DNA Dumbness – What Not To Do When You Take a Test!

You may be contemplating taking advantage of the DNA specials that are currently offered – Ancestry.com and MyHeritageDNA.com are both being sold for $59.00 plus shipping.  Maybe you’re like me and have tested with a number of different companies over the past several years and believe you know the directions well enough to not read them.  I am going to share an embarrasingly dumb mistake I made last month when taking a DNA test to spare you having to learn this lesson on your own.

At my annual wellness physical my physician and I discussed genealogy.  Side note:  Physicians and genealogists share a lot in common, especially at parties where acquaintances want to poke your brain and get free advice on their chronic complaint – a health issue for the docs and a brick wall for the genealogist.  

My medical provider was sharing the results of her recent DNA test and I told her how I had compiled an ancestor health history going back several generations as I believe that some genetic conditions reoccur farther than the two generations back that typically the medical community zeroes in on when you complete the initial paperwork of who had what conditions.  

Granted, I have no proof of my theory other than what I’ve discovered in my own family tree and usually, when I mention this to a doctor, I get the same look that is given when you tell them you tried to self diagnose using WebMD.  I understand I’m enchroaching on their professional judgement but I mean no disrespect.  My current physician is very understanding of this tendency I have and although neither my parents or grandparents had medical concerns that DNA testing could show might affect me, I had two aunts that clearly carried a trait.  We both agreed it would be beneficial for me to be tested for medical information.

Deciding I could handle the test’s results, I made a followup appointment to spit into the test tube the next week.  The receptionist reiterated what the doctor said, don’t eat or drink anything within an hour of the test.  Yeah, yeah, I know already, I’m an expert DNA test taker!

Since my appointment was scheduled as the first visit of the morning, I decided I wouldn’t eat or drink anything after dinner the previous evening.  I even brushed my teeth right after dinner so there’d be no chance of a toothpaste interference. 

The next morning I got ready quickly and drove straight to the doctor’s office.  After signing in and being taken back to an exam room, the MA asked if I had eaten or drank anything in the last hour.  “No,” I replied, “Nothing since last night about 6:00.”  She then handed me the test tube and told me foam didn’t count so make sure to spit to the line.  

No worries, I got this.  My only thought was why didn’t they just take a cheek swab as in the days of old – that’s how I took my first Ancestry.com DNA test.  

MA left the room and I began to fill the test tube.  I was really going to town so I didn’t stop to look at the tube for a bit.  When I finally did, I had quite a shock.  My spit was not clear; it was tinged with pink.  

My first thought was I was bleeding but I felt fine.  Then it hit me; I had put lipstick on that morning.  

Lipstick does not process in my brain as food or drink.  It reminds me of my history as my maternal relatives never left the house without applying it.  I asked my grandmother why when I was about 8 and she said you should always put your best face forward.  That is, except when you’re taking a DNA test in the doctor’s office.

I didn’t know what to do; should I go look for the MA and ask if I should continue or should I just finish filling the tube?  I opened the door and saw no one in the hall so I decided to finish and maybe the test would be valid.

A few minutes later the MA returned and I sheepishly showed her the pink vial.  “I’ll check to see if that’s okay,” she said, “Never had that happen before.”  That made two of us.  Returning, she told me that the test wasn’t going to be acceptable and I needed to “Wash off your makeup, wait an hour and we’ll retest.”  

The last time someone told me to “Wash off that makeup” was in 8th grade and my lipstick of choice was Wow Wow White that looked awesome with my then braces.  Sister Rosarita felt differently and I was sent to the girl’s gang bathroom to remove it.  Then, I was angry at the school rule that was enchroaching on my lifestyle.  At the doctor’s office, I was angry at myself for being so stupid.

I was planning on meeting my husband after the appointment so I texted him I’d be late because, well, my lipstick got between my DNA and the tube.  He thought that was hysterical.  Me, not at all.  

