Saving Family Heirlooms

I read a wonderful guest post on MyHeritage that you must read – Do Genealogists Care About Family Artifacts? Of course, the answer is yes, however, life often gets in the way of the “saving.”

My town has a wonderful antique district and I’ve been on the hunt for a demilune since May. Hubby and I have many much loved furniture that once belonged to families other than our own. I’m lucky to have purchased my guest bedroom furniture from an elderly woman who couldn’t take it to the nursing home with her. I promised her I’d care for it when I bought it in 1985 after we lost everything in Hurricane Elena and I’ve kept my word. I blogged last spring about the china cabinet I purchased from Craig’s List. A blended family didn’t have room for two. I know the piece’s history and its travels across the country with a military family. They know they can visit it if they like (it was hard for them to sell it but it was degrading in the unairconditioned 100 year plus garage where they were storing it.)

Some furniture I don’t know its history but would love to. When we first married, I wanted a rocking chair and found one in the classified ads of our then local newspaper. It was smaller than I had envisioned but the price was right – $10.00. It was also hideous – someone had recovered it in green and white gingham with lace glued around the edges. I stripped off the covering and discovered it had been covered several times. Two layers down was horsehair stuffing. After quickly taking that outside I discovered that it was originally caned. I had the piece examined and it’s considered a sewing rocker from the 1840’s. I couldn’t find anyone who caned so I bought a how to book from a craft store and ordered caning material. I can’t say I did a great job but it’s held up for 39 years.

My most favorite piece, though, I rescued from the basement of a house my grandmother rented out when I was 4 years old. I guess my interest in history and saving artifacts started quite young! I can’t explain why I was drawn to it. An old oak chest, it’s top cracked and stained and a piece missing on the back to give it support, it was forlorn sitting abandoned in a dark corner. The drawer and two front doors on the front were hand carved. Someone had painted the inside brown. When the renters skipped we discovered it left behind. Inside was a chemistry book according to my mom as I couldn’t read. I pitched a fit that the chest be brought home. I’m talking a full blown temper tantrum that I still remember to this day. My mom and grandmom were not going to give in to my behavior but I was adamant I wasn’t leaving unless the chest went, too. My grandmother drove a Chevy Nova and it certainly wasn’t going to fit in there. My wonderful grandpa tied it on the roof and my grandparents kept it in their basement. I had told them I would keep my toys in it when I visited their house but they were soon to move to another. They moved that chest to the new house and then a year later, back to their old home. By then, my parents had separated and I truly did use the chest to store my games as I went to live with my grandparents. In the late 1960’s my mom got a brilliant idea to spray paint the chest gold and put it in our bathroom. When my mom and I relocated to Florida in the 1970’s my husband’s family, my then future in-laws, kept it in their basement. After we married and bought a house, we brought it “home.” My husband stripped off the gold and left it unfinished. I’ve moved it three time since and it still contains board games. I’m thinking of finally getting it professional refinished.

My solution to the situation noted in the blog I recommend you read is to put stickers on the bottom of pieces that are of family history so when my time comes, the emotional distress of my surviving family members won’t cloud the stories of where the object came from. That way, family pieces can remain in the family for the next generation. Times a wastin’ – make a note of what’s important to you this week!

Gedmatch How To

Since I last blogged I explored Gedmatch. It was simple (and free!) to use and I highly recommend it. Here’s how:
First watch the Youtube video Gedmatch Basics. There is no handout but you really don’t need one.
I had already created an account on the site but if you haven’t, you can make one as you’re watching the video.
Once you’ve logged in to Gedmatch, look on the right side where you’ll upload your DNA files. I had one 23andMe and one Ancestry to upload and compare.
If you’re not sure how to get your DNA files, don’t worry! The video and the Gedmatch site will direct you to the provider and step you through downloading it to your computer and then uploading it to Gedmatch.
Now you’re ready to analyze what you’ve uploaded. Not all features are available immediately but that’s okay, what you’ll be most interested in is the 1 to Many which compared shared DNA to everyone who’s uploaded on the site and the 1 to 1 which compares two people. I was interested in 1 to 1 as I uploaded my son and my results.
Your options to view the results are position, graph or position with graph. I chose position with graph. I like seeing the color comparison; my son preferred the position table only. See the picture at the top as that shows what you’ll see for position with graph. The yellow denotes the match from person 1 to person 2 is half, the green are full matches. There’s a lot of green looking at all 22 chromosomes and the rest yellow as our relationship is mother-son.
Check the bottom of the data to see the estimated relationship, how many segments matched and the largest matching segment.
There are other analysis tools available which I haven’t checked out. I plan on doing that when I get my daughter tested as I’d like to compare her to my son.
DNA offers continue this week – Ancestry and FTDNA both have promotions for $69.00.

