New Information About Philip Jacob Miller (c1726-1799) and Magdalena Possibly Rochette (c1730-1800/1808) – 52 Ancestors #404

I’ve written about Philip Jacob Miller and his wife, Magdalena, whose birth surname has been reported forever as Rochette.

One of the reasons I publish such extensive articles, including literally everything I know or can find about each ancestor, is to cast a trail of breadcrumbs. There’s always a chance that a future researcher will come across something new. I may or may not be here, but I really do want accurate information to outlive me.

Recently, that’s exactly what happened. Christine Berwanger, Ph. D., a descendant of Philip Jacob Miller and Magdalena through daughters Christena who married Henry Snell, and Hannah who married Arnold Snider, contacted me with information I did not previously have. I’m very grateful to both Christine and Doris Sullivan Bache, who Christine credits with doing a great deal of the original research back in the 1980s.

Doris, an avid researcher and descendant of Philip Jacob Miller and Magdalena through the Snider line passed away in 2009 and is memorialized here.

Thankfully, Doris shared with Christine, who shared with me and has graciously granted me permission to share with you.

Let’s start with Philip Jacob Miller’s estate packet.

Philip Jacob Miller’s Estate Packet

Christine said that Doris ordered Philip Jacob’s entire estate packet and sent her copies of receipts along with a letter in 1989.

From Christine’s May 2023 email to me:

An ancestor’s estate file provides perhaps the most complete picture we will have of his life. Hence, I include the transcribed inventory and settlement of Philip Jacob Miller’s worldly possessions, in addition to his generous bequeaths of land to his children and their families. Note the Bible. Also of interest, the descriptions of the animals, the smoothbore gun, and the coffee mill.

Note the large sum due from Col. Thomas Hart to the estate. Thomas Hart was a prominent merchant in Hagerstown, Maryland, and an associate of Daniel Boone, who removed to Lexington, Kentucky in 1794. He was the father-in-law of Henry Clay. Henry Snell purchased his Fleming County land from Hart[i] There was clearly a relationship with this prominent person and the Miller/Snell family.

Receipt No. 54, 22 Nov 1795[ii], includes payment for a trip to Annapolis, and a payment of 9.15.1 to Nathaniel Rochester – who was a close associate and partner of Col. Hart, Hagerstown Postmaster 1793-1803, Washington County Maryland Sheriff 1804-1806, the first president of the Hagerstown Bank founded in 1807, and founder of Rochester, New York.[iii]

Other prominent persons are named in the estate. Martin Baum, born in Hagerstown in 1765 and later mayor of Cincinnati, was a witness to:

Receipt No. 33, 20 Sep 1808[iv]

Received at Cincinnati Septr 20th 1808 of Abraham Miller one of the Administrators of Philip Jacob Millers Estate Twenty Dollars being part of my legacy of the said Estate In witness whereof I hereunto set my hand


Martin Baum            Arnold      x    Snider


The estate was a complex one: the inventory was conducted in Sep 1799, but the settlement was not completed until Sep 1808. Abraham, as Administrator, documented thirty-nine days travel back to Hagerstown, Maryland, three trips to Lexington, Kentucky, four days travel to Chillicothe, Ohio (state Capitol and location of a land office), four days to the Court in Newport, Kentucky, and four days showing the land to appraisers. He charged the estate $88.50 for travel and expenses. David Miller, as Administrator, spent eighteen days travelling to Lexington, eight days to Fleming County, fifteen days going to Court, two days to the Sheriff of Campbell County, recording a deed in Williamsburg, four days to Chillicothe, for expenses of $58.18 ¾. He also credited himself with $8 paid to his mother.[v] Abraham and David had families and farms and were active in their Brethren Church. These duties must have been onerous, yet they persisted.

Collecting debts owed to the estate involved several transactions. The estate paid Nicholas Rochester 5.7.6 for collecting $699 2/100. (The image clearly reads Nicholas; I have been unable to match a Nicholas Rochester. Nathaniel did not have a son or a brother by that name. If Nathaniel was meant, this is a different transaction than the one in 1795.) Surveyor General of the Virginia Military District and prominent landowner William Lytle signed a receipt pertaining to the debt owed the estate by Col Thomas Hart. Witness James Taylor was a prominent resident of Newport, Kentucky.

Receipt No. 55, 14 Apr 1800[vi]

Received of Daniel Miller by the hands of David Miller an order for Two hundred dollars on Colo Thomas Hart of Lexington Kentucky, which if accepted, is to be in full for the one hundred acres of land on which the said Daniel now lives as witness my hand this 14th of April 1800

Teste James Taylor                   Wm. Lytle

Summary, Life and Estate of Philip Jacob Miller:

Philip Jacob Miller was devoted to his family, his religion, his land, his community, and his country. He, in accordance with the principles of the German Baptist Brethren and other sects such as the Amish and Mennonites, chose to live a simple life. His estate inventory attests to that. Yet, he accrued wealth. He loaned money rather than spent it. He accrued enough to bequest each of his ten children 200 acres and further distributions from his estate.

He moved in the circles of the merchants and landowners of his time as well as the circles of his neighbors and co-religionists. His simple lifestyle did not mean he did not participate in the life of the broader community. Records attest that he did. We use our understanding of history to understand the context of the lives our ancestors lived; yet our ancestor’s lives influenced that history.

Mary Christine Berwanger

[1] Editor James F. Hopkins and Associate Editor Mary W. M. Hargreaves, editor, The Papers of Henry Clay. 2, The Rising statesman, 1815-1820 (Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 1961).

2 Receipts, Estate of Philip Jacob Miller, Campbell County KY Estate Administration, Settlement Drawer 1817-1836, envelope 1828 (should be 1808), Alexandria, Kentucky. 22 Feb 1989, Doris S. Bache mailed to me a transcript of receipts No. 27 through No. 66, typed pages 7 through 13, mostly distributions from the estate to family beneficiaries. Pages 1 through 6 were not included, presumably because they did not pertain to family members. This was in the day of taking handwritten notes, typing them up, and going to the library to make copies to mail to other researchers.

3 Biography at Sheriff Nathaniel Rochester’s Records, Washington County, 1804-1806

4 Receipt No. 33, Receipts, Estate of Philip Jacob Miller.

5 Receipt No. 66, Receipts, Estate of Philip Jacob Miller.

6 Receipt No. 55, Receipts, Estate of Philip Jacob Miller.

[i] Editor James F. Hopkins and Associate Editor Mary W. M. Hargreaves, editor, The Papers of Henry Clay. 2, The Rising statesman, 1815-1820 (Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 1961).

[ii] Receipts, Estate of Philip Jacob Miller, Campbell County KY Estate Administration, Settlement Drawer 1817-1836, envelope 1828 (should be 1808), Alexandria, Kentucky. 22 Feb 1989, Doris S. Bache mailed to me a transcript of receipts No. 27 through No. 66, typed pages 7 through 13, mostly distributions from the estate to family beneficiaries. Pages 1 through 6 were not included, presumably because they did not pertain to family members. This was in the day of taking handwritten notes, typing them up, and going to the library to make copies to mail to other researchers.

[iii] Biography at Sheriff Nathaniel Rochester’s Records, Washington County, 1804-1806

[iv] Receipt No. 33, Receipts, Estate of Philip Jacob Miller.

[v] Receipt No. 66, Receipts, Estate of Philip Jacob Miller.

[vi] Receipt No. 55, Receipts, Estate of Philip Jacob Miller.


The source of Magdalena’s oft-reported surname as Rochette has baffled me and many other researchers for decades.

Christine, thanks to Doris, has been able to provide what is probably the original source for that surname. I’m saying it now, and I’ll say it again – this by no means proves that Magdalena’s surname was Rochette. It does, however, provide one more piece of evidence and an answer to the question of where that name came from.

From Christine:

Rochette – from a “loose paper in a family bible”

Click on the image to enlarge

This may be a copy of the “loose paper in a family bible.”

