Shopping for holiday DNA kits? I want to caution you about your upcoming purchase. In the ever changing world of DNA, the results you receive won’t be the same a year from now and I’m not talking about mutations to your chromosomes.
The more people that test, the larger the database (duh) and that increase results in a refinement of the ethnicities listed. I’ve lost count of how many times Ancestry.com has emailed me that my results have been altered. Make sure that you or whoever you purchased the test for, understands that the results are fluid.
Once you’ve wrapped your head around that concept, you need to be cognizant of the bigger picture – that your DNA results might just disappear. Yes, you paid for them but that doesn’t mean they will be available forever.
I was one of the early testers on Ancestry.com; a few years after I had my X tested they moved to autosomal and no longer supported my original results. The only way I could access DNA match was to be retested.
Now the granddaddy of DNA testing has announced that they will be ceasing operation in June 2020 – National Geographic’s Genographic Project. That project, launched in 2005, was an anthropological study to identify historical migration patterns. Geno2 was unveiled in 2016 and now that is coming to an end. Although the purpose of that project was not genealogical, families often were interested in the long term historical findings hiding in their DNA.
At it’s inception the project was voluntary but I missed my local test date. When the company decided to expand for a cost, it was pricey for my family’s pocketbook so I didn’t participate. A colleague did and I was intrigued by the colorful interpretive guide that she received – just what you’d expect from National Geographic. Eventually, when the price dropped, I did purchase a kit.
If you have results, you must download and save or you won’t be able to access after May 2020.
Two weeks ago I wrote about genealogy patience. This is a follow up that I’m having difficulty writing because I’m so overwhelmed with joy at the moment I can hardly contain myself! Now this story is also just plain weird and I think proves that the universe has a wicked sense of humor so I hope you enjoy what I’m about to relate.
I have searched for a picture of my husband’s maternal Great Grandmother Lovisa “Louise” Carlson Johnson for years (pictured above with her three daughters). When a DNA match was discovered two years ago in August I sent an email asking if the match had a picture. He responded this year on Halloween that he didn’t think so but would check with another family member who had a box of unlabeled photos and would get back to me. I put it out of my mind as I wish I had a buck for every time a family member said, “I’ll check and get back with you.” My people procrastinate and they never seem to followup up unless I keep bothering them. I figured, with the holidays approaching and people getting busy, I’d wait til after Thanksgiving and send a gentle reminder.
I went about my business and was volunteering two weeks ago at a local genealogy library event assisting interested patrons in finding their roots. I had helped 2 wonderful retired teachers when things got really slow. I considered leaving but the event was supposed to continue for one more hour and I don’t like to cut out early when I’ve committed so I decided to bring up Arkidigital.com, a Swedish genealogy site, that is awesome. I used to belong but found most of my husband’s Swedish records so I didn’t renew. Since it was free for the weekend I decided I’d revisit and see if they had added any new records. I was still bringing it up when a new patron stopped by. So, you can probably guess that the woman had deep Swedish roots. What a coincidence, I thought, and told her I just happened to open up the free site. She was interested in discovering information about her great grandfather who settled in Minnesota. She thought he had changed his name at Ellis Island so she wasn’t sure how to verify the story.
I didn’t need Arkivdigital for that so I went in search of naturalization records and World War I and II draft records to see if we could find a clue. There it was – he hadn’t changed his name at all. What she had thought was a last name appeared to be a Confirmation name that he had stopped using between 1917 and 1942. He had emigrated under the name he had arrived with in the U.S. and continued using it; it is on his tombstone.
By the time we had found the evidence, the event was ending so I showed her how to go to Arkivdigital to search for his birth record in Sweden. Turns out, she was also a former educator and she told me a funny story of her attending a conference in Wales several years ago. I replied I wanted to go there, to Croatia and to Sweden to see family’s old haunts but I couldn’t find a tour that went where my husband and my people lived. She told me she had gone on a fantastic trip to Sweden through a group out of Minnesota and gave me their website. I told her I’d check it out when I got home.
On the way home I stopped in a store to pick up a few items and yes, they were already playing holiday muzak. What was on was Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer. Geez, I thought, what a dumb song. I couldn’t get it out of my mind.
