Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Genetic Genealogy: Chapter 8

 Chapter 8: Incorporating DNA Evidence in a Written Conclusion

1. The following test takers are identified as a match using the "One to One" tool at Gedmatch. Write a citation for this match.

Gedmatch. "One-to-One Autosomal DNA Comparison," database report, v.2, Gedmatch ( : accessed 4 May 2021), Kyle Lyons, kit A001234; Ron Gough, kit M002345; 22.5 cM total, longest block 22.3 cM on chromosome 1 (start-stop points: 222127692-236160966); 20.2 cM on chromosome 12 (start-stop points: 126612824-132276195).

2. Using the tables in question 7 of the "Incorporating DNA Testing in a Family Study" chapter, write a citation for the segments shared by Ira Smith (43) and Robert Smith (33).

"Family Finder," database report, Family Tree DNA ( : accessed 4 May 2021), for Ira Smith and Robert Smith, predicted 2nd to 4th cousins; matches on chromosome 6 (start-stop points: 134769313-151510948), 19.33 cM, and chromosome 7 (start-stop points: 27322710-47468816), 25.49 cM; documented relationship 3rd cousins once-removed.

3. Write a proof argument based on your own research or one of the exercises in this book. Use the National Genealogical Society Quarterly articles listed in this chapter as models. Form a study group with your peers, join a writing group, or as a friend to critique your proof argument. After you feel comfortable with your writing, consider submitting the article for possible publication in a local, state, regional, or national journal, or enter a genealogical writing contest. Lists of writing competitions can be found online. 

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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Genetic Genealogy: Chapter 7

 Chapter 7: Incorporating DNA Testing in a Family Study

Questions 1-7 refer to the family tree of Henry Smith in Appendix A. Recipients of mtDNA of #2 unknown are circled; recipients of #1 Henry Smith's Y-DNA are highlighted.

Recipients of mtDNA of #2 unknown are circled; of Y-DNA of #1 Henry Smith are highlighted

1. Assuming only end-of-line descendants are still living, is or are there any living who inherited the mtDNA of the unknown spouse #2 of Henry Smith #1?

Yes, #41 Tommy Curtis.

2. Assume a living person is found and agrees to test and that the results indicate the mtDNA haplogroup is U5b1c1. Does this confirm or refute the family legend that Henry's unknown spouse #2 was Choctaw?

Neither. U5b1c1 is not a known Native American mt haplotype, so that rules out unknown's mother or her umbilical line being NA. Since that is the only line tested, the rest of her inheritance is as yet unknown.

3. Assuming only end-of-line descendants are living, is there anyone living who may have inherited the Y-DNA of Henry Smith #1?

Yes, Ira Smith $43, Louis Smith #44, Robert Smith #33, Bobby Jack Smith #45, and Alfred Smith Jr. #46. 

4. George Smith #4 is believed to be the son of Henry Smith #1. Ira Smith #43 and Robert Smith #33 take a 37-marker Y-DNA STR test. Robert also took a SNP test. Their haplogroups do not match; are they related? Use rather than the link in the book.

Since Robert took a SNP test, his haplogroup is more precisely named, but they are both from the same branch. However, this alone is not enough to support the hypothesis that George #4 is the son of Henry #1.

STR-markers table p. 118

Correlate the STR-marker values from the table with the "Descendants of Henry Smith" tree.

It is evident that if the tree is correct, some differences have arisen over time in the Y-DNA STR markers.

5. Ira and Robert do not match on markers DYS464 and CDY. Given that differing on up to 3 markers in a 37-marker test indicates relatedness, does this result prove that George Smith #4 is the son of Henry Smith #1?

No. They are related on the paternal line, but the low number of markers tested is not conclusive. Testing more known Y line descendants of Henry would help, as would both more STR testing and SNP testing such as the Big Y, which is the gold standard.


Marker significance for Y-DNA of Henry Smith #1?

Describe the significance of the data above to determine if George Smith #4 is the son of Henry Smith #1. All other men in the Smith Surname Project with similar haplotypes have marker DYS607=15.

