Why You Should Share Your DNA Results

I have uploaded by DNA results to several sites and you could benefit from doing that, too.  The reason is simple – think about why you tested with the company you chose.  I tested with 23andMe because I wanted to find out the amount of Neandertal ancestry I  carry and that feature wasn’t available through the other major sites (Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com).  

Some folks may have selected a company based on pricing.  Others may have received a kit as a gift.  In the U.S., Ancestry.com commercials are everywhere but that’s not necessarily true in other parts of the world.  You stand the greatest chance of maximizing your DNA results by uploading them to sites that accept results.

Last week, I received an email from MyHeritage.com that I have several new DNA matches.  Typically, they are 3rd to 5th cousins that I’ve connected with in the past.  This time, was different.  Luckily, I recognized the surname as one of my maternal line’s great grandmothers of which I have scant information as she had died young in childbirth.  

Immediately, I clicked on the “cousins” tree which only contained 10 entries, most of which was private but I could see the geographic region and I knew that this proved promising.  I wrote the cousin an email and was happily surprised when he responded a few hours later.  We wrote back and forth all week.  The irony is that he lives just a little over 100 miles from the homestead but has no knowledge of the family.  Why?  His grandfather had relocated the family during World War II and never spoke to his children about the family’s history.  The grandfather died a few years before the cousin I was corresponding with was born so he could never ask him directly.  There is now only one elderly relative, in his 80’s remaining.  He plans on taking my family stories to the elder.  I’m anxiously awaiting his knowledge.  

No telling what you might discover from connecting with a family member across the pond!  DNA matching makes it easy and inexpensive.  

My Latest DNA Results

Recently, my St. Patrick’s Day Ancestry.com special DNA deal results were returned.  I had tested with Ancestry years ago prior to autosomal’s availability.  When the price for autosomal dropped, I decided to test with two other companies to gain access to their testing population and opted to have my children test with Ancestry.  I decided to purchase the Ancestry test because the price was right ($49.00), I wanted to go back one generation further than my children could do in search for my Morrison and Adams brick wall lines, and I wanted to play with Ancestry’s new DNA feature, Thru Lines, without having to wade through my husband’s side that my children inherited.

I’m pleased to connect with one Morrison and five Adams’ family members.  Although this certainly doesn’t resolve my brick wall it does support the direction I was going in with my research.  I suspected that my Edward Adams was the grandson of Sylvanus Adams of Sussex County, New Jersey but not being able to identify Edward’s father, I couldn’t prove it.  My hunch was due to the interesting male name of Evi.  After Edward died intestate in Perry County, Ohio in 1822, an Evi Adams living in the area served as administrator.  Evi died a few years later and I never was able to find his father, either.  Evi was about the same age as Edward so I surmised that they were either brothers or cousins.  There were several Evi’s in Sylvanus Adams’ lines before and after him so I felt strongly that Edward’s brother/cousin must be related somehow.  DNA seems to be showing that’s correct but I still haven’t found that one document that’s out there somewhere to prove it.

Although I’m pleased with the results I can understand how people who are new to genealogy and DNA give up after getting their results.  I know that the ethnic percents are only as valid as the pool used to compare findings.  In Ancestry’s case, I’m 51% German.  I don’t know how that’s possible since I would have gotten half of my DNA from my mom, who was full blooded Croatian and half from my dad, who was a mix of German, Irish, English, Welsh and Scotts.  Ancestry shows me with NO Irish, English Welsh or Scotts.  According to Ancestry, I’m only 4% French.  23andMe had me as all French and no German. 

I not only understand the pools from which the sample was compared differed, but the history of the areas.  My dad’s people were from the Palatinate, the German-French area that experienced bloodshed for years and went back and forth between the two countries. So, am I French or German?  I realize I’m a mix of both and I’m fine with that.  If I didn’t understand how this works, though, I would be totally confused. 

Recently Ancestry got into trouble with their latest DNA commercial.  I believe their well loved commercial about the man trading his lederhosen in for a kilt should have been an eye opener.  I’m thinking that man needs to test elsewhere to get a fuller picture of his ancestry. 