Doris S. Bache mentioned in her letter of 22 Feb 1989: “When I heard from Sharon Biggs in reference to the maiden name of Magdalena Miller, the name “Rochette” had come from a loose paper in a family bible. Author unknown, also. I am accepting the maiden name, but as you will note, most of the earlier information is incorrect, with the alternating of Phillip and Jacob in the generations before 1729. Of course, the name Morgan has been proven to be Maugens.” Doris is referring to the two pages above, taped together, which was included with her letter. She received this from Sharon Biggs.

Philip Jacob Miller married Magdalena Rochette, born in Sedan, France. Their children are listed (pencil checkmarks) with Abraham underlined. Both the name Rochette and the place Sedan, France are specific. If this is a copy of the loose paper from the bible, the (presumably) descendent who wrote it, knew the names of Philip and Magdalen’s children, so might indeed have known Magdalena’s surname and place of birth.

Sedan, France was a source of Huguenot refugees following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.

French Huguenots relocated throughout Europe and to the Americas. It is possible that Magdalen’s family fled to Germany or America.

Philip Jacob Miller and Magdalena Rochette are apparently the Miller ancestors of the author. Listed below their names are the Maugans / Morgan ancestors: Conrad Morgan, said to be born in Virginia, and wife. Listed are some of their known children, with Katherine underlined. The wife named, “Margaret Mynne or Marie” does not match other sources, who give his wife as Anna Rebecca Hoffman (1739–1810).

Next, Abraham Miller, son of Philip Jacob and Magdalena, married Katherine Morgan, daughter of Conrad and wife. Their son Matthias Miller is underlined. He married Elizabeth Gorman. Their daughter Emma Miller (1849-1925) is underlined. She married Elihu T. Hedrick.

The paper comprises a direct line Ahnentafel from Emma Miller to her great-grandparents. The author of the paper is likely Emma herself or one of her children. It is certainly possible for a person to know from family history the names and origins of his or her great-grandparents. It is also possible for confusion on the part of the person writing down notes from memory.

Abraham Miller’s entry gives his birthdate and place as 28 Apr 1764 in Frederick County, Maryland, which agrees with the entry in Philip Jacob Miller’s Bible: “My son Abraham was born April 28, 1764.” Katherine Morgan his wife, was born 16 Jul 1767 in Frederick County. The note further states, “Their children were born in Clermont Co. Ohio, on bounty land given to Abraham Miller’s father by King George 2.” This statement is a confusion of time and place, but as with most oral history, there is some truth in it.

Abraham’s father, Philip Jacob Miller, intended each of his children to have a 200-acre parcel. Sons Abraham and David, as administrators of his estate, purchased 2000 acres, most in Virginia Military Survey 3790. The Virginia Military District was established as bounty land for Virginia Revolutionary soldiers. Often, they did not occupy the land but sold it to someone else. “Survey 3790, for Taylor, James et. al for Jacob Miller, C. C. [chain carrier], Jacob Snyder, C. C. [chain carrier], and Abraham Miller, M [marker]. With William Lytle, D. S. [Deputy Surveyor], and dates February 20, 1880 and June 9, 1802. These survey crews were comprised of: The D. S. Deputy Surveyor, C. C. chain carriers, and M. marker. The crews were often early settlers in the area.”  Hence Survey of 3790, from which Philip Jacob’s estate subsequently purchased 2000 acres of William Lytle, was in the Virginia Military District, hence bounty land. Abraham sold his 200-acre lot from his father’s estate to William Spence for $400, 22 Apr 1805. He instead resided in Clermont County, but I have not tracked his deeds.

In 1808, Abraham and David surveyed part of the Virginia Military District in Goshen Township, Clermont County, Survey 5959. “Abraham Miller was marker, David Miller was Chain Carrier.”

Perhaps land that Philip Jacob Miller’s father Michael Miller bought in Pennsylvania was originally granted by George the Second. I have not seen his Chester County deeds. Stinchcomb’s deed was in 1725, sold to Michael Miller et al in 1744. George II reigned from 1727-1760.

Summary, Questions, and Coincidences: This document records family history, and most of the information is verified by other sources.

The name Rochette and origin in Sedan, France is too specific to disregard out of hand, especially since this document existed prior to the Internet, when one could search a name and connect it to a person with no other evidence than the surname.


There was a French Huguenot Rochet family from Sedan, France, and daughter Suzanne was smuggled out, married, and settled in Virginia.

“The most interesting story relating to the Huguenots of Manakin Town [Virginia] is that of Suzanne Rochet. After Revocation of Edict of Nantes in 1658, the refugee daughters of Moses Rochet wrote from Amsterdam to their father in France to send them their youngest sister, Suzanne. Since the French government was keeping strict watch to prevent the escape of Huguenots from the country, the Rochets always referred to Suzanne as “the Little Nightcap.” After several unsuccessful attempts to send his daughter past the Guards, Rochet finally smuggled her out of the country to Holland with the aid of a friendly ship-captain. In the French Church Amsterdam, Suzanne married July 1692 Abraham Michaux, a Huguenot refugee from Sedan. By 1705 they and their children had joined the colony at Manakin Town” [Virginia].

Source: “The Little Nightcap” by the Rev. W. Twyman Williams recorded here.

“At the same time, her sisters in Holland became very much concerned about her. They had found refuge in Amsterdam and wished to have her in safety there with them. So they wrote to their father, but for fear that the letter might be read by spies and informers, they did not refer to Suzanne. Instead, they asked their father to make every effort to send them “the little nightcap” they had left behind when they made their escape. But how? At last, Jean Rochet hit upon a plan. He found a ship’s captain.” “This man, though not a Huguenot, was kindly enough disposed to help. So Jean Rochet had his daughter set into a hogshead marked “merchandise,” fastened down the head of the large barrel, and hauled it to the ship. The captain had it taken aboard and stowed away. The ship was searched, but the hidden girl was not discovered. As soon as the danger of further search was over, the captain let her out of her uncomfortable hiding place and got her safely to Holland.”

This paper says Conrad Maugans / Morgan was born in Virginia. Some ancestry trees claim Magdalena Rochette was his sister. Is there any evidence that the Maugans were Huguenot? Or that they were in Virginia?

The name Rochette is sometimes given as LaRoche, which broadens the search possibilities.

French Huguenots went to Germany, and went to Pennsylvania, where they married into German families. It is possible that Philip Jacob Miller married a French woman, known to the family in Germany or met in Pennsylvania. “The French Element among the Pennsylvania Germans” should be understood before concluding that Philip Jacob Miller did not marry a French woman.

There is a German site dedicated to Huguenot genealogy, which contains the name Rochette.


Alma A. Smith, The Virginia Military Surveys of Clermont and Hamilton Counties, Ohio 1787-1849 (Cincinnati, Ohio: A.A. Smith, 1985), p. 141, 20 Feb 1800.

 Alma A. Smith, The Virginia Military Surveys of Clermont and Hamilton Counties, Ohio 1787-1849, p. 174, 19 May 1808.

Excellent description of the connections and intermarriages of the French and Germans. George G. Struble, “The French Element among the Pennsylvania Germans” Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, Vol 22 (July 1955)pp, 267–76,

Deutsche Hugenotten-Gesellschaft e.V.,

Click to access 2018-08-namensliste-pro-gen.pdf

My Analysis

I’m incredibly grateful to Christine, Doris, and Sharon Biggs. I’m especially impressed that Christine can actually find a letter from 1989!

Let’s take a look at this information.

The analysis of Philip Jacob Miller’s estate packet brings his life into perspective in a new and different light. The information I had previously was a list of inventory items and a list of bills. Doris clearly possessed the entire packet that included receipts with additional information, not to mention the additional research into the identities of the various people mentioned in the estate settlement.

It appears that Philip Jacob was quite well-off later in his life. I can’t help but wonder if the fact that he reluctantly served in the Revolutionary War may have opened doors that allowed him to purchase the 2000 acres, providing a 200-acre farm to each of his children.

Let’s look at the information in that unsourced but clearly authentic Bible record.

Philip Jacob’s birth location is likely incorrect. Philip Jacob Miller’s parents were living in Krotelbach, Germany, when they were married in 1714, with their first child baptized the following year. In April of 1719, another son was baptized in Kallstadt. A third son was born on the farm by the name of Weilach near Bad Durkheim in April of 1721. There is absolutely nothing to indicate that the family settled in the Netherlands before immigrating to the US. Therefore, it’s highly unlikely that Philip Jacob was born in the Netherlands between 1723 and 1727.

