Blog 2022 09 13 Family and DNA Thoughts

Every once in a while (maybe a bit too often) I open links that pop up on Facebook which typically brings about more spamming of “Suggested for you” links.  But one I read this past weekend dealt with DNA and the damages it brought to families, although a bunch of the stories had great outcomes.  So here are my thoughts.

Let me start by saying I believe the people who changed your diaper, wiped your mouth, fed, clothed, and housed you are your parents.  Regardless of biology!

That said, anyone planning on taking a DNA test needs to prepare themselves mentally for the possibility that their results are not going to be what they expect.  The two terms used in this community are Non-Paternal Event (NPE) and Misattributed Parentage.  Due to a lot of controversy over the form term they are now saying, Not the Parent Expected.

The fallacy with saying Non-Paternal Event is that there was a paternal event, just not the one expected.  The insult of the term is that too many offspring in this category do not want to be referred to as an event in that way.  That is why I prefer the Misattributed Parentage.  We may find that there was an adoption, a sperm donor, or invitro-fertilization using another woman’s egg.

While I personally believe that once a child reaches the age of about 17, they need to be told the truth but too many parents are afraid the child may decide they want a closer relationship with their biological parent than with the one who raised them.  While this does happen, I have yet to see a story written where that was the case except for where the parent who raised them was dealing with their own demons of substance abuse or violent behavior.  In most normal families, there is that curiosity and desire to search and try to find but the parents who raised them should not feel slighted in any way.

Several of the stories were done by people wanting to know their ethnicity and that is how they found out. I need to remind you to take the ethnicity portion with a grain of salt unless you are of a heritage that was not mixed with a lot of others for many generations.  For example, my late wife who lived her first four years in a Korean orphanage was always labeled a Korean-American.  Recently my oldest son did the DNA test and he came back 50% Korean which meant she was 100% and that is believable.  But for most of us, the results are XX% British, XX% French, or German, etc.  Who is to say that this is accurate since the French invaded Germany many times over the last 1,000 years and Germany invaded France, the British invaded other countries, and the Vikings invaded what is now the British Isles.  So these ethnicities are so mixed, I take my results with a grain of salt as I have watched them change many times over the past 7 years.

But back to the main topic.  Should you take a test and discover a deep dark secret, I would suggest you be very sensitive as to why a particular parent may have wanted to keep it a secret and could possibly be embarrassed and then angry that you discovered it.  I would strongly recommend not throwing it in their face.  I recently spoke to a medical Doctor in Michigan who knew his dad was not his biological father but never knew who was.  That is until a half-sister popped up on his testing site and shared the name and pictures. The pictures matched the man he saw in photographs his mother had of her with the man about the time he was conceived.  I know his biological father was dead already and I don’t recall if his mother was either but he had no animosity over the matter.

The Army taught me to put the bottom line up front and in a way I did that but to state it more bluntly.  No one should take a DNA test unless they are prepared to see information that does not match their expectations.

Blog 2022 07 30  Interested in DNA?

Many folks are part of a genealogical society and many of them have Special Interest Groups (SIGs).  One might be on DNA and you should consider joining it to learn more.

I recently received emails from two different people with two different approaches.  The first one said they match me on GEDMatch and do I know how we connect?  Simply answer, No.  The other said he lived in New South Wales and we matched, without naming the testing site, but went on to say they also match Tom, JC, Mary, and Lana F.  That is the right way to approach someone.

Because that match Tom, my uncle, then they are definitely on my mother’s side.  My mother’s father was Andrew Amos Akers and her mother was Dorothy Ella Wales.  The fact that this person also matched JC and Lana F means the connection is on Dorothy’s side of the family.  JC is the son of Dorothy’s oldest sister and Lana the granddaughter of Dorothy’s youngest sister, Florence.  Now I can pinpoint the connection.  Dorothy’s grandmother was Charlotte Phoebe Roberts who was born in England and immigrated first to Toronto, Canada, and then to Chicago is the most natural connection.  And it was.

As to the first connection, she agreed to join me at my next DNA SIG and I will attempt, using GEDMatch to find the connection.  I may not be able to get to the very specific but using information I described above, we can get pretty close to the correct family.  If you are interested in joining us, we meet on the 2nd Tuesday of every month at 7 PM Eastern and you are welcome.  Just email me a request to join at least 2 hours before the meeting.