A little over an hour later the MA called me from the waiting room and asked if I was sure I had gotten all the lipstick off.  I showed her my pale pink lips and said, “This is what they really look like.”  She laughed and said, “Nice color.”  

The second test went smoothly.  My results have been returned and they’re good, too.  

The doctor’s office staff were so kind about my mistake and said they’d make sure that they mention “NO LIP PRODUCTS” to future women who will DNA test.  I’m letting my dear readers know that, too.  

GenealogyAtHeart’s Top Ten Publication Posts of 2017


Last week I posted my 2017 Top Ten most read blog articles from my own site – GenealogyAtHeart. Today, I’m posting my Top Ten blog articles I wrote for publication by AncestorCloud/Trace now known as Genealogists.com and Family History Daily last year. Enjoy!

10. Using S.M.A.R.T.’s to Crystalize Your Genealogy Goals
9. Dealing with Genealogical Disappointment
8. Developing a Positive Seeker Helper Relationship
7. Motivating Others for Genealogical Results
6. Communicating for Results
5. Scaffolding Your Research
4. Using Backward Design in Genealogical Research
3. Dealing with Genealogical Disappointment
2. How Our Ancestors’ Love Affair With Liquor Can Provide Fascinating Clues to the Past
1. 4 Big Genealogy Mistakes That May Be Hurting Your Research (and How to Avoid Them)

Top 10 Genealogy At Heart Posts from 2017


Happy New Year! Out with the old and in with the new but before we do that, let’s take a look back at the most read Genealogy At Heart posts from last year in descending order and a tie in 4th place:

10 VivaVolunteers! A Unique Opportunity for You

9 More on Accessing Records

8 Saturday Serendipity

7 Access to Preserved Records is Being Threatened!

6 My Grandfather’s C-File Has Finally Arrived!

5 Improving Your Genealogy Skills Semester II

4 Perseverance Amidst Adversity – The Ancestry of Three George Harbaughs

4 Genealogy Resolutions

2 Privacy and the Genealogist Part 2

1 Privacy and the Genealogist Part 1

If you’re on the east coast of the U.S., get a cup of cocoa, stay warm and enjoy re-reading these blogs.

Next week, I’ll rank articles that I did for other publications in 2017.

Neat Ideas from the National Genealogical Society Conference


Here are a ten of my most favorite experiences, most of which were FREE, at the National Genealogical Society Conference in Raleigh:

FamilySearch for more writing ideas.
Palatines to America had a useful handout containing a What is the Relationship? Form. If you get confused between Great Nephews and 3rd Cousin Once Removed this handy dandy template would be helpful.
National Archives’ (NARA) updated handout listed the links to their most used records. I sometimes get lost on their site so this “Just the Facts, Ma’am” was nice.
History Hub, an online site with blogs, discussion boards and community pages for anyone interested in history. That was news to me and a place I plan on checking out.
Federation of Genealogical Societies publishes a quarterly electronic magazine for only $15.00/year? That’s just $3.00 per issue!
ew York Genealogical and Biographical Society as I want to get back into researching some of my hubby’s Long Island folks. As a member, besides the wonderful journal, you get access to Findmypast AND the New York Public Library online.
USGenWeb Project had a laminated postcard with the 88 Ohio counties – very useful for me to track my people from Trumbull to Stark to Darke to Mercer and finally, to Van Wert. I learned from an attendee I’ve been mispronouncing my dad’s birth city my whole life – Celina is pronounced Seh lie nah and not Seh lee na. Who Knew?!
Fun Stuff for Genealogists had cute t-shirts, inexpensive jewelry, archive materials and historic map reproductions. See their full catalog online. I bought a tree bead and a brass tree charm.
Ohio Genealogical Society gave me a few ideas about my darling Duers who left so few records in their travels across that state. The volunteer even consulted his own resources to see if my folks were named (they weren’t but it was a valiant attempt on his part).
Mastering Genealogical Documentation by Thomas Jones with the plan on working through it this summer. You can purchase a copy through the National Genealogical Society.