The second questionable item from that Bible record involves Conrad Maugans, sometimes referred to as Morgan. This man was born around 1735 and was clearly German. It’s unlikely, but not impossible, that he was born in Virginia. It’s also very unlikely that Magdalena was his sister. Three of her children married Conrad’s children. David Miller married Conrad’s daughter Magdalene Maugans.  Additionally, her son Abraham Miller married Catherine Maugans. A third child, Esther Miller, married Gabriel Maugans. First-cousin marriages did occur in Brethren families so that alone does not rule out Magdalena and Conrad being siblings. However, it is interesting that she has no child named Conrad, nor do her children who did not marry his children.

I have found no evidence whatsoever to indicate that Philip Jacob’s wife, Magdalena, was a Maugans. I’ve seen that rumor for years as well.

I strongly suspect the confusion arose because Conrad’s daughter, Magdalene married a Miller and was therefore Magdalene Miller. Conrad’s will was written in German, but has been translated by an anonymous researcher.

Next, let’s do some math. We know that Magdalena Miller was born sometime around 1730, and that she and Philip Jacob Miller likely married in York County, PA, around 1750 but no later than July of 1751 based on the birth date of their first child. It’s also possible that they married in Lancaster Co., PA or Frederick Co., MD. Unfortunately, Brethren did not register their marriages.

Philip Jacob was Brethren, so she would have to have been Brethren too, or converted, in order for them to be married and remain within the church. What I do know, absolutely, positively, is that there is no Rochette surname of any family in any of these three counties in a relevant timeframe. Women in that time and place did NOT travel around without their family. If Magdalena was a Rochette, then where was her father or other family members?

Furthermore, if Magdalena was indeed the Suzanne Rochet, Huguenot from Sedan, she was born sometime around 1658 and married Abraham Michaux in 1692, so she clearly is not the Magdalena born around 1730. The “little nightcap” story, however, is lovely and excellent history all by itself.

There is some discussion that the Magdalena in question is Suzanne’s daughter, but then her surname would be Michaux, not Rochette.

I’m highly skeptical based on that, in addition to the fact that the Magdalena who married Philip Jacob had to have been Brethren, either before or certainly at the time of their marriage.

I’d feel a lot better about the Rochette surname and the Sedan location if the rest of that Bible information was accurate. Doris mentioned that she had found additional discrepancies.

Having said that, the information is very specific, including the Sedan location. Perhaps this information is not entirely wrong, just a generation or two offset?

If Magdalena’s surname was Rochette or something similar, I would expect to have at least a few DNA matches. I have MANY Miller matches from Philip Jacob’s father, Michael Miller, through is other children.

However, I don’t have matches to someone with the surname of Rochette, or similar, with two exceptions.

Unfortunately, at Ancestry, I can’t search by ancestor, so while I do have matches to people with Rochette in their trees, the ones I reviewed are Magdalena listed as Rochette. What I really need to do is be able to filter by Rochette matches not=Magdalena Rochette who is married to Philip Jacob Miller.

I did find a Rochette match at MyHeritage, but the match to this person could be through a different line. Another French match that could be helpful has a private tree, so no cigar there, either.

At FamilyTreeDNA, my mother’s matches to Rochette are only trees reflecting Magdalena as a Rochette.

I checked Filae and found nothing for a Magdalena Rochette of the right age, but Christine jumped right into serious research.

Christine’s French Huguenot Research

From Christine:

Note: Madeleine or Magdeleine are French versions of Magdalena.

The Huguenots were Calvinist Protestants, and their Reformed Churches recorded sacramental records.

“On October 18, 1685, the Edict of Nantes was revoked and French Huguenots could either convert to Catholicism, face life in a prison or convent, or flee the country. At this time, there were about 800,000 Huguenots in France, and nearly one-fourth of them left the country.”

French Reformed sacramental records are available from Sedan, Ardennes, France, from the 1500s and 1600s, indexed on FamilySearch (link here) but not (on FamilySearch) after the Edict of Nantes when the French Reformed Churches were suppressed. The baptism records which documented “the Little Nightcap” family are amazingly easy to read.

From these records and online ancestry or FamilySearch trees, this Sedan Rochette family included men who did not marry or die in Sedan (from these records) who might have moved elsewhere to become the grand-father, father, uncle of Magdalena / Madeleine. [Chart below is incomplete, not verified with original sources.]

Little Night Cap had a daughter Anne Madeleine. [I did not record all her children. Daughter Olive Judith married an Anthony Morgan, who does not seem to be related to the Maugans/ Morgans of the Miller lines.]

Little Night Cap is not the only Rochette woman to come to the New World [see Susanna daughter of Isaac] and it is likely some of the Rochette men came also. Having their baptismal dates and relationships from the Sedan records makes it more likely to match them to other men of the same name and age.

Did Magdalena/Madeleine’s family also leave before 1685? Did the Huguenots who remained in France continue to record their sacramental records? If so, where might those be?

They migrated to Protestant Countries, so in those places their later sacraments would have been recorded, such as in the Netherlands (cited in Little Night Cap’s family), parts of Germany, etc., and their churches in the New World. They did end up assimilating.

Descendancy Narrative of Moses Thiery Rochet

From Christine:

Moses Thiery1 ROCHET was born in 1615. He married Suzanne RONDEAU on 7 Feb 1638 at Sedan, Ardennes, France.1 He died on 31 Dec 1649.

Jean2 ROCHET was born in 1641 at Sedan, Ardennes, France. He married Marie TRUFET on 21 Dec 1664 at Sedan, Ardennes, France.2

Susan3 “Little Night Cap” ROCHET. Her married name was MICHAUX. She was baptized on 13 Apr 1667 at Sedan, Ardennes, France.3 She married Abraham MICHAUX on 13 Jul 1692 at Amsterdam, Netherlands. She immigrated on 8 May 1701 to London, England. She died on 18 Dec 1744 at Virginia at age 77.4

      1. Olive Judi4 MICHAUX married Anthony MORGAN. Her married name was MORGAN. She was born in 1706 at Virginia.5 She died on 27 Oct 1760 at Virginiia.6
      2. Anne Madeline4 MICHAUX was born in 1706 at Virginia. She died in 1796 at Virginia.

Isaac3 ROCHET died in 1672. He was baptized on 30 Aug 1672 at Sedan, Ardennes, France.7

Louis3 ROCHET was baptized on 5 May 1676 at Sedan, Ardennes, France.8 He died on 1 Oct 1726 at age 50.9

Daniel3 ROCHET was baptized on 5 Jan 1679 at Sedan, Ardennes, France.10

Jacques2 ROCHET was born in 1642. He died in 1647.

Isaac2 ROCHET was also known as Isaac DE LA ROQUET. He was born in 1641 at Sedan, Ardennes, France.11 He was baptized on 10 Jan 1644 at Sedan, Ardennes, France.12 He married Jeanne DUFRAY on 16 May 1666 at Reformed Protestant Church, Sedan, Ardennes, France. He married Jeanne DUFRAY on 16 May 1666 at Sedan, Ardennes, France.2 He died in Nov 1695 at age 51.

    1. Susanna3 ROCHET. Her married name was GARRIGUES. She was born in 1686 at Sedan, Ardennes, France.13 She married Matthieu GARRIGUES on 28 May 1702 at Netherlands. She died on 30 Sep 1746 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.14

Marie2 ROCHET was born on 22 Aug 1645.15 She died in 1763 at Sedan, Ardennes, France.

Vincent2 ROCHET was born on 18 Sep 1646.

Charles2 ROCHET was born on 29 Dec 1647.16 He died on 12 Jul 1670 at Sedan, Ardennes, France, at age 22.17

Printed on: 13 May 2023

Prepared by: Mary Christine Berwanger, Ph.D.