Blog 2022 05 22 Why don’t your DNA matches also match your sibling

I was wondering what to write when I received an interesting call from a former client who is also a distant cousin.  When he was looking for a professional genealogist in Georgia he recognized my name as a DNA match, since his mystery ancestor married the sister of my maternal 2nd great-grandfather.  I know, some of you are wondering why I did not say, grandmother?  John Steven Akers was my mother’s father’s father’s father and Mahalia Holland was his wife.  Her sister married my client’s ancestor.

Anyway, the purpose of his call concerns a common misconception.  Just because you and a distant cousin know how you are related and may match many of the same people, why do you two not match?  This is why we should try and test several of our siblings.

Several years back I used a combination of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and autosomal DNA (atDNA) to solve a brick wall.  My father’s mother’s mother was an unknown.  We knew her name and date of birth in what was then Telfair County, Georgia but is now Dodge County.  However, there was nothing that linked this Mary Martin to a specific family.

Through the use of standard genealogical research, I deduced that the most likely candidate was the granddaughter of a Keziah Davis Martin.  While there were other candidates, Keziah’s granddaughter was the most likely candidate based on the 1870 Census entry [i] and Keziah’s estate six years later. [ii]

Then, I researched other descendants of Keziah through her daughters and their daughters until I found some who are living and were willing to test.  I also had two direct female descendants of Mary Martin Livingston.  Since Mary is on my father’s side, I and my siblings were not candidates for taking the mtDNA test BUT…  We are for taking an atDNA test which my sister and younger brother have taken.  All of my other test subjects were mtDNA candidates except one whose father would have been a prime candidate if he was still alive but she was an atDNA candidate.

Just to remind you, all of you, men and women, carry ONLY your mother’s mtDNA as we do not inherit any from our fathers.

Let me show you

We are right at that five to six generations mark where atDNA falls off.  See the chart below.

The results of the mtDNA showed they all had exactly the same mtDNA which was what I expected but that does not answer the question.  Mitochondrial rarely changes for up to 52 generations which means sometime in the last 1,000 years we shared a common mother.  That is where the atDNA comes into play.

While we did not all match everyone, we all matched someone or several others.  As you can see below, the results showed that my Mary Martin was indeed the granddaughter of Keziah and by way of deduction, the daughter of Keziah’s youngest, unmarried daughter, Mary Martin who already had another son with no known father.

While my Mary’s father is still a mystery, the first half of a brick wall is solved.  This is a long way of explaining the question that my distant cousin and a former client asked.  You can see below that the one person who was a known descendant of Keziah but was not an mtDNA candidate only barely matched me and neither of my siblings or other cousins.

[i] 1870 U.S. Census, Telfair County, Georgia, population schedule, PO Temperance, p. 60 (penned), dwelling and family 385, Kessiah Mirtin (sic); Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 March 2021), citing FHL microfilm: 545675.

[ii] Dodge County, Georgia, Will Book 1, p. 7-8, Kiziah Martin (1876), Office of the Probate Court Clerk, Eastman, Dodge County, Georgia.

Blog 2022 03 06 2022 Using some DNA Tools

I had a new DNA match show up on GedMatch.com, I’ll call refer to him as Mr. D. Manning.  I am thinking, “Cool, another MANNING descendant.”

My hooligan ancestor, Edmund T. MANNING was born in 1841 near Niagara, NY. [i] He was the son of Reverand (and Dr.) Edmund Taylor MANNING and Lucia Reed.  I call him “My hooligan ancestor” because the moniker fits.  He moved to what is now Toronto, Canada sometime around 1880 telling everyone his first wife and children had died of Cholera in Iowa.  He then married a widow, Pheobe ROBERTS ADAMS in 1882 in Toronto. [ii] They had three children and one died at age 4. [iii] Their eldest was Sarah Suzette “Etta” Manning, my mother’s grandmother.

The family story was that he died in 1898 in England.  However, I could never find a record of his sailing to England, any record of his death in England, nor any record of a body returning.  That led me to request his Civil War Pension packet and his widow, Pheobe’s.

While waiting on the packet, I received an email from someone who was connected on the MANNING line.  I asked which of the two daughters born in Canada she descended from and she said, neither.  She descended from the 4th child born in Iowa.  Imagine my surprise.

Turns out, he abandoned this family while his first wife was pregnant with child number 4.  She told me the three eldest children did die from Cholera, but he was saved because he was sent to a cousin’s in another town.  That got me wondering about family number 2.

The pension packet explained it all.  He did not die in 1898, in 1908 Pheobe filed for a widow’s pension claiming it had been more than 7 years and she wanted him declared dead.  She was informed that a) she was never legally married to him and therefore would not be entitled to a pension and b) the War Department had heard from him in 1906 in Yakima, Washington, once again claiming to be single.