I’m hoping to be able to attend next year, too. Paths to Your Past will be held in Grand Rapids, Michigan May 2-5, 2018.

DNA Plan


Had a wonderful time in Raleigh last week at the National Genealogical Society Conference! I focused on DNA workshops as that is an area where I would like to gain more knowledge and practical experience.

My 3 favorite sessions on this topic were by Debbie Parker Wayne, Blaine Bettinger and Judy Russell. Now that I have a rudimentary understanding, I plan on working through the book, Genetic Genealogy in Practice by Bettinger and Wayne this summer.

I also learned that the Journal of Genetic Genealogy (JoGG) had been reactivated as a free peer reviewed online resource. Check it out!

Two of the major DNA players, MyHeritage and Ancestry.com, offered conference specials but I decided to wait until Black Friday to make purchases. My plan is to purchase kits from either or several organizations but more likely from Ancestry first since it has the larger database. Then, I’ll download the results and upload to Family Tree DNA and Gedmatch.

Hubby and I tested years ago through Ancestry – he did X and Y and I did X but that version is no longer supported. I’d like to do add Autosomal this time around and include other family members. Besides the benefit of identifying new family members and confirming ones we are aware of, I think it would be fascinating to see if any mutations occurred between our kids and us and between my husband and his sister.

For Mother’s Day, my family got me an e-Book, Mansions of the Dead, by Sarah Stewart Taylor. It’s a genealogical murder mystery that I find interesting as it takes place in Boston, a city I’ve happily researched in, and revolves around mourning jewelry, which I’ve been fascinated with since working with a Client several years ago that inherited a mystery piece from a paternal grandmother. The book was written when DNA analysis was relatively new and I question some of the info but it is a fun read and I can’t wait to confirm my hypothesis of who done it. Happy Hunting!

Raleigh Bound – Genealogy At Heart Hiatus


I’m off to North Carolina to attend the National Genealogical Society Conference. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones. If you’re planning on attending friend me on the conference ap. Traveling with a co-worker is making the trip even more fun. I’m planning on purchasing Tom Jones’ new book that will be released there – buying that as my own Mother’s Day present. No blog until I return. In the meantime, Happy Hunting!

Improving Your Genealogy Skills Semester II

Now that the holidays are behind us it’s time to look ahead and schedule some genealogy training. What would you like to learn more about this year? Maybe it’s finally understanding DNA or getting serious about writing that family history you keep putting off. Perhaps you’re stuck on a few lines and need some fresh ideas. Whatever you hope to learn, there are wonderful webinars that you can view in the comfort of your own home. Let’s start with the free ones first!

Legacy Family Trees 2017 offerings are now available and you can register for multiple webinars at once. It pays to register so you can get the syllabus. If something comes up and you can’t attend, no worries! The tape is available for the first week for free. The Board for Certification of Genealogists offers monthly webinars on the Legacy site, too, so don’t miss those offerings

Like to participate as you learn? Then become a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists and take part in their upcoming discussions held via Go To Meeting. You are expected to be engaged either through your microphone or via chat. You can use your computer, tablet or phone to attend. Two sessions are available for each topic – one in the afternoon and one in the evening. In January, “Writing as You Go with Elissa Scalise Powell and Running a Successful APG Chapter with Lois Mackin” will be offered. February brings “Creating Genealogy Classes and Workshops with Lois Mackin.” The meetings are free but you must be a member of APG to attend. Visit APG for more details.

The National Genealogical Society Conference will be held in Raleigh, North Carolina May 10-13. Early Bird registration is now open via the NGS site. Don’t delay – the price to attend rises closer to the event.

Don’t want to travel far but love in person camaraderie and collaboration with other passionate genealogists? Then check out your local societies, libraries and archives for their offerings. In the Tampa Bay, Florida area, Thomas MacEntree recently held an interactive webinar through the Tampa public library and Lisa Marie Cook will be offering workshops at the Largo library in February.