An Odd Genealogy Connection

I’m going to be helping out at my local genealogy society’s Ask A Genealogist Day today so I’ve got to make this brief.  I had the strangest connection a few weeks ago and I wanted to share the weird workings of the internet.  

I have an online presence beyond this blog and my website since I keep my trees public.  Usually I get connections through Ancestry.com, followed by MyHeritage.com, then through my website which is my historical home for my blogs.  Sure, I get connections through other social media platforms and occasionally, from someone Googling an ancestor and my info comes up but the latest connection was by using Newspapers.com.  

An unrelated gentleman from Scotland is writing a book on those who left  Beauly in the late 1700’s.  He discovered through Newspapers.com that I had saved a newspaper clipping from the Philadelphia [PA] Packet dated 9 Oct 1775 regarding the ship, the Clementina, arriving and that there were many workers ready for indenture.  I suspected that my 4th great grandfather, John Morison, was on that ship.  I could be wrong, though.  There were several John Mor[r]ison’s in Philadelphia at the same time and I saved every shred of evidence on all of them hoping to sort them out and discover which was my real great grandfather.  

I had mistakenly thought the author who connected with me had found my information on Ancestry but he said he didn’t have a subscription and his local library didn’t have one, either.  I was flabbergasted when he told me that he was using Newspapers.com and it flagged that I had saved the article and provided my contact info.  I didn’t know that was even an option.  

I’m glad it was as he has been a wealth of information and let me know that my Morison family most likely wasn’t always using that surname as two Morrison families originated in the mid 1600’s from other lines.  He also gave me lots of information on another Morrison family that emigrated on the same ship.  Peter, his wife and daughters were most likely connected with two other Morrison teenagers on the same boat.  Peter had been what we’d call today a game warden overseeing salmon.  I had thought, with no proof, that the families emigrating were all related but couldn’t find proof.  It’s because both boys later joined the Revolution and were taken prisoner in New York.  Both parents requested visitation to them while they were held on a prison ship.  The author was able to provide me their baptism records, too.  I had no idea that not all children were recorded in Scottish church records since parents had to pay for the recording.  Looks like Peter had the eldest children recorded but stopped after the 3rd child.  

The author was a wealth of information and I’m so glad we were able to correspond for a few weeks sharing our findings and analyzing what we had found together.  We’ve reached the conclusion that ALL the Morrisons in Philadelphia from 1775 to 1800 were related.  There was a father-son both named John who must have come some time earlier; both were in the metal trades.  Then the next wave of Morrisons came on the Clementina.  We suspect that John, a weaver, was the brother of Peter.  John came with a wife and son.  The wife was noted to be a spinster by 1790 so I believe he had died.  She and the adult son died in 1793 from the “plague”, a mosquito epidemic most likely yellow fever.  Peter’s son, John, likely is the man who comes and goes from the records as he was a ship’s carpenter.  I still haven’t figured out who my John is but I’m working on it (just not today). 
 Even so, I’m closer because of this unlikely connection thanks to Newspapers.com.  Happy Hunting!

Sparking Ancestor Passion in an Unusual Way




I’ve written before about the many ways I’ve tried to get my family interested in learning about their ancestors. Swedish Death Cleaning was the key for one of my relatives who had recently purchased a new home and was needing furniture – along with the sewing machine cabinet went great grandma’s hand made doilies, a thread chest with great great grandma’s wooden sock darner and several homemade quits and afghans. I’ve helped several relatives apply to lineage societies and although they gained membership, I was disappointed that the result wasn’t a larger interest in learning about other ancestors.  Although I never tried this trick, I did contemplate  hiding cash in a book I wrote about three generations in one line thinking that if the receivers got that far in the story, they would like the extra reward.


What occurred last weekend was unintentional and what made me come to the conclusion that making a connection has to evoke a personal passion in the living; one that you might not even know exists.  