I got home and told my husband I’d love to go to Sweden next summer and was going to check out a tour group. Sure enough, the tour went exactly where we needed to visit. Wow, I thought, that’s coincidence number 2 for the day – the last lady just happens to give me the info that I’ve been looking for. I sent the company an email.
After dinner I decided I’d bring Arkivdigital back up and search for a bit. I had my tree up on one screen and the website I’d be searching on the other when an Ancestry little leaf appeared. As I’ve written several times, I typically just ignore the hints but this time something told me to check it out. It was for my husband’s paternal great grandfather, Samuel Samuelson, who had died in 1908. It was a link to Find-A-Grave. I already had that info but clicked to go to Find-A-Grave anyway. I’m so glad I did because a man interested in history had recently posted a newspaper story from a Chesterton, Indiana paper that is not available anywhere online regarding the circumstances surrounding Samuel’s death. The information hadn’t been there the last time I looked (so you have to go back and look over sites again or you might miss something important). I had the death certificate which noted accident – skull crushed but I assumed that was the result of a farming accident of some sort. Nope, the accident explained that Samuel and a neighbor were crossing a train track when the sleigh they were in was hit by the train. Both men and horse died. Okay, so here’s the weird, twisted part – I couldn’t get the reindeer song out of my head. I was humming it when I read this. I got a sick feeling – I’m humming a song that’s supposed to be funny but I just discovered someone’s gruesome death in a related accident. That was the 3rd coincidence that day. The individual who posted the article had also posted the obituary which said, “…his youthful looks and manner, his good nature, and never failing sense of humor made him a delightful companion…”. Somehow, I thought he would be amused by this twisted occurrence. And learning about his personality, the man sounds just like my husband.
By this point I was just done with genealogy for the day so I thought I’d check my email and then call it a night. There was an email and it was from the DNA match who said he’s get back with me – he had found a few pictures that were labeled and they were of my husband’s maternal great grandma! It must have been Sweden Day as the photos he sent me were of different stages in the woman’s life. He promised to send me a thumb drive with all the photos of other relatives he had but warned me that most weren’t labeled.
I just got the thumb drive – my, oh, my, what a wonderful early Christmas present! There was my husband’s maternal grandparents wedding photo which was also the earliest photo of his grandfather I had ever seen.
There were photos, labeled, that had stepchildren of his great great grandfather. There were church records! Someone had gone to a long closed church and photographed the handwritten membership list. There is so many genealogical gems that I haven’t even gone through everything yet.
Oddly, he had even sent photos of my husband’s paternal side of the family who isn’t even his relation. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised but in 1917, they all had attended a wedding for one of his relatives. Living in the small farming community, it shouldn’t have been surprising a wedding would have brought neighbors together. I just never expected to find so many of my husband’s great and grandparents in these photos.
But that’s not all! I had a grainy photo of the Harbaugh family reunion but I could never make out most of the individuals because someone had moved the camera as the photo was taken. It was also a far shot and the people were so tiny. Enlarging the photo only made it more blurry. Turns out I had the first photo and the photographer decided to take a second shot. I can tell as the man in the front row far left has turned to walk away from the group. Unbelievably, the photo I just received has names attached and is clear as can be:
Check out the man in row 2, third from left that looks like Abe Lincoln. That would be my husband’s maternal great grandfather. It is the only photo known to be in existence of him! His wife is right in front of him. I had a grainy photo of her from a church group shot taken about 10 years before this one. All of my husband’s great aunts and uncles are also pictured and we never had any of their photos, either! The mysterious Louisa, who I had originally contacted the DNA match for a photo, is also shown.
So my patience really paid off and I highly encourage you, this upcoming holiday season, to ask for the stories – photos – documents – DNA tests – that will enhance what you’ve already discovered and give you a more complete story of your ancestors. Happy Hunting!
I have blogged extensively about my mysterious Duer family that I connect with DNAwise but can’t prove a firm document relationship between son Thomas, who died in 1829 and his purported father, John, who died in 1831. Thomas’ family lived next to John in Trumbull County, Ohio but none of Thomas’ children were mentioned in John’s will. John’s will only mentioned 1 grandchild and named all of his other living children. The 1 grandchild was the son of his deceased daughter and was easily recognizable by his last name, Hazen.