Rather work on your own? Then purchase a workbook and pace yourself. Mastering Genealogical Proofs by Tom Jones is available via Kindle or Paperback on Amazon. Also on Amazon is Blaine Bettinger’s Genetic Genealogy in Practice. If you’re an NGS member, check out the site for a discount on both.

It never ceases to amaze me that I learn something new from every class I take. Additionally, I learn a bunch from reading and writing blogs. A few days ago, I was the guest blogger for AncestorCloud so check out Using S.M.A.R.T.’s to Crystallize Your Genealogy Goals. Happy Hunting!

Top Five Conference Lessons Learned

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 15 May 2016.

Finally cleaned up the tote bag with all the info I accumulated at the National Genealogical Society Conference held the first week in May in Ft. Lauderdale.  I learned a lot but these five ideas keep circulating around in my head:

  1. Mind Maps – I always encourage my students to use them but I’m negligent in doing so myself.  Elizabeth Shown Mills displayed quite an elaborate spider web map that showed relationships and it was impressive.  I’m adding this to my “to-do” list to incorporate in my practice.
  2. Identify Expertise – D. Joshua Taylor mentioned that he always asks antique store owners what their area of expertise is.  Although I chat with store owners it never dawned on me to ask for specific information.  He related a wonderful story about finding a relative’s belongings in a shop in New York state by simply asking that question.  Definitely will add this to my genealogical tool box!
  3. WorldCat.org – One of the most valuable online resources to find materials I somehow missed the box on the right side that’s called “Related Searches.”  You have to sign in to view which I often don’t do.  This may give you information that you didn’t even know existed!  Definitely worth a look.
  4. DNA – I need to really get serious about DNA testing!  I learned a bunch from Tom Jones’ lecture but there is still so much more I need to learn.  That is where I’m going to be focusing my continuing education.
  5. At the BCG Luncheon, I learned a lot about copywrite and fair use.  Didn’t know that there is a free Fair Use Evaluator online that can help you determine whether a work is fair use or not.

I learned so much more but these items were those that I starred as Ah-ha moments and I wanted to share.  Enjoy!

News from the National Genealogical Society Conference

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 4 May 2016.

Greetings on Star Wars Day!  How appropriate that the start of this year’s NGS Conference is on May 4th (Force) be with you.  If you’re following me on Twitter you may have seen my tweet this AM.  One of the sound technicians at the conference who was working hard to make the sessions available live told me he is really interested in genealogy and was so excited to learn about family history while he did his primary job.  When he showed me his travel mug – of Darth Vader with the words “I Am Your Father”- I had to take his picture and send it out into the universe.  It was a perfect way to start the day!

I mentioned in my last blog I didn’t think I was going to be able to write until the weekend after I return home from the conference but I need to share a few events that have me really excited.

The first was the Board for Certified Genealogists “On the Clock” Dutch Treat Dinner that was held at Bravo Italiano Ristaurante on 17th Street in Ft. Lauderdale Tuesday evening.  There were 42 attendees consisting of Certified Genealogists, wanna be’s and family/friends.  Russ and James, the restaurant co-owners, and their staff did a phenomenal job making sure that our party was accommodated.  The food and atmosphere was superb!  I cannot convey how nice it is to be with a group of people who get excited about that serendipitous photo find of Great Aunt Betsy or can relate to the time you slogged through a violent rainstorm only to discover that the rural cemetery is now on private property you can’t access.  It was heartwarming!

I don’t know about you but I’ve not had much luck with connecting hubby’s or my dna that I had done through Ancestry.com.  I haven’t had it redone with the new dna kit but with the old one, my closest connection was Marie Antoinette.  I’m not making this up.  For the record, she didn’t really say “Let them eat cake” but that’s for a different blog.  Apparently others have had great match up success.  Today, I met 3rd cousins who found each other through Ancestry.com’s match.  They had never met in person before today and asked if I would snap a few pictures of them together at the conference.  They had a remarkable resemblance!  I was honored that they asked me to take their picture of that special meeting.  It was like living Long Lost Family in person!

