Million Mito Project Team – Introduction and Progress Update

Let me introduce you to the Million Mito Project team.

Left to right, Goran Runfeldt, Dr. Paul Maier, me, and Dr. Miguel Vilar. And yes, I know we look kind of like a band😊. The Merry Mito Band maybe, except, trust me, I can’t sing.

Yes, we finally, finally got to meet in person recently, and let me tell you, that was one joyful meeting. I hadn’t realized that while I know everyone, not everyone else had met in person before.

We have been working for almost two years together via Zoom, but separately. Just 10 days after the Million Mito Project was announced, we went into Covid lockdown.

It’s difficult to work remotely on such a huge collaborative project, but we have been making inroads, albeit slower than we had initially hoped.

Complicating this was the merger of FamilyTreeDNA with myDNA in January of 2021, with Bennett Greenspan stepping down as the CEO in that process. Bennett greenlit the Million Mito project initially. (Thank you, Bennett!)

Thankfully, the new CEO, Dr. Lior Rauschberger continued that greenlight without hesitation as soon our team was able to inform him about this wonderful scientific project that was underway. (Thank you, Lior!)

I can’t tell you what a HUGE relief that was.

While all change is challenging, and complicated by the Covid landscape, life events, and geographic distance, that merger really was the right decision. Lior is committed to scientific research, discovery, and the genealogy marketspace. He’s looking to expand, not contract.

You’re probably wondering where we are now in the Million Mito process.

Million Mito Project Update

I’d like to provide a brief update.

  • We have an academic paper in the final stages of the submission process, but this paper is not the final tree. It is, however, something extremely cool and important to the history of womankind! I can’t say more until publication, but I’ll write an article when the paper is published.
  • The team hopes to work with a million samples between all sources including FamilyTreeDNA testers, research-consented Genographic samples, Genbank, and other academic samples. Not all samples from those sources are full mitochondrial sequences, or necessarily pass our QC checks.

If you haven’t yet taken a full sequence test, you can help reach the one million goal by ordering a mitochondrial DNA test at FamilyTreeDNA, here. If you tested at a lower level some years back, please sign on to your account and upgrade so you can be a part of this scientific frontier.

  • We discovered that the authors of Phylotree never documented the “recipe” for reconstructing the tree behind the scenes, so we can’t exactly use the recipe for Phylotree as the basis for constructing a future tree.
  • We have been in the process of writing phylogenetic software that arrives at a similar tree to use as a baseline reference structure in order to preserve as many of the current Phylotree haplogroup names as possible.

Hand curation and placement is possible for hundreds or a few thousand samples, but it’s not possible for large numbers. While phylogenetic software to do this kind of work has existed for a long time, it typically can’t handle huge trees like what we are building.

Phylogenetic methods also struggle with highly recurrent mutations, and rapid star-burst expansions that we see on the human trees. A phylogenetic problem of this magnitude requires lots of innovations to correctly interpret lineage history from complex mutations.

Automated software to handle very large numbers of sequences must be adapted or developed.

  • Furthermore, simply building upon an existing scaffold without automating the process does not provide an ongoing, sustainable procedure to discover where new dividing branches are discovered internally within the tree, versus at the tips. In other words, adding new branches based on common mutations is only easy when you’re simply appending a new haplogroup to an existing one.

For example, I might have a new haplogroup J1c2f1 derived from J1c2f. That’s easy. It’s another matter entirely if haplogroup J1 itself, high up in the tree, were broken into multiple new branches. Only automated software can “reconstruct” the tree regularly to discover new major branches as the results of more testers become available.


Let me share some examples of the kinds of challenges that we’ve encountered. Not only are these interesting, but they are also educational.

These figures are from Paul Maier’s RootsTech presentation, which I strongly recommend that you view, here.

Mitochondrial DNA is both fascinating and habit-forming. The more you know, the more you want to know.

Let’s start with the basics. Haplogroups are defined by one or more mutations that everyone upstream does NOT have, and everyone downstream DOES have.

Pretty simple so far, right!

Haplogroup-Defining Mutations

Here’s an example of a nice simple mutation that is one of the multiple mutations that define haplogroup L1, near the base of the mitochondrial tree (Mitochondrial Eve) in the center. At location 3666, the “normal” value is G, but in this branch, the G in that position has been replaced by an A.

You can see that the other haplogroups shown in the circle by black dots don’t have the G-to-A mutation at location 3666, but the red dot locations do carry that mutation. Therefore, G3666A is one of the mutations that defines haplogroup L1. Haplogroups can be defined by only one unique mutation, or multiple mutations.

Multiple Haplogroup-Defining Mutations

Haplogroups with multiple mutations that define that specific haplogroup are candidates to be split into multiple branches forming new haplogroups at some point in the future when other people test who have:

  1. One or the other of those mutations if there are only two
  2. A subset of the mutations
  3. But not all of the mutations

Click on images to enlarge

For example, in the view of the public mitochondrial haplotree at FamilyTreeDNA which you can view here, you see that haplogroup L1 is defined by a total of 6 mutations. Someday, people may test that only have half (or a portion) of those mutations which would cause haplogroup L1 to split or branch into two separate haplogroups.

Unstable Mutations

Some mitochondrial locations are unstable, such as 16519C, along with a few other hypervariable locations. By unstable, I mean that they have mutated back and forth in the tree many times. The historical branching patterns of such unstable mutations can be difficult to decipher (the technical term is “saturation”), suggesting perhaps that they should not be the foundation for a new haplogroup.

Do we ignore those unstable locations entirely?

After discounting those well-known unstable locations, we still find some mutations, often in the HVR (hypervariable) regions that occur close to 100 times in the full tree.

This mutation at location 150 from C to T occurred four distinct times just in this small subset of haplogroup L. You can see the 4 locations I’ve bracketed with red boxes.

Is C150T stable enough to form a haplogroup? Multiple haplogroups? Should it be used high in the tree if this affects the complete downstream structure?

This same mutation occurs additional times further downstream in the tree, as well.

Reverse Mutations

Of course, some haplogroups are defined by reverse mutations, where the original mutation reverts back to its original state.

What about locations that have as many as 3 reverse mutations, which means that one location mutates back and forth 6 times in total? Kind of like a drunken sailor zigging and zagging along the street.

If we counted each mutation and reversal as a new haplogroup, we would have 6 new haplogroups based on this one single location in one parent haplogroup. Is that accurate, or should we ignore it altogether?

Here’s an example of one mutation and a corresponding back mutation.

In this scenario, the mutation of location 7055 from A to G occurred once in the formation of haplogroup L1. However, a back mutation took place, signified by the ! (exclamation mark) after the A, which is a defining mutation for haplogroup L1c3. All of the other L1c haplogroups still carry the A to G mutation, while L1c3 does not.

In some scenarios, the same location bounces back and forth. Should it still be counted as a haplogroup defining mutation, or is it simply “noise”?


How do heteroplasmies play into this scenario?

Heteroplasmies occur when more than one value is discerned in an individual’s DNA at a specific location. Heteroplasmies do not define haplogroups, but they are reported in your personal results.

To be reported as a heteroplasmy, both values need to be detected at a level of over 20%. In the above scenario, if both G and A were found greater than 20% of the time, it would be counted at a heteroplasmy with a special notation.

For example, if G and A are both found more than 20% of the time, the notation would be R instead of either G or A. If the location was G7055, above, and G and A were both found above 20%, the notation would be G7055R.

However, if G was found 81% of the time or more, then it would be counted as G, which is “normal,” and if A was found 81% of the time or more, then the value would be reported as A, a mutation. If we see the normal state of G, then an A, then a G, is that a mutation and a back mutation? How many samples would need to contain that back mutation to count it as a mutation and not an aberration, an undetected borderline heteroplasmy slipping back and forth over the threshold, or simply noise?

Transitions Versus Transversions

There are two types of mutations, transitions and transversions, that probably should be weighted differently – but how differently, and why?

Some types of mutations occur more easily than others and are therefore more common. Paul explains this very well in his RootsTech video, but in a nutshell, transitions between T/C and A/G are much more common than transversions between A/C, G/T, C/G, and A/T. Therefore, transversions are noted with a small letter, shown above as T7624a.

In phylogenetics, the rarer mutation which is chemically less likely to occur (transversion) is weighted more heavily than the likelier mutations (transitions).


Insertions are another type of challenge. Insertions happen when extra DNA is inserted at a specific location, kind of like the genetic equivalent of cutting in line.

In this graphic, we see that at location 5899, there’s an extension of .XC, written as 5899.XC. This means that at this location, you’ll find an unknown or varying number of additional Cs inserted. Paul showed several example sequences in the box at upper left. In some people who have this mutation, there are only one or two inserted Cs. In other people, there are several Cs, shown in the bottom two sequences.

You might recognize this as a phenomenon similar to Y DNA STRs which are short tandem repeats. Of course, we don’t use STRs for haplogroup identification in Y DNA. How should we handle insertions, especially multiple insertions, in building the Mitotree?


We see deletions of DNA too, indicated by a small “d” after the location. In some cases, we find large deletions.

At location 8281, there is a 9 base-pair deletion (8281 through 8289) that is one of the haplogroup defining mutations for haplogroup L0a2. We find a 9 base-pair deletion in exactly the same location again within subclades of haplogroups B and U.

Is there something about this specific location that makes it more prone to deletions, and specifically a deletion of exactly 9 base pairs?

Seeking Answers

Of course, we’re seeking all of these answers.

The team has been writing code to create structural trees based on various scenarios and trying to determine which ones make the most sense, all factors considered.

The current official tree, meaning the 2016 Build 17 version of Phylotree, is based on about 8,000 samples. Working with one million versus 8,000 is a challenge that ramps exponentially, necessitating substantial computing power.

Working with 125 times more data provides amazing potential, but it has also introduced challenges that never had to be addressed before. It’s evident, to us at least, why Phylotree wasn’t updated after 2016. The tools simply don’t exist.

Sneak Peek

We fully expect hundreds if not thousands of new haplogroups to form. Today, Paul’s haplogroup is U5a2b2a which was formed about 5,000 years ago during the Bronze Age.

The haplogroup itself is useful to determine roughly where your ancestors were at that time, and often provide information about more recent population group history, but you need mitochondrial DNA matching to provide more genealogically useful information.

Paul’s test results show that he has 8 extra mutations, which means those mutations are in addition to his haplogroup-defining mutations. These extra mutations are what make genealogical matching so useful.

Paul has 16 full sequence matches that match him at a genetic distance of 3 mutations or less, although due to privacy restrictions at FamilyTreeDNA, we can’t see which matches share which mutations.

Given that Paul has 8 extra mutations, this means that it’s possible that one or more new haplogroups will be formed using some or all of those 8 extra mutations, and that those people who match him at a GD of 3 or less will very likely be members of a newly formed haplogroup.

Here’s a comparison of Paul’s haplogroup today, at left, with the newly created U5a2b2a branch and resulting subclades in a beta version of our experimental Mitotree, at right. This moves Paul’s new haplogroup, the pink node at right, from 5,000 to 500 years ago which is clearly within a genealogically relevant timeframe.

The single haplogroup, U5a2b2a, now has been expanded to 7 subgroups. If U5a2b2a is representative of the expansion capability of the entire tree, that’s a 7-fold increase.

Of Paul’s 16 matches, those with the same new haplogroup are those where he needs to focus his genealogical research.

Where Are We?

This is not a commitment, but we expect to release a sneak preview of the new Mitotree this year.

If you have extra or missing mutations, especially in the coding region, you and your close matches may very well receive a new, expanded haplogroup.

Highly refined haplogroups will improve the ability to use mitochondrial DNA for genealogical purposes – similar to what the Big Y-700 SNP testing and the expanded haplotree have done for Y DNA.

Like with Y DNA, you’ll want to use your new haplogroup in combination with genealogical trees.

The more people that test, the more success stories emerge, and the more people that WILL test. Just think what would happen if everyone who took a Y or autosomal DNA test also took a mitochondrial DNA test. We’d be bulldozing through brick walls every day.

I don’t know about you, but I have so many women in my trees with no parents. I need more tools and can hardly wait.


The new Mitotree is fueled by the Million Mito Project which is fueled by full sequence DNA testing, so please purchase yours today.

And yes, in case you were wondering, the new Mitotree will be free and public, just like the existing Mitochondrial DNA Tree and Y DNA Tree are at FamilyTreeDNA today.

You can read more about the Million Mito project here and here.

You can watch Paul’s Million Mito RootsTech presentation, here.

Paul, Miguel and I will be co-presenting Mitochondrial DNA Academy on Saturday, April 23, during the ECCGC Conference which you can read about here and register here.


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If Stone Could Speak: Koehler Family Life in Ellerstadt – 52 Ancestors #354

Not long after I published the article Johann Peter Koehler (1724-1791), Innkeeper, Lawyer, Mayor of Ellerstadt, my friend Chris sent me a note saying: “Please have a look at this website:”

The webpage is in German, of course, but above is the autotranslation, confirmed by Chris.

Wait? What? This winery was founded by Anna Barbara Koehler. Could that be true? Is she related to Johann Peter Koehler, the same Lowenwirt who died in 1791 and his wife, Anna Elisabetha Scherer? It sure looks like it!

Not only is there seemingly a connection via the Köhler family, but it also provides what seems to be an exact current address of the former Lion Inn. Am I really this lucky?

Look! The red pin shows 9 Ratstrasse. Is this where Johann Peter Koehler lived? The winery, today, is still located at the same location. Of course, the grapes are no longer grown behind the “inn” like they would have been in the 1700s.

In this aerial, you can see the old Inn, today’s Hammel winery business, the Lutheran church where the Koehler family baptized their children, married their true loves, and generations are buried.

It appears that Koehler blood still runs in the veins of Ellerstadt citizens.