I’ve theorized that none of Thomas’ children were named because Thomas had already been given an “inheritance” of land adjoining John’s. I also thought John might have been slightly put off by Thomas’ widow, Hannah, quickly remarrying another neighbor who was a widower, James Preston. That marriage didn’t seem to last as both Hannah and James can be found in 1840 living with their adult children.
The land that Thomas lived on remained with one of his son’s until the mid-1800’s when he sold it to what I believe would have been a cousin who had come to own John’s property. Of course, there was nothing to show the connection between the two listed in the deed transaction so I can’t prove that relationship, either.
I’ve been told repeatedly to give up the search but I will admit I’m obsessed with this line. So, every few months, I recheck to see if any new records are uploaded, a new DNA match can be found that might hold the key in their basement or attic, or a donation is made to an archive in the areas the family lived where someone drops off records that will be the proof I need.
Yes, I already have DNA proof. There have been several descendants of John’s children who have tested and we all relate but I want a document! Or do I?
Last month, I found 2 documents online that gave me promise. I was hoping they would lead me to the smoking gun record; this is what I discovered posted on Ancestry with no citation:
Although I found this posting just two days after it was done, when I reached out to the poster, her response was she couldn’t remember where she found it and would get back with me. I love her dearly because she wrote back the next day and said she found it from another Ancestry poster named John Shivers. She though it came from Revolutionary War Patriots from Ohio. She gave me a link to an archive in Ohio but they didn’t have it.
I found a John Shivers on Ancestry and emailed him but he hadn’t been online in over a year so I wasn’t hopeful I would get a response. I wasn’t even sure he was the John Shivers that originally posted it as I couldn’t access the private tree.
Then I reached out to a colleague in my locale who is a member of the Trumbull County Genealogical Society to see if he could check the membership roster and give me contact info for John Shivers. There was no info but he sent me a new member who was interested in the Duers. I emailed them but the email address wasn’t working.
I then searched Worldcat and Google for the title but only found a SAR pdf that wouldn’t open.
Going to the national SAR website, I found no new info; the Ancestor # 150827 is the number assigned by that organization so I decided to reach out to the Mahoning County, Ohio Chapter hoping that they might have a file with the relationship I was seeking that wasn’t submitted to national.
The local chapter’s website is under construction. Their Facebook page has no contact info. I reached out to a Trumbull County local who had given me info several years ago – she had tripped over Thomas’ fallen gravestone when she was conducting a cemetery clean up and loves to kid me that he almost killed her. She found two email addresses for local SAR members.
I emailed both. One never responded. The other said he’s no longer in that area so isn’t a member but he kindly forwarded my query to the current president. The president said the chapter reactivated 4 years ago and has no old files in their possession (who knows what happened to that stuff!?) so he forwarded my email to the organization’s state genealogist. That gentleman gave me the heartbreaking news – the real citation is from Roster of Revolutionary War soldiers buried in Ohio. Wilbur R. Branthoover, compiler. Veterans Affairs, Ohio. Reprinted by OHSDAR. 1929.
The SAR doesn’t even use it any longer because the info has been found to be incorrect. That is true – my John Duer who is buried in Ohio served in New Jersey and not Pennsylvania, that was my John’s cousin also named John.
So, another dead end here. Then I found another posting that stated that Thomas had been in the War of 1812. That was news to me as I had checked online and in the National Archives and could never find him involved in that conflict. The posting had a citation (hurray!) and when I followed up this is what I found:
It was a John Duer and not Thomas that served. Someone had misindexed and then hadn’t checked the original source. And the John named to have served in the War of 1812 was my John’s grandson but not descended from Thomas. You have to laugh at this – I discovered the mistake on November 2, 2019, 107 years to the day that this cousin John left the service.
Yes, I’m deeply disappointed that the newly found leads led to nothing but I’m not giving up. Several people have told me that I’m never going to find what I’m looking for but I don’t agree. I’m thinking boots on the ground might be my next action. Unfortunately, that will have to wait a while.
In the meantime, I’m moving on to other lines. Oh, Duers, why doth disappoint me so?
You know that Bible verse Matthew 7:7, “Ask and it shall be given to you, knock and you shall find?” I believe it was really written for genealogists. I would add to it – “though not immediately.”
