot and humid. The one blessing is that there was at least a hint of a breeze.

The Soldiers and Sailors Monument

The Soldier and Sailors Monument, dedicated in 1902 sits dead center in the middle of Indianapolis, dead center in the middle of Indiana.

alexeatswhales, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Bricks, many engraved with the names of veterans, pave the circular street and sidewalks surround the towering monument.

As I turned the corner to hunt for a parking garage, the monument loomed above the city in front of me. You can’t miss it.

The streets were blocked today and families, having traveled from from all over the country were instructed to arrive early.

The ceremony would begin at 10.

I noticed the man on the motorcycle and thought to myself that he must be awfully hot.

After parking and walking the couple blocks to the circle, I discovered why the bike was present.

Rolling Thunder

Rolling Thunder is an advocacy group of bikers who are veterans founded in 1995. Their membership is committed to accounting for all POW and MIA soldiers from all wars.

You may remember Rolling Thunder to the Wall in Washington DC in 2010 and the blessing of the bikes.

The last Washington DC ride took place in 2019, but the local and state chapters are still extremely active in their support and advocacy.

I walked straight up to these men and thanked them for both their service and for joining us today. One veteran reminded me of my brother, and it was all I could do to keep my voice from cracking and try not to stare.

We will see these guys a bit later:)

Signing In

As each family signed in, we noted the name of our soldier and our relationship. I was one of the early arrivals and noticed both “sister” and “daughter.” Siblings were still alive, but all of the parents, born about 1910 or earlier, would be gone now. Every single one of them passed away without closure about what happened to their son.

Bobby’s mother died before he was declared dead, but not before she received a small box with a few of his belongings. I hope they brought her at least some level of comfort.

Today, in Indy, bricks laid in honor of our family members who never came home would be unveiled to honor their service and sacrifice.

Family Packets

Not to say that it was hot or anything, but in the packets provided for each family were the quintessential “funeral fans.” Now I don’t suppose everyone called them funeral fans. They were always stuck in the back of pews with the hymnals at church when I was growing up.

Everyone at funerals always nervously fanned, AND, often funeral homes bought the fans – for advertising of course. Jesus praying was always on one side and the funeral home’s name was always on the other.

A lovely brochure was also included in the packet with the scheduled events of the day.

Of course, honoring these brave men was the purpose of today’s somber event.

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Before I go any further, I need to thank a number of anonymous people. I took many of these photos and videos, but not all. Our families had been assembled by virtue of common tragedy which provided us with an immediate bond. We talked, thanked the veterans and men in uniform present, shared photos, messaged back and forth, air-dropped and asked random people to please take our pictures in front of something or with other family members. By the time the ceremony actually began, we were on a first name basis and sharing stories.

In fact, perhaps the most amazing thing of all is what happened afterwards. You’re not going to believe this. But let’s get through the ceremony first.

Settling In

As people began to get settled, I stepped back far enough to get a photo of the tent that had (thankfully) been set up for the families in front of the Memorial. I had to stand back a LONG way. It’s HUGE!

As I kept backing up further to get this shot, I realized there was something going on in the street behind me.

Firetrucks and the Flag

Clearly security was a consideration for an event like this, and the streets were blocked off. The circle itself and the block leading to the circle.

I heard some commotion and turned around.

What are they doing?

Oh, look, it’s one of those huge flags.

I was excited to get to witness this. Look at the one guy literally “holding the bag.”

I remembered that my phone has video capability. Forgive the amateur behind the camera here – I had to flip it sideways at the end. It was quite an endeavor to keep the flag from touching the ground.

The flag was unfurled with a little help from one of the Rolling Thunder guys. Notice the firefighter with the now-empty bag. I wonder how they get the flag back in that bag.

I have to say, the flag being raised with synchronized ladders is an amazing sight and makes you feel really small and awestruck.

The flag was raised high above the street. I would love to have gone up to the observation tower in the Memorial and taken a look, but that building (ironically) wasn’t open, and besides, I didn’t want to miss anything outside.

I scoped out my seat near the end of the first row. People were milling around, but beginning to take their seats.

Preparations were taking place on the stage area and Rolling Thunder veterans were everyplace.

I happened to look back at the tent and saw the flag. You couldn’t miss the flag!

