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.
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!
Ancestry.com has again updated their DNA Results Summary. Sure, it’s only as accurate as the number of people who have tested. What my latest results tell me is that Ancestry has had a whole lot more Swedish, German and Slavs testing and not many Balkans.
I know this because the updated results show I am 42% Eastern European and Russian and 41% Germanic Europe.
In Ancestry’s last update, I was considered French; today I am of German ancestry.
My paternal line would not have thought much of that finding; with a name like Leininger they would have accepted the Germanic Europe as fact. The truth is more complex – the ancestors that were forgotten most likely would have been livid with the designation as they considered themselves French. My two times great grandmother was christened as Marie Marguerite not the Germanic Maria Margarette. Her spouse was christened Jean Leininger and not Johan. They resided in the Palatinate, the region that flipped several time between what is now Germany and France. They wisely spoke both French and German. Funny that the land has stopped switching but the ethnicity indicators haven’t. Ancestry would be smart to have a Palatine region noted instead of moving ethnicity results every update.
Interestingly, the results do include 5% of an ethnicity estimate as French and the region is the Riviera, where my Lamphere’s (Landfairs) did reside in the 1600’s prior to fleeing France for London and then Ireland and then Virginia. It appears they intermarried with relatives and others who fled with them and that is somewhat supported in that I now have no Irish identified. Well, that’s not quite true, either…
My Irish is encompassed under my Scottish designation.
I also find it interesting that I have Welsh separated from England (which encompasses Northwestern Europe now). I am most definitely Welsh with my people moving to Cheshire for a time. That is shown in the map, along with the northwest section of France. That is also correct as I have some William the Conqueror folks originating in that French region.
My maternal line, though, would have my grandmother in requesting her money back.
Family stories shared by my grandmother say her side moved to the what is now the outskirts of Zagreb, Croatia around the time of Christ because of overpopulation on the island to the south where they once resided. That would most likely have been Kos Island, part of Greece today. The now defunct National Geographic project did route my ancestry on that trail. Grandma said my grandfather’s people had already been in the Zagreb region when her people arrived and they had been Gypsies. National Geographic’s results showed that, too. Using records, I can show that my maternal line was in the Zagreb region as far back as the 1600’s. Based on a title the family was awarded, I can show some were in the region as early as the 1100’s. For 900 years, they resided in a small area in what is now known as Croatia. According to Ancestry, I’m 3% Balkan.
Explaining to my grandmother how Ancestry obtains their results would have been maddening. I’m sure some of you are going to have to try with an older relative. I send you good thoughts in doing that!
I am quite impressed, though, with Ancestry and their Swedish results. Look above as I have shown how Southern Sweden is shown by region. I have worked very hard to get most of my husband’s Swedish lines identified and they are from the area Ancestry identified. I’m looking forward to someday seeing a trend like this for my other ethnicities.
Ancestry has also released a section called StoryScout. It’s housed under DNA and includes information that you may have provided in a tree. I didn’t spend much time on this but I did take a look and it reminded me of something that is important to do and I honestly fail at it.
The section is based on census and military records from the 20th century. Sure, I’ve saved those records to my ancestors 20 plus years ago. I know where they lived, who they lived with, blah blah blah. What gave me pause, however, was that it correctly showed my maternal grandfather and noted that his income was nearly twice that of an average man at the time. He made $1400.00 per year when the average was in the mid $700.00’s. Wow. This explained to me why my immigrant family could afford a car in the 1920’s, a phone in the 1930’s, travel to California in the 1940’s and to Europe in the ’60’s. Now I understand why grandma, when babysitting me, would drag me to the nice stores and dress shops and had her hair done each week. Duh! They never flaunted their wealth and dutifully shipped supplies several times a year back to the old country. Thanks, Ancestry, for taking one small data point in the census and giving me an insight I hadn’t he thought about. Try it, it might work for you, too.