My heart skipped a beat. Is this actually the location of Johann Peter Koehler’s inn? The current owners know they descend from a Koehler, but is it the same Koehler line? What else might they know?

Chris offered, if I wanted to contact the owner, to translate an email from me into German and send it off. Did I want to make contact, Chris asked?

OF COURSE! Is water wet?


From this point forward, all of the photos and documents are courtesy of Günter Lauer, except where noted or contemporary maps that I’ve provided through Google Maps.

Even if Günter is not the original author of the documents, he is responsible for providing the photos and transcribing most of the information, with the exception of information provided and translated by my friend, Chris. I have provided a few comments and links, but without the goodies provided by Günter and Chris, this article wouldn’t exist, at all.

A HUGE thank you to both of these gentlemen for their time, sharing, and permission to share with you.

From Chris

Günter Lauer from Ellerstadt responded and I think “we hit gold”. He attached numerous files.

His reply contains a letter with his response, a genealogical table showing his own connection to the Köhler family, all pages of a local history book of Ellerstadt and two maps, both with the inn “Zum roten Löwen” labeled on it (Ratstraße 9 in Ellerstadt, in front of today`s location of the Hammel winery that I linked to earlier).

Günter Lauer had even in 2010 transcribed an old unpublished book he found in an archive that lists all houses of Ellerstadt and their owner`s history. He attached the part concerning the house where the inn was located.

Günter Lauer’s Reply

Automated translation of Günter Lauer`s letter to Chris.

Question about the Löwenwirt of Ellerstadt

Dear Sir,

With pleasure I will answer your questions today. My great hobby is family research and I often try to help other people to find their ancestors. Closely connected with the family research is of course also the history of my place. Therefore it is also possible for me to answer questions about the dwelling of the persons concerned. So I can also answer your question about the location of the “Roter Lö-wen”. But I will come to that later.

But first I would like to show my connection to the ancestors of your friend [Roberta].

Click any image to enlarge. Günter’s Koehler lineage is shown in red boxes.

The representation begins with my ancestor Johann Peter Lauer who was married to Maria Theresia Koehler.

Theresia Koehler in turn was the daughter of Johann Peter Koehler. He was born in Ellerstadt in 1775 and worked as a baker in Seltz in Alsace. It would be interesting to clarify what had driven Johann Peter Koehler there. Ellerstadt belonged after the French Revolution to France, so employment in the French Seltz was no obstacle. In any case, he found employment in a bakery there and eventually married Anna-Maria Rohr, the wife of the deceased baker. Maria Theresia, their daughter, was born in Seltz in 1799.

The Koehler couple eventually returned to Ellerstadt. The time of their return, which may have had something to do with the political upheavals of 1815, is unknown. It is conceivable that it was no longer possible for him to stay in Seltz, because the borders had shifted in the meantime. The Palatinate had become Bavarian and Seltz remained French. He probably had to leave the country as a “foreigner” for this reason. Anna-Maria Rohr died in 1824 in Ellerstadt. Two years later Johann Peter Koehler married again.

Further details can be found in the attached appendices. His grandfather of the same name, Johann Peter Koehler [1724-1791] is probably the first Koehler in Ellerstadt, but he was certainly not born here, because a corresponding entry is not found in the church records.

In the baptismal register entry for Peter Koehler from 1747, above, the grandfather Johann Peter Koehler + uxor (wife) Ottilia from Rehhütte (near Limburgerhof) are named as “Petter” (godfather).

In the article of Roberta Estes however, Anna Elisabetha Ulzhofer is indicated as wife [of Johann Peter Koehler of Rehhütte]. What is correct? How did your friend come to this conclusion? However, I myself have not yet made an effort to do another search in the direction of “Rehhütte”.

Please note that Ottilla was a second wife and not the mother of Johann Peter Koehler born in 1724. I will cover this in a future article. Back to Günter’s letter.

In the attached family tree, you will also find the name Jonas Gregorius Huber. His son Andreas [green boxes] emigrated from Ellerstadt to America and he is the ancestor of the later American president Herbert Hoover [1874-1964].

Now I would like to come to your question, where did the Koehler family live?
As you can see from the so far unpublished “Häuserbuch” of our local historian Ernst Merk, which I have enclosed in extracts, at the entry Emil Hammel, it can be assumed that the today’s winery Hammel, Ratstraße 9 is to be regarded as the place where the Koehler family lived. It is the former location of the inn “Zum roten Löwen”. As Roberta Estes has already correctly found out, Anna Barbara Koehler was married to Johannes Hammel. The property is still occupied by their descendants.

Oh glory!!! It IS the original location.

For your orientation, I enclose village maps from the years 1834 and 2022.

Note that I do not (yet) have permission to use the 1834 map, and my contact has since become temporarily unavailable. When I receive permission, I will add the 1834 map, but Günter was kind enough to provide a contemporary map with the locations noted as well.

On the above map provided by Günter, the Winery is shown, the Pfarshaus (parsonage) dating from 1825, the old school from 1838 which is also the city hall, and the church of course.

This part of Ellerstadt is very nearly the same configuration as it was in 1834.

Furthermore, I enclose the “Commission protocol about the exchange of the Durlachian pledge against the Elector Palatine pledge on the von Mentzing village Gondelsheim” from the year 1761, which I found some time ago in the General State Archive Karlsruhe. It contains among other things a list of citizens and inhabitants. Listed are the persons who were probably present as witnesses at the public exchange negotiation in front of the Ellerstadt town hall. Peter Koehler is also mentioned there.

Further notes to the article by Roberta Estes:

The Koehler family did not see these two “new buildings.”

Günter is referring to the City Hall/school and church. The photo above is the Ellerstadt school which was constructed in 1838. The previous building was either torn down or incorporated into this building.

Furthermore, in 1830 the name Koehler disappears in Ellerstadt. Only the former parsonage which was built in 1825 might have been known by the bearers of the name Koehler. I have marked the mentioned buildings on the attached village maps.

In addition, I add the local history of Ellerstadt which Ernst Merk wrote in 1921. It contains a lot of details. Many sources cannot be found today due to war losses.

I think I have answered all your questions, but I am available for further inquiries at any time.

Best regards from Ellerstadt,

Günter Lauer

I cannot tell you how pleased I am to be in touch with my cousin, Günter, who has also been bitten by the genealogy/history bug.

The Merk House Book

From Chris:

As Günter Lauer lays out in the introduction, the manuscript of the house book of Ellerstadt was handwritten by Ernst Merk, but then never published before his death in 1964. Today, the manuscript is stored in “Landesarchiv Speyer, Bestand V 19, Nachlaß von Ernst Merk, Oberpostinspektor”, which would be the reference for the original manuscript. Günter Lauer transcribed the old handwriting of the house book (400 pages in total), but it is still unpublished. What he sent to me/us here, is an excerpt with the record for Ratstraße 9 and a couple of maps. You already have the 1832 map of Ellerstadt with house “no. 113”, Ratstraße 9, labeled on it. This house and its history is what the following text refers to. Whereever it is written “today” or “at present”, it refers to the time that Ernst Merk wrote it – sometime until 1964.

I asked Günter Lauer, if he would agree to publishing this part on the internet, but I assume that, alternatively, parts of the content in a rewritten form will do as well for you.

I took the Deepl translation of the text and curated some translations to make it more readable. Please find it below

Ratstrasse 9, excerpt from Ellerstadt house book written by Ernst Merk, transcribed by Günter Lauer in 2010, translated by Chris.

Source: “Landesarchiv Speyer, Bestand V 19, Nachlaß von Ernst Merk, Oberpostinspektor“

Emil Hammel; House No. 149167, Bes. No. 113, Plan No. 116, 116½, 117 (Ratstraße 9).

According to stock book entry no. 35, the western part of the house belonged in 1723 to Hans Nickel Hahnert as his second residence. His other house was to the west side next door (see house no. 151). Through his daughter Anna Katharina, who in 1730 married Johann Leonhardt Meenart, the house came into his possession. Johann Leonhardt had only one son Johann Nikolaus, but he was not listed as the next owner of the house of his father Johann Leonhardt. The house must therefore have passed from Johann Leonhardt Meinhardt directly to Johann Peter Köhler. Which of the two demolished the small house of Hahnert and rebuilt it cannot be determined.

Nikolaus Meinhardt is known as the owner of the present house of Michael Weber (see no. 55) since about the year 1790. In the years 1768 to 1790 he seems to have lived with his father.

In 1790 it was owned by the master baker and innkeeper “Zum roten Löwen”, [to the Red Lion] Johann Peter Köhler and his wife, widow Charlotte née Braun.

Note – Charlotte (Charlotta) Braun was Johann Peter Koehler’s [1724-1791] first wife. after her death in 1762, he married Anna Elisabetha Scherer, and after her death in 1784, he married Anna Margaretha Volcker. In 1790, he still owned the Red Lion but his wife at the time was not Charlotte. Their son, Johann Peter Koehler, born in 1747, married Maria Sophia Huber, daughter of the proprietor of the inn called “The Green Tree” in 1773 and had son Johann Peter Koehler in 1775 who would also become a baker. Johann Peter Koehler who married Maria Sophis Huber had four more children, among them Anna Barbara Koehler born in 1778 who married Johannes Hammel.

It’s interesting that Günter refers to Johann Peter Koehler 1724-1791 also as a master baker. We know his grandson, also named Johann Peter Koehler, born 1775, was indeed a baker, but this is the first reference to the elder Johann Peter Koehler as a master baker too – although it certainly makes sense.

Johann Leonhardt Meinhardt bought an additional area,15 shoes (4.56 meters) in width, from the owner of the adjoining house to the east house (today house Diehl).

According to the French directory, in 1802, the house was already built with two stories.

Through the daughter Anna Barbara of Peter Köhler the house was transferred in 1817 to her husband Johannes Hammel, who in return sold his former house to Johann Peter Köhler (today house Dr. Adolf Lauer No. 157). In 1853, the house was inherited by her husband Andreas Hammel I, who was married to Katharina Elisabetha née Frey, and then was inherited again by their son Wilhelm Hammel and his wife Maria née Hauck, who added a second barn. Then, in 1910, it was passed to their son Emil Hammel and his wife. Today it is owned by Wilhelm Hammel and his wife, née König.

 House History

The residential building of Wilhelm Hammel, house no. 149, plan no. 116, 116½ and 117 (Ratstraße 9) was demolished by the owner Wilhelm Hammel on April 22, 1961. The farm buildings were preserved.

The current owners graciously provided this photo of the original house prior to the demolition in 1961. Günter believes the photo was taken about 1920.

This was The Red Lion Inn where Johann Peter Koehler (1724-1791) lived with his wives, Charlotta Braun, Anna Elisabether Scherer and Anna Margaretha Volcker.

In 1723, this house belonged to Hans Nicolaus Hahnert as a second residential house. (The Hahnert family was already resident here in Ellerstadt in 1627. During the Thirty Years War, in 1632, the family moved due to the invasion of the troops of the League and the Swedes into the Palatinate and is mentioned again in 1700 in the church book). His first house stood to the west next door. Hans Nicolaus Hahnert had a wife and two children:

Caspar Hahnert
* 22.4.1700
∞ 8.3.1734 with Anna Catharina Meenart, daughter of Johannes Meenart

Anna Catharina Hahnert
* 2.10.1703
∞ 24.1.1730 with Johann Leonhardt Meenart, son of Johannes Meenart

Caspar received the first residential house, today the 1961 house of Ernst Merk, plan no. 114, house no. 151, and his sister Anna Catharina Hahnert received the house, which today belongs to Wilhelm Hammel.

Through their marriage with the two children Anna Catharina and Johann Leonhardt Meenart the Hahnert and Meinhardt families became relatives and in-laws. The descendants of Caspar lived in their house (Merk) until the year 1883. The family of Leonhardt Meenart became extinct already with his 2 grandchildren Johann Leonhardt and Johann Friedrich in 1765 and 1767.

Around the year 1740, Leonhardt Meenart, husband of Anna Katharina Hahnert, bought the house lot of the widow Werns, which was located to the east of his house, 15 shoes (= 4.52 meters) in width. It can be assumed that he now built the small house next to that of his father-in-law Hans Nicolaus Hahnert. and rebuilt it on the east side of his house square. During the demolition of the house in April 1961, a wall, at least the gable wall of Hahnert’s 2nd house, was cut 3 meters to the north from the village street.

A substantial reconstruction must have been made around or soon after the year 1750.

The son Johann Peter Köhler [1724-1791] of the Electoral Palatine tax collector Johann Peter Köhler [1696-1762] of the Rehhütte married in 1746 the daughter of the resident widow Charlotte Braun and is the immediate owner soon after Leonhardt Meenart. He can be proven in the files as owner of the house. Since no relationship of this family Braun with Köhler existed, he must have bought the house from Leonhardt Meenart and opened in it the inn “Zum roten Löwen”. But the small house was not sufficient for this purpose, so he decided to rebuild it thoroughly. His son, also named Johann Peter, expanded the business with a bakery.

This suggests that perhaps the son, Johann Peter Koehler, born in 1747, was acting as proprietor in 1790 and had added a bakery. Perhaps his father, age 66 but still with 8 children under the age of 20, who was also a lawyer and town mayor was sharing the responsibilities of the inn with his son who would one day take over from him entirely.

But the Köhler family [surname] also became extinct, like the Meenart family already around 1820.

The baker Köhler, married to a daughter of the “Grünebaumwirt” Huber, an ancestor of the American president Hoover, also had a daughter, who married on January 27, 1800, Johannes Hammel, son of Jakob and Elisabetha Trumm.

The house has remained with the descendants until today and is now in 1961 undergoing its third reconstruction.