I was making my way to my seat at far left, above, and then I spotted “trouble.” The good kind of trouble:)

Trouble

You’ve all been my readership family long enough by now to know that I cannot go anyplace without some adventure finding me or me getting in some kind of trouble. When trouble fails to find me, that’s how I’ll know I’m dead.

You may recall, my brother-who-was-not-my-brother was a long haul trucker, a biker and a wounded Vietnam Marine.

Trust me, if you’re ever in real trouble someplace, find one of these guys.

Standing near my seat was another group of Rolling Thunder guys. I swear, they were the security detail. I mean, who’s going to mess with anyone with legions of these guys around. No sane person, that’s for sure!

I thanked these men for their service AND what they do today. The voice of remembrance when it’s all too easy to forget.

We talked about the MIA and POW men still unaccounted for and I told them that even though Bobby is officially MIA, we know he’s deceased, of course. Everyone shook their head in agreement. One of the men asked me his name. Then I explained it is my name too, I’m named for Robert. And I kept Estes too. Then I told them about Dave.

Not a dry eye in the place. A bit of shoe shuffling, allergies and hugging.

Let’s just say we bonded. Notice my special friend to my left who is modeling my bag. These guys were so doggone much fun to visit with and explained more about what Rolling Thunder does, how they participate, and their commitment. Trust me, no one rides bikes, wears leather and hangs out in the intense mid-summer heat if they aren’t either related or committed.

Before sitting down, I decided to grab one picture of the families and the flag from the memorial steps.

The Ceremony Begins

I had a great seat with a wonderful view of the Memorial itself. All those years I lived in Indiana and I never really paid attention. I’m not sure I had ever seen the Memorial other than from a distance.

The Indiana National Guard’s 38th Infantry Brass Quintet, in full dress uniform, was located to the right.

I can only imagine how miserable they must have been. You would never have known it from their lovely music.

The dignitaries begin delivering remarks.

The flags are ceremonially escorted into the stage area by a color guard – you’ve guessed it. Rolling Thunder again.

Remember that I mentioned there was, blessedly, a breeze?

The most shocking thing happened a minute or two later.

The breeze blew the American flag right over, onto the ground with a resounding thud. An audible gasp emanated from the crowd. Everyone knows that the flag is never supposed to touch the ground. When I was younger I thought a flag had to be destroyed if it touched the ground. I wondered what would happen, not eventually to the flag, but in this instance. In the middle of a ceremony honoring a special class of our veterans.

Two men from Rolling Thunder walked up behind the dignitaries, picked up the flags and proceeded to stand for the duration of the ceremony holding the flags upright. What a beautiful picture.

The National Anthem was sung, acapella, by Staff Sergeant Ronald Walker, also in full dress uniform. This man is both brave and amazing!

Unveiling the Bricks

Next, the bricks were unveiled. I had been unaware that the blue tarp was actually covering the bricks.

I don’t have to tell you who did the unveiling do I?

I was pleased to see that the bricks for the Korean POW/MIAs had been placed together, not scattered around the plaza.

My neighbor had a better view than I did and kindly shared his video with me.

The unveiling of the bricks was followed by the wreath laying.

The wreath laying is a respectful tradition associated with either funerals or memorial services.

The Roll Call

I didn’t know about the concept of Roll Call before. Now I’ll never be able to unhear it.

The name of the soldier still missing is read. A veteran, in this case, a Rolling Thunder member, steps forward and says, “Still missing, Sir,” then steps back.

This was repeated 195 times as the names were read in alphabetical order.

Simple.

Somber.

Gut-wrenching.

Each family member in attendance had been given a sign with their soldier’s photo, if one was available, and asked to stand and hold the photo facing the crowd when it was their turn.

The veteran sitting next to me knew the name of my soldier and filmed this, then gifted it to me.

I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am.

I was saddened to notice how many men did not have representative family members present.

As the Roll Call finished, and the Rolling Thunder men exited, a bagpiper played Amazing Grace. One of two songs I can never get through dry-eyed.

Followed, of course, by the next song I cannot get through dry-eyed.

The flags or colors were retired in the same way they had been presented initially.

After the Ceremony

Robert Vernon Estes and his 194 comrades never received a funeral. Their families never had closure. Regardless of what happened to those men in Korea, it’s clear that they are not still living today.