Last week my blog was a whole lot longer than usual but I figured now that you’re housebound, you’ve got time to read. I have seven additional ideas to work on since you can’t run down to your local archive or call a library to access a record. Now is a wonderful opportunity to…
1. Review what you have on that brick wall ancestor. Take every scrap of evidence and spread it out on your workspace. Now arrange it in chronological order and study it. Next arrange it by connections, such as every document that has the spouse’s name, too. Do you see any missing time frames? Maybe there was a marriage certificate for 1842, a deed in the same county for 1852 but one of the individuals isn’t mentioned in the 1860 U.S. Federal census but shows up again in 1870. That’s a clue to figure out where the individual was in 1860 – maybe they were ill and placed in a sanitarium, perhaps they were visiting an adult child in another area, the person may have had to find work elsewhere or attend the funeral of a family member. Not sure where the person might have been? I recommend reading my last blog article and doing item 3. After you do that …
2. Take your time to synthesize the information. Don’t rush – we aren’t going anywhere for awhile. Let the information just percolate in your brain. Write down what you find odd or missing. Now it’s time to…
3. Do some exercise. Hubby and I now start our day with a beginner yoga video we found on youtube. Stretching and breathing will help your brain process the information so give it a try. The workout may have made you hungry so now think about…
4. Family recipes. My hubby’s birthday is coming up and I may have to dig up the family Depression Cake recipe because I don’t know what ingredients will be available at the grocery. That recipe makes me think of other recipes that got my family through difficult times. When my grandparents were quarantined with their young family because of a scarlet fever outbreak, she practiced social distancing by speaking with her neighbors through their open windows. Reminds me of the people singing together on the balconies in Italy or exercising in Spain. In my family’s case, grandma got a great spaghetti sauce recipe from the Italian neighbor and what we call corn meal mush, from the southern neighbor on the other side of her home. That was nearly 100 years ago. Think about the legacy you’re leaving your descendants…
5. Write down your experiences. I realize how spoiled and privileged we are. I miss going to restaurants the most. I only recall both sets of my grandparents going to a restaurant once. My maternal grandparents, my mother and I went with a neighbor to the Beach Café in Miller, Indiana when I was about 6 years old to get perch on a Friday night during Lent. Mr. Bauer had just become a widow and missed going to the café with his wife so my family joined him. I didn’t know then that he had been a character witness 20 years earlier for my grandparents so they could become citizens. My paternal grandparents, my parents and I went to a diner in Hobart, Indiana when I was about 3 years old. I have no idea why we only went once or why we went there but I recall there were other people with us so I suspect visiting relatives must have come to town. They ordered a large pizza and to me, it looked disgusting so I refused to eat it. I ended up getting the chicken drumstick child’s dinner. My dad bought me a plastic rocket that came apart in three pieces – it was the Cold War and we were going to beat those Russians. That was 60 years ago. Those are my memories of dining out – now write yours and if you get stuck…
6. Ask an older relative about their recollections. Now is the time to connect so give them a call, email, Skype or even write a snail mail letter. I wish I had thought to ask my grandparents about the 1919 Influenza pandemic. I know my grandfather and great grandfather both got it in January; my grandmother blamed their resistance being shot to working the night shift at U.S. Steel and riding their bikes home in the cold rain. My grandfather got over it quickly; my great grandfather died. He had been known to have asthma and epilepsy and the flu turned into pneumonia. I have the funeral photo with no social distancing practiced. I know how the family coped – my grandmother took in borders to help pay the bills now that half the money was gone. What I don’t know is how they prepared for the epidemic. Perhaps they never did. The family raised chickens and rabbits and canned their garden vegetables. I really wish I had asked more questions. If you aren’t able to connect with an older generation because you are the older generation then…
7. Reach out to those your DNA says are family. Sure, you tried that before but they didn’t respond. Well, try, try again because they’re probably home now, too, and just might have time to respond to you.
Remember, Shakespeare and Newton did their best work during a pandemic. Keep up your spirits by thinking about how your ancestors handled adversity. Let them serve as a model for you.