Ratstrasse 9, excerpt from Ellerstadt house book written by Ernst Merk, transcribed by Günter Lauer in 2010. Original source: “Landesarchiv Speyer, Bestand V 19, Nachlaß von Ernst Merk, Oberpostinspektor“

Ellerstadt Local History from Chris

I also flipped through the local history book of Ellerstadt by Ernst Merk, published in 1921. I did not read it page by page, so may have missed important parts, but this is what I could find, which I thought could be interesting for you:

Page 19 ff. (of PDF)

Here, a description of the local history in the 18th century starts. I do not translate it word by word, only the content:

  • In 1689, when Bad Dürkheim was burnt down in the course of the Orleans succession war, Ellerstadt also had to suffer.

Bad Durkheim is only about four and a half miles from Ellerstadt. The Ellerstadt residents probably watched in horror as their neighbor village burned, fearing for their own lives. The Koehler family had not yet settled in Ellerstadt at this time. They lived 17 miles east, in Seckenheim, across the Rhine River. It would be two generations before Johann Peter Koehler, born in 1724, would settle in Ellerstadt about 1746. However, the stage was being set for what would follow from repeated invasions from France.

  • In 1707, Kasimir Kolb von Wartenberg was appointed as a count, along with his belongings, among them Ellerstadt.
  • In 1712, he died and his son started to accumulate a growing amount of debts, forcing him to give several of his belongings as pledge to the margrave Karl Friedrich von Baden – importantly along with the right to collect taxes.
  • When the French [military] crossed through Ellerstadt in 1713, the citizens fled into the church and erected a wall in front of both doors to better defend themselves. Source: Ellerstadt parish book.
  • The old parsonage of Ellerstadt was built in 1715, but demolished in 1825, so the existent parsonage, shown below, was not the one that your Köhler ancestors saw.

  • Page 25 economy: From an Ellerstadt directory from 1722, it can be seen that the belongings of the village were about the same as in 1921. But there were not as many vineyards as in 1921, but mainly acres.
  • The next section is long and includes information about the tax burden to the citizens. In 1744, several citizens complained that they were ordered to leave the town and all their property if they continued to refuse paying their share.

Johann Peter Koehler bought the house that would be The Red Lion Inn sometime around the time he married Charlotta Braun in 1746 and subsequently rebuilt the structure.

  • In 1751, Wartenberg tried to collect the taxes by force. the count ordered sergeant Straub, the mayor and one musqueteer to occupy the village streets on both sides and pledge all citizens who would not pay the taxes.

Johann Peter Koehler would have been living in Ellerstadt with his wife and young family at this time, but it’s unclearly exactly when he obtained this property and established the Lion inn.

  • Page 67: The Lion inn belonged to the family Köhler in 1753 and was located in the present [1921] house of Emil Hammel. In addition, there was the “Inn of the Green Tree”, which was located from about 1680 to 1840 in the present house of Jakob Merk. A third inn was owned in 1720 by Johann Braun, but its location cannot be determined, since at this time two families with this name existed in the village.

It’s interesting that Johann Braun owned another inn, especially given that Johann Peter Koehler married Charlotta Braun in 1746. We don’t know exactly how old Charlotta was at the time of their wedding, but we do know that she had a child in 1761 before her death a year later in 1762, so she was born about 1716 or later. Based on Peter’s age, I’d wager about 1724. She, referred to as the daughter of the local widow Braun when she married Peter Koehler, may well have been the daughter of Johann Braun, the innkeeper.

  • ­­­In 1761, the Electoral Palatinate bought the pledge from him, but there had been court dispute about it with the original owner, the von Wartenberg family. In Ellerstadt, all male citizens, widows and Jews were assembled in front of the city hall (located in Ratstraße 1, but the current building there was built in 1838, so the former city hall is not preserved) to inform them about the change. A list was put up of everyone who was present and this list in alphabetical order is written down on pages 6 to 10 of the document. The first one on the list is pastor Huth, mentioned earlier. The list further includes Peter Köhler (page 8, top) and the widow of a Jacob Kirsch (page 7, bottom). The document was written by a notary by the name of Johann Georg Anton Vogel, who on his way to Ellerstadt took with him two witnesses from Fußgönnheim, Johann Michael Kirsch and Vallentin Löw. The signatures of these two witnesses are on the last page of the document.

Charlotta Braun, Johann Peter Koehler’s wife died in March of 1762. A widower with several children and an inn to run, he married Anna Elisabetha Scherer in June of 1762.

  • The twenty years 1761-1781 had been a hard time for Ellerstadt, since its citizens were all Lutherans and felt suppressed by the Electoral Palatinate, which treated the Reformed and Catholics equally.
  • In 1781, the 1761 purchase/pledge of Ellerstadt was cancelled.
  • Each inn owner had to pay three guilder (abbreviated “fl”) each year for his right to run an inn with an inn sign (“Schild”), called “Schildgerechtigkeit”. In 1782, two inns existed. In addition, each inn owner had to pay one guilder and 15 kreuzer for each Ohm of sold wine and 20 kreuzer for each sold Ohm of beer. One Ohm was an old measure, equivalent to a fluid in the range of 35-45 US gallons, dependent on the region of Germany.

Between 1763 and 1784, Johann Peter Koehler and Anna Elisabetha Scherer had 13 children, in addition to the 8 children he had with Charlotta Braun. In July of 1784, Anna Elisabetha died. Once again a widower with small children, including a baby only six months old when Elizabetha passed away, he married his third wife, Anna Margaretha Volcker of Assenheim in July of 1785. Nothing more is known of her, but I also haven’t looked.

  • Since the von Wartenberg family`s debts did not lower, in 1789, Ellerstadt and other towns were sold in total to the grave Franz von Sickingen, a noble family from Baden.
  • In 1789, the French Revolution started and Ellerstadt suffered again in several ways in the following years until the final retreat of the French in 1813. The French occupied Frankenthal, Bad Dürkheim and mainly Lambsheim, which still had walls and ditches and served as their base.

In 1789, Johann Peter Koehler, the innkeeper, would have been 65 years old. Assuredly, the French soldiers who occupied Bad Durkheim, only four and a half miles away, didn’t limit themselves to Bad Durkheim. Did they recreate at the Lion Inn, eating, drinking, and spending money, or did they rampage through Ellerstadt and steal what they wanted? Peter’s death record just two years later shows that he was at one point the mayor of Ellerstadt. Was he mayor in 1789? Did he have even more problems at hand than his own inn and family?

  • [The following content from page 26.] Along with the revolution laws of the French Republic, the feudal taxes were abolished in May 1790, but not the interests of hereditary leaseholders. The latter were asked to make a one-time payment (15 times the yearly interest) to buy the belongings and get rid of the interests for good. Even after the retreat of the French, the above-mentioned regulations remained.

We don’t know the cause of death for Johann Peter Koehler in August of 1791, but given the stress level he had to be experiencing, I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if it wasn’t either a heart attack or stroke. He was only a month shy of 67 years old. Not elderly today, but without modern medicine back in 1791 which might have extended his life.

You can view six historical photos of Ellerstadt, here, apparently before automobiles. The second of six photos shows a woman pushing some type of cart with a basket and  one front wheel. I can close my eyes and see my ancestors pushing that same type of cart, along with the ox-drawn farm wagons. The third photo shows the beautiful grapevines with the church spire in the distance. Picture 4 shows fruit harvesting and the 5th and 6th photos look to be taken in a market setting, perhaps selling fruit or grapes destined to become wine.

Battle for the Dead

From Chris:

On page 52, an anecdote, which is not directly connected to your ancestors, but which I found interesting and which took place at the time your ancestors were living there. As mentioned above, in 1761, the before strongly Lutheran parish was handed over to the Electoral Palatinate with more tolerance to the Reformed belief. In 1754, when Ellerstadt was given as pledge to the margraves of Baden, the reformed pastor Michel from Gönnheim claimed to also have the right to provide services in the Ellerstadt church, while the Lutheran pastor claimed that it was his sole right to provide services.

A few years later, in 1761, the reformed Ellerstadt citizen Andreas Müller died. Both the Lutheran pastor Huth from Ellerstadt as well as the above-mentioned Reformed pastor Michel of Gönnheim entered the house of the dead along with school teachers and pupils. While the Lutherans started one song at the bedside of the deceased, the Reformed started to sing another song at the same time. In the Churchyard, both pastors gave their service to the deceased, the Lutheran pastor in the church, the Reformed pastor in the barn belonging to the deceased.

On another occasion, the burial of the Reformed citizen Johann Adam Braun was prevented by force by the Lutherans and thus the burial had to be postponed to the next Sunday. On this Sunday, several Reformed and also officials from other villages arrived in Ellerstadt. Since the Lutheran pastor Huth refused to hand out the church keys, the Reformed citizen Weilbrenner destroyed the church door and the burial took place in the Ellerstadt church.

History of Ellerstadt

At the end of the local Merk history book of Ellerstadt, on page 70f., there is a list of all family names, which were present in Ellerstadt at a given time [range]. “Köhler” is listed in the column “1736-1780” (in the continuation on page 71), but not for earlier years. That is consistent with Johann Peter Köhler, Lion Inn owner, having not been a citizen of Ellerstadt before that time.

Page 72 is titled “A list of all families who started here, sorted by the time they immigrated.” I struggle with this particular type font.

The Merk house book includes these lovely hand-drawn maps.

The 1722 map shows 64 structures, in addition to the church.

Johann Peter Koehler and his wives lived equidistant in time between the 1722 map (24 years before his first marriage in Ellerstadt) and the next map dated from 1807 (15 years after his death.)

It’s interesting to note that the original church on the 1722 map is shown with a walk from Ratstrasse to the church, but by 1807, that walkway or entrance no longer exists and has been replaced by a building which appears to be the parsonage and possibly the school. That walkway appeared to be wider than a normal walk, probably because it had to be large enough to approach the church with a cart or wagon carrying a casket.

The Lion Inn may have existed as an inn in 1722, but if so, it was rebuilt around the time Johann Peter Koehler purchased the property and established the Lion Inn after his 1746 marriage and before 1753 when we know he owned the inn.

I can’t tell exactly which house is the current 9 Ratstrasse, but I’d wager that it’s the third or fourth house below the walkway to the church.

There are no structures behind any of the buildings. These houses were farmhouses, arranged in the typical manner of German homes where the houses were clustered tightly together in a village for protection, the barns for livestock clustered tightly with the homes, with their respective fields stretching out behind the barns.

The main street had a stream on both sides which would be ideal for both people and livestock. It’s no wonder that humans had at one time selected this location and settled in Ellerstadt, first mentioned in the “Lorsch Codex“ in the year 783 as Alaridestath. By the 1700s, Ellerstadt was indeed already an “old“ village.

The French Invasion

From Chris:

I could not find or pinpoint quickly, when exactly your ancestor Margaretha Elisabetha Köhler Kirsch (1772-1823) married and moved to Fußgönheim. Anyway, I guess it must have been some time in the 1790s, which puts it within the time, at which the French troops terrified the Palatinate region, while bringing “freedom” for the people.

Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler was born in 1772 and married Andreas Kirsch from Fussgoenheim, probably sometime after 1792. Her first known child, Andreas Kirsch, was born in August of 1797 and baptized in Fussgoenheim. I believe she had one earlier child, Johann Wilhelm Kirsch, although we have no baptismal record. This suggests she was likely married between 1793 and 1795, probably amid the French military invasion which is why we have no records of either her marriage or the birth of her first child. She likely moved to Fussgoenheim at the time of her marriage.

What was life like then? What challenges did she face?

Brace yourself.

Here are two pages from a book published in 1796 about the time of the French occupation of the Palatinate, describing especially Ellerstadt. Though the description is probably only describing one side of the terror (as usual in conflicts), I think it still gives a rather strong impression of the life people lived in the Ellerstadt region at the time.

Does put worries of our daily life in context.

Note that this conflict began in 1792, just a few months after the death of Johann Peter Koehler. His widow and several of his children lived in Ellerstadt. Beginning in 1795 France occupied the German lands on the left bank of the Rhine for roughly two decades.

>Misery near Ellerstadt and Neustadt<

In this area, the misery can almost not be described and even less endured. Cash and food do not exist anymore. The French robbers have taken everything. The lamenting leaves the people bearly recognizable; most of them are sick and many, even the strongest, have crossed over to the better world due to the great misery. In Deidesheim, many private houses have been demolished, since the demanded levies could not be delivered. Even the comforting hope for an abundant harvest is devastated. The French send their horses over the most beautiful fields and let them willfully feed on the seeds and tread it into the ground. The fruit trees, abound with blossoms, are knocked down, and even the tender sprouts of the vinestock are destroyed. The fruitful gardens resemble desolate wasteland and at other times rich vineyards now stand bare and dull.

Even in the Saarbrücken and Zweibrücken region, shortage and starvation increase more and more. The people fall down with no strength left and die from hunger, and what the hunger did not destroy, is taken away by plague-like diseases. There are no doctors anymore in this unfortunate region. Fear of the enemy and lack of income scared away most of them and the few ones remaining became victims of the prevailing diseases themselves. Hence, nobody is left to help the suffering ones, who still could be saved. Furthermore, the pharmacies are robbed and destroyed in a way that far and wide not the least medicine is left.

I can’t help but think of the suffering of the people of Ukraine right now. Unfortunately, aggressors and human behavior haven’t changed much.

The Hammel Winery

Günter Lauer was kind enough to provide photos of the current winery in the same location as the original Lion Inn.

The metal lattice across the streets is an arbor for the grapevines you can see planted at the left of the photo, at the base of the metal pole. The vines grow up and across the streets, celebrating the wine-growing and wine-making history and culture of the region.

The Hammel Winery is shown in the distance on the right side by the second arbor. You can see the brown sign if you look closely. The old parsonage is the red building at the end of the street, with the white city hall just beyond the parsonage.

You can view more photos of Ellerstadt here.