In August, 2017, I sent an email query to a DNA cousin on Ancestry. I recognized the surname, Chellburg, and knew immediately the relationship. I was hoping to find a picture of my husband’s great grandmother, Louvisa “Louise” Carlson Johnson. Louise had lived in the house my husband grew up in and when my husband’s parents were relocating, I claimed all the photos and letters that had been stored in a suitcase in the basement. Of course they weren’t labeled. We were able to identify just about everyone, however, and no photo was ever found to be of Louise. Maybe she was camera shy or perhaps, when she moved in with another daughter the last year of her life, the pictures went with her. I was really hoping the last scenario was the case.
Over the years, I’ve checked with all the closer relatives for a photo and no one had one so when the DNA match came up I immediately sent off a message. Hey, I followed the Biblical directions – I asked and the email served as an electronic knock and then, well, I guess no one was home because I didn’t get a response.
Two years, two and a half months later I get an email back with the answer (paraphrased) – Sorry, I haven’t been on in a while. I don’t have a picture of Louise but I have one of her husband, Gust Johnson. I think another cousin, who’s 92, has the photos. He’s got a lot but none our labeled.
Big surprise there – another box of unlabeled photos. My husband had actually reached out to the older relative a few years ago but he didn’t respond. Now I’m hoping that the DNA match can connect with him to find a photo.
I am many things but patient is not in my makeup so the waiting really is the hardest part of genealogy for me.
Happy Dia Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). This year, for Halloween, one of my family members created two glow in the dark pumpkins and a skull and dressed a skeleton to look like Disney’s Coco’s grandpa, Hector. Sneaky way to get little ones to learn about genealogy relationships! It was quite lifelike, or should I write, really dead looking? Two little girls burst into tears which was not my intention and I felt awful but the mom’s said they loved the movie. I had to show the girls that it wasn’t real. One little boy was so enamored he said he had questions for Hector and could he come inside. I told him Hector wasn’t talking tonight and would want the boy to enjoy his candy collecting. Ahh, children and genealogy, what an interesting mix. Their reaction is just like adults – some run when you start asking about family history and others want all the details.
Two weeks ago I wrote about DNA now being available from hair follicles. Right after reading that article, I found another story that I suspect relates to it though the articles purpose is to bring up a controversial side of DNA and genealogy. The Messy Consequences of the Golden State Killer Case by Sarah Zhang published in The Atlantic 1 October 2019 will give you a better understanding of why GedMatch and Family Tree Genealogy recently changed their policies.
As technology evolves, past policies must be rethought. I’ve blogged in the past about clients and colleagues mentioning that their returned DNA results were just plain wrong. We all understand that DNA is a Pandora’s box of family secrets but it never crossed my mind that medical procedures acquired as an adult could skew the results. When I read A Woman Found Her AncestryDNA Test Revealed a Medical Secret also written by Sarah Zhang and published in The Atlantic on 13 September 2019, I was shocked by the findings. I’m not going to give you a spoiler alert – you must read this article if you have DNA results that seem skewed. Who would have thought this?! Clearly not the specialists who first heard their patient’s stories.
Both articles are thought provoking whether you are a donor or are making the decision of sharing your DNA results.
The last DNA related article I’d like to share is a topic I’ve also blogged about in the past. Accepting the foibles of your family history can be difficult. Although the author, Ken Bradford, used DNA to build his tree, the old fashion research methods also provide the same results – acquiring the knowledge of the past sins of our forefathers. Look What the DNA Brought In published in Notre Dame Magazine Autumn 2019 can be helpful if your wrestling with the dark side of your family findings.
All of this is quite spooky, don’t you think? Happy Day of the Dead
Want to get help with an overwhelming indexing project or help get records you are desperately seeking online? You”re in luck! Now available is a crowd sourcing tool for genealogy groups or individual enthusiasts to use to help get those currently unavailable online records indexed for everyone’s benefit.
Thanks to the Federation of Genealogical Societies Fall Forum 2019 article, check out Crowd Sourced Indexing for more info. If you’re an individual who’d love to help the genealogy community but want to do that from the comfort of your home – check out the current index projects on the site and pick one that tugs at your heart. If your a community group that has salvaged old records and wants to get them indexed – on the ribbon, go to About and FAQ to obtain information on how to contact the site administrator to get your project up and running.
This is a win-win for all and with winter approaching, a perfect time to cuddle up with your laptop, a mug of cider and the knowledge you’re a do-gooder!