We had a family gathering that was unexpected – the adult kids happened to just show up at our house at the same time.  Since I had been hard at work checking relationships to see if I could qualify for a new society, I made a note of where I was in the pedigree and then joined the rest of my family.  While we were all catching up on careers, shared friends and the state of the world, I mentioned I was confirming relationship to Madog ap Maredudd, Prince of Powys, who was the last prince of all Powys, Wales.  I certainly didn’t expect the response I got from one of my children…”He’s a real guy?!  I always thought he was made up.”  I replied that Madog was indeed real and his grandfather, Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, was widely regarded as one of the most just kings who revised Welsh law making inheritance fairer for those that were not rich.


The response from my kid, “Wow, I didn’t think the guy was real.”  I asked both kids where they had heard of Madog.  Evidently, he had been mentioned in Madeleine L’engle’s Wrinkle in Time series.  Turns out, the protagonist in the series discover that there is a lineal relationship and by learning about a treacherous incident in which Madog’s brother was involved in, saves the world from destruction.  So, my adult kids were interested in how Madog was their 23rd grandfather.  


No way I could ever predict a science fiction novel they read in 4th grade would light a genealogical fire in them two decades later but it did.  We live in a very strange world, indeed.  

Another Duer Synchronicity


The universe has made some odd Duer connections for me lately and I just have to share!

For my new readers, I’ve been enamored with my Duer lines for the past several years after I received an out of the blue email from a Duer genealogist who informed me I had wrongly recorded the surname as Dure in my Ancestry.com tree. Edgar sent me an electronic version of his work which went back generations and within two weeks, he died. The good news was that he got the information out before he passed; the bad news was I could never ask him questions or collaborate on further research with him. The odd thing about that email was that it did not go through Ancestry but Edgar had somehow gotten my personal email. I never learned how he tracked me down. It also was received at a time I was extremely busy with family matters that strengthened the Duer connection.

The weirdest occurrence at the time I received the information was to discover one of my children had followed the same path as the Gateway ancestors. My child had spent a college term in Cambridge, England, decided to live in Grenada, West Indies upon graduation and then relocated to Morristown, New Jersey. Seriously, who follows that migration? Apparently, others in my family.

The Gateway ancestor, Thomas Duer, had married Mary Ann Hollingshead who had been born in the West Indies and with her father, relocated to Sussex County, New Jersey. Her parents were from Great Britain, as were Thomas’. My child was following the same immigration routes as her ancestors 250 years before. The problem was I only had 2 weeks to research as the dear child was once again relocating and I would have no reason (or place to stay for cheap) in Morristown. During breaks in the packing, I’d planned to visit the library which contained the oldest remaining records of the area. The night before my arrival, there was a gas explosion and the library was off limits. I was beyond disappointed. I did check out several other research facilities around the area but discovered nothing. (And yes, I did make a trip back later to visit the library when it reopened and I mined it for some small tidbits of info.)

Although researching in the Sussex County area had been disappointing I found another way to gather information. Edgar had not made his work public which I promptly did and that has opened the universe to many connections that have enabled me to put together the family’s dynamics over centuries. To me, it’s a very interesting family who never backed down from their beliefs which were way ahead of the society in which they lived. That character strength led to records, mainly court, which have been fascinating to read.

For the past 2 years I’ve been trying to connect Revolutionary War Patriot John Duer to his son, Thomas. Thomas died intestate before John so he wasn’t named in John’s will. Records from New Jersey are scant but last month I did find a document through FamilySearch.org that placed John, his wife, Susannah, and Thomas, all in the same place at the same time in Sussex. They had witnessed a will of a widow of the town’s physician. I learned that Susannah was illiterate, John had wonderful handwriting and Thomas, not so much. Thomas would have been 18, of legal age to testify in court that he had witnessed the widow’s wishes.

The record I wished to view was only available at a Family History Library so I trekked to one, accessed the microfilm, and promptly saved it to a thumb drive. I checked the thumb drive before I left the facility. All good. Until I got home and tried to open it. I can’t explain why but only half of the first page of the will was visible and it was the part that didn’t have the Duer signatures. The facility was now closed and wouldn’t reopen until the following week so I sought out another library location. My husband offered to go as it was quite a drive. We made it through a violent rain storm and I again found the record quickly (thanks to clearly writing the citation down) and triple checked that the document was saved intact. This time, I was successful. It seems I must work extra hard on this line to move forward!