  • a) All tested descendants of Henry #1 share DYS607=14. What does this tell us about Henry #1?
Henry #1 probably was positive for DYS607=14.
  • b) All tested descendants of Henry #1 share DYS607=14. What does this tell us about Ira #43?
That he may be a descendant of Henry #1 since he also shares this marker.
  • c) All tested descendants of Henry Jr. #5 have marker DYS464=12-15-16-16. What does this tell us about a potential link between Henry #1 and George #4?
This difference does not preclude George #4 being the son of Henry #1. Mutations happen randomly, and George could have passed this mutation down through his Y line to Ira #43.
  • d) Marker DYS449=30 for Louis Jr. #44 but DYS449=31 for the other tested men. What does this tell us about where this change may have occured?
In Ira Smith #20, Louis Smith #32 or Louis Smith Jr #44.
  • e) Marker CDY=35-38 for Robert #33 but CDY=35-39 for the other tested men. What does this tell us about where this change may have occured?
In either Perry Smith #21 or Robert #33.
  • f) When all the differences are counted, there are three markers that vary between these men (DYS464, DYS449 and CDY). And a fourth difference between these men and others who are in the same group in the Smith SP. When four differences are found, test-takers are "distantly related" while three differences would indicate they are related. Are there other factors to incorporate into the analysis?
There is strong documentary evidence for each of these family lines, and in "fast-moving" markers, the changes seen in the STR results from each of the male lines, as well as another differentiating #1 Henry Smith's male descendants from the other Smiths in the Smith Surname Project. While 4 is a larger difference than we would expect, the fact that they are all "fast-moving" markers makes it easier to account for.
  • g) Could additional DNA testing supply more evidence to apply to this research question?
Testing descendants of the "other" George Smith could be useful. Also, since five men have already given test samples, some or all of them could upgrade their tests to autosomal DNA -- and Big Y if possible.

7. All of the living cousins agree to take an atDNA test. The table below shows some of the results in the match list of Ira Smith #43.

Cousins match list to Ira Smith #43

  • a) Is this a reasonably sized group of test takers to possibly lead to credible conclusions about relationships?
Yes, each line is covered.
  • b) What might be a first step in analysis?
Do they have family stories about #1 Henry? More documentation, photos, memories? Are these folks all descendants of Henry #1 and unnamed #2?

First level of credibility: common descendancy of a large enough group of testers.
  • c) Should we be concerned about the depth and accuracy of the test-takers' trees?
No. We have them in the tree already. It would be good to share the tree with them so they can make any corrections necessary though. 

Second level of credibility: reliability of the family tree.
  • d) Using the information in the table above, what might be a next step in our analysis?
One could enter the match cMs into the Shared cM Tool at and see the relationships "on paper" match the DNA cM results. If any are unexpectedly large, could there be other shared ancestors?

Third level of credibility: consistent DNA match results.

The table below is a matrix indicating which cousins show as "In common with" each other.

Which cousins show "In Common With" each other

  • e) Using the information in the table, what might be the next step in our analysis?

Check with each tester to see if the other cousins are shown by the testing company as matches.

Fourth level of credibility: cousins "on paper" all matching with one another. 

Selected shared segment details; page 122

  • f) Using the information in the table above, what might be the next step in our analysis?

Fifth level of credibility: match segment data.

Since so many lines are covered, it might be possible to pinpoint from which ancestors certain segments were inherited. This requires segment data and either a tool like GDAT or DNA Painter, or a spreadsheet.

Triangulating by DNA segments is the gold standard when used with excellent relationship evidence in a proof argument.


Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Genetic Genealogy: Chapter 6

 Genealogical Applications for X-DNA

Chart from Appendix A; marked for X. Use for Q 1-7

1. Which ancestors shown may have contributed to the X-DNA of Ira Gerball (20)?

15, Marie Small. Men get no X-DNA from their fathers, only their mothers. Marie's ancestors are not in the chart. 4

2. Which ancestors shown may have contributed to the X-DNA of Mandella Louise Smith (33)? Would Mandella have inherited X-DNA from all of these possible ancestors?