  1. Ardennes: Sedan – Tables alphabétique des mariages, Ms 664/index, 1573-1682 family search.
  2. Ardennes: Sedan – Tables alphabétique des mariages, Ms 664/index, 1573-1682 familysearch.
  3. Name Susane Rochet
    Sex     Female
    Father’s Name     Jean Rochet
    Mother’s Name     Marie Trufet
    Event Baptism, 13 Apr 1667, Sedan, Ardennes, France
    “France, registres protestants, 1536-1897,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 19 February 2021), Susane Rochet, 13 Apr 1667; citing Baptism, Societe de L’histoire du Protestantisme Francais (Society of the History of French Protestantism), Paris.
  4. Suzanne Laroche ROCHETTE (1667–1744)
    Birth 13 APR 1667 • Sedan, Ardennes, Champagne-Ardenne, France
    Death 18 DEC 1744 • Manakin Sabot, Goochland, Virginia, USA.
  5. Olive Judi Morgan (1706–1760) Birth 1706 • Manakin, Goochland County, Virginia, USA.
  6. Death 27 OCTOBER 1760 • Cumberland County, Virginia, USA.
  7. Name Isaac Rochet
    Sex     Male
    Father’s Name     Jean Rochet
    Mother’s Name     Marie Trufet
    Event    Baptism, 30 Aug 1672, Sedan, Ardennes, France.
  8. Name Louis Rochet
    Sex     Male
    Father’s Name     Jean Rochet
    Mother’s Name     Marie Truffet
    Event  Baptism 05 May 1676, Sedan, Ardennes, France.
  9. 1 October 1726.
  10. Christening • 1 Source 5 January 1679Sedan, Ardennes, Champagne-Ardenne, France.
  11. Isaac De La Roquet (Rochet) (1641–1695)
    Birth 1641 • Sedan, Ardennes, Champagne-Ardenne, France
    Death NOV 1695.
  12. 10 January 1644, familysearch.
  13. Birth 1686 • Sedan, Ardennes, Champagne-Ardenne, France.
  14. Death 30 SEP 1746 • Christ Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Colonial America.
  15. Birth 22 August 1645 Sedan, Ardennes, Champagne-Ardenne, France
    Death 1763 Sedan, France.
  16. 29 December 1647.
  17. 12 July 1670 Sedan, Ardennes, Champagne-Ardenne, France.

Rochette, or Not?

Combining the information provided by Christine and Doris along with additional research provides additional information but no smoking gun. The jury is still out. However, we now have additional information, including the probable source of the surname, Rochette.

At this point, I’m no more convinced that her surname was Rochette than I was before. I am, however, very grateful to have solved the mystery of where the Rochette rumor originated.

I’m hoping that some of the Miller researchers will be able to provide additional information about the source of the Bible or maybe even more about the source of Rochette.

I’m also VERY hopeful that someone will discover information about Magdalena’s origins. Or, perhaps someone has additional Rochette information that might be helpful. I was unable to find Rochette information in the relevant counties, but maybe other researchers have or can.

Just putting this out there and hoping that this update finds its way to the right researcher and that one day, we can actually solve the mystery of Magdalena’s parents.

However, we do have another clue…

Can DNA Help?

We have the mitochondrial DNA of Magdalena. Mitochondrial DNA is inherited from your mother through a direct line of females – so her mother, and her mother, on up the tree.

We know that Magdalena’s mitochondrial DNA is an exact match with a descendant of Mary Myers born February 8, 1775, in Pennsylvania and who died on September 28, 1849, in Montgomery County, Ohio. Unfortunately, we don’t know who Mary Myer’s parents were. Maybe one of you descends from this line or has information about the Myers family. Also spelled Meyers, Moyers.

Of course, mitochondrial DNA can reach far back in time, but the migration path from Pennsylvania to Montgomery County, Ohio, is the path the Brethren took to settle that region, and is where Magdalena’s descendant lives who tested. Montgomery County was the dispersion point for the Brethren North into Indiana and westward as well.

Another mitochondrial match also connects to the Zircle/Meyer family in Rockingham/Augusta County, VA where several Brethren families settled about the time of the Revolutionary War. These families originated in the Lancaster/York County, PA region or the Frederick County, MD region.

Tracking a match back to the earliest ancestor, I found that Peter Zirkle (c1745-c1818)’s wife’s name was “Fanny” and she is reported to be Frene “Fannie” Meyer. I have found several attributions, but no place can I find how the Meyer surname was attributed to her, or who here parents were. Assuming Fanny was born about 1745 as well, Magdalena born about 1730 could have been her sister or maybe a cousin.

Meyer/Moyer is noted as one of the founding Brethren families in York County, PA where Philip Jacob Miller was living when he married. It’s VERY likely that he married within the Brethren families.

The History of York Co, PA, written in 1907 tells us that the first Brethren congregation in York (now Adams) County was the Conewago Church which was established in 1738, “20 miles west from the town of York, on the Little Conewago,” which was in the vicinity of Hanover.

Surnames of the families who were among the early church members were Eldrick, Dierdorff, Bigler, Gripe (Cripe), Studsman (Stutzman) and others.

Prominent members include Jacob Moyer, James Henrick, preachers; Hans Adam Snyder, George Wine, Daniel Woods, Henry Geing, Joseph Moyer, Nicholas Hostetter, Christian Hostetter, Rudy Brown, Dobis Brother, Jacob Miller, Michael Koutz, Stephen Peter, Henry Tanner, Michael Tanner, John Moyer, Jacob Souder, Henry Hoff, John Swartz.  The wives of these persons named were also members of the church.

Unmarried members were Barbara Snyder John Geing, Maud Bowser, George Peter, Hester Wise, Christian Etter, John Peter Weaver, Barbara Bear, Elizabeth Boering, Grace Hymen. Their first preacher was Daniel Leatherman, Sr, followed by Nicholas Martin, Jacob Moyer (Meyers) and James Hendrich (Henry.)

In 1741, a new church was founded “on the Great Conewago, about 14 miles west from the new town of York.”  Founding members there include John Neagley, Adam Sower, Jacob Sweigard, Peter Neiper and Joseph Latshaw. The first elder was George Adam Martin followed by Daniel Leatherman Jr. and Nicholas Martin. In 1770 members included George Brown, John Heiner, Peter Fox, Anthony Dierdorff, Nicholas Moyer, Manasseh Brough, Michael Bosserman, David Ehrhard, Daniel Baker, Abraham Stauffer, Henry Dierdorff, John Burkholder, Andrew Trimmer, Eastace Rensel, Peter Dierdorff, Barnett Augenbaugh, John Neagley, Michael Brissel, Welty Brissel, Matthias Bouser, Laurence Baker, Philip Snell, Nicholas Baker Jr., Adam Sower, Adam Dick, Henry Brissel, David Brissel, Henry Radibush, George Wagner and George Reeson.  Unmarried members were Peter Wertz, Ann Mummert, Christian Fray, Samuel Arnold, Mary Latshaw, Catharine Studabaker, Nicholas Baker, Marillas Baker, Sarah Brissel, Jacob Miller, Rudolph Brown.

Can anyone tell me what happened to the Moyer men listed above?

  • Jacob Moyer
  • Joseph Moyer
  • John Moyer
  • Nicholas Moyer

Are they related? Who is their father? Who were their wives?  And perhaps more importantly, did they have a sibling or child, Magdalena, born about 1730?

Does anyone know if any of these men wound up in Rockingham County, VA by 1773 or so?

Please reach out if you descend from these families, and especially if you descend from these families through all females to the current generation, which can be male or female. If you do, you carry the mitochondrial DNA of their wife and daughters. Please reach out to me.

Do You Descend from a Brethren Female Line?

Do you descend matrilineally from a Brethren female line, meaning through all females beginning with your mother? If so, your mitochondrial DNA descends from a Brethren family.

If you have already taken the mitochondrial DNA test at FamilyTreeDNA, please join the Miller-Brethren DNA project. If you have not tested, please order a mitochondrial DNA test, here, and join the Miller Brethren DNA Project.

Based on the Brethren cultural handicap of not registering marriages, mitochondrial DNA testing is critically important. It provides the tools to identify and place Brethren females with their families. DNA, in this case, promises to do what traditional genealogy cannot.


Follow DNAexplain on Facebook, here.

Share the Love!

You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

If you haven’t already subscribed (it’s free,) you can receive an email whenever I publish by clicking the “follow” button on the main blog page, here.