Günter indicated that the wine barrel below was designed by the father Hammel of the current owner and was more of a hypothetical view of the original house based on the building torn down in 1961.

This carved wine barrel is certainly a beauty! What I wouldn’t give to just glimpse the inside of the original Lion Inn in its heyday. Have a meal, drink some local wine, and meet my ancestors.

Chris found a short YouTube video about Ellerstadt, more specifically the road Fließstraße, here. It’s in German, but provides us with at least a peek at part of Ellerstadt today.

The Protestant Church

The Protestant church of Ellerstadt that Johann Peter and his family attended in the 1700s was demolished in 1893 to make space for a larger church in 1894. Only the tower, built in the first third of the 16th century, was retained.

Ellerstadt residents were buried in the churchyard surrounding the church, of course, but there are no markers from before 1821.

The space behind the church is treed today.

Based on the size of the new church, some of the new building was built where graves would have been located. Today, this wall surrounds the cemetery.

From Chris:

I also forgot to send you yesterday one additional document I received from Günter Lauer. In 1994, at the centennial of the new Ellerstadt church rebuilt in 1894, he published a booklet about the history of the church.

Importantly, in this document on pages 7 and 8 you will find drawings from year 1884 of the original Ellerstadt church. The later drawings in the booklet are of the new, pompous church. As mentioned before, the church tower from the start of the 16th century is the only part that remained of the old church.

I can imagine my ancestors entering through the tower and sitting in the church pews as they listened to the minister. The rear and side doors would have been used during funerals to exit carrying the casket to bury the departed in the graveyard beside the church.

Did a bell in the tower call people to worship and announce the deaths of residents? Did the bell perhaps also warn of arriving or impending danger, like advancing soldiers?

A church stood on this location since antiquity.

  • Some church building stood in this location in 1270. That church would have been Catholic since Protestantism didn’t begin until the Reformation in the 16th century.
  • The church was Calvinist Reformed from 1561 on.
  • From about 1580 it was a Lutheran parish church.
  • From 1618 onward, only maintenance was performed during and after the Thirty Years’ War.
  • In 1713, the French soldiers plundered and ruined everything. The residents who had not fled retreated into the church and walled up the larger door to protect themselves from the marauders.

This is the church that Johann Peter Koehler and his family knew, loved and attended. Between marriages, funerals, regular services, baptisms, confirmations and preparing for those events, they were probably in the church almost every single day.

The Baptismal Font

Chris said:

Knowing the kind of things you are interested in, Roberta – there is another sweet in this booklet for you. There is a baptismal font in the church (low quality picture on last page), about which there is a note on page 23 that it was probably built around the same time as the church tower.

Günter kindly provided a better photo of the baptismal font.

So, this would be the baptismal font in which your Ellerstadt ancestors would have been baptized!

Margaretha Elisabetha was baptized in this very font on May 1st, 1772. I wonder if she was too weak to cry when the cold water touched her skin, or was the minister quite careful not to wake an already weak baby who might die at any moment? Did he simply touch her lightly on the head with wet fingers instead of pouring water over her?

According to information in the document provided with the photo by Günter, the architect of the 1895 church dated the font to the 12th or 13th century. Others feel that the font is “only” 500 years old, or so, dating from the first third of the 16th century when renovations were undertaken on the south side of the church. The font shows decorations from the late Gothic style dating from 1480-1525 which dates before the Reformation. The 1835 list of church assets includes the baptismal font and a pewter jug.

When the old church was demolished in September 1893, except for the tower which was incorporated into the new church, the font was retired to the garden of the vicarage where it remained for almost 80 years. Intentional or forgotten? We’ll never know.

When the vicarage was sold, the new owner, Wilhelm Hammel recognized the meaning of the “sandstone trough” in the garden and returned it to the church in 1974/5 where it was restored.

All 21 of Johann Peter Koehler’s babies, 8 with Charlotta Braun and 13 with Anna Elisabetha Scherer were baptized here. The pewter jug would have poured the water into the font, and the minister would then baptize the child when it was a few days old.

By Lucas Cranach the Younger and workshop – This file has been extracted from another file, Public Domain,

My ancestor, Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler, was baptized with the following latin entry recorded by the minister in the church book.

On the 30th of April, at noon, about 11 or 12 o’clock, was born here a little daughter and due to weakness, was baptized the 1st of May. The father is Peter Koehler, proprietor of “The Lion,” from here and the mother was Anna Elisabetha.

Margaretha Elisabetha did not perish, even though she was weak at birth and as implied by her hurried baptism, wasn’t expected to survive.

Of course, this baptismal font, if the font could talk, would regale us with stories about church members, tell us of the weddings it witnessed as an ignored bystander, waiting for the bride and groom to produce more babies to baptize.

The font witnessed beautiful brides, distraught parents, and sobbing widows. Confirmations to celebrate coming of age and funeral services – for all who are born are destined to die. Burials too, of course – some of which were the very same babies baptized just a short time earlier. Those must have been the worst.

Other times, when older people’s families celebrated the end of a long life well-lived, the baptismal font would remember that baby’s baptism decades earlier.

The baptismal font stood silent sentry and mute witness to everything. Life in the village of Ellerstadt swirled around it, unfiltered and raw, as it stood in the center of the church for 25 or 30 generations. The church itself transitioned from Catholic to Protestant. Preachers came and went, as did invading soldiers and village families. Some buried outside, and some seeking either refuge or their fortune elsewhere.

The church stood abandoned for two decades during the horrific Thirty Year’s War and the font would have wondered if God had forsaken all. Would anyone ever return? Had they all perished, with no one left to baptize?

Did any descendants of the original families that the font knew live in Ellerstadt in the 1700s when the Koehler family lived there, or later? Many families had probably died out altogether over the ensuing centuries. More than half of children born died before reaching adulthood, and that’s without taking into consideration warfare, plagues and pestilence.

At least three of Johann Peter’s children died young, in 1764, 1777, and 1784, and probably several more. After a sermon that may or may not have brought their parents any comfort, their tiny bodies were buried near the church in the churchyard. Eventually, their parents would be buried nearby.

We find no further record of eight more of Johann Peter Koehler’s children after their baptism. I have no idea what happened to them, but the font knows.

If only, if only stone could speak…


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Happy Census April Fool’s Day – aka – Where the Heck Are My Parents???

What did we expect anyway – combining those two events? That’s just an invitation to fate to mess with our heads.

Nevertheless, like the drunken fly willfully walking into the spider web like an addict, at 12:01 AM, I suddenly “remembered” that the 1950 census was released and just had to go and try it out instead of going to bed. Well, I told myself it was “before” going to bed but it was actually instead. Let’s just say I saw the sunrise from the far side instead of the near side and woke up a few hours later with my phone on my chest and my last piece of chocolate melted to me. We should have had a party. I think I have a genealogy hangover.

Yes, we addicts did put quite a load on the National Archives (NARA) system causing errors, but it didn’t go down entirely. Somebody in NARA-land heaved a huge sigh of relief. Never underestimate the tenacity or craziness of genealogists who were OF COURSE willing to stay up all night.

I wondered if NARA would actually be able to pull off the massive AI census index project – but they did. Hats off to their team! What an incredible gift – even if it is April Fool’s Day and my well-hidden ancestors are still laughing at my expense.

You can access the NARA census, here, and I provided a prep article here that shows you how to find enumeration districts which you will probably need.


I found the family members that I knew the location where they were living AND they weren’t living in large cities.

For example, my maternal grandparents were living at 107 East Main in Silver Lake, Indiana. That’s a very small town, so even though the AI didn’t record my grandparents, or brother who was living with them, I just paged through those records because I knew they were living in Silver Lake, and there was only one enumeration district. Easy peasy.

What was interesting to me was that my grandfather, who was the Lake Township Trustee had worked 72 hours the previous week, and my grandmother had worked 25 as a secretary.

The confusing part is that he was the trustee, and I don’t think she worked for the township. The enumerator mixed them up, apparently. So, was it her that worked 72 hours?

But, where was my mother? Back to that in a minute.

On the other side of my family, my paternal grandfather was living in Harlan County, Kentucky in a relatively remote location, up on Black Mountain. I half expected him NOT to be enumerated at all because he was a bootlegger, but lo and behold, there he is listed as a ”farmer.” Well, I guess that’s sort of farming.

The interesting thing about this record is that they have a boarder living with them, 22-year-old James Holcomb.

Their daughter, Evelyn had a child two years later, in 1952, reportedly with one Jake or Jack Halcomb, but that situation was always pretty hush-hush. I suspect that Jake Halcomb was actually James Holcomb, which makes a lot of sense. Her older sister was married to a William Halcomb, so I wonder if these men were brothers. Another mystery to solve.


My paternal grandmother, Ollie Bolton Robbins is missing. She lived in Chicago which had hundreds if not thousands of census enumeration districts. I checked the address given when she died in 1955, and where my father was reportedly living at that time, all to no avail. They were not living there in 1950.

My father is also missing. He had married Ellen Copack in 1949 in Chicago but I’ve been unable to obtain the actual marriage application from the Cook County Clerk’s office which would have (hopefully) contained the addresses of the bride and groom. By 1952, they were living in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

I checked both locations using the census name search but there were just too many entries to peruse them all. I need to be able to hunt at the vendors for William with a spouse of Ellen plus age information.

He was like a leaf in a windstorm, blowing from place to place, so who knows where he was in 1950.

My mother is also missing, and that’s a whole other story for another article. A chapter of her life I didn’t know much about is slowly unfolding, and not very easily either.

Let’s just say I expected to find her living with her parents and my half-brother, but she’s not there. I used a surname search in Chicago, Illinois where she had previously lived, in Fort Wayne, Indiana where she later lived, and in Florida where she was for about a year in 1949 through early 1950. At least, I think she was there in early 1950. Regardless, I can’t find her either with just a name search so I’ll have to wait until I can combine that search with age and other defining factors.

Patience is not my strong suit! I’m signing up for the new MyHeritage Census Helper to let them do the heavy lifting for me when their indexing is ready.

MyHeritage Census Helper

MyHeritage is offering their new Census Helper tool for free, just in time for the 1950 census. You can read about it, here.

All you have to do is upload your tree and MyHeritage prepares a list of people based on your tree information who are likely to be found in the 1950 census.

By clicking on the orange “Research” button, MyHeritage finds other records that are available now and will help to focus the 1950 census search.

I need to add some additional records for both my mother and father so that MyHeritage “knows” where to potentially look for them in 1950 when their indexed census records become available.

Of course, you can order a DNA test while you’re there, or upload your DNA file from another vendor, here, which is also free.

Juicy Finds!

It has been fun to watch social media today as people search for and find their relatives in the 1950 census.

One person discovered that their mother had a child they never knew existed. Of course, that begs the question of what happened to that child, and why the researcher had never heard of them. So many possibilities.

Another person discovered quite valuable information that required me to draw a chart to understand. It answered a WHOLE LOT of questions about situations only whispered about in that family.

A third person discovered that their father was divorced, and he had not yet married their mother. Of course, now that requires more research.

So many people receive unexpected close DNA relatives and the 1950 census information may well provide hints and clues that might at least provide breadcrumbs to those answers. In some cases, the answers are right there, in black and white. I keep expecting a half-sibling match, or their children or even grandchildren perhaps, but so far…I’m still waiting.

Are you in every database? You don’t want to miss any matches and you never know where that much-needed match might test. You can upload your DNA file to both MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA in addition to GEDmatch. I wrote free step-by-step upload/download instructions for all the vendors, here.

The discovery that really touched my heart, though, was the person who discovered that their father WAS the census enumerator. His handwriting reached out to say hello some 72 years later.

What a perfect April Fool’s Day.

What have you discovered?


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1950 Census Will Be Released on April Fool’s Day

The US 1950 census images will indeed be released by the National Archives on April Fool’s Day, 72 years after that census began. Talk about irony. I just have this feeling I’ll not be able to find everyone and they will all be laughing at me!

Were you planning on searching to find your ancestor or their descendants that day using the traditional vendors? April Fool! Not so fast.

The census is always released without an index. April 1st is the shot at the starting gate for the various vendors to index the records to add to their product offerings for their customers.

If you’d like to see what kinds of questions were asked in that census, and the instructions provided to enumerators, you can view the 1950 census instructions, here.


However, you might, just might, be able to gain a peek into those records on April 1st, assuming you know where your relatives lived at that time, and maybe even if you don’t. There are multiple opportunities and methodologies, so let’s take a look at a few.

Steve Morse’s Census Enumeration District Finder

Steve Morse has created lots of tools for genealogists, but right now, his census enumeration district finder may save your bacon!

Steve’s no-nonsense site provides two levels of detail. The first is at the city level, and then, if you know the house number and street, you can narrow the district further.

For example, my grandmother lived in Chicago at the time, so I entered that information.

I’m only showing a few of the districts in Chicago. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands. The House number and Street fields open up at this point.

I think I know the address where she might have lived, or did when she died 5 years later, so I entered 639 N. Kedzie.

Unfortunately, there are still too many districts, so I went to Google maps to find a cross street.

Fortunately, 639 Kedzie still exists, and the surrounding streets are shown, above. I entered Huron since that is the closest. Then I added Ohio.

I was able to narrow the district to two using Ohio and Huron. Adding Sawyer shows one of those districts, and adding Troy shows the other, so I’m wagering that Kedzie might have been the dividing line.

As a bonus, I located the building where she resided, at least at one point, Did my grandmother live in this building that’s now a church in 1950? We will see in just a couple days now.


MyHeritage is providing 1950 census information on their 1950 Content Hub

If you create your tree on MyHeritage, the 1950 census hints will be provided to you for people in your tree as soon as they are indexed, and you can extract the data directly into that person’s profile.


Ancestry is providing a Census District Finder, but not at the address level. For Chicago, Ancestry is hopeless, at least until the indexing is completed, but for a small town, township or rural area, Ancestry’s maps work pretty well and are interesting.