Since Mandella is female, she got X-DNA from both her parents, 21 & 27. The X she got from her father 27 came from his mother who is not shown in the chart. The X from her mother Mandy Wick 21 is from her parents, 12 & 16. Again, her father Tom Wick 16 got his X from his mother who is not shown in the chart. Mandy's mother Emma Crocker 12 got her X-DNA from both her parents, 5 & 8. And once again, her father Henry Crocker 8 got his X from his mother, but she is not in the chart. Her mother Emma Jones 5 got her X-DNA from both her father John Ira Jones 1 and her mother Mary Ann Smith 2

It is possible that Mandella got X-DNA from each of the listed ancestors, but since it can recombine every time a woman passes some X along to a child, it is up to chance. Siblings may inherit from entirely different possible ancestors.

3. Does Louis Gerball (32) share an X-DNA inheritance line with Mandella Louise Smith (33) through the ancestors shown on this chart?

No. Louis 32 gets his X-DNA from his mother, Ann Ricks 26 whose parents are not in the chart. Mandella 33 shares no X-DNA according to the chart.

4. Does Ira Ryan (43) share an X-DNA inheritance line with Mandella Louise Smith (33) through the ancestors shown on this chart?

Yes, they both share 1 & 2 Jones and Smith. His line goes though different people (31, 19, 11, 4) and there could have been some recombination, so it will not be identical.

5. Does Viola Scott (17) share an X-DNA inheritance line with Ellis Jones (10) through the ancestors shown on this chart?

Yes, Ellis Jones 10 gets his X-DNA from his mother Martha Jackson 6 whose parents are not in the chart. Viola Scott gets hers from 9, 13, 3, 6, 1 and 2, so they share Martha Jackson 6, their mother. His X will be 100% from his mother; Viola will have one from her father and the other, possibly recombined, from her mother.

6. Given the following X-DNA match results for Mandella Louise Smith (33), is the shared segment size large enough to focus research for a common ancestor on those who could have contributed to the X-DNA of those test-takers?

Yes, over 10 cM is worth investigating, and the other two smaller segments overlap. So *if* there is a shared X-DNA ancestral path, even the smaller ones are worth looking at.

7. Which ancestors shown on the chart are potential common ancestors who could have contributed the matching X-chromosome segment? 

Mandella Louise Smith (33) shares Emma Crocker (12) with Emmy Wick (34). Emma Crocker carries the X-DNA from both 1 & 2 Jones and Smith through her mother, Emma Jones (5). They also share Tom Wick (16) but would not have gotten a shared X-DNA segment from him, since he passed that segment from his mother only to Mandy Wick (21) whom is ancestral only to Mandella.

Mandella Louise Smith (33) shares an ancestral couple 1 & 2 Jones and Smith with both Violet Sweets (29) and Janice Johns (31). However, they will share only Smith 2 and not Jones 1 because his unrecombined X-DNA from his mother was not passed though Albert Jones (3) to Violet. Mandella will share both 1 & 2 Jones and Smith with Janice.

8. An X-DNA segment of a significant size is shared with Debbie, Debbie's full brother, and test-taker Allen Jackson. On which portions of the trees of these test-takers should the search for a common ancestor focus?

This question is identical to 9, below.

9. An X-DNA segment of a significant size is shared with Debbie, Debbie's half-brother (son of Debbie's mother), and test-taker Allen Jackson. On which portions of the trees of these test-takers should the search for a common ancestor focus?

The focus will be on the mothers - Debbie and her half-brother's shared mother, and Allen's mother, since neither man got an X from their father. It can further be focused by completing an X-DNA inheritance chart for both men.

10. An X-DNA segment of a significant size is shared with Debbie, Debbie's half-brother (son of Debbie's father), and test-taker Allen Jackson. On which portions of the trees of these test-takers should the search for a common ancestor focus?

For Debbie, all parts of her tree will have to be examined, because she got an X chromosome from both her mother and her father. The men did not get an X from their fathers, therefore only their mother's trees need to be examined. The search can further be focused by completing an X-DNA inheritance chart for Debbie and both men.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Genetic Genealogy: Chapter 5

 Genealogical Applications for atDNA

Exercises for Chapter 5

1. Sisters with an AncestryDNA test get results; one matches to a predicted third to fourth cousin; the other does not. Should they both match? Why or why not.

They could both match, or neither. About 90% of third cousins are detectable DNA matches; only about half of fourth cousins cousins.