It was sad that we needed to have this service, but it was beautiful and somber and cathartic. It may not be closure for the immediate family, but it’s at least recognition that these men have not been forgotten.

After the ceremony, there was a palpable sense of gratitude and relief. The camaraderie of sharing this experience with others was so meaningful and important. I’m struggling to find the right words to convey the mixture of sad and glad and relief still mixed with prayers that one day, at least some of these men’s remains will be returned for burial. A real funeral, with taps, and the 21 gun salute, and everything else that they deserve. Not an empty hole of nothingness.

I’m so filled with gratitude for the many people who made this possible.

Some, but not all of the volunteers who made this lovely ceremony possible for the veterans and the Gold Star families. Thank you so very much.

The beautiful wreath standing by the bricks.

The only other wreath-laying ceremony I have ever attended was when the DAR set the stone for my Revolutionary War ancestor on another beastly hot summer day.

The Rest of the Story

I attended the ceremony alone. The people sitting in the row behind me seemed friendly enough. As we waited for the ceremony to begin, we chatted pleasantly about our respective family members that we were honoring.

They did not know much about the history of the unit in which their family member had fought. I was trying to explain about obtaining records from NARA, and declassified unit records – in essence what I had done for Robert Estes.

I had noticed that someone representing the Indiana senator’s office was sitting two seats from me. I turned around and told the man behind me that he needed to talk to the person from the senator’s office and ask for liaison assistance.

After they spoke, our group began talking again, and I told him I think that the unit his family member served in fought with the unit Robert served in.

Their family was fortunate to have several people in attendance, while I’m the only one left in my generation in my line. By this time, it was noon and miserably hot – on the north side of 90. The committee had provided rollups and ice cold water while the families visited afterwards, but everyone was ready for something more.

They invited me along to eat with them. I hesitated, not wanting to be a third wheel and hoping they didn’t feel obligated to invite me. They said, “hey, you’re family,” and you know, it felt like family. We decided we would just all be family, at least for today. I was so grateful for the invitation and felt like we had a common bond. Maybe it was the emotion of the day – I can’t explain it.

We managed to find the absolute worst Italian restaurant I’ve ever eaten in – but the companionship was wonderful and we had a room in the back to ourselves.

After we finished, I mentioned that I had to go back to the memorial because somehow I had forgotten to find Bobby’s brick and take a picture – and I wanted a picture of me with the brick too.

They said they had to walk back that way anyway, so we went together.

The stage area was clear and everyone was gone, of course.  Only a few flowers remained. But those bricks are permanent and will still be there long after we are gone!

I was so very pleased to be present for the one thing of permanence that will remain of Bobby.

I wanted to photograph the rest of the bricks, together.

That’s When It Happened!

Look.

Robert Minniear is the other family’s MIA soldier. He went missing on November 30, 1950,

So did Bobby.

Both men’s families were from the same part of Indiana.

We just stared at each other dumbstruck with the realization of our discovery. Our family members indeed had gone missing the same day. Likely in the same battle in Korea. Spoiler alert – I came back to my hotel and did indeed verify that the two units were fighting together on that day.

Did our family members know each other? Before, or after they were captured, or both? Were they held as POWs together, or was their Robert killed during either the fighting itself or the horrific conditions immediately after?

Can the information I’ve found about Bobby’s unit help their family gain closure?

What are the chances that this would happen? That we would all attend this ceremony, sit together, strike up a friendly conversation, feel a bond, go to lunch, discover our common roots in the same town, then the revelation of the same MIA date? Did I mention that one of these men is also named Robert, born the same year I was and named for his Robert too?

I’d swear, if I didn’t know better, that the Robert’s were sort of nudging us.

As Mike, my new family member was reading the dates on the rest of the bricks, he noticed several other men who were MIA that same day and remain so:

  • Gene Ruby – PFC USMC
  • Everett W. Leffler – CPL US Army
  • Robert L. White – SGT US Army
  • Robert Lee White – CPL US Army (I hope these two men aren’t closely related – that poor family.)
  • Donald K. Mitchell – CPL US Army
  • James Mishler – PFC US Army

Maybe, just maybe, this story isn’t quite over just yet. Maybe information about one of our soldiers is information about all of our soldiers…

Maybe there’s a chapter yet to be written.