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

My Book

Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research

Which DNA Test Should I Buy? And Why?

Which DNA test should I buy, and why?

I receive questions like this often. As a reminder, I don’t take private clients anymore, which means I don’t provide this type of individual consulting or advice. However, I’m doing the next best thing! In this article, I’m sharing the step-by-step process that I utilize to evaluate these questions so you can use the process too.

It’s important to know what questions to ask and how to evaluate each situation to arrive at the best answer for each person.

Here’s the question I received from someone I’ll call John. I’ve modified the wording slightly and changed the names for privacy.

I’m a male, and my mother was born in Charleston, SC. My maternal grandmother’s maiden name was Jones and a paternal surname was Davis. The family was supposed to have been Black, Dutch, Pennsylvania Dutch, and Scots-Irish…only once was I told I was 3/16 Indian, with Davis being 3/4 and Jones being full Indian.

Do I have enough reasonable information to buy a test, and which one?

Please note that it’s common for questions to arrive without all the information you need to provide a sound answer – so it’s up to you to ask those questions and obtain clarification.

Multiple Questions

There are actually multiple questions here, so let me parse this a bit.

  1. John never mentioned what his testing goal was.
  2. He also never exactly said how the paternal line of Davis was connected, so I’ve made an assumption. For educational purposes, it doesn’t matter because we’re going to walk through the evaluation process, which is the same regardless.
  3. John did not include a tree or a link to a tree, so I created a rudimentary tree to sort through this. I need the visuals and normally just sketch it out on paper quickly.
  4. Does John have enough information to purchase a test?
  5. If so, which test?

There is no “one size fits all” answer, so let’s discuss these one by one.

Easy Answers First

The answer to #4 is easy.

Anyone with any amount of information can purchase a DNA test. Adoptees do it all the time, and they have no prior information.

So, yes, John can purchase a test.

The more difficult question is which test, because that answer depends on John’s goals and whether he’s just looking for some quick information or really wants to delve into genealogy and learn. Neither approach is wrong.

Many people think they want a quick answer –  and then quickly figure out that they really want to know much more about their ancestors.

I wrote an article titled DNA Results – First Glances at Ethnicity and Matching for new testers, here.


Based on what John said, I’m going to presume his goals are probably:

  • To prove or disprove the family oral history of Black, Dutch, Pennsylvania Dutch (which is actually German,) Scots-Irish, and potentially Native American.
  • John didn’t mention actual genealogy, which would include DNA matches and trees, so we will count that as something John is interested in secondarily. However, he may need genealogy records to reach his primary goal.

If you’re thinking, “The process of answering this seemingly easy question is more complex than I thought,” you’d be right.

Ethnicity in General

It sounds like John is interested in ethnicity testing. Lots of people think that “the answer” will be found there – and sometimes they are right. Often not so much. It depends.

The great news is that John really doesn’t need any information at all to take an autosomal DNA test, and it doesn’t matter if the test-taker is male or female.

To calculate each tester’s ethnicity, every testing company compiles their own reference populations, and John will receive different results at each of the major companies. Each company updates their ethnicity results from time to time as well, and they will change.

Additionally, each company provides different tools for their customers.

The ethnicity results at different companies generally won’t match each other exactly, and sometimes the populations look quite different.

Normally, DNA from a specific ancestor can be found for at least 5 or 6 generations. Of course, that means their DNA, along with the DNA from all of your other ancestors is essentially combined in a communal genetic “pot” of your chromosomes, and the DNA testing company needs to sort it out and analyze your DNA for ethnicity.

DNA descended from ancestors, and their populations, further back in people’s trees may not be discerned at all using autosomal DNA tests.

A much more specific “ethnicity” can be obtained for both the Y-DNA line, which is a direct patrilineal line for men (blue arrow,) and the mitochondrial DNA line (pink arrows,) which is a direct matrilineal line for everyone, using those specific tests.

We will discuss both of those tests after we talk about the autosomal tests available from the four major genealogy DNA testing companies. All of these tools can and should be used together.

Let’s Start with Native American

Let’s evaluate the information that John provided.

John was told that he “was 3/16 Indian, with Davis being 3/4 and Jones being full Indian.”

We need to evaluate this part of his question slightly differently.

I discussed this in the article, Ancestral DNA Percentages – How Much of Them is in You?

First, we need to convert generations to 16ths.

You have two ancestors in your parent’s generation, four in your grandparents, and so forth. You have 16 great-great-grandparents. So, if John was 3/16th Native, then three of his great-great-grandparents would have been fully Native, or an equivalent percentage. In other words, six ancestors in that generation could have been half-Native. Based on what John said, they would have come from his mother’s side of the tree. John is fortunate to have that much information to work with.

He told us enough about his tree that we can evaluate the statement that he might be 3/16ths Native.

Here’s the tree I quickly assembled in a spreadsheet based on John’s information.

His father, at left, is not part of the equation based on the information John provided.

On his mother’s side, John said that Grandfather Davis is supposed to be three-quarters Native, which translates to 12/16ths. Please note that it would be extremely beneficial to find a Y-DNA tester from his Davis line, like one of his mother’s brothers, for example.

John said that his Grandmother Jones is supposed to be 100% Native, so 16/16ths.

Added together, those sum to 28/32, which reduces down to 14/16th or 7/8th for John’s mother.

John would have received half of his autosomal DNA from his mother and half from his non-Native father. That means that if John’s father is 100% non-Native, John would be half of 14/16ths or 7/16ths, so just shy of half Native.

Of course, we know that we don’t always receive exactly 50% of each of our ancestors’ DNA (except for our parents,) but we would expect to see something in the ballpark of 40-45% Native for John if his grandmother was 100% Native and his grandfather was 75%.

Using simple logic here, for John’s grandmother to be 100% Native, she would almost assuredly have been a registered tribal member, and the same if his grandfather was 75% Native. I would think that information would be readily available and well-known to the family – so I doubt that this percentage is accurate. It would be easy to check, though, on various census records during their lifetimes where they would likely have been recorded as “Indian.” They might have been in the special “Indian Census” taken and might be living on a reservation.

It should also be relatively easy to find their parents since all family members were listed every ten years in the US beginning with the 1850 census.

The simple answer is that if John’s grandparents had as much Native as reported, he would be more than 3/16th – so both of these factoids cannot simultaneously be accurate. But that does NOT mean neither is accurate.

John could be 7/8th or 40ish%, 3/16th or 18ish%, or some other percentage. Sometimes, where there is smoke, there is fire. And that seems to be the quandary John is seeking to resolve.

Would  Ethnicity/Population Tests Show This Much Native?

Any of the four major testing companies would show Native for someone whose percentage would be in the 40% or 18% ballpark.

The easiest ethnicities to tell apart from one another are continental-level populations. John also stated that he thinks he may also have Black ancestry, plus Dutch, Pennsylvania Dutch (German), and Scots-Irish. It’s certainly possible to verify that using genealogy, but what can DNA testing alone tell us?

How far back can we expect to find ethnicities descending from particular ancestors?

In this table, you can see at each generation how many ancestors you have in that generation, plus the percentage of DNA, on average, you would inherit from each ancestor.

All of the major DNA testing companies can potentially pick up small trace percentages, but they don’t always. Sometimes one company does, and another doesn’t. So, if John has one sixth-generation Native American ancestor, he would carry about 1.56% Native DNA, if any.

  • Sometimes a specific ethnicity is not found because, thanks to random recombination, you didn’t inherit any of that DNA from those ancestors. This is why testing your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and siblings can be very important. They share your same ancestors and may have inherited DNA that you didn’t that’s very relevant to your search.
  • Sometimes it’s not found because the reference populations and algorithms at that testing company aren’t able to detect that population or identify it accurately, especially at trace levels. Every DNA testing company establishes their own reference populations and writes internal, proprietary ethnicity analysis algorithms.
  • Sometimes it’s not found because your ancestor wasn’t Native or from that specific population.
  • Sometimes it’s there, but your population is called something you don’t expect.

For example, you may find Scandinavian when your ancestor was from England or Ireland. The Vikings raided the British Isles, so while some small amount of Scandinavian is not what you expect, that doesn’t mean it‘s wrong. However, if all of your family is from England, it’s not reasonable to have entirely Scandinavian ethnicity results.