So you can see my intrigue with Mr. D. MANNING.  However, he did not match any of my family on my mother’s side.  That led me to use some of the DNA tools and an email to determine a possible link to how he matches me.  Since I only saw him on GedMatch in the one-to-many test, I had to determine what other family members he matched.  First, I tested him against my father’s mother’s line (LIVINGSTON, PEACOCK, and MARTIN) but found nothing.

Then I checked him against my father’s line (THOMAS and CARTER) and found it matched.  Next, I went back to another generation (THOMAS and WALKER) and found the connection.  My grandfather was General Jackson THOMAS, son of Banner THOMAS and Mary WALKER.  Her parents were Littleberry WALKER and Nancy NEWBERN.

Per a follow-up email from Mr. D. MANNING, Littleberry’s sister, Keziah is in his ancestry.

Problem solved with a little investigating.

[i] Manning, Edmund T. Civil War pension application AND Manning, Pheobe Widow pension application, NARA.

[ii] York County, Canada, Schedule B. – Marriages, p.315, entry 417, Manning-Adams, 1 July 1882, Archives of Ontario, Toronto, Canada.

[iii] York County, Canada, Schedule C. – Deaths, p.700, entry 3409, Henry Ernest Manning, 23 December 1890, Archives of Ontario, Toronto, Canada.

Blog 2021 10 22 Are you waiting to understand the science of DNA before using it?

I have given several presentations this year about using DNA as just another genealogical tool.  I start by asking how many of them drive AND can explain the science behind the internal combustion engine of their car.  Very few know the science but they drive anyway.  Why?  Because they do not need to know the science to use the car as a tool to get from one point to another.

It is the same with DNA.  If you begin using it as a basic tool in the genealogy tool kit, you will become more comfortable with it.  The more comfortable, the more you start learning new methods to apply it.  It really is that simple.  Just like the auto have various types such as sedan, coupe, convertible, cross-over, and SUV; DNA has three types.  An explanation of each type will help you decide which one to use, or can use, and where to test.

Autosomal DNA (atDNA):  All DNA testing sites utilize the atDNA as the basis of their marketing.  The atDNA test can be taken by anyone and except for close family members: parents, children, and full siblings, the remaining DNA matches are placed into potential categories based on shared centiMorgans (cMs).  I will not fully explain cMs here, except to say that the more shared cMs, the closer the relationship, particularly if there are more and larger shared segments.  Just like gasoline, the more you have, the better off you are.  The atDNA results are good to about the 5th or 6th generation, then the number is so small as to be virtually unusable.

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA):  The mtDNA reflects the straight maternal line with virtually no change (mutations) for up to 52 generations.  Anyone can take the mtDNA to identify their mother’s line.  Therefore, if someone takes the mtDNA test the results will completely exclude the father’s family.  This test is currently given only by FamilyTreeDNA® at www.FamilyTreeDNA.com (FTDNA) and is quite expensive.  I personally do not recommend taking the mtDNA if money is tight unless there is a specific brick wall where the test results might be beneficial and the unknown matriarch is within six generations.

Y-DNA Test (Y-DNA):  The Y-DNA reflects the straight paternal line with almost no change (mutation) for up to 25 generations.  Only men can take the Y-DNA test and the results will identify the father’s family to the exclusion of the mother’s family.  This test is currently only given by FTDNA and the cost is less than the mtDNA.  The more markers (points on the chromosome) that are tested, the better.

Understanding centiMorgans (cM):  As stated, I am not explaining what it is, just how to use it.  When your results come back from most testing companies it will not show you have a specific relationship such as Aunt, Uncle, 3rd Cousin once removed.  But several possibilities unless the relationship is a sibling, parent, or child.  It will also report the amount of shared cM and perhaps the largest block or number of segments.  By using the shared cM number and comparing it to the Shared cM Project table listed below, you can begin to see where this person might fit in if you otherwise do not know.

The Shared cM Project:  Many people in the genetic genealogy arena, including Blaine T. Bettinger, and others, put together some great information to help people understand shared cMs, segments, and other DNA results and can be found at https://thegeneticgenealogist.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Shared-cM-Project-Relationship-Chart.png.