While you were partying away the holidays, you might have missed the announcement from Curtis Rogers, founder of GEDMatch, that he has sold his business to Verogen, Inc.
What does this mean to you? Well, stay tuned as for now, not much but in the ever changing world of genealogy it could be something later.
I’m not surprised by the sale; GEDMatch was having a difficult time moving the company forward (ie. the website was early millenium when they started) and with policy, such as what constituted adherence to their guidelines ethically regarding privacy and usage by 3rd party sources. I’ve blogged about last year (The Dark Side of DNA) if you’d like details.
Personally, I’ve left my DNA open to view. This may be a naive decision but I think it’s the most ethical for the moment. I don’t care if I’m contacted by the police searching for a relative. No one is going to steal the limited DNA available and clone me (I have heard that claim from a few clients). On the contrary, I may connect with others who hold the answers to which I seek. And maybe not!
Like every decision we make daily, there are pros and cons. I’m taking a wait and see attitude with this sale and will keep you informed of any new developments.
The blog I write today was not the one I planned and I want to make clear this is my OPINION.
I blog about genealogy because it is my passion and I have found that it pairs wonderfully with my first interest, psychology. I often start the day reading the news and today was no different. Having just about finished my second cup of coffee, I was flipping through the stories on The Washington Post when I came across an article published yesterday, “The Dark Side of our Genealogy Craze” by Honor Sachs, an assistant history professor at the University of Colorado – Boulder.
I beg to differ with the author’s main premise. In paragraph 1, “…But the rise of genealogy may also, paradoxically, exacerbate the virulently anti-immigration fervor propelling President Trump’s policies and increase racial inequality…” As the thesis statement, the article continues to present the author’s justification of her views that researching one’s family history is dangerous for the future and the interest in learning this information is short-lived, per her word choice in the title. I strongly disagree.
To prove her point, the author cites the beginning of the growing interest in finding one’s lineage to Alex Haley’s Roots. The book and television series without a doubt, gave rise to genealogy in the late 20th century. Yes, the story was about an African American whose ancestors were enslaved and those of European ancestry did use the methods Haley outlined to begin their own research. I am one of them with two of my European lines entering through Ellis Island. I am also a Boomer.
How the author connected Roots, Boomers and Ellis Island to this statement, “The exploration of this heritage provided a language through which the baby boomer generation could safely distance themselves from the mandates of the Civil Rights era without sounding explicitly racist.” is unclear.
As a historian, I would think the author would know that the Boomers were deeply affected by the Civil Rights era since we were born in the 1950-60’s and were the product of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. Boomers are of all races with many of us attending integrated schools as a result of the Supreme Court decision. While some of us are racist, most of us are not. Racism is not tied to a generation; it permeates all ages and races. Many Americans of European descent supported (and still do) Civil Rights. Some even died because of their involvement. Many Boomers raised children to be global citizens in integrated schools.
Racism today is not the result of the Boomers or any other generation of Americans with European ancestry interested in genealogy. Unfortunately, racism will not die with the Boomers but will continue to grow as youths buy into the propaganda they are reading online.
Here’s another problem I have with the Post’s article; the author states “While European immigrants faced significant historic struggles, their descendants mobilized such hardships to dilute the claims of historically persecuted groups that remained marginalized with their own narratives of past immigrant oppression.” She then goes on to cite Richard Nixon and his “coded language.” While I agree that Nixon’s word choice were coded for his base, so are every politician of every party in every nation. Generalizing that all descendants of Europeans who researched their heritage resulted in marginalizing persecuted groups and “resonates with our modern-day genealogical revival” is just wrong. Show me the data!