It’s also less likely as each generation passes by that the information about their origins gets handed down accurately to following generations. Most non-genealogists don’t know the names of their great-grandparents, let alone where their ancestors were from.

Using a 25-year average generation length, by the 4th generation, shown in the chart above, you have 16 ancestors who lived approximately 100 years before your parents were born, so someplace in the mid-1800s. It’s unlikely for oral history from that time to survive intact. It’s even less likely from a century years earlier, where in the 7th generation, you have 128 total ancestors.

The best way to validate the accuracy of your ethnicity estimates is by researching your genealogy. Of course, you need to take an ethnicity test, or two, in order to have results to validate.

Ethnicity has a lot more to offer than just percentages.

Best Autosomal Tests for Native Ethnicity

Based on my experience with people who have confirmed Native ancestry, the two best tests to detect Native American ethnicity, especially in smaller percentages, are both FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe.

Click images to enlarge

In addition to percentages, both 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA provide chromosome painting for ethnicity, along with segment information in download files. In other words, they literally paint your ethnicity results on your chromosomes.

They then provide you with a file with the “addresses” of those ethnicities on your chromosomes, which means you can figure out which ancestors contributed those ethnicity segments.

The person in the example above, a tester at FamilyTreeDNA, is highly admixed with ancestors from European regions, African regions and Native people from South America.

Trace amounts of Native American with a majority of European heritage would appear more like this.

You can use this information to paint your chromosome segments at DNAPainter, along with your matching segments to other testers where you can identify your common ancestors. This is why providing trees is critically important – DNA plus ancestor identification with our matches is how we confirm our ancestry.

This combination allows you to identify which Native (or another ethnicity) segments descended from which ancestors. I was able to determine which ancestor provided that pink Native American segment on chromosome 1 on my mother’s side.

I’ve provided instructions for painting ethnicity segments to identify their origins in specific ancestors, here.

Autosomal and Genealogy

You may have noticed that we’ve now drifted into the genealogy realm of autosomal DNA testing. Ethnicity is nice, but if you want to know who those segments came from, you’ll need:

  • Autosomal test matching to other people
  • To identify your common ancestor with as many matches as you can
  • To match at a company who provides you with segment information for each match
  • To work with DNAPainter, which is very easy

The great news is that you can do all of that using the autosomal tests you took for ethnicity, except at Ancestry who does not provide segment information.

Best Autosomal Test for Matching Other Testers

The best autosomal test for matching may be different for everyone. Let’s look at some of the differentiators and considerations.

If you’re basing a testing recommendation solely on database size, which will probably correlate to more matches, then the DNA testing vendors fall into this order:

If you’re basing that recommendation on the BEST, generally meaning the closest matches for you, there’s no way of knowing ahead of time. At each of the four DNA testing companies, I have very good matches who have not tested elsewhere. If I weren’t in all four databases, I would have missed many valuable matches.

If you’re basing that recommendation on which vendor began testing earliest, meaning they have many tests from people who are now deceased, so you won’t find their autosomal tests in other databases that don’t accept uploads, the recommended testing company order would be:

If you’re basing that recommendation on matches to people who live in other countries, the order would be:

Ancestry and 23andMe are very distant third/fourth because they did not sell widely outside the US initially and still don’t sell in as many countries as the others, meaning their testers’ geography is more limited. However, Ancestry is also prevalent in the UK.

If you’re basing that recommendation on segment information and advanced tools that allow you to triangulate and confirm your genetic link to specific ancestors, the order would be:

Ancestry does NOT provide any segment information.

If you’re basing that recommendation on unique tools provided by each vendor, every vendor has something very beneficial that the others don’t.

In other words, there’s really no clear-cut answer for which single autosomal DNA test to order. The real answer is to be sure you’re fishing in all the ponds. The fish are not the same. Unique people test at each of those companies daily who will never be found in the other databases.

Test at or upload your DNA to all four DNA testing companies, plus GEDmatch. Step-by-step instructions for downloading your raw data file and uploading it to the DNA testing companies who accept uploads can be found, here.

Test or Upload

Not all testing companies accept uploads of raw autosomal DNA data files from other companies. The good news is that some do, and it’s free to upload and receive matches.

Two major DNA testing companies DO NOT accept uploads from other companies. In other words, you have to test at that company:

Two testing companies DO accept uploads from the other three companies. Uploads and matching are free, and advanced features can be unlocked very cost effectively.

  • FamilyTreeDNA – free matching and $19 unlock for advanced features
  • MyHeritage – free matching and $29 unlock.for advanced features

I recommend testing at both 23andMe and Ancestry and uploading one of those files to both FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage, then purchasing the respective unlocks.


GEDmatch is a third-party matching site, not a DNA testing company. Consider uploading to GEDmatch because you may find matches from Ancestry who have uploaded to GEDmatch, giving you access to matching segment information.

Other Types of DNA

John provided additional information that may prove to be VERY useful. Both Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA can be tested as well and may prove to be more useful than autosomal to positively identify the origins of those two specific lines.

Let’s assume that John takes an autosomal test and discovers that indeed, the 3/16th Native estimate was close. 3/16th equates to about 18% Native which would mean that three of his 16 great-great-grandparents were Native.

John told us that his Grandmother Jones was supposed to be 100% Native.

At the great-great-grandparent level, John has 16 ancestors, so eight on his mother’s side, four from maternal grandmother Jones and four from his maternal grandfather Davis.

John carries the mitochondrial DNA of his mother (red boxes and arrows,) and her mother, through a direct line of females back in time. John also carries the Y-DNA of his father (dark blue box, at left above, and blue arrows below.)

Unlike autosomal DNA which is admixed in every generation, mitochondrial DNA (red arrows) is inherited from that direct matrilineal line ONLY and never combines with the DNA of the father. Mothers give their mitochondrial DNA to both sexes of their children, but men never contribute their mitochondrial DNA to offspring. Everyone has their mother’s mitochondrial DNA.

Because it never recombines with DNA from the father, so is never “watered down,” we can “see” much further back in time, even though we can’t yet identify those ancestors.

However, more importantly, in this situation, John can test his own mitochondrial DNA that he inherited from his mother, who inherited it from her mother, to view her direct matrilineal line.

John’s mitochondrial DNA haplogroup that will be assigned during testing tells us unquestionably whether or not his direct matrilineal ancestor was Native on her mother’s line, or not. If not, it may well tell us where that specific line originated.

You can view the countries around the world where Y-DNA haplogroups are found, here, and mitochondrial haplogroups, here.

If John’s mitochondrial DNA haplogroup is Native, that confirms that one specific line is Native. If he can find other testers in his various lines to test either their Y-DNA or mitochondrial DNA, John can determine if other ancestors were Native too. If not, those tests will reveal the origins of that line, separate from the rest of his genealogical lines.

Although John didn’t mention his father’s line, if he takes a Y-DNA test, especially at the Big Y-700 level, that will also reveal the origins of his direct paternal line. Y-DNA doesn’t combine with the other parent’s DNA either, so it reaches far back in time too.

Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA tests are laser-focused on one line each, and only one line. You don’t have to try to sort it out of the ethnicity “pot,” wondering which ancestor was or was not Native.

My Recommendation

When putting together a testing strategy, I recommend taking advantage of free uploads and inexpensive unlocks when possible.

  • To confirm Native American ancestry via ethnicity testing, I recommend testing at 23andMe and uploading to FamilyTreeDNA, then purchasing the $19 unlock. The free upload and $19 unlock are less expensive than testing there directly.
  • For matching, I recommend testing at Ancestry and uploading to MyHeritage, then unlocking the MyHeritage advanced features for $29, which is less expensive than retesting. Ancestry does not provide segment information, but MyHeritage (and the others) do.

At this point, John will have taken two DNA tests, but is now in all four databases, plus GEDmatch if he uploads there.