I know from land records that the family relocated to what is now West Virginia/southern Ohio shortly after the will was written. I’m still trying to hunt down those deeds. I have found 2 clues to their existence but have been unable to locate the exact location. I decided to spend the summer working on that project.

I began by reading up on various companies that sold land during the late 18th century in the U.S. and track down where the land grant records were held. John is not listed in Bounty Land records held by the government so I decided to pursue private collections, such as the Ohio Company, whose records reside at Marietta College.

I got a beep on my phone that an email had come through so I checked as I was anticipating a response from Marietta College. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to have received 3 photos of the grave of Thomas. I had placed a request on Find-A-Grave and Billion Graves several years ago but no one picked it up, probably because the cemetery is so remote. The sender was a gentleman I had met once at a local to me genealogy meeting. In the twisted Duer way I discover information about the family, I had signed in and put my current area of research was Trumbull County. At the conclusion of the program about Cuban genealogy, the gentleman asked who I was. I waved and he said he wanted to have a word with me. After the meeting concluded he informed me that he was from Trumbull County, Ohio and he had never met anyone else in our area that was researching that location. We exchanged contact info and I asked him if he knew of anyone I could reach out to to obtain a picture of the gravestone. He said he would try his friend. I was not surprised when a week later he told me his friend had become ill and would not be able to visit the cemetery. So again, out of the blue, nearly two years after we met, the gentleman, also named Ed, remembered my request while visiting the area and surprised me with the photos.

I decided to share them with the only other person I had ever connected with who has Trumbull County roots – a former genealogy society member who still lives in that area but due to age, can no longer drive. I forwarded the pictures to her because when we first connected two years ago, she told me that Thomas had almost killed her. I was understandably confused since he died in 1829 and she was still alive but she went on to explain that she was doing a cemetery clean up and had tripped and fallen over his stone. She and other genealogy society members had righted and replaced it.

A few days went by and while I was outside speaking with the house painter I had hired, my cell rang. I excused myself as I saw the area code was from Trumbull County. Sure enough, it was the dear woman who had righted Thomas’ gravestone and we talked about my latest findings and where I was headed with the research. Hanging up, I explained to my painter how excited I was to receive the photos and to collaborate with someone so knowledgeable who lived in the area I was researching. The painter, who had gone to high school with one of my children, asked where I was researching. When I told him he laughed and informed me that his family had first emigrated from Greece to Trumbull County and he had spent the last 10 years living in the area as he still has family there who are bridge painters.

I was speechless. The universe was clearly making connections and the discovery was in my own backyard. Very weird! Even stranger, I had planned to visit Cuba for the first time 3 days later. I had only attended the local genealogy meeting where I met Ed because I wanted information in preparation for a trip to Cuba. We had had a tropical storm the previous day of that meeting and I debated whether I should drive across bridges to get there as the wind was still strong. At the end, the genealogy bug won and I made the trip. I’m so glad I did!

Patience is a virtue I have trouble possessing. Maybe that’s the lesson the universe is trying to teach me. The Duer seeds were planted a few years ago and the universe, in its own time, are maturing them and now I’m reaping the fruits. I can’t wait for the final harvest – that missing document that clearly shows that Thomas is the son of John. People have told me repeatedly I won’t find it but I believe it’s out there somewhere. The search continues.

Another Duer Synchronocity!

I’ve written before about the odd experiences I’ve had when I research my Duer line (to read – type Duer in the search box on my website GenealogyAtHeart.com). I just had another one…

Earlier this month, someone found my Duer info that I’ve posted in numerous places online – my website, Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com, FamilySearch.org, FindMyPast.com, and emailed me as he is a descendant of John P and Susannah Miller Duer. We’ve been exchanging emails and he has been in contact with another distant cousin who has had DNA tested through Ancestry.com. She compiled a very nice DNA chart of the descendants of John and Susannah.