2. Fred is testing numerous relatives in an attempt to map his chromosomes. He shares no detectable DNA with Victoria, a seventh cousin, who is a descendant of fifth great-grandparents. Can Fred conclude that these Quincy ancestors are not in his genetic family tree?

No, testing one distant relative with whom he is likely not to share detectable DNA proves nothing. It is simply a lack of evidence.

3. Roy and Mike share a single 6.43 cM segment of DNA. Which company or companies will show them as genetic relatives? Which will not.

At the present time, none of the testing companies will show them as matches. While AncestryDNA reported matches down to 5 cM when the book was written, their matching threshold is now 10 cM. They could both upload to Gedmatch and lower the matching threshold to 6 cM and see their match there.

4. One cM is equivalent to a percent (one in one hundred) probability of a recombination event occuring in that DNA segment within a single generation. Is it possible to share a DNA segment of a 100 cM or greater with a relative other than a parent passing down entire chromosomes to a child?

It is possible to share a segment of over 100 cM with other relatives. My longest shared segment with a first cousin is 117 cM.

5. Viktor has tested his parents but not himself. His grandparents are living but he's not tested them. He has an aunt, a first cousin, two second cousins and a third cousin. Whom should he test first?

His grandparents. Viktor is right about the DNA he got from them through his parents, but he is missing the 50% from each that he did NOT get from his parents, because they didn't have it to pass to him. In addition, once they pass, the chance to test them is gone. The second cousin and then third cousin after that are most important, because they allow pinpointing great, great-grand, and second great-granparents. The aunt and first cousin are the least valuable unless their own children want them to test for their own reasons. 

6. Sally has tested three of her grandparents. Shared DNA with each follows; what percentage of DNA did Sally inherit from her untested grandfather?

Adding the total of all three tested grandparents and then subtracting that total from 100 yields 21.4% which she would have inherited from her untested grandfather.

7. Place an arrow or arrows showing where a recombination event occurs.

8. Draw on the blank chromosome figure to show the segment or segments the granddaughter would share with her paternal grandfather.

not to scale!

The segments in-between the segments in the previous image.

9. Laura has tested herself and her grandmother Brenda. On chromosome 4 they share [diagram] DNA segments. She also tested her son Michael and would like to compare his DNA with that of Brenda, his great-grandmother. Which of the following chromosome browser views should she expect to see?

a, b and c although d is possible *if* her father shared some DNA with her mother's mother. 

Use family tree chart for Q 10-15

10. Violet Redden, the family genealogist, has tested her self as well as five of her family members, bolded in the family tree above. Complete the table determining a) the relationship to Violet and b) expected amount of shared DNA in percentages and cM. 

11. Violet receives Eryn Tisby's results and discovers that Eryn shares 205 cM of DNA with Marcelle Sparks. How does that result align with the family tree? If the result is unexpected, what piece of information from the family tree might explain the result?

It is unexpectedly large for the known relationship. This means it is likely that Eryn and Marcelle share more than one genetic relationship, and more genealogy research is needed.

Violet downloads her raw data and the new data of Eryn Tisby, Elijah Sparks, and Marcelle Sparks. After an upload to Gedmatch, she gets the following results. 

Use table for Q 12-14

12. Determine the most distant ancestor in the family tree to whom the DNA segment that Violet shares with Elijah Starks on chromosome 18 can be mapped tentatively.

Brady Sparks and Minerva Ayers, although it is possible that there are other genetic relationships to be found.

13. Determine the most distant ancestor or ancestors in the family tree to whom the DNA segments that Violet shares with Eryn Tisby on chr. 1, 5 and 12 can be tentatively mapped.

Rene Tisby and Dori Sparks are ancestors in common, but the high cM between Eryn Tisby and Marcelle Sparks suggests other shared ancestors not yet in the tree.

14. Based on the information in the tree and the table, describe what is unusual about the DNA that Marcelle Starks shares with Violet.

They share a segment on chr. 8, but Marcelle's ggrandfather Elijah Starks does not share that segment with Violet. There is no one else on the tree (so far) who could have contributed that segment to both Violet and Marcelle.

15. A chromosome browser reveals the following pattern on chr. 5, with three genetic markers sharing a long segment of DNA (35 cM, 50 cM and 75 cM) with the test taker: [figure]. Based on this view, what do we know about the genetic relationship of the three individuals to one another?