  • For genealogy research on John’s lines to determine whether or not his mother’s lines were Native, I recommend an Ancestry and a MyHeritage records subscription, plus using WikiTree, which is free.
  • To determine if John’s mother’s direct matrilineal female line was Native, I recommend that John order the mitochondrial DNA test at FamilyTreeDNA.
  • When ordering multiple tests, or uploading at FamilyTreeDNA, be sure to upload/order all of one person’s tests on the same DNA kit so that those results can be used in combination with each other.

Both males and females can take autosomal and mitochondrial DNA tests.

  • To discover what he doesn’t know about his direct paternal, meaning John’s surname line – I recommend the Big Y-700 test at FamilyTreeDNA.

Only males can take a Y-DNA test, so women would need to ask their father, brother, or paternal uncle, for example, to test their direct paternal line.

  • If John can find a male Davis from his mother’s line, I recommend that he purchase the Big Y-700 test at FamilyTreeDNA for that person, or check to see if someone from his Davis line may have already tested by viewing the Davis DNA Project. Like with mitochondrial DNA, the Y-DNA haplogroup will tell John the origins of his direct Davis male ancestor – plus matching of course. He will be able to determine if they were Native, and if not, discover the origins of the Davis line.
  • For assigning segments to ancestors and triangulating to confirm descent from a common ancestor, I recommend 23andMe, MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA and GEDmatch, paired with DNAPainter as a tool.

Shopping and Research List

Here are the tests and links recommended above:

More Than He Asked

I realize this answer is way more than John expected or even knew to ask. That’s because there is often no “one” or “one best” answer. There are many ways to approach the question after the goal is defined, and the first “answer” received may be a bit out of context.

For example, let’s say John has 2% Native ancestry and took a test at a vendor who didn’t detect it. John would believe he had none. But a different vendor might find that 2%. If it’s on his mother’s direct matrilineal line, mitochondrial DNA testing will confirm, or refute Native, beyond any doubt, regardless of autosomal ethnicity results – but only for that specific ancestral line.

Autosomal DNA can suggest Native across all your DNA, but Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA confirm it for each individual ancestor.

Even when autosomal testing does NOT show Native American, or African, for example, it’s certainly possible that it’s just too far back in time or has not been passed down during random recombination, but either Y-DNA or mitochondrial DNA will unquestionably confirm (or refute) the ancestry in question if the right person is tested.

This is exactly why I attempt to find a cousin who descends appropriately from every ancestor and provide testing scholarships. It’s important to obtain Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA information for each ancestor.

Which Test Should I Order?

What steps will help you decide which test or tests to take?

  1. Define your testing goal.
  2. Determine if your Y-DNA or mitochondrial DNA will help answer the question.
  3. Determine if you need to find ancestors another generation or two back in time to get the most benefit from DNA testing. In our example, if John discovered that both of his grandparents were enrolled tribal members, that’s huge, and the tribe might have additional information about his family.
  4. Subscribe to Ancestry and MyHeritage records collections as appropriate to perform genealogical research. Additional information not only provides context for your family, it also provides you with the ability to confirm or better understand your ethnicity results.
  5. Extend your tree so that you can obtain the best results from the three vendors who support trees; Ancestry, FamilyTreeDNA, and MyHeritage. All three use trees combined with DNA tests to provide you with additional information.
  6. Order 23andMe and Ancestry autosomal DNA tests.
  7. Either test at or upload one of those tests to MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, and GEDmatch.
  8. If a male, order the Big Y-700 DNA test. Or, find a male from your ancestral line who has taken or will take that test. I always offer a testing scholarship and, of course, share the exciting results!
  9. Order a mitochondrial DNA test for yourself and for appropriately descended family members to represent other ancestors. Remember that your father (and his siblings) all carry your paternal grandmother’s mitochondrial DNA. That’s often a good place to start after testing your own DNA.
  10. If your parents or grandparents are alive, or aunts and uncles, test their autosomal DNA too. They are (at least) one generation closer to your ancestors than you are and will carry more of your ancestors’ DNA.
  11. Your siblings will carry some of your ancestors’ DNA that you do not, so test them too if both of your parents aren’t available for testing.



Follow DNAexplain on Facebook, here.

Share the Love!

You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

If you haven’t already subscribed (it’s free,) you can receive an email whenever I publish by clicking the “follow” button on the main blog page, here.

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

My Book

Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research

What Is a Sibling Anyway? Full, Half, Three-Quarters, Step, Adopted, Donor-Conceived & Twins

I’ve seen the term sibling used many different ways, sometimes incorrectly.

When referring to their own siblings, people usually use the term brother or sister, regardless of whether they are talking about a full, half or step-sibling. It’s a term of heart or description. It’s often genealogists who are focused on which type of sibling. As far as I’m concerned, my brother is my brother, regardless of which type of brother. But in terms of genetics, and genealogy, there’s a huge difference. How we feel about our sibling(s) and how we are biologically related are two different things.

Let’s cover the various types of siblingship and how to determine which type is which.

  • Full Siblings – Share both parents
  • Half-Siblings – Share only one parent
  • Three-Quarter Siblings – It’s complicated
  • Adopted Siblings
  • Donor-Conceived
  • Step-Siblings – Share no biological parent
  • Twins – Fraternal and Identical

Full Siblings

Full siblings share both parents and share approximately 50% of their DNA with each other.

You can tell if you are full siblings with a match in various ways.

  1. You share the same fairly close matches on both parents’ sides. For example, aunts or uncles or their descendants.

Why do I say close matches? You could share one parent and another more distant relative on the other parent’s side. Matching with close relatives like aunts, uncles or first cousins at the appropriate level is an excellent indicator unless your parents or grandparents are available for testing. If you are comparing to grandparents, be sure to confirm matches to BOTH grandparents on each side.

  1. Full siblings will share in the ballpark of 2600 cM, according to DNAPainter’s Shared cM Tool.

Keep in mind that you can share more or less DNA, hence the range. It’s also worth noting that some people who reported themselves as full siblings in the Shared cM project were probably half siblings and didn’t realize it.

  1. Full siblings will share a significant amount of fully identical regions (FIR) of DNA with each other, meaning they share DNA at the same DNA address from both parents, as illustrated above. Shared DNA with each other inherited from Mom and Dad are blocked in green. The fully identical regions, shared with both parents, are bracketed in purple. You can’t make this determination at FamilyTreeDNA, MyHeritage or Ancestry, but you can at both 23andMe and GEDmatch.

At GEDmatch, the large fully green areas in the chromosome browser “graphics and positions” display indicates full siblings, where DNA is shared from both parents at that location.

I wrote about the details of how to view fully identical regions (FIR) versus half identical regions (HIR) in the article, DNA: In Search of…Full and Half-Siblings.

  1. If your parents/grandparents have tested, you and your full sibling will both match both parents/grandparents. Yes, I know this sounds intuitive, but sometimes it’s easy to miss the obvious.

At FamilyTreeDNA, you can use the matrix tool to see who matches each other in a group of people that you can select. In this case, both siblings are compared to the father, but if the father isn’t available, a close paternal relative could substitute. Remember that all people who are 2nd cousins or closer will match.

  1. At Ancestry, full siblings will be identified as either “brother” or “sister,” while half-siblings do not indicate siblingship. Half-siblings are called “close family” and a range of possible relationships is given. Yes, Ancestry, is looking under the hood at FIR/HIR regions. I have never seen a full sibling misidentified as anything else at Ancestry. Unfortunately, Ancestry does not give customers access to their matching chromosome segment location data.
  2. Y-DNA of males who are full siblings will match but may have some slight differences. Y-DNA alone cannot prove a specific relationship, with very rare exceptions, but can easily disprove a relationship if two males do not match. Y-DNA should be used in conjunction with autosomal DNA for specific relationship prediction when Y-DNA matches.
  3. Y-DNA testing is available only through FamilyTreeDNA, but high-level haplogroup-only estimates are available through 23andMe. Widely divergent haplogroups, such as E versus R, can be considered a confirmed non-match. Different haplogroups within the same base haplogroup, such as R, but obtained from different vendors or different testing levels may still be a match if they test at the Big Y-700 level at FamilyTreeDNA.
  4. Mitochondrial DNA, inherited matrilineally from the mother, will match for full siblings (barring unusual mutations such as heteroplasmies) but cannot be used in relationship verification other than to confirm nonmatches. For both Y-DNA and mitochondrial DNA, it’s possible to have a lineage match that is not the result of a direct parental relationship.
  5. Mitochondrial DNA testing is available only through FamilyTreeDNA, but haplogroup-only estimates are included at 23andMe. Different base haplogroups such as H and J can be considered a non-match.
  6. A difference in ethnicity is NOT a reliable indicator of half versus full siblings.