What is meant by the cM range, is that you still have to do some traditional research.  Let’s say you share 1,400 cM with someone.  Based on that chart, this person could be Great Aunt/Uncle, Aunt/Uncle, 1st Cousin, Half-Sibling, Grandparent, Grandchild, or Great-Grandparent.  You must determine the reality.  I have two matches, they are siblings but one I share 383cM with and the other 283cM.  Since I know that they are both 1st Cousins once removed, that is where I put them and not as 2nd and 3rd as suggested by the testing company.

Ancestry.com has the largest database, by far, for the atDNA matches.  You can test there and download your raw DNA and then upload, for free, to FTDNA, MyHeritage, and GEDMatch.  GEDMatch is not a testing site but a third-party tool that allows you to compare DNA results regardless of where people were tested.  Do not be overwhelmed if you end up with thousands of matches.  Just work your way from immediate family and Aunts/Uncles and Nephews/Nieces, to 1st cousins, then 2nd, and so on.

Good luck and have fun taking DNA for a test drive.

Start using it and begin feeling more

DNA Clustering and Reports

Evert-Jan Blom, who lives in the Netherlands with his wife and children had a background in Molecular Genetics before getting interested in genealogy. [i] After getting tired of manually trying to connect his matches into groups based on chromosome clustering, he wrote an algorithm (computer code) that did the clustering for him in record time.

This clustering has since become a very popular tool.  In theory, every match on a specific cluster should ultimately share a common ancestor.  While he is no longer allowed to run it against Ancestry.com® matches, his Genetic Affairs will run against your 23 and Me® or your FTDNA DNA matches.  He has also written the same for MyHeritage® and Gedmatch®.

For example, on one of the clusters, I know, based on my own research, that three of the testers descend from the same family as my g-great-grandmother, Lurraine “Lizzy” Elizabeth Reese, the daughter of Samuel Reid and Sarah Catherine Reese, nee Sparks.  Several of the Reese children married Akers and Hamiltons not to mention Akers marrying Hamiltons.  So I can realistically assume that the others who share that cluster must also descend from those family combinations.

These are powerful tools and might be worth your time to investigate.

In addition, he recently added some reports that operate similar to Ancestry’s ThruLines which is based on what others have in their online trees.  However, as the old axiom says, “Garbage in – Garbage out.”  Hopefully, he will improve on this part of code which weighs too heavily on the same or similar name and not on timelines and locations. As I have said concerning ThruLines, if the result does not make sense, do not spend a lot of time chasing it.

As of today, any code that tries to predict pedigree and ancestry is basing the results on trees posted by others and the DNA which these modern testers have attributed to that line.  I was hired awhile back to try and prove that a man who added the nickname Major (he never attained a rank higher than Sergeant) in front of his first name, William, was the son of a county Sheriff who also went by Major since the younger Major one got married in that county.  I proved he was NOT the son because the sheriff’s son was William D., a lawyer who stayed in that county and always signed his name William D.  Whereas the younger Major William moved to Macon, Georgia, and ran a munitions factory.  They were obviously two different Williams.  Plus, the sheriff had two other sons and a daughter.

However, numerous people who have researched the younger Major and his known brother have all attributed their father to the sheriff so ThruLines show the sheriff and makes it appear they share DNA with the sheriff.  They do not.  When clicking on the sheriff, all the DNA matches are via the two misattributed sons and zero sharing with the four known children of the sheriff.

Is this making sense?  To rephrase, the sheriff had four known children, if the younger Major was a son, then his descendants and his known brother’s descendants would share DNA with the four proven children of the sheriff and there are zero matches.  It gives a false narrative.

You can take the information as clues and that is about it.  My oldest proven Thomas ancestor had four children and none are named Joseph.  However, some have attribute Joseph Thomas, born circa 1818, to my known direct ancestor.  However, the reason we do share DNA is that Joseph is actually a grandson of my ancestor and not a son.

That is not to say we cannot use it. I have had several clients move various men in and out of their 4th or 5th great grandfather position just to see the various results.  We are looking for the highest shared cMs with cousins.  Case in point, we are trying to find the father of a Joseph Bishop who was born about 1790, probably in the Spartanburg County area, and appears in the 1810 U. S. Census in Hall County, Georgia.  He then moved to Campbell County, Georgia.  In trying to determine the most logical Bishop family he descends from, we have moved a lot of potential fathers in and out of those positions.  All of the Bishops are related to some extent.  We have narrowed it down to two distinct Bishop families as the most likely.

This does not solve the problem but it does give us a good starting point to spend time researching closer.

Be careful what you believe.  Be careful of any predicted pedigree.

[i] https://www.geneticaffairs.com/about.html

Posted in DNA