My maternal grandparents lived in the small town of Silver Lake, Indiana

I entered the location. Ancestry displayed the original census map with a pin in that location. By clicking on that pin, Ancestry displayed the district number, above. I will look in district 43-13 to view the residents of Silver Lake on April 1st.

Be sure to take note of other information on the map. At right, there are special enumeration areas and schedules. Specifically, a Seminary and Hotel, and there’s no detailed map for Winona Lake.

Indexed Records

Finding the enumeration district and manually scrolling through the records may allow you to locate your relatives. Of course, if you don’t know where your ancestors were living in 1950, then you’ll need to wait for the indexed records.

As it turns out, your wait may not be that long.

The National Archives says that the census information will be available through a link, here, beginning April 1, and it will be released with a name index created using Amazon web services artificial intelligence.

Woohoo. This will certainly be a first if they can actually pull this off.

Indexed census records using artificial intelligence, meaning OCR, will be released as soon as possible by both Ancestry and MyHeritage.

Of course, validation of OCR records will need to be performed manually for a variety of reasons including poor handwriting, damage to the documents, or other issues. In other words, if you can’t find your family members, look for similar names or search creatively after the indexed census is released.

How much later in April will the vendors release their products? We don’t know. It’s a race to rival any Olympics and we’ll just have to wait and see.

You Can Participate

FamilySearch is launching a massive volunteer indexing effort, here. You can join with other genealogists. FamilySearch provides their records for free, of course, and you can append them to your ancestor on FamilySearch’s big tree.

Why is the 1950 Census Important?

People we know or knew were living in 1950. The census will, hopefully, help us locate our family members and flesh out their lives. For example, I’m not at all sure where my parents were living in 1950.

Anyone born before April 1950 will be recorded in this census. If you’re hunting for descendants of your grandparents, or great-grandparents, knowing where their children were living and who was in the family will provide valuable information as to where to look for other relevant records such as yearbooks, city directories, obituaries, wills and so forth.

If you’d like to DNA test some of those relatives and their descendants, you have to first locate them.

It seems like 70 years isn’t all that long ago, genealogically speaking, so I wasn’t initially terribly excited until I realized I didn’t know where my parents were living and wasn’t sure where my paternal grandparents were living. Furthermore, I want to know what kind of information will be revealed about other family members.

Who Are You Searching For?

Have you made a list of your relatives that would be beneficial to locate in the census?

I’ve created a list, with location and the enumeration district as closely as can be identified for now.

If you’re planning to do this before April 1, I wouldn’t wait much longer. Every genealogist in the country will be accessing those sites on April 1st, and the April Fool’s laugh just might be on all of us if we crash the entire system.

Happy hunting!


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East Coast Genetic Genealogy Conference – Registration is Open!

Did you know that the East Coast Genetic Genealogy Conference (ECGGC, affectionally known as “eggs”) is taking place on April 23 and 24? If you haven’t heard of this conference before, that’s because this is its inaugural year.

ECCGC was initially scheduled to be held in Maryland, in person, but the uptick in Covid over the winter forced a go, no-go decision at a time when a virtual live-streamed conference assured everyone’s safety.

I’m excited about speaking, especially my opening keynote, “DNA – Past, Present and Future.” I’ll reflect a little, talk about the current state-of-affairs and then discuss what the future may hold. Just think what we will be able to do in the next decade, or two, based on how far we’ve come in the past 22 years.

Of course, the very best aspect of this two-day conference is that it’s entirely focused on genetic genealogy which makes it the PERFECT venue for Mitochondrial DNA Academy. More about that in a minute.


The 23 speakers read like a who’s who in the genetic genealogy space. You can read about each speaker, here.

Schedule and Sessions

If you look at the sessions and schedule, here, you’ll notice that there are 37 sessions offered over two days. Simple math tells you that you can’t possibly attend all of those in two days – even if you stayed up all night.

The great news is that for all attendees, the sessions will be recorded and available to watch after the actual conference itself is over.

Mitochondrial DNA Academy – You’re Invited

I want to personally invite you to attend Mitochondrial DNA Academy, presented by Dr. Miguel Vilar, Dr. Paul Maier, and me.

Mitochondrial DNA is an incredibly misunderstood tool for genealogy. It seems that anytime someone mentions mitochondrial DNA on social media and asks if they should purchase a test, a cacophony of “buy an autosomal test instead” resounds, without even asking the purpose of the test in question, or what the person hopes to learn.

Understanding mitochondrial DNA itself, how it’s used, what to expect, and how to utilize the results for genealogy is key to making an informed decision.

For those of us who do work extensively with mitochondrial DNA, there’s still much to learn. Attending both Paul Maier and Miguel Vilar’s portions of the Academy is guaranteed to provide even experienced genetic genealogists with fascinating, detailed information. There’s something for everyone and a unique learning opportunity.

If you want to understand the science behind mitochondrial DNA, how it works, different types of mutations, extra and missing mutations, frequency, haplogroup formation, migration, populations, phylogenetic trees as well as how to tie all of this up in a bundle to use successfully for genetic genealogy – Mitochondrial DNA Academy is for you.

You may have noticed that the three of us constitute three-quarters of the Million Mito Project team, so you just might get an update on that project as well!

Register for the Conference

You can register, here, for $150 which provides access to both conference days and all of the recorded sessions after.


I want to say a big thank you to the ECGGC sponsors, DNAGedcom, Borland Genetics, MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA and whose generous sponsorships offset the cost of the conference for attendees.

See you at the conference!


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Hurry: Relatives at RootsTech Ends March 25 – Search for Y & Mitochondrial DNA Cousins While You Can

Relatives for RootsTech is still available through March 25th, even though RootsTech, the event, is over for this year. (Obviously, the video sessions are still available.)

Relatives at RootsTech provides participants with the opportunity to see cousins, organized in different ways, including by ancestor, with a path for both of you drawn back to your common ancestors.

Be sure to fully utilize the Relatives at RootsTech connections to easily find cousins who descend appropriately to be testing candidates for Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA for your ancestors. I’ve included step-by-step instructions in this article along with a few hints I’ve discovered.

Just navigate to RootsTech, here, and scroll down to the relatives at RootsTech button.

Click that button, then on “view relatives” and voila, here you are.

FamilySearch has made this easy by displaying your relatives by ancestor, at least for several generations back in time. You can see how many of your cousins descend from any particular ancestor.

While my closest ancestors are showing few cousins, more distant ancestors further down my relatives list, (and further back in my tree,) have hundreds.

It’s Easy Peasy

Eventually, every single line brick walls. Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA are the ONLY types of DNA you can use that doesn’t divide in every generation and remains as reliable 10 or more generations ago as today. Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA are laser lights shining back through time. We need them for every single ancestral line to push beyond that brick wall, whenever and wherever we hit it.

I’ve spent time in the past few days fishing for cousins and messaging people who are good candidates to represent lines that I don’t have represented in my DNA pedigree chart.

In my own desktop software, I enter my ancestor’s haplogroup as a middle name. The * means I’ve written a 52 Ancestors series article about this person. (I don’t do this in public trees, just my own.)

I can see at a glance which ancestors don’t have haplogroups, which means I need to find cousins who descend appropriately to have inherited either the Y DNA or the mitochondrial DNA of that ancestor.

The blue boxes above represent the Y DNA inheritance path, and the red, mitochondrial inheritance. You can read more about Y and mitochondrial DNA inheritance paths, here.

Neither Y nor mitochondrial DNA are admixed with the DNA of the other parent, so it’s a rich source of information that never divides during meiosis. This gives us the ability to see far back in time without dilution.


I created a small spreadsheet so I wouldn’t lose track of whose DNA I’m looking for and the message I sent to various cousins.

By focusing only on ancestral lines I specifically need, I’ve eliminated a lot of busy work. Initially, I was going to record every cousin, but there are too many for me to be able to complete that task. Now I’m focused on:

  • Lines where I have very few matches. These may represent closer cousins I haven’t yet met, or people in the Netherlands who are now participating. I found a new Dutch cousin. Hopefully they will reply to my message.
  • Y DNA lines
  • Mitochondrial DNA lines

Timesaving Hint

When searching in this manner, find your most distant ancestor on the relatives list in that line. For example, I only have two cousins on my Lazarus Estes list, but as I look at ancestors on up that Estes line, I have several more by the time you get to Moses Estes, 4 generations earlier. My two cousins who descend from Lazarus will ALSO be on the Moses Estes list – as will all the rest of my cousins who descend from Estes males between Lazarus Estes and Moses Estes.

Moving to the earliest ancestors in a line immediately saves you a heap of time because you don’t need to view your cousins in the closer generations.


Finding appropriate cousins for Y DNA is easy. They will generally carry the surname of the ancestor in question. If I’m searching for a descendant of Andrew McKee (c1766-1814), I’ll just look for McKee surname cousins on my list.

To see how your cousin descends from your common ancestor click on Relationship. A nice dual path is shown to your common ancestors.

I found a female, so I messaged her and ask if she has a father or brother or uncle who would be willing to test to represent the McKee Y DNA line.

In my message, I briefly explain how beneficial this would be for everyone in that line and might well help break down those upstream brick walls. Who were Andrew’s parents?

I don’t know now, but I’d surely know more after a Y DNA test. So would she!

In this next example, my cousin is male, and the last male shown descending from Andrew is Robert Clayton McKee. I “presume” my cousin descends through two upstream males, but sometimes that’s not the case. Either of those two greyed out people could be females. I’m always “gentle” in these messages and say that “It appears that you descend from Andrew through all males. FamilySearch conceals the identity of your closest generations for privacy.”

I ask my cousin to confirm how they descend and ask if they have tested or are interested in DNA testing. I also provide my email address and offer a testing scholarship.

Mitochondrial DNA

Locating mitochondrial DNA testing candidates takes slightly more effort, but can be VERY productive.

Let’s say I’m searching for a mitochondrial DNA candidate for Andrew McKee’s wife.

Notice, I said “wife” and did not mention her name. All we really know, from a deed signature releasing her dower right, is that her first name is Elizabeth. The reason I would be seeking her mitochondrial DNA is to figure out who her parents were.

At FamilySearch, Elizabeth has been assigned a full name, including surname, but there are no sources that provide her surname.


My first inclination is to disregard this record because there is no evidence that Barnes is Elizabeth’s surname, at least not that I’ve ever seen. If any reader has actual evidence, please do share.

However, in this case, we are searching for anyone descended from the wife of Andrew McKee, REGARDLESS OF HER NAME. Her name, in this context and for this purpose does not matter.

In other words, if we can find a candidate for Andrew’s wife’s mitochondrial DNA, we may then be able to determine if indeed she does match someone in the Barnes family line.

It’s very easy to skim your matches ancestral line. If you see any blue in their lineage, indicating a male in your cousin’s line, that’s an immediate “no,” so you can just proceed to the next cousin in your list.

Mitochondrial DNA is only passed from women to their children. Men don’t pass it on, so a male in that line is a blocker. Andrew McKee Jones, in this example, inherited his mother’s mitochondrial DNA, but his children inherited the mitochondrial DNA of their mother.

Fortunately, FamilySearch also identifies daughter or son when names are ambiguous.


I always offer a DNA testing scholarship at FamilyTreeDNA for the appropriate Y DNA or mitochondrial test. FamilyTreeDNA also offers their autosomal Family Finder test, of course, and I often include that test in the scholarship.

Other vendors do not offer Y and mitochondrial DNA testing. However, if your cousins have already tested autosomally at Ancestry, 23andMe, or MyHeritage, they can upload their DNA files to FamilyTreeDNA for free after you order their scholarship test. Step-by-step upload instructions can be found, here.

I always check to see if Y DNA and mtDNA testers’ matches are also autosomal matches. That too can provide valuable clues.

March 25th

Don’t wait. The Relatives at RootsTech tool is only available until March 25th. It will take you some time to review the lists, but it’s fun because it’s like mining for buried ancestral gold nuggets. Except it’s not just a game. There is real genealogical gold hiding there, just itching to be discovered.

If you message someone, or click on the contact button, they will be added to your list which remains available after March 25th.

Do you have ancestors whose Y DNA and mitochondrial DNA you need? Your gold-nugget cousin may be waiting for you!


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Johann Michael Kirsch’s Signature – But Which One? – 52 Ancestors #353

In the article, “The Saga of the Three Johann Michael Kirschs,” we described the upheaval that took place in Fussgoenheim in 1743 when the Hallberg family usurped two-thirds of the village from the residents. Two Johann Michael Kirsch’s, the mayor and the baker, were both evicted, along with their families, and went down the road to live in neighboring Ellerstadt – essentially as refugees and serfs.

Ellerstadt was literally within eyesight, a mile and a half away. However, Ellerstadt was outside the reach of the Hallbergs. Given that the Kirsch men weren’t citizens of Ellerstadt, they would have joined the community as second-class citizens, but safe nonetheless.

Hallberg confiscated their property in Fussgoenheim and sold their belongings. Somehow, probably working as laborers, they survived in neighboring Ellerstadt until they were allowed to return to Fussgoenheim in 1753. Some Kirsch family members never returned to Fussgoenheim, but both Johann Michael Kirschs did.

Johann Michael Kirsch was dismissed as mayor by Hallberg in 1757. Apparently, he was the “mayor in exile” for that decade when the family lived in Ellerstadt. After returning to Fussgoenheim, their ancestral village, the Kirsch family maintained connections with families in Ellerstadt. For example, we found in an October 1759 church record where Elias Kirsch, the son of Johann Michael Kirsch, described as the “former praiseworthy mayor” stood as a godparent to a baby born in Ellerstadt.