Half-siblings share only one parent, but not both, and usually share about 25% of their DNA with each other.

You will share as much DNA with a half-sibling as you do some other close matches, so it’s not always possible for DNA testing companies to determine the exact relationship.

Referencing the MyHeritage cM Explainer tool, you can see that people who share 1700 cM of DNA could be related in several ways. I wrote about using the cM Explainer tool here.

Hints that you are only half-siblings include:

  1. At testing vendors, including Ancestry, a half-sibling will not be identified as a sibling but as another type of close match.
  2. If your parents or grandparents have tested, you will only match one parent or one set of grandparents or their descendants.
  3. You will not have shared matches on one parent’s side. If you know that specific, close relatives have tested on one parent’s side, and you don’t match them, but your other family members do, that’s a very big hint. Please note that you need more than one reference point, because it’s always possible that the other person has an unknown parentage situation.
  4. At 23andMe, you will not show fully identical regions (FIR).
  5. At GEDmatch, you will show only very minimal FIR.

Scattered, very small green FIR locations are normal based on random recombination. Long runs of green indicate that significant amounts of DNA was inherited from both parents. The example above is from half-siblings.

  1. At FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe, most men who share a mother will also share an X chromosome match since men only inherit their X chromosome from their mother. However, it is possible for the mother to give one son her entire X chromosome from her father, and give the other son her entire X chromosome from her mother. Therefore, two men who do share a mother but don’t have an X chromosome match could still be siblings. The X is not an entirely reliable relationship predictor. However, if two men share an entire X chromosome match, it’s very likely that they are siblings on their mother’s side, or that their mothers are very close relatives.

Three-Quarter Siblings

This gets a little more complicated.

Three-quarter siblings occur when one parent is the same, and the other parents are siblings to each other.

Let’s use a real-life example.

A couple marries and has children. The mother dies, and the father marries the mother’s sister and has additional children. Those children are actually less than full siblings, but more than half-siblings.

Conversely, a woman has children by two brothers and those children are three-quarter siblings.

These were common situations in earlier times when a man needed a female companion to raise children and women needed a male companion to work on the farm. Neither one could perform both childcare and the chores necessary to earn a living in an agricultural society, and your deceased spouse’s family members were already people you knew. They already loved your children too.

Neither of these situations is historically unusual, but both are very difficult to determine using genetics alone, even in the current generation.

Neither X-DNA nor mitochondrial DNA will be helpful, and Y-DNA will generally not be either.

Unfortunately, three-quarter siblings’ autosomal DNA will fall in the range of both half and full siblings, although not at the bottom of the half-sibling range, nor at the top of the full sibling range – but that leaves a lot of middle ground.

I’ve found it almost impossible to prove this scenario without prior knowledge, and equally as impossible to determine which of multiple brothers is the father unless there is a very strong half-sibling match in addition.

The DNA-Sci blog discusses this phenomenon, but I can’t utilize comparison screenshots according to their terms of service.

Clearly, what we need are more known three-quarter siblings to submit data to be studied in order to (possibly) facilitate easier determination, probably based on the percentage frequency distribution of FIR/HIR segments. Regardless, it’s never going to be 100% without secondary genealogical information.

Three-quarter siblings aren’t very common today, but they do exist. If you suspect something of this nature, really need the answer, and have exhausted all other possibilities, I recommend engaging a very experienced genetic genealogist with experience in this type of situation. However, given the random nature of recombination in humans, we may never be able to confirm using any methodology, with one possible exception.

There’s one possibility using Y-DNA if the parents in question are two brothers. If one brother has a Y-DNA SNP mutation that the other does not have, and this can be verified by testing either the brothers who are father candidates or their other known sons via the Big Y-700 test – the father of the siblings could then be identified by this SNP mutation as well. Yes, it’s a long shot.

Three-quarter sibling situations are very challenging.

Step-siblings, on the other hand, are easy.


Step-siblings don’t share either parent, so their DNA will not match to each other unless their parents are somehow related to each other. Please note that this means either of their parents, not just the parents who marry each other.

One child’s parent marries the other child’s parent, resulting in a blended family. The children then become step-siblings to each other.

The terms step-sibling and half-sibling are often used interchangeably, and they are definitely NOT the same.

Adopted Siblings

Adopted siblings may not know they are adopted and believe, until DNA testing, that they are biological siblings.

Sometimes adopted siblings are either half-siblings or are otherwise related to each other but may not be related to either of their adoptive parents. Conversely, adopted siblings, one or both, may be related to one of their adoptive parents.

The same full and half-sibling relationship genetic clues apply to adopted siblings, as well as the tools and techniques in the In Search of Unknown Family series of articles.

Donor-Conceived Siblings

Donor-conceived siblings could be:

  • Half-siblings if the donor is the same father but a different mother.
  • Half-siblings if they share an egg donor but not a father.
  • Full siblings if they are full biological siblings to each other, meaning both donors are the same but not related to the woman into whom the fertilized egg was implanted, nor to her partner, their legal parents.
  • Not biologically related to each other or either legal parent.
  • Biologically related to one or both legal parents when a family member is either an egg or sperm donor.

Did I cover all of the possible scenarios? The essence is that we literally know nothing and should assume nothing.

I have known of situations where the brother (or brothers) of the father was the sperm donor, so the resulting child or children appear to be full or three-quarters siblings to each other. They are related to their legal father who is the mother’s partner. In other words, in this situation, the mother’s husband was infertile, and his brother(s) donated sperm resulting in multiple births. The children from this family who were conceived through different brothers and had very close (half-sibling) matches to their “uncles'” children were very confused until they spoke with their parents about their DNA results.

The same techniques to ascertain relationships would be used with donor-conceived situations. Additionally, if it appears that a biological relationship exists, but it’s not a full or half-sibling relationship, I recommend utilizing other techniques described in the In Search of Unknown Family series.

Twins or Multiple Birth Siblings

Two types of twin or multiple birth scenarios exist outside of assisted fertilization.

Fraternal twins – With fraternal or dizygotic twins, two eggs are fertilized independently by separate sperm. Just view this as one pregnancy with two siblings occupying the same space for the same 9 months of gestation. Fraternal twins can be male, female or one of each sex.

Fraternal twins are simply siblings that happen to gestate together and will match in the same way that full siblings match.

Please note that it’s possible for two of a woman’s eggs to be fertilized at different times during the same ovulation cycle, potentially by different men, resulting in twins who are actually half-siblings.

A difference in ethnicity is NOT a reliable indicator of fraternal or identical twins. Submitting your own DNA twice often results in slightly different ethnicity results.

Identical twins – Identical or monozygotic twins occur when one egg is fertilized by one sperm and then divides into multiple embryos that develop into different children. Those children are genetically identical since they were both developed from the same egg and sperm.

Two of the most famous identical twins are astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly.

Identical twins are the same sex and will look the same because they have the same DNA, except for epigenetic changes, but of course external factors such as haircuts, clothes and weight can make identical twins physically distinguishable from each other.

DNA testing companies will either identify identical twins as “self,” “identical twin” or “parent/child” due to the highest possible shared cM count plus fully matching FIR regions.

For identical twins, checking the FIR versus HIR is a positive identification as indicated above at GEDmatch with completely solid green FIR regions. Do not assume twins that look alike are identical twins.


Whoever thought there would be so many kinds of siblings!

If you observe the need to educate about either sibling terminology or DNA identification methodologies, feel free to share this article. When identifying relationships, never assume anything, and verify everything through multiple avenues.


Follow DNAexplain on Facebook, here or follow me on Twitter, here.

Share the Love!

You’re always welcome to forward articles or links to friends and share on social media.

If you haven’t already subscribed (it’s free,) you can receive an email whenever I publish by clicking the “follow” button on the main blog page, here.

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

My Book

Genealogy Books

Genealogy Research