When the Exhibition Hall opened after the keynote address, I never would have guessed what amazing event was in store for me.  I was meandering along when I came upon the booth of ArkivDigital, a Swedish Genealogical & Historical Research site online.  I had used the site once before, when I was in Salt Lake City at the Family History Library last spring. It helped me obtain the Swedish names of my husband’s maternal great grandfather, his first wife and their children.  I had tried to find information about the second wife, of whom my husband is descended from but I had no luck.  One of the ladies at the table asked me if I had any Swedish research needs and I responded that I had a major brick wall and that I absolutely hate doing Swedish research because I just don’t understand it.  She laughed and said I should speak with her co-worker who was engaged in a conversation with someone else because Swedish research is not difficult.  Yeah, right, I’m thinking.  Soon I was introduced to Kathy Meade who recommended I write down any dates I had for the ancestor and she would look them up in her database.  Since I was volunteering as a room monitor for the next session I had to run; I told Kathy I’d be back later in the day.  The other lady said she was sure that Kathy would resolve my brick wall.

After the next session ended I went online and wrote down what I knew – birth date from the death certificate, marriage date from the marriage license, death date from the death certificate, 1900-1930 census info, a few years of City Directory listings and the cemetery record.  The death certificate did not list a maiden name, of course.  The marriage record had the name of Johnson but I always figured it was wrong because she married a Johnson.  Perhaps instead, they were cousins.

I had the place of birth as Sard, Sweden but I’d never been able to find that place name.  A colleague told me she thought the place must have existed once in a rural area and was no more.  Kathy said she never heard of Sard and thought it might be a mistranslation or misunderstanding by a family member.  She recommended focusing just on known dates.  Into her database she entered the birthdate and Voila! there shows up the birth record, baptism date, census and parish exit emigration record.  I was stunned.  The first name wasn’t Louisa, it was Louvisa.  The last name wasn’t Johnson, it was Jonnason.  The emigration date matched the US census records AND she was from the same area that her future husband was from.  More research is needed but it is possible she went to the US because his first wife had died and there was small children left motherless.

Louvisa had worked as a maid in Sweden and her mother had died a few years before she emigrated.  She left behind two sisters and her father.  Once the shock of the find wore off I started crying.  Then I called my husband who told me to stop crying.  I then got up and did a happy dance.  I understand that in most public locations people observing my behavior would most likely make a judgement that I was mentally ill but at the convention I was soon joined by other attendees who had overheard what was happening.  They joined in the fun.  I tried to buy Kathy lunch but she said no.  Once I get home I’m purchasing the program AND taking her 4 Swedish research classes on Legacy.  I am sincere when I say this was worth the entire price of the conference.  If you are stumped with your Swedish line I highly recommend checking out ArkivDigital and Kathy’s Legacy classes.  Clearly, the Force was with me today at the conference!

Midwest Magic

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 28 Feb 2016.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the Leesburg, Florida Genealogical Conference of the Ohio Genealogical Society, Florida Chapter  Debbie Mieszala, CG, presented on 3 topics:  Newspaper Research in the Midwest, Land Records in Pennsylvania and Ohio and Pulling Evidence from Beneath a Record’s Surface.  I was especially interested in the Pennsylvania land records for the Kinship Determination Project I’m working on for my genealogical portfolio.

Having a horrible time locating a deed – I’ve checked with the county, actually two since one was split from the other, called and emailed the local historical society, public library, local genweb contact and genealogical society. Had found a genealogist who told me the probate records don’t exist, after I spent $78.00 and gave her precisely what microfilm to look up in the courthouse.  Worst part was she laughed when she told me it wasn’t there and didn’t credit me for the time left I had paid for. She did ask if there was another record she could look up while she was at the courthouse but that was all I needed at the time.  Then she didn’t write a report of her findings; I asked her to send me her non finding and she sent one line via email.  Found her on the Association of Professional Genealogist site so I assumed she’d be like the other APG members I’ve worked with.  Did she do anything unethical? No, she just lacked the level of professionalism that I’m accustomed to in this field.