As it turns out, Elias Kirsch was my ancestor, which makes Johann Michael Kirsch, the mayor, my ancestor too. I’m so grateful that Elias’s father is so clearly identified in that baptism record. My cousin, Tom, searched the Ellerstadt records for any occurrence of the given name of Elias which was how he found that entry. Otherwise, I’d STILL not know which Johann Michael Kirsch was Elias’s father.

The Former Praiseworthy Mayor

The church records in Fussgoenheim are incomplete during this timeframe. The only record we have that gives us a hint about the death of either Johann Michael Kirsch, the mayor, or Johann Michael Kirsh, the baker, is that one 1759 Ellerstadt church entry that referenced “the former praiseworthy mayor.”

Normally, in German records, the phrase “former” means the person being referenced is deceased. However, now I wonder if what is actually meant in this record is something different. Specifically, because they referred to Michael as “praiseworthy.” This unusually flowery language in an official church record seems, in a way, to be taking a swipe at the much-despised Hallbergs by waxing eloquently about how wonderful the Michael Kirsch is that Hallberg evicted for a decade, then dismissed as mayor. All of that history would have been summarized for anyone “in the know” in just those 4 words. But is that was the minister was doing?

Johann Michael Kirsch had suffered greatly but never backed down. This record may be poking the bear, in essence, and letting Michael and everyone else know how much the Ellerstadt citizens cared about Michael and the wrong that befell him. Hallberg couldn’t hurt or damage the Ellerstadt citizens, but he assuredly used strongarm tactics and sought revenge on the citizens of Fussgoenheim, the village he ruled, when they refused to accept his “resurvey” of the land. Michael Kirsch was their brave leader, apparently even in exile.

All of this leads me to the question – was Johann Michael Kirsch, “the former praiseworthy mayor,” still alive and visiting Ellerstadt in 1761?

In this instance, did the word former mean formerly the mayor, or deceased?

Another Record Surfaces

In genealogy, we have to constantly reevaluate conclusions, especially when we discover new records.

We know there were two Johann Michael Kirschs, first cousins both born in Fussgoenheim between about 1700 and 1705, both evicted from Fussgoenheim in 1743, both settled in Ellerstadt, both returned to Fussgoenheim in 1753, both with wives named Anna Margaretha but no known surname, and neither Michael with a death record. Could this be more difficult?

Recently, my friend Christoph found an Ellerstadt record pertaining to my Koehler family who lived there. That record led to a German website that led to a man who, as luck would have it, is also my cousin – Günter Lauer. Definitely my lucky day!!!

Günter is a genealogist too and knows a LOT about the Koehler family and Ellerstadt history. More about that coming soon.

Günter has been very generous, sending documents, information, and photos to Christoph to translate and send on to me.

One of the Ellerstadt documents provided by Günter dates from 1761.

Günter and Christoph tell us:

The handwritten document is about the village of Ellerstadt being given as pledge by count von Wartenberg to the margrave of Baden. The document was written by a notary by the name of Johann Georg Anton Vogel, who on his way to Ellerstadt took with him two witnesses from Fußgönnheim, Johann Michael Kirsch and Vallentin Löw. The signatures of these two witnesses are on the last page of the document.

In Ellerstadt, all male citizens, widows, and Jews were assembled in front of the city hall (located in Ratstraße 1, but the current building there was built in 1838, so the former city hall is not preserved,) to inform them about the change. A list was put up of everyone who was present and this list in alphabetical order is written down on pages 6 to 10 of the document. The first one on the list is pastor Huth. The list further includes Peter Köhler and the widow of a Jacob Kirsch.

Jacob Kirsch, the son of Johann Michael Kirsch, the mayor, had died in Ellerstadt on January 26, 1760, at about 35 years of age. His widow, Anna Catharina Elisabetha Klamm lived until February 1, 1768. It’s unknown if they had children. They married in 1750 in Ellerstadt, so it’s likely that children were born to the union.

If the Johann Michael Kirsch who signed his name in 1761 was the former mayor, the widow of Jacob Kirsch was his daughter-in-law. He would have been present the year before for the burial of his son and probably would have welcomed the opportunity to check on his 34-year-old daughter-in-law and perhaps visit with his grandchildren.

If the Johann Michael Kirsch who signed the document was the baker from Fussgoenheim, he was the first cousin of Johann Michael Kirsch, the major. He would have checked on Jacob’s widow while he was there too. Of course, she would have been standing among the men in front of the village hall that day when Ellerstadt’s unwelcome fate was revealed and their presence recorded for posterity.

Which Michael Kirsch Signed?

Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing which Johann Michael Kirsch signed that document as a witness. What we do know, for sure, is that the mayor would have unquestionably known how to write and sign his name. The baker may have been able to sign his name as well. Would the baker have been able to simply pick up and leave in the middle of the day when the notary rode through Fussgoenheim looking for witnesses? I don’t know. Perhaps he was finished baking which was likely done early each morning.

Maybe the notary recruited Michael the (former) Mayor because of his standing in the community – plus he could write. Or maybe Michael was at the village hall or the local inn, meaning the pub, with Valentin Low, visiting and sharing with other residents. The inn was the center of German village life, in addition, of course, to the church. The difference being of course that the church was only occupied from time to time, and the inn was occupied all the time.

What I wouldn’t give for either Michaels’ death record or some identification in that 1761 document. Just one or two words would do it. “Baker” or “former mayor” would work just fine! Perhaps they didn’t need to record that extra information, because only one Johann Michael Kirsch from Fussgoenheim was alive at that time.

Maybe Neither?

Umm, I hate to say this, but if that IS the case and only one Michael was alive, then the signature COULD belong to a third, younger, Johann Michael Kirsch who was born in July of 1730, the nephew of Mayor Michael Kirsch. We have this younger Michael’s birth record, but no marriage record and nothing after his 1742 confirmation, so we don’t know if he survived. Of course, the Kirsch families were expelled in 1743, not long after his confirmation, and returned a decade later when this Michael would have been 23 if he was living – probably not quite old enough to marry.

By 1761, the younger Michael would have been 31 years old, so we should find SOME record of him in Fussgoenheim if that’s where he was living, but we don’t. Not then, and not later, meaning if he had children and his name was recorded in their birth, marriage, or death records. This suggests that he either left or did not survive. Regardless, it’s very unlikely that he is the Michael living in Fussgoenheim in 1761.

Most Likely Candidates

I got all excited because I just KNEW we had discovered the rare signature of “my” Michael, but with further evaluation, I realized that we MIGHT have my ancestor’s signature, or that of his first cousin, the baker, or maybe even his nephew – although I think that’s the least likely scenario.

I WANT this to be my Michael’s signature, but I’d give it roughly 50-50 odds.

I thought I understood, but now, I don’t know how to interpret the 1759 record where Michael is described as “the former praiseworthy mayor.” Does “former” in this particular record mean deceased, or not? I don’t know. Maybe, in time, another record will surface to clarify. Would I be that fortunate?

What I DO know is that we have a wonderful fragment of history and in it, the signature of SOME Michael Kirsch from Fussgoenheim that just might be my ancestor. I can look at it and dream!

Many thanks to both Günter and Christoph for bringing this to light and to life.


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Top Ten RootsTech 2022 DNA Sessions + All DNA Session Links

The official dates of RootsTech 2022 were March 3-5, but the sessions and content in the vendor booths are still available. I’ve compiled a list of the sessions focused on DNA, with web links on the RootsTech YouTube channel

YouTube reports the number of views, so I was able to compile that information as of March 8, 2022.

I do want to explain a couple of things to add context to the numbers.

Most speakers recorded their sessions, but a few offered live sessions which were recorded, then posted later for participants to view. However, there have been glitches in that process. While the sessions were anticipated to be available an hour or so later, that didn’t quite happen, and a couple still aren’t posted. I’m sure the presenters are distressed by this, so be sure to watch those when they are up and running.

The Zoom rooms where participants gathered for the live sessions were restricted to 500 attendees. The YouTube number of views does not include the number of live viewers, so you’ll need to add an additional number, up to 500.

When you see a number before the session name, whether recorded or live, that means that the session is part of a series. RootsTech required speakers to divide longer sessions into a series of shorter sessions no longer than 15-20 minutes each. The goal was for viewers to be able to watch the sessions one after the other, as one class, or separately, and still make sense of the content. Let’s just say this was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done as a presenter.

For recorded series sessions, these are posted as 1, 2 and 3, as you can see below with Diahan Southard’s sessions. However, with my live session series, that didn’t happen. It looks like my sessions are a series, but when you watch them, parts 1, 2 and 3 are recorded and presented as one session. Personally, I’m fine with this, because I think the information makes a lot more sense this way. However, it makes comparisons difficult.

This was only the second year for RootsTech to be virtual and the conference is absolutely HUGE, so live and learn. Next year will be smoother and hopefully, at least partially in-person too.

When I “arrived” to present my live session, “Associating Autosomal DNA Segments With Ancestors,” my lovely moderator, Rhett, told me that they were going to livestream my session to the RootsTech page on Facebook as well because they realized that the 500 Zoom seat limit had been a problem the day before with some popular sessions. I have about 9000 views for that session and more than 7,400 of them are on the RootsTech Facebook page – and that was WITHOUT any advance notice or advertising. I know that the Zoom room was full in addition. I felt kind of strange about including my results in the top ten because I had that advantage, but I didn’t know quite how to otherwise count my session. As it turns out, all sessions with more than 1000 views made it into the top ten so mine would have been there one way or another. A big thank you to everyone who watched!

I hope that the RootsTech team notices that the most viewed session is the one that was NOT constrained by the 500-seat limited AND was live-streamed on Facebook. Seems like this might be a great way to increase session views for everyone next year. Hint, hint!!!

I also want to say a huge thank you to all of the presenters for producing outstanding content. The sessions were challenging to find, plus RootsTech is always hectic, even virtually. So, I know a LOT of people will want to view these informative sessions, now that you know where to look and have more time. Please remember to “like” the session on YouTube as a way of thanking your presenter.

With 140 DNA-focused sessions available, you can watch a new session, and put it to use, every other day for the next year! How fun is that! You can use this article as your own playlist.

Please feel free to share this article with your friends and genealogy groups so everyone can learn more about using DNA for genealogy.

Ok, let’s look at the top 10. Drum roll please…

Top 10 Most Viewed RootsTech Sessions

Session Title Presenter YouTube Link Views
1 1. Associating Autosomal DNA Segments With Ancestors Roberta Estes (live)


~9000: 1019 + 500 live viewers + 7,400+ Facebook
2 1. What to Do with Your DNA Test Results in 2022 (part 1 of 3) Diahan Southard 7428
3 Who Is FamilyTreeDNA? FamilyTreeDNA – Bennett Greenspan 2946
4 2. What to Do with Your DNA Test Results in 2022 (part 2 of 3) Diahan Southard 2448
5 Latest DNA Painter Releases DNAPainter Jonny Perl (live) 2230 + live viewers
6 DNA Painter Introduction DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 1983
7 3. What to Do with Your DNA Test Results in 2022 (part 3 of 3) Diahan Southard 1780
8 The Tree of Mankind Age Estimates Paul Maier 1638
9 A Sneak Peek at FamilyTreeDNA Coming Attractions FamilyTreeDNA (live) 1270 + live viewers


10 Extending Time Horizons with DNA Rob Spencer (live) 1037 + live viewers


All DNA-Focused Sessions

I know you’ll find LOTS of goodies here. Which ones are your favorites?

  Session Presenter YouTube Link Views
1 Estimating Relationships by Combining DNA from Multiple Siblings Amy Williams 201
2 Overview of Amy Williams 126
3 How do AncestryDNA® Communities help tell your story? | Ancestry® Ancestry 183


4 AncestryDNA® 201 Ancestry – Crista Cowan


5 Genealogy in a Minute: Increase Discoveries by Attaching AncestryDNA® Results to Family Tree Ancestry – Crista Cowan 369
6 AncestryDNA® 101: Beginner’s Guide to AncestryDNA® | Ancestry® Ancestry – Lisa Elzey 909
7 Hidden in Plain Sight: Free People of Color in Your Family Tree Cheri Daniels 179
8 Finding Relatives to Prevent Hereditary Cancer ConnectMyVariant – Dr. Brian Shirts 63
9 Piling on the chromosomes Debbie Kennett 465
10 Linking Families With Rare Genetic Condition Using Genealogy Deborah Neklason 43
11 1. What to Do with Your DNA Test Results in 2022 Diahan Southard 7428
12 1. What to Do with Your DNA Test Results in 2022 Diahan Southard 1780
13 2. What to Do with Your DNA Test Results in 2022 Diahan Southard 2448
14 DNA Testing For Family History Diahan Southard 84


15 Understanding Your DNA Ethnicity Estimate at 23andMe Diana Elder 66
16 Understanding Your Ethnicity Estimate at FamilyTreeDNA Diana Elder 73
17 DNA Monkey Wrenches DNA Monkey Wrenches 245
18 Advanced Features in your Ancestral Tree and Fan Chart DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 425
19 DNA Painter Introduction DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 1983
20 Getting Segment Data from 23andMe DNA Matches DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 134
21 Getting segment data from FamilyTreeDNA DNA matches DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 169
22 Getting segment data from Gedmatch DNA matches DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 163
23 Getting segment data from Geneanet DNA Matches DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 38
24 Getting segment data from MyHeritage DNA matches DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 160
25 Inferred Chromosome Mapping: Maximize your DNA Matches DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 688
26 Keeping track of your genetic family tree in a fan chart DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 806


27 Mapping a DNA Match in a Chromosome Map DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 423
28 Setting up an Ancestral Tree and Fan Chart and Exploring Tree Completeness DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 77
29 Using the Shared cM Project Tool to Evaluate DNA Matches DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 763
30 Your First Chromosome Map: Using your DNA Matches to Link Segments to Ancestors DNAPainter – Jonny Perl 688
31 DNA Painter for absolute beginners DNAPainter (Jonny Perl) 1196
32 Latest DNA Painter Releases DNAPainter (live) 2230 + live viewers
33 Unraveling your genealogy with DNA segment networks using AutoSegment from Genetic Affairs Evert-Jan Blom