We’re still waiting for hubby’s results to be returned from 23andMe.

And More Results…

Last time I blogged about my son’s autosomal dna results being returned so quickly from Ancestry. Minutes after I finished that blog, 23andMe sent me an email that my results were back. We’re still waiting for hubby’s results from 23andMe. All three kits were mailed at the exact same time. I’m not complaining about 23andMe, my results were returned 2 weeks to the day they received them and the original information said results would be back in 4-6 weeks.

Like me son, there was no startling surprises. Instead, it confirmed that I have quite a bit of neanderthal dna which my mom swore we did. I gasped when I saw the numbers. Don’t you hate it when your parents were right?! I wish my mom was alive to see those findings. When I told hubby he was stunned. “How did your mom know that?” he asked. She was always fascinated with them and read anything she could. Back in the day, the thought was there was none of their dna surviving. I would tell my mom that and she would counter that science will find out the truth. Geez! I always thought my mom was interested because most of the excavated sites were in northern Croatia where her parents had been born. She also swore her slightly extended jaw was a carry over from them. Now I have a cave visit on my bucket list.

The rest of the results were exactly as I had expected. Lots of French/German and Eastern European. Those early Persian-Greek roots show up supporting my grandmother’s stories and my grandfather’s gypsy heritage also is visible. I’m so glad I listened when they told those tales. I admit I didn’t believe them 100% in my youth. Seriously, how many families could pass down stories from 2000 years ago but they proved to be correct.

Since I’m an only child and there are no males that could test on my father’s line for 3 generations back, I never had any results on his side. The autosomal gave me that. It’s a no brainer to figure out from where my Great Britain, Scandinavian and French/German was received.

I’m not greatly impressed with 23andMe’s connections to other test takers. I preferred Ancestry’s which shows clearly if another tester had uploaded a tree, how many were in the tree, if the tree was private or public and if a match from my uploaded tree to another tester was found via a shaky leaf. I discovered that most of 23andMe’s matches to myself were recorded as Anonymous and were so old that they don’t even use the site any longer. There was really no one to share a tree with as all were 3-4 or more cousins apart from me. Since I tested my son through Ancestry I could use that feature to make connections which I did.

I created a database in Excel and made the following headings:
Message to
Common Ancestor
Descended Through (this is where the other person was descended and not me)
Date (I sent the email)
Relationship Estimate (such as 3-4 cousin)
Comments (if no tree, how I deduced where the relationship was)

I sent out 50 brief emails to relatives and recorded who I sent a message to on the database. Within 12 hours I’d heard from 25%. I’ve heard complaints that Ancestry’s system is useless since many people do not upload a tree or have a minimal one, at best. I didn’t find this to be a problem for me as I have a very large tree and recognized many unique surnames. Of the first 50 cousins given, only 3 do I not find a connection. Two of the 3 wrote back immediately and we’re exploring relationships now. I could see how this would be a problem if someone was adopted and had no parental knowledge. On a side note, I attended a training in the past week where the presenter made a catty remark about large trees. The trainer felt it was a “waste of time accumulating people.” I agree just trying to collect names isn’t productive but if a surname study was done with citations to prove relationship then accumulating the data is beneficial to making connections.

The coolest thing about my results was reconnecting with people who have emailed me over the last 22 years since I first posted a public tree online. My 4th cousin on the Bollenbacher line and my 3rd cousin on the Leininger side had tested and sure enough, we’re related exactly how we thought. They made those predictions 10 years ago. It’s nice to know that the paper trail matched the science.

The 23andMe result interpretation again mentions Marie Antoinette as my old Ancestry mtDNA had mentioned years ago. Not relevant to me but does correlate with the other test. The new results added Copernicus in the same haplogroup. My son liked that. Since I’m now working in a STEM school I thought that was appropriate.

Now we wait for hubby’s results. In the meantime, I uploaded my raw data to FTDNA and MyHeritage. I’m going to upload my sons and my results to gedmatch, too. Stay tuned.

The Results Are In!


On Amazon Prime Day, I purchased 3 autosomal DNA kits – two from 23andMe and 1 from Ancestry. Seven years ago, hubby and I tested through Ancestry. He completed mt and y; obviously I just could do mt. Ancestry has long since stopped supporting those test results although they are still available to view on their site. Back in those days, I never connected with anyone. My “closest” match was Marie Antoinette of “let them eat cake” fame. I was so unimpressed I decided not to upgrade when autosomal became available.