On Friday, I received an email from a third distant cousin who is trying to find info on one of John’s sons, Joseph, who has been rather elusive. At the same time she was emailing me asking about additional info, I received the email from the first cousin with the chart made by another cousin who just happens to be descended from this Joseph.

My goodness, that’s just weird!

My descendants have tested through Ancestry (I did 23andMe), so I logged on and just found another distant cousin who recently tested. I emailed her to include on my interested in Duer research list.

It wouldn’t be seem much of a coincidence since I’ve written extensively about the Duers and I have so many public trees out there in internetland. What makes this odd is after close to 200 years, I get 2 emails from descendants who haven’t been aware of each other on the same afternoon. I just love how technology has enabled us all to reconnect!

Genealogy Reminders from Coco


If you haven’t seen the Disney movie that came out last fall, Coco, then you must do it soon. I’m not the kind of person that watches the same shows again and again but I have seen Coco 3 times. Here’s why I think Coco is important to genealogy and will help you with your research:

Customs – the story takes place in Mexico on the eve of Dia de Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. Even though my family never celebrated that holiday, we sure celebrated many others. Think back to your own childhood and identify customs that your family practiced. Did Aunt Marge always bring a special dish? If so, ask why before it’s too late. I regret not writing down the words in Croatian that my grandparents said before Christmas Eve dinner. I know it was brought with them from the Old Country but unfortunately, that custom is now lost to me.

Photo clues – One of my favorite parts of Coco is the altar of photos. I don’t have that layout but I do have a family tree of photos on the wall in my office. Those photos are of couples going back 5 generations. Around the tree I’ve placed pictures of large family gatherings to include more of the extended family. I also received as a Christmas gift a metal tree that holds smaller photos. I’ve placed pictures of many of those couples as infants on this stand alone tree. By seeing the “big picture” you can often identify people in other photos that were considered unknown.

In Coco, the main character, Miguel, accidentally discovers a displayed photo had been altered and the missing person is critical to his story. That part of the film made me laugh as my family does the same thing Miguel’s family did! I inherited some photos from a deceased second cousin and one of them was torn vertically to remove someone. I’ve never been able to find a copy of the intact photo but from the dress of the remaining individual, it appears that it was taken before a cantakerous divorce. There’s a story behind every missing person in a photo and it pays to try to uncover it.

Making Wrong Assumptions – Like Miguel, I’ve been down the wrong trail of who I thought was family. Aided by spirits, he was able to uncover the truth. You don’t have to hire a medium to find the answer – simply take a DNA test. One of my husband’s cousins is doing a Lazarus project on a line through Gedmatch. I’ll be writing about it soon but in the meantime, if you aren’t familiar with that term, it’s trying to “raise the dead” by comparing the living’s DNA. The results can help you insure you’re researching your direct family lines.

FAN Club – Miguel learns all about a neighbor of his great grandfather and that connection with his family is a key to the story. What I especially like about this genealogy tip is that the connection isn’t an immediate neighbor or made through a religious organization, such as being a baptism sponsor. This connection is career related and sometimes we overlook that. Checking out union records, membership in business associations and even competitors in an industry could provide you with a wealth of information about an ancestor’s life.

Family Stories – We all have our legends and just like Miguel’s, they get convoluted in the retelling. To separate the facts from fiction in yours, first write down the story as you remember hearing it. If possible, ask another family member to tell you what they remember of the story. There will be some differences and note those. Next, research to see if there were records for the event mentioned. Newspapers, court documents, and even almanacs can help you determine the factual basis of the story. Getting the correct story may help you find that missing marriage record or place of death so this approach is well worth the effort.

Uncovering Buried Memories – The most poignant part of the movie for me was when Abuelita identifies her father, Miguel’s great grandfather. Miguel is so gentle when talking with his senile grandmother and to get information before it’s too late can’t be stressed enough. I interviewed my maternal grandmother and mother before their memories became difficult to access. In hindsight, I wish I had recorded it instead of taking notes. If you haven’t interviewed your older relatives plan on doing that soon.