I’ve blogged before about the experience my 2nd cousin had when he hired a genealogist across the pond.  Not wanting to admit his hire had done less than quality work he accused me of having wrong info.  When I showed him my proof he contacted his genealogist who was happy to charge him more to recheck her work.  When he balked she admitted she had only checked records 1900 forward and the children I had listed were born in the 1890’s.  I’m not sure who was at fault there:  Did he tell her to start with 1900?  Did she inform him she had only looked beginning with 1900?  (The records for the 1800’s were available as she later went back and verified my information).  Was there a language barrier that impeded communication?  Beats me!  Clearly she hadn’t performed a reasonably exhaustive search, especially since the records were available in the same respository that she had found some of her data.

But back to the conference….

If you never attended a presentation by Debbie you must – she shares her personal stories in a way that is both inviting and instructional.  I love how she laughs at the frustrations she encounters, such as illegible handwriting, missing sources and records not where they should be.

Now I have some new places to search and met some wonderful attendees from Pennsylvania who gave me additional advice. One gentleman has volunteered to send a cd he compiled of a valuable resource to anyone interested in Pennsylvania research.  That alone was worth the drive!  I’ll be spending part of today checking further and will make one last sweep through the areas I’m writing about in the summer so I can feel confident I performed a reasonably exhausted search.

My latest portfolio plan is to finish the KDP mid March, put it away for a month, check out the successfully submitted portfolios at the upcoming National Genealogical Society Ft. Lauderdale conference in May, edit the rest of the month and then visit the two areas I write about the most to make sure I’ve mined every available piece, do a last edit in August and submit in September – 1 month before my deadline.  We’ll see how this works out!

The absolute best part of yesterday, however, was two events that were, well, weird.  The first occurred at the conference.  During introductions I mentioned that I was interested in Mercer County, Ohio as that was where my Leininger, Duer, and Kuhn families had resided.  A woman sitting right in front of me turned and said, “My mother was a Leininger.”  Yep, we’re cousins who had never met. At break I brought up my tree and found her line.  She had never heard of the Leininger Family History books written in the early 1970’s so I gave her my email address and when I hear from her, I’ll forward her to the author.  That’s the 2nd time in two months I’ve met a cousin face to face on my dad’s side!  I would never have met either of these lovely ladies had I not been working on my portfolio.  Oddly, I’m not even writing about my family.  I’ve selected clients and my husband’s lines to submit.  Hubby jokes that my dad’s side must feel a tad left out so the living keep popping up.

When I arrived home my husband was all smiles and said I had to look at the mail right away.  Did I win something?!  Yep, I won the genealogy lottery!  A package had arrived from a former church historian in Indiana who had sent me copies of diaries from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s that had been donated to a church.  The diaries were written by the sister of the wife of the 1st generation gentleman that is the focus of my KDP.  I couldn’t eat dinner – I had to begin reading.  I’m only up to 1890 (so my 3rd generation hadn’t even been born yet) but the diaries contain information that I was told no longer existed.  Wow.  Double Wow.

What’s really strange is that I had contacted the pastor who had forwarded my email to this wonderful woman.  She had sent a few pictures back to him.  He didn’t forward her email to me, instead, he sent me a new email with the pictures attached.  As I reviewed them I noticed that one was missing.  I hated to be a pest and recontact him as I didn’t think the missing picture of unidentified children who had attended the church in the early 1900’s would be very helpful but I wanted to be thorough so I did email him again.  He forwarded my email to the historian who resent the picture directly to me.  I was correct that the picture wasn’t helpful, however, she mentioned the diaries and asked if the pastor had informed me about them.  Nope, guess he “forgot” that part.  I’m so glad I am a pest, otherwise I would never have known about this valuable resource.  The diaries quote scripture frequently; although I haven’t come across this line yet, all I keep thinking is Matthew 7:7 “Ask and you shall receive.”  Works for me!  Happy Hunting…