The author continues that although genealogy can benefit those members of historically persecuted groups, it can also “empower those who seek to divide, deny and disenfranchise.” DNA with the Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” debacle is mentioned, along with others of primarily European descent attempting to gain access to programs for underrepresented people. Let me be clear – it is wrong to try to gain entry to a privilege that was not established for you. In my genealogical experience, people who have taken DNA tests typically do not take them for the purpose of undermining the system. Most take them because they want to know who their birth parents were for health reasons, where their immigrant ancestor originated, or to compare their results with family members to determine which got what genetic material from each parent.
Knowing that information does not make me want to hold an indigenous group today responsible. It was wrong to steal children then, just as it’s wrong to separate children from their immigrant parents today. Learning this occurred in my family’s past makes me even more vehemently opposed to what is happening at our border. Understanding what my immigrant family members were fleeing in the old country makes me more empathetic with today’s people who are seeking asylum. Remembering that my grandparents were targeted by the KKK and my father’s WWII Army placementwas made due to his German sounding last name (DNA now shows more French then German but who knew back them because there was no DNA tests!) allows me to listen to the message from historically disenfranchised groups to gain their perspective.
Historian George Santayana got it right, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Correlating genealogy with racism is wrong. I know my family’s past because I am a genealogist. My ancestors made mistakes just like every human does every day. I strive to learn from their mistakes and follow their examples for what they did correctly.
No one inherited a racism gene. Racism’s root is fear of not being in power, of losing privilege status and therefore, of becoming indigent. My definition of poor has nothing to do with money; I define poor as those who lack a moral compass. I’ve met poor wealthy people and rich poor people, as I bet you have. Interesting that the fear of having no money sometimes results in those who have it in become overly controlling at the expense of others to keep it and those that don’t have it, trying to differentiate from another group to make themselves feel superior. Those kinds of people unite in their shared biased worldview and make it bad for all the rest of us. It leads to a closed mindset and a regression to what we see happening with leaders across the world – derogatory name calling, ostracizing, categorizing, and segregating. Communication ceases which only separates us further.
Please, let’s stop dividing ourselves by age, race, gender, place of origin, religion, sexual orientation, education level and career choice. The Human Genome Project showed that we all share humanness, we are all one. Our search for our ancestors isn’t the problem. Finding your family’s story and relating it to the world today to make for a better tomorrow is imperative.
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
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.
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.
Twice a year, my local genealogy society holds a free Meet a Genealogist Day at a regional library. The well attended event allows the general public with little knowledge of genealogy to meet with a professional to kick start their research. Over the years that I’ve participated, the trend has been more and more questions about DNA.
The genealogy society does provide free classes on a variety of topics during the year but unfortunately, most are held during the day which working people can’t attend. I think that’s one of the reasons the Meet a Genealogist Day is so widely attended as it’s held on a Saturday.
I just received an email with the new date and a new format. The event will be held in two rooms – one for general research (which I call old school methods) and the other for those interested only in DNA research.
I’m not sure where I’ll be placed as I’m fine with either group but I am looking forward to the “data” that shows the interest level of the two groups. One part of me says that it’s all the same – that you need to use both historical record research and DNA results. The other part of me, from my participating in past events, understands why there is a new division. People are getting DNA results and not understanding what they mean or how to move forward with their findings.
I’m not criticizing the companies who are providing the results. Most have done an amazing job with giving lots of helpful information on their sites. Even so, it is overwhelming to many and unfortunately, sometimes the results are disappointing.
We all know real life is not T.V., however, I wish I had a dollar for every time someone came to me saying they thought they’d find a family connection with an entire tree done once they had their DNA results back. Then there’s the smaller number of people who insist that the DNA lab messed up their results and that they aren’t the ethnicity that was stated. A few have insisted that the results were just plain wrong when the results show they aren’t related to a known relative. I know of one local genealogist who insists that happened. Interestingly, the individual did not get retested. Personally, if this happened to me I would contact the company AND I would test with another company to compare results. Mistakes happen but I’ve never ever heard that the mistake was made by the lab.
So, the underlying issue is having difficulty accepting the DNA results. Like with all of life’s disappointments, that healing takes time.
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.