Our Gifts – Miguel loved music while the rest of his living family did not. His genealogical journey helped him understand where his talent came from. By looking deeper into your family’s history, you’ll uncover much more than just birth-marriage-death info – you’ll discover people you wish you’d met and others who you’d love to understand why they made the choices they did. Some people we can closely identify with, others, not so much. They’re all a part of us and we’re all connected. Like Miguel’s family, we need to make peace with the past so the future can be brighter.

Synchronicity in the Work Place


Synchronicity is the occurrence of events that relate but the connection was made in an unexplainable way. I’ve written about odd happening with my genealogy many times before. Sometimes I randomly start up a conversation with an individual and discover we’re related. A wayward email or a post from long ago (remember mail list servs?!) finds there way to me and uncovers the key to long sought after records. I’m in an archive miles from where my ancestor lived and something pops in my mind to check an individual out and discover records there that shouldn’t be. Those eebee jeebee occurrences are indeed special!

I realize that all of us humans on planet earth are related; sharing something close to 99.5% DNA. Perhaps the following true story is not as weird as I see it. You be the judge.

My primary job is still in the educational arena and that’s where the occurrence I’m about to describe happened in mid-January. The flu hit our workplace hard the first week of January. One of the individuals in a supervisory capacity went from flu to bronchitis to pneumonia over a 2 week period. While home recuperating, she received in the US mail a piece of junk mail from Reader’s Digest for a man she supervises.

I don’t know about you, but I weekly get someone else’s mail delivered to my house so this is no big deal, right? Wrong! The two do not reside in the same neighborhood. In fact, they don’t even live in the same county. The names of the cities where they live are not similar and neither is the street address or zip code. The envelope was not stuck to another. The supervisor who received it does not have a last name alphabetically close to her employee so that wasn’t a reason for the wrong delivery.

Upon receiving the letter, the supervisor texted the employee that he might want to stop by her home after work to pick up his mail. He responded, “Huh? What mail.” She then took a pic of what had arrived at her home that day and sent it to him. The address was clearly typewritten showing his first and last name, home address, city, state and zip. Typically, his mail is delivered to a post office box. He called his local post office and spoke with the postmaster for an explanation of how this could have happened.

The postmaster said he couldn’t explain it. From where the letter was mailed, it would have arrived at the Tampa International Airport receiving facility where it would have been sorted. It would have then traveled by truck to the county where the man lives to be further sorted and delivered to his local post office where the employees should have put it in his pick up box. The truck from the airport to the county post office would not have been the same vehicle that carried mail for the person who received it since she resides in a different county.

The postmaster could offer no explanation in how it went through 4 sorts (the airport, the county facility, the local facility, the home mail delivery person) and no one noticed it was headed for the wrong destination or how its final arrival was to someone who knew the person well.

Both supervisor and employee have endured a lot of ribbing about the universe wanting to connect them personally. I’d be tired of hearing how they should purchase a lottery ticket or take advantage of the junk mail offer. Certainly weird things happen and perhaps there is no hidden message to uncover here. We’re still talking about it 3 weeks later so I said I’d put it out there to cyberspace to see if someone can come up with a rational explanation. Any ideas?

Awesome Genealogy Resources I’ve Recently Discovered


Brrr, it’s been freezing in Florida! I’m spending most of my free time curled up on the sofa in front of a fire with a cup of cocoa and my laptop and Kindle catching up on reading I put off during the holidays. I want to share some of my amazing finds that could benefit your research:

Do You Understand Family Relationships? Trying to explain to a non-genealogist how someone is related can be difficult. I’ve discovered a wonderful pdf and a fantastic article recently published by Genealogy in Time. Check out The Key to Understanding Family Relationships and become an expert!

Burned courthouses, wars and vermin aren’t, unfortunately, a thing of the past that impedes our needed record research. What Would You Take?, an article on Genealogy Bank, focuses on the sometimes split second decision of what to do about your research when disaster is only minutes away. We don’t like to think about it, but this article is a must read for everyone.

So, your DNA results are being returned and your family is scratching their heads in confusion. Maybe this article will help – How DNA Testing Botched My Family’s Heritage that I found on Gizmodo is thought provoking.