34 Unraveling your genealogy with genetic networks using AutoCluster Evert-Jan Blom 201



35 Unraveling your genealogy with reconstructed trees using AutoTree & AutoKinship from Genetic Affairs Evert-Jan Blom 143
36 Research Like a Pro with DNA – A Genealogist’s Guide to Finding and Confirming Ancestors with DNA Family Locket Genealogists 183
37 How to Interpret a DNA Network Graph Family Locket Genealogists – Diana Elder 393
38 Find and Confirm Ancestors with DNA Evidence Family Locket Genealogists – Nicole Dyer 144
39 How To Make A DNA Network Graph Family Locket Genealogists – Nicole Dyer 201
40 Create A Family Tree With Your DNA Matches-Use Lucidchart To Create A Picture Worth A Thousand Words Family Locket Genealogists – Robin Wirthlin 270
41 Charting Companion 7 – DNA Edition Family Tree Maker 316


42 Family Finder Chromosome Browser: How to Use FamilyTreeDNA 750



43 FamilyTreeDNA: 22 Years of Breaking Down Brick Walls FamilyTreeDNA Not available
44 Review of Autosomal DNA, Y-DNA, & mtDNA FamilyTreeDNA  – Janine Cloud 77
45 Who Is FamilyTreeDNA? FamilyTreeDNA – Bennett Greenspan 2946
46 Part 1: How to Interpret Y-DNA Results, A Walk Through the Big Y FamilyTreeDNA – Casimir Roman 684


47 Part 2: How to Interpret Y-DNA Results, A Walk Through the Big Y FamilyTreeDNA – Casimir Roman


48 Big Y-700: A Brief Overview FamilyTreeDNA – Janine Cloud 96
49 Mitochondrial DNA & The Million Mito Project FamilyTreeDNA – Janine Cloud 179
50 Mitochondrial DNA: What is a Heteroplasmy FamilyTreeDNA – Janine Cloud 57
51 Y-DNA Big Y: A Lifetime Analysis FamilyTreeDNA – Janine Cloud 154
52 Y-DNA: How SNPs Are Added to the Y Haplotree FamilyTreeDNA – Janine Cloud 220
53 Family Finder myOrigins: Beginner’s Guide FamilyTreeDNA – Katy Rowe 88
54 Mitochondrial DNA: Matches Map & Results for mtDNA FamilyTreeDNA – Katy Rowe 190
55 Mitochondrial DNA: mtDNA Mutations Explained FamilyTreeDNA – Katy Rowe 340


56 Y-DNA: Haplotree and SNPs Page Overview FamilyTreeDNA – Katy Rowe 432
57 Y-DNA: Understanding the Y-STR Results Page FamilyTreeDNA – Katy Rowe 148
58 Y-DNA: What Is Genetic Distance? FamilyTreeDNA – Katy Rowe 149
59 DNA Tools: myOrigins 3.0 Explained, Part 1 FamilyTreeDNA – Paul Maier 74


60 DNA Tools: myOrigins 3.0 Explained, Part 2 FamilyTreeDNA – Paul Maier 50
61 DNA Tools: myOrigins 3.0 Explained, Part 3 FamilyTreeDNA – Paul Maier 36
62 African American Genealogy Research Tips FamilyTreeDNA – Sherman McRae 153


63 Connecting With My Ancestors Through Y-DNA FamilyTreeDNA – Sherman McRae 200
64 Join The Million Mito Project FamilyTreeDNA (Join link) link
65 View the World’s Largest mtDNA Haplotree FamilyTreeDNA (Link to mtDNA tree) n/a
66 View the World’s Largest Y Haplotree FamilyTreeDNA (Link to Y tree) link
67 A Sneak Peek at FamilyTreeDNA Coming Attractions FamilyTreeDNA (live) 1270 + live viewers


68 DNA Upload: How to Transfer Your Autosomal DNA Data FamilyTreeDNA -Katy Rowe 303
69 Family Finder myOrigins: How to Compare Origins With Your DNA Matches FamilyTreeDNA -Katy Rowe 145
70 Join Group Projects at FamilyTreeDNA FamilyTreeDNA link to learning center article) link


71 Product Demo – Unraveling your genealogy with reconstructed trees using AutoKinship GEDmatch 803
72 Towards a Genetic Genealogy Driven Irish Reference Genome Gerard Corcoran 155


73 Discovering Biological Origins in Chile With DNA: Simple Triangulation Gonzalo Alexis Luengo Orellana 40
74 Cousin Lynne: An Adoption Story International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies 111
75 Using DNA Testing to Uncover Native Ancestry Janine Cloud 205
76 1. Forensic Genetic Genealogy Jarrett Ross 58
77 Reunited and it Feels so Good Jennifer Mendelsohn 57


78 Genealogical Research and DNA Testing: The Perfect Companions Kimberly Brown 80
79 Finding a Jewish Sperm Donor Kitty Munson Cooper 164
80 Using DNA in South African Genealogy Linda Farrell 141
81 Using DNA Group Projects In Your Family History Research Mags Gaulden 165
82 2. The Expansion of Genealogy Into Forensics Marybeth Sciaretta 35


83 DNA Interest Groups That Keep ’em Coming Back McKell Keeney (live) 180 plus live viewers
84 Searching for Close Relatives with Your DNA Results Mckell Keeney (live) Not yet available
85 Top Ten Reasons To DNA Test For Family History Michelle Leonard 181
86 Top Tips For Identifying DNA Matches Michelle Leonard 306
87 Maximising Messages Michelle Patient 442
88 How to Filter and Sort Your DNA Matches MyHeritage 88
89 How to Get Started with Your DNA Matches MyHeritage 447


90 How to Track DNA Kits in MyHeritage` MyHeritage 28


91 How to Upload Your DNA Data to MyHeritage MyHeritage 82
92 How to Use Genetic Groups MyHeritage 62
My Story: Hope MyHeritage 133
93 MyHeritage Keynote, RootsTech 2022 MyHeritage Not available
94 Using Labels to Name Your DNA Match List MyHeritage 139


95 An Introduction to DNA on MyHeritage MyHeritage – Daniel Horowitz 60
96 Using MyHeritage’s Advanced DNA Tools to Shed Light on Your DNA Matches MyHeritage – Daniel Horowitz 110
97 You’ve Got DNA Matches! Now What? MyHeritage – Daniel Horowitz 260
98 My Story: Lizzie and Ayla MyHeritage – Elizbeth Shaltz 147
99 My Story: Fernando and Iwen MyHeritage – Fernando Hermansson 165


100 Using the Autocluster and the Chromosome Browser to Explore Your DNA Matches MyHeritage – Gal Zruhen 115


101 My Story : Kara Ashby Utah Wedding MyHeritage – Kara Ashby 200
102 When Harry Met Dotty – using DNA to break down brick walls Nick David Barratt 679
103 How to Add a DNA Match to Airtable Nicole Dyer 161
104 How to Download DNA Match Lists with DNAGedcom Client Nicole Dyer 124
105 How to Know if a Matching DNA Segment is Maternal or Paternal Nicole Dyer 161
106 DNA Basics Part I Centimorgans and Family Relationships Origins International, Inc. dba Origins Genealogy 372
107 DNA Basics Part II Clustering and Connecting Your DNA Matches Origins International, Inc. dba Origins Genealogy 333
108 DNA Basics Part III Charting Your DNA Matches to Get Answers Origins International, Inc. dba Origins Genealogy 270
109 2. Using Cluster Auto Painter Patricia Coleman 691
110 3. Using Online Irish Records Patricia Coleman 802
111 Exploring Different Types of Clusters Patricia Coleman 972


112 The Million Mito Project: Growing the Family Tree of Womankind Paul Maier 541
113 The Tree of Mankind Age Estimates Paul Maier 1638
114 Y-DNA and Mitochondrial DNA Testing Plans Paul Woodbury 168
115 Finding Biological Family Price Genealogy 137
116 What Y-DNA Testing Can Do for You Richard Hill 191
117 Extending Time Horizons with DNA Rob Spencer (live) 1037 + live viewers
118 DNA for Native American Ancestry by Roberta Estes Roberta Estes 212
119 1. Associating Autosomal DNA Segments With Ancestors Roberta Estes (live)


~9000: 1019 + 500 live viewers + 7,400+ Facebook
120 1. What Can I Do With Ancestral DNA Segments? Roberta Estes (live) 325 plus live viewers


121 Native American DNA – Ancient and Contemporary Maps Roberta Estes (live) 212 plus 483 live viewers


122 How Can DNA Enhance My Family History Research? Robin Wirthlin 102
123 How to Analyze a DNA Match Robin Wirthlin 367
124 1. Jewish Ethnicity & DNA: History, Migration, Genetics Schelly Talalay Dardashti 82


125 2. Jewish Ethnicity & DNA: History, Migration, Genetics Schelly Talalay Dardashti 72
126 Ask us about DNA Talking Family History (live) 96 plus live viewers
127 1. An Introduction to Visual Phasing Tanner Blair Tolman


128 2. An Introduction to Visual Phasing Tanner Blair Tolman 110


129 Common Problems When Doing Visual Phasing Tanner Blair Tolman 68
130 Cross Visual Phasing to Go Back Another Generation Tanner Blair Tolman 64
131 DNA Basics Tanner Blair Tolman 155
132 DNA Painter and Visual Phasing Tanner Blair Tolman 155
133 DNA Painter Part 2: Chromosome Mapping Tanner Blair Tolman 172
134 DNA Painter Part 3: The Inferred Segment Generator Tanner Blair Tolman


135 DNA Painter Part 4: The Distinct Segment Generator Tanner Blair Tolman 83
136 DNA Painter Part 5: Ancestral Trees Tanner Blair Tolman 73
137 Understanding Your DNA Ethnicity Results Tanner Blair Tolman 518
138 What’s New at GEDmatch Tim Janzen


139 What Does it Mean to Have Neanderthal Ancestry? Ugo Perego 190
140 Big Y-700 Your DNA Guide 143
141 Next Steps with Your DNA Your DNA Guide – Diahan Southard (live) Not yet available


142  Adventures of an Amateur Genetic Genealogist – Geoff Nelson     291 views


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FamilyTreeDNA Keynote, RootsTech Wrap + Special Show Pricing Still Available

Am I ever whipped. My two live Sessions that were actually a series of three classes each took place on Friday. Yes, that means I presented 6 sessions on Friday, complete with a couple of Zoom gremlins, of course. It’s the nature of the time we live in.

RootsTech tried something new that they’ve never done before. The Zoom class sessions were restricted to 500 attendees each. RootsTech was concerned about disappointed attendees when the room was full and they couldn’t get in, so we live-streamed three of my sessions to Facebook in addition to the 500 Zoom seats.

As of this evening, 6,800 of you have viewed the Facebook video, “Associating Autosomal DNA Segments With Ancestors.” I’m stunned, and touched. Thank you, thank you. Here’s the Facebook link, and here’s the RootsTech YouTube link.

My afternoon sessions, “What Can I DO With Ancestral DNA Segments?” can be viewed here at RootsTech or here on YouTube.

I must admit, I’m really, REALLY looking forward to being together again because RootsTech without the socializing and in-person Expo Hall just isn’t the same. Still, be sure to take a virtual walk through the Expo Hall, here. There’s lots of content in the vendors” booths and it will remain available for all of 2022, until the beginning of RootsTech 2023..

Between prep for my classes and presenting, I didn’t have a lot of time to watch other sessions, but I was able to catch the FamilyTreeDNA keynote and their 2022 Product Sneak Peek. Both were quite worthwhile.

However, I just realized that FamilyTreeDNA’s special show pricing promo codes are still valid for the next two days.

 Special Prices Are Still Available

Every single test that FamilyTreeDNA offers, including UPGRADES, is on sale right now by using special RootsTech promo codes. These prices are good for two more days, through March 7th, so if you want to purchase a Y DNA test, mitochondrial, or Family Finder autosomal test, or upgrade, click here to see the prices only available at RootsTech (and to you through my blog.) It’s not too late, but it will be soon.

To order, click here to sign on or place your order.

FamilyTreeDNA’s Keynote

FamilyTreeDNA’s keynote was titled FamilyTreeDNA: 22 Years of Breaking Down Brick Walls.

I really enjoyed this session, in part because I’ve been a part of the genetic genealogy revolution and evolution from the beginning. Not only that, but I know every single person they interviewed for this video, and have for years. If you’ve been participating in genetic genealogy for some time, you’ll know many of these people too. For a minute, it was almost as good as visiting in person.

I’m going to share a few highlights from the session, but I’m also going to include information NOT in the video. I was one of the early project administrators, so I’ve been along for the ride for just a few months shy of 22 years.

FamilyTreeDNA was the first US company to enter the DNA testing space, the first to offer Y DNA testing, and the only one of the early companies that remains viable today. FamilyTreeDNA was the result of Bennett Greenspan’s dream – but initially, he was only dreaming small. Just like any other genealogist – he was dreaming about breaking down a brick wall which he explains in the video.

I’m so VERY grateful that Bennett had that dream, and persisted, because it means that now millions of us can do the same – and will into the future.

Bennett tells this better than anyone else, along with his partner, Max Blankfeld.

“Some people were fascinated,” Bennett said.

Yep, that’s for sure! I certainly was.

“Among the first genetic genealogists in the world.”

“Frontier of the genetic genealogy revolution.”

Indeed, we were and still are. Today’s genetic genealogy industry wouldn’t even exist were it not for FamilyTreeDNA and their early testers.

I love Max Blankfeld’s story of their first office, and you will too.

This IS the quintessential story of entrepreneurship.