Short blog this week as I’m slammed with work. I just read something I think is super interesting – Hair DNA Advance Hailed as Forensic Game Changer. A family member knows I’m interested in DNA and genealogy and passed the article along to me. Personally I think it’s going to be a boon to family genealogy once the new technology gets simplified. Imagine being able to take in grandpa’s hair brush or that Victorian hair ring you inherited but have no idea who it originally belonged to! Better yet, think of mummies that still have clumps of hair or even woolly mammoths. I can’t even imagine all the new information that will result from these DNA samples.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about free genealogy newsletters I receive. I failed to mention I also read other genealogy blogs. Recently I read a wonderful article about New York Reformed Dutch church records.
Both my husband and I have ancestors who resided in New Amsterdam. Although I haven’t extensively researched those individuals, the blog article gave me new insights. Here’s what really stands out to add to my knowledge base:
Before 1664, the Reformed Dutch was the ONLY denomination permitted so if your ancestor was not of that religious persuasion and wanted to marry or attend a church service, the records are most likely held by the Reformed Dutch. Who knew?!
Although the church in Manhattan founded in 1628 is still in existence today, records are only available from 1639. That’s interesting because the physical church was erected in 1642. That same year a second church was erected in Albany.
Collegiate churches had 1 minister that traveled between several locations and all the records were maintained by the 1 minister. I have found that happened in New Jersey in the early 1700’s also.
Many Germans came to New Amsterdam and attended the Dutch church. Even after the city changed hands and became New York, Germans who immigrated continued to attend the Dutch church so make sure you look over Dutch church records.
The two databases on Ancestry.com for Dutch Church Records are NOT the same, even though they appear to be. There are a few names missing in one database so check both. As is always a good practice, go beyond using the index and browse the records as the transcription may be in error or the spelling may have been slightly changed from what you are seeking.
Check out the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society’s databases. I neglected to mention in my last blog that I also get their free weekly newsletter.
Ahhh, the constantly changing world of genealogy changes! If you’ve been thinking about uploading your DNA results to Promethease you need to get a move on it. Recently, MyHeritage announced that they were acquiring Promethease and after the end of this year, the site will no longer be free. Anyone who had an account with Promethease will continue to have it unless you opt out. If you are living in Europe, you must do so by November 1st – click here for that link. If you’d like to read the full story, check out MyHeritage’s blog article.
If you aren’t sure what Promethease is – I found the best definition from Google that explains “Promethease is a computer program developed by the SNPedia team which allows users to compare personal genomics results against the SNPedia database, generating a report with information about a person’s attributes, such as propensity to diseases, based on the presence of specific single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).”
I have used it and discussed the results with my physician and have compared my close family’s DNA results. Although Promethease has been free for awhile, I had to pay a nominal fee, I think it was a few dollars, back in the day when I first did it. I intend to go back on the site and update my results to see if there is any new developments. Since I’m a member of MyHeritage I will still have access but my family is not so I want to be able to get them an updated report.
Yesterday, we had a beautiful fall day and the change in temperature was such a welcome relief from summer’s heat. I remarked to a passerby how delightfully cool the morning breeze felt and our brief conversation about the weather turned to his place of origin, Trinidad and Tobago. I mentioned my family was indentured in Barbados in the 1700’s and that I’ve traveled to Grenada several times and love the island. The gentleman laughed and said his mother was from Grenada and his father from Barbados. Such a small world!
Don’t you just love reading old family letters? I certainly do! We don’t often think about all the valuable information that an old letter contains. Primary sources, names, places, dates and events that are recorded can provide us with clues to find other historical records, such as wills, journals, diaries, passenger lists and perhaps, even more letters.
The podcast discusses letters written by Bostonian Sarah Gray Cary who had relocated to Grenada in the Caribbean. Grenada has had an interesting history as it went from French to British ownership. The letters were written at the start of the American Revolution as Sarah took the last ship out of Boston after the tea party to join her husband who had taken a job on the island. She left behind her infant son due to the hardship of the trip thinking they would be reunited soon. Due to war, however, they did not see each other again for 10 years.
The letters are Sarah’s only way to connect with her child and other family members. Not only must she persevere over the unexpected length of her separation, she must learn to embrace three cultures.
After listening to the podcast, I plan on getting the book to read this fascinating true life story. Enjoy!