A second cousin of mine reconnected with me via Find-A-Grave and in our back and forth emails, had tested with National Geographic. We compared maternal Hapogroup and not surprisingly, were the same.

The more I read about dna, which was my genealogy goal this year, and since I am an only child I thought I could gain some additional info on my paternal side by taking an autosomal test. I also was interested in comparing my husband and his sister and then to our children. My plan was to purchase 5 autosomal kits. Sales had come and gone earlier this year – DNA Day in April, Mothers Day in May, Fathers Day in June. Due to our major remodel I figured I’d wait til November and give the kits as Christmas presents, thinking they’d be on sale. You can just imagine the excitement of my family members when I told them this was my plan. (I’m being facetious).

When I saw the price for 23andMe on Amazon Prime Day I decided I’d buy 2 kits for hubby and me since I had read it’s a good practice to compare results from different companies. I had wanted to do the full health tests but they were sold out. Later that day, Ancestry’s kits went on sale with a limit of 1 so I purchased it and offered it to my kids. My son lost the rock-paper-scissors (I am not making this up) so he took the test.

Two days after purchasing, the Ancestry kit arrived and son completed it the following day. The 23andMe kits arrived three days after purchase and my husband and I completed them immediately. Hubby took them all off to be mailed at the same time.

All of these kits were spit kits; our older tests had been cheek swabs. Personally, I like the cheek swabs more as they were quicker to complete.

On Thursday, Ancestry emailed that our son’s results were ready. Although the instructions said it could take as long as 6 weeks, the results were back in less than 2 weeks. I was quite impressed!

The results were interesting but not startling. Now I always knew he was our biological child so I didn’t anticipate any conflicts there. He had a unique look at birth so I knew he hadn’t been switched by the hospital. I just didn’t know if our ancestors had been faithful. I know that sounds awful but I always had a funny feeling that something was not quite right with a family member’s tale. One of my direct line ancestors had gone out west for 6 months. I personally felt that there was a child born out of wedlock but no one would ever confess to knowing more. Reading so many books and journal and newspaper articles lately about DNA surprises I thought I may have one of my own. If my hunch is correct the test results didn’t reveal it, possibly because no one has yet taken a test.

What we found interesting in the results was that it made our son eager to learn about his heritage. My kids grew up visiting cemeteries and old houses that ancestors had lived in long ago. We have many customs and foods that have been handed down, along with things that belonged to those long gone. None of that interests either one of my kids. What hit him was the DNA Matches. The closest match stating it was a 1st or 2nd cousin was his godfather’s brother. He recognized the name immediately and said, “Wow, now I know why you picked such a close family member.” The results were accurate – the individual was his 2nd cousin and we’ve always said our son favors that side of the family more than any other. It’s not just how he looks, it’s what he like and how he acts. He grew up far away from anyone on that side and only knows about them from occasional holiday notes. He is more open to learning about that line now that he has the results. Why? Because he’s the kind of person who is logical, analytical and very scientific oriented and the results proved what I’ve said for years.

The next closest matches were for two other second cousins on his dad’s side. Surnames of third cousin matches were also familiar and a mix of both my sides and his dads. He recognized the names and just kept saying, “Wow.”

The only Community Circle that he had was Pennsylvania which would be his dad’s side. You know I’ve blogged extensively about the Harbaughs and that would be them. Those lines came in the mid-1700’s and intermarried for several generations. It wasn’t until 1869 that they relocated from Pennsylvania to Indiana.

I should have expected the percentages of ancestry to be what they were – predominately Great Britain with lesser amounts of Scandinavia and Eastern European. Back in the day my husband’s results on his y included Chad but our son’s results did not. My husband’s old mt also showed Asian ethnicity and again, this didn’t show up in our son. We’re thinking that was the reference groups that had been used that are more refined now. Also, my husband’s haplogroups did have lines going from those areas.

Yesterday I uploaded the results to FTDNA and MyHeritage. It takes 24-48 hours to get matches there so I’ll write more if anything exciting is discovered.

Was spending $49 worth it? You bet! I’m looking forward to receiving my results soon.

Must Reads

Still catching up from my recent vacations and would like to pass on some awesome articles I’ve just read:

Ancient DNA solves the mystery of the Canaanites (Washington Post)

She thought she was Irish… (Washington Post)

How a rare skin disease links SA to an 18th century Frenchman (The Conversation Africa)

Save the Census (New York Times)

Plus, just announced, Legacy Family Tree will merge with MyHeritage. Special deals coming soon!