In 2004, when FamilyTreeDNA was only four years old, they hosted the very first annual international project administrator’s conference. At that time, it was believed that the only people that would be interested in learning at that level and would attend a DNA conference would be project administrators who were managing surname and regional projects. How times have changed! This week at RootsTech, we probably had more people viewing DNA sessions than people that had tested altogether in 2004. I purchased kit number 30,087 on December 28, 2004, and kit 50,000 a year later on New Year’s Eve right at midnight!

In April 2005, Nat Geo partnered with FamilyTreeDNA and founded the Genographic Project which was scheduled to last for 5 years. They were hoping to attract 100,000 people who would be willing to test their DNA to discover their roots – and along with that – our human roots. The Genographic Project would run for an incredible 15 years.

In 2005 when the second Project Administrator’s conference was held at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington DC, I don’t think any of us realized the historic nature of the moment we were participating in.

I remember walking from my hotel, ironically named “Helix,” to that iconic building. I had spent my childhood reading those yellow magazines at school and dreaming of far-away places. As an adult, I had been a life-long subscriber. Never, in my wildest dreams did I imagine ever visiting Nat Geo and walking the marble Explorer’s Hall with the portraits of the founders and early explorers hanging above and keeping a watchful eye on us. We would not disappoint them.

That 100,000 participation goal was quickly reached, within weeks, and surpassed, leading us all to walk the road towards the building that housed the Explorer’s Hall, Explorers’ in Residence, and so much more.

We were all explorers, pioneers, adventurers seeking to use the DNA from our ancestors in the past to identify who they were. Using futuristic technology tools like a mirror to look backward into the dim recesses of the past.

The archaeology being unearthed and studied was no longer at the ends of the earth but within our own bodies. The final frontier. Reaching out to explore meant reaching inward, and backward in time, using the most progressive technology of the day.

Most of the administrators in attendance, all volunteers, were on a first-name basis with each other and also with Max, Bennett, and the scientists.

Here, Bennett with a member of the science team from the University of Arizona describes future research goals. Every year FamilyTreeDNA has improved its products in numerous ways.

Today, that small startup business has its own ground-breaking state-of-the-art lab. More than 10,000 DNA projects are still administered by passionate volunteer administrators who focus on what they seek – such as the history of their surname or a specific haplogroup. Their world-class lab allows FamilyTreeDNA to focus on research and science in addition to DNA processing. The lab allows constant improvement so their three types of genetic genealogy products, Y, mitochondrial and autosomal DNA.

Those three types of tests combine to provide genealogical insights and solutions. The more the science improves, the more solutions can and will be found.

If you watch the video, you’ll see 6 people who have solved particularly difficult and thorny problems. We are all long-time project administrators, all participate on a daily basis in this field and community – and all have an undying love for both genealogy and genetic genealogy.

You’ll recognize most of these people, including yours truly.

  • I talk about my mother’s heritage, unveiled through mitochondrial DNA.
  • Rob Warthen speaks about receiving a random phone call from another genealogist as his introduction to genetic genealogy. Later, he purchased a DNA test for his girlfriend, an adoptee, for Christmas and sweetened the deal by offering to “go where you’re from” for vacation. He didn’t realize why she was moved to tears – that test revealed the first piece of information she had ever known about her history. DNA changed her and Rob’s life. He eventually identified her birth parents – and went on to found both and DNAGedcom.
  • Richard Hill was adopted and began his search in his 30s, but it would be DNA that ended his search. His moving story is told in his book, Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA.
  • Mags Gaulden, professional genealogist and founder of Grandma’s Genes and tells about her 91-year-old adopted client who had given up all hope of discovering her roots. Back in the 1950s, there was literally nothing in her client’s adoption file. She was reconciled to the fact that “I would never know who I was.” Mags simply could not accept that and 2 years later, Mags found her parents’ names.

  • Lara Diamond’s family was decimated during the holocaust. Lara’s family thought everyone in her grandfather’s family had been killed, but in 2013, autosomal DNA testing let her to her grandfather’s aunt who was not killed in the holocaust as everyone thought. The aunt and first cousin were living in Detroit. Lara went from almost no family to a family reunion, shown above. She says she finally met “people who look like me.”
  • Katherine Borges founded, the International Society of Genetic Genealogy in 2005, following the first genetic genealogy conference in late 2004 where she realized that the genealogy community desperately needed education – beginning with DNA terms. I remember her jokingly standing in the hallway saying that she understood three words, “a, and and the.” While that’s cute today, it was real at that time because DNA was a foreign language, technology, and concept to genealogy. In fact, for years we were banned from discussing the topic on RootsWeb. The consummate genetic genealogist, Katherine carries DNA kits in her purse, even to Scotland!

Bennett says that he’s excited about the future, for the next generation of molecular scientific achievements. It was Bennett that greenlit the Million Mito project. Bennett’s challenge as a genetic genealogy/business owner was to advance the science that led to products while making enough money to be able to continue advancing the science. It was a fine line, but Max and Bennett navigated those waters quite well.

Apparently, Max, Bennett, and the FamilyTreeDNA customers weren’t the only people who believe that.

In January 2021, myDNA acquired and merged with FamilyTreeDNA. Max and Bennett remain involved as board members.

Dr.Lior Rauchberger, CEO of myDNA which includes FamilyTreeDNA

Dr. Lior Rauchberger, the CEO of the merged enterprise believes in the power of genetics, including genetic genealogy, and is continuing to make investments in FamilyTreeDNA products – including new features. There have already been improvements in 2021 and in the presentation by Katy Rowe, the Product Manager for the FamilyTreeDNA products, she explains what is coming this year.

I hope you enjoyed this retrospective on the past 22 years and are looking forward to crossing new frontiers, and breaking down those brick walls, in the coming decades.

Sneak Peek at FamilyTreeDNA – New Features and Upcoming Releases

You can watch Katy Rowe’s Sneak Peek video about what’s coming, here.

Of course, while other companies need to split their focus between traditional genealogy research records and DNA, FamilyTreeDNA does not. Their only focus is genetics. They plan to make advances in every aspect of their products.

FamilyTreeDNA announced a new Help Center which you can access, here. I found lots of short videos and other helpful items. I had no idea it existed.

In 2021, customers began being able to order a combined Family Finder and myDNA test to provide insights into genealogy along with health and wellness

Wellness includes nutrition and fitness insights.

Existing customers either are or will be able to order the myDNA upgrade to their existing test. The ability to upgrade is being rolled out by groups. I haven’t had my turn yet, but when I do, I’ll test and let you know what I think. Trust me, I’m not terribly interested in how many squats I can do anymore, because I already know that number is zero, but I am very interested in nutrition and diet. I’d like to stay healthy enough to research my ancestors for a long time to come.

FamilyTreeDNA announced that over 72,000 men have taken the Big Y test which has resulted in the Y DNA tree of mankind surpassing 50,000 branches.

This is utterly amazing when you consider how far we’ve come since 2002. This also means that a very high number of men, paired with at least one other man, actually form a new branch on the Y haplotree.

The “age” of tester’s Y DNA haplogroups is now often within the 500-year range – clearly genealogical in nature. Furthermore, many leaf-tip haplogroups as defined by the Big Y SNPs are much closer than that and can differentiate between branches of a known family. The Big Y-700 is now the go-to test for Y DNA and genealogy.

Of course, all these new branches necessitate new maps and haplogroup information. These will be released shortly and will provide users with the ability to see the paths together, which is the view you see here, or track individual lines. The same is true for mitochondrial DNA as well.

Y DNA tree branch ages will be forthcoming soon too. I think this is the #1 most requested feature.

On the Mitochondrial DNA side of the house, the Million Mito project has led to a significant rewrite of the MitoTree. As you know, I’m a Million Mito team member.

Here’s Dr. Paul Maier’s branch, for example. You can see that in the current version of the Phylotree, there is one blue branch and lots of “child” branches beneath that. Of course, when we’re measuring the tree from “Eve,” the end tip leaf branches look small, but it’s there that our genealogy resides.

In the new version, yet to be released, there is much more granularity in the branches of U5a2b2a.

To put this another way, in today’s tree, haplogroup U5a2b2a is about 5,000 years old, but the newly defined branches bring the formation of Paul’s (new) haplogroup into the range of about 500 years. Similar in nature to the Y DNA tree and significantly more useful for genealogical purposes. If you have not taken a mitochondrial DNA full sequence test, please order one now. Maybe your DNA will help define a new branch on the tree plus reveal new information about your genealogy.

Stay tuned on this one. You know the Million Mito Project is near and dear to my heart.

2022 will also see much-needed improvements in the tree structure and user experience, as well as the matches pages.

There are a lot of exciting things on FamilyTreeDNA’s plate and I’m excited to see these new features and functions roll out over the next few months.

Just the Beginning

The three days of RootsTech 2022 may be over, but the content isn’t.

In fact, it’s just the beginning of being able to access valuable information at your convenience. The vendor booths will remain in the Expo Hall until RootsTech 2023, so for a full year, plus the individual instructor’s sessions will remain available for three years.

In a few days, after I take a break, I’ll publish a full list of DNA sessions, along with links for your convenience.

Thank You Shout Outs

I want to say a HUGE thank you to RootsTech for hosting the conference and making it free. I specifically want to express my gratitude to the many, many people working diligently behind the scenes during the last year, and frantically during the past three days.

Another huge thank you to the speakers and vendors whose efforts provide the content for the conference.

And special thanks to you for loving genealogy, taking your time to watch and learn, and for reading this blog.


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You Can Help Keep This Blog Free

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

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Genealogy Books

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RootsTech Connect 2022 Day 1 – #ChooseConnection

You may not know this but I’m a music junkie – and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the new RootsTech Connect song.

Please listen here.

Doesn’t this make you just want to get up and dance? Go right ahead.

I don’t want to “out” anyone who doesn’t wish to be known, but one of the extremely talented RootsTech team members wrote this song! He just might just be the person speaking in this short video! How cool is this!!! Talk about multi-talented. He’s an integral part of the team that brought you RootsTech 2022. It’s young people like this that give me such hope.

RootsTech opened with a message from Steve Rockwood in this video. I think it’s a message we all need to hear. Especially right now.

Steve is always so inspirational. I met Steve in a situation where pretty much everything had gone wrong, years ago, and trust me, he is every bit the man you see in this video. It’s not an act.

I invite you to view the amazing Paula Madison keynote from 2016. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more moving, inspirational, or pronounced example of “connection.”

What are you doing to #ChooseConnection today?


The pre-recorded sessions are available now and you can watch at will. There are hundreds to choose from.

There are still issues with the search functions and PlayList, but you will be able to watch at your convenience now or later.

The live sessions are recorded and will be uploaded after the live session. I know the upload goal was an hour or two, but there were technical gremlins that visited my session, and it’s still not uploaded. I’m not sure what will happen, but I’ll record the session for uploading if need be. Don’t worry, you’ll get to see my session eventually if you couldn’t join us live today.

You can join me tomorrow, live at:

I’m compiling a list of DNA-related sessions and I’ll publish that as soon as it’s complete, probably near the end of the conference so that I can include links to the live sessions that are being recorded and uploaded later.

MyHeritage Keynote

MyHeritage always has an interesting keynote and announces something big.

This year, they reviewed their accomplishments since RootsTech a year ago before announcing their newest feature. You can watch the keynote, here.

You know, it’s always good to see my friends from around the world, even if it is virtual. We truly are a worldwide family. Here’s hoping that we can see each other later this year, in person, once again.

Aaron Godfrey and Maya Lerner introduced LiveStory.


Deep Nostagia, announced last year at RootsTech has facilitated 65 million photo animations.

Now, MyHeritage has gone even further.

Imagine what it would be like if your ancestor could tell you their own story. Well, now they can, at least somewhat.

MyHeritage introduced LiveStory today. Here’s a demo.

Your ancestor can tell their own story from their photo using the information you’ve uploaded, entered, or saved from documents at MyHeritage. This link should take you to your Livestory page if you’re a MyHeritage user.

I created a LiveStory for my grandfather.

I was curious to see if the “brothel ownership” from the newspaper records at MyHeritage got incorporated into his LifeStory.

Thankfully, no, especially since the OCR newspaper scan misread brother as brothel. Yea, I know, that’s what they all say, right😊. BrotheR. BrotheR. R.

However, even if it had included the brothel, I could have corrected or removed that juicy tidbit.

You can customize information, select voices and languages as well. My great-grandfather was born in the Netherlands, so maybe I’ll try this with him and “hear” him speak in Dutch. That would be very interesting. For that matter, my maternal great-great-grandparents were born in Germany, so I could select German for them.

This blog article tells you everything you need to know and leads you through the process.

My recommendation is to select someone as an experiment who you did NOT know in real life. If you enjoy that experience, then move on to people you knew.

I’m hopeful that family members will upload photos of my ancestors that I don’t know exist – and LifeStory is a wonderful incentive to do just that.

Date Estimator for Historical Photos

MyHeritage announced that they will be adding a date estimator for historical photos.


Do you have photos that you could better utilize if you only knew when they were taken? For example, you know that one candidate person was living elsewhere, or had passed away by a specific date, so if you just knew when the photo was taken, it would provide a HUGE clue about that person’s identity.

I certainly have some of those. Like this one, for example. Is this Barbara Drechsel (1848-1930)? Could it be someone else? When was it taken?

I can’t wait to try this out as soon as it’s available.

Found Families

Some of the most heartwarming stories are the found families. Just get the Kleenex before you watch this keynote that includes two of these incredible stories.

It’s all the feels.

This reminds me so much of when I found my brother, Dave, and then his sisters after Dave had passed.

Day 2 at RootsTech

Tomorrow is Day 2 of 3. Are you ready with your agenda?

What did you watch today that you enjoyed and would recommend for others?

How are you connecting?


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