Not very much. We don't even know if the two matches with the test-taker match one another. One could be on the maternal side and the other on the paternal. The segments are reasonably large though so they are presumably matches. The ICW tool might shed some light, and perhaps an email to each about their own matches might shed even more.

Use for Q 16-17. Share DNA: X

16. Place the nine individuals listed in the table into potential triangulation groups based on the segment data and the matrix tool results.

Aaron's match is tiny, and he does not match with any of the others, so I would call it a false match. Brenda, Leonard and Shana form a group for further study, as do Ellen, Susan, Johnny, Georgia and Donna. Brenda is possibly the closest relative so I would start with her.
17. What is the limitation of using this approach for triangulation? What additional piece of information would you seek to verify that those potential groups are true triangulation groups?

Without comparing each of members with one another on the chromosome browser or Gedmatch's one-to-one tool, you do not know for sure that they all share the same segment of interest.

18. Using the table below, calculate the completeness of your genealogical family tree back at least seven generations (to sixth cousin relationships), where completeness is the percentage of ancestors for whom you have a name or some identifying information. Consider the reliability or accuracy of that information, especially in the older generations where most distant-cousin relationships are being compared. How might this impact the search for shared ancestry with identified genetic matches? (The "Total # of Possible Ancestors"column may change if there have been recent cousin marriages.)

19. Angeline would like to identify unknown parents of fourth great-grandfather born in the 1750s. ... Can Angeline use atDNA to help identify this couple? If so, how many cousins should she test?

It is possible that she can find many descendants of this couple by doing very complete trees for each of the cousins she finds and comparing their results with one another. And perhaps she can find descendants of the most likely parents of her ancestor and test them, although there she is getting into dealing with very small segments and the high probability of "by chance" segments. This could be an expensive, slow project!

20. David Welch believes his second great-grandfather to be part Native American. There are no records supporting this belief, and atDNA results from the testing company reports no Native DNA. Is David's hypothesis still possible?

Since David only inherited on average 6.25 percent of his ancestor's DNA, unless he was 100% Native American, it would likely not show up in an atDNA test. 

It is possible that finding a paternal line descendant to test via Y-DNA could have some results

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Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Genetic Genealogy: Chapter 4

 Chapter 4: Genealogical Applications for mtDNA

Exercises. All the questions refer to diagrams in Appendix A: page 136

1. Which descendants shown inherited the mtDNA of Mary Ann (Smith) Jones (2): 3, 4, 5, 11, 12, 21, 22, 33. 

Mary Smith passed her mtDNA to all her children; 3, 4, 5. Her son 3 Albert, did not pass his mtDNA to his children. His children got their mtDNA from their mother, 6.

One daughter, Mary 4, had only a son, 11. That son had mtDNA from 2, but did not pass it to his children. They instead got mtDNA from his wife, their mother, 15. 

Her daughter Emma, 5, passed her mtDNA to her daughter Emma, 12. Emma 12's daughter Mandy 21 gave the mtDNA from 2 to her daughter, Mandella, 33. Emma Crocker 12 also passed mtDNA from 2 to her son Max 22. Max had a daughter who had the mtDNA from her mother, 28. 

2. Ira Gerball 20 died in Vietnam. ... Which people on the chart share the same mtDNA as Ira for purposes of identifying his remains? 

Three people in the chart share his mtDNA; his mother, Marie 15, her daughter Florence 19, and Florence' daughter Janice 31 and her son Ryan 43. Any of these people can be tested and any of them should match.

3. Adoptee Angela has narrowed her possible birth parent to cousins Mandella 33 or Emmy Wick 34, both of whom are dead and have no descendants. 

a) If the parents of Emmy Wick agree to be tested, could this help her find the answer? 

No match to both: Her father Max 22 will have the mtDNA of his mother 22 who gave him Mary Smith 2's mtDNA. Her mother 28 Emmy Martin has her mother's mtDNA not shown to be a relative of Max on this chart. So a non match to both rules out their daughter Emmy 28. 

A match to Max 22 means that Mandella 33 could be the mother, since Mandella and Max share the same mtDNA.

A match to Emmy 28 means that Emmy 34 could be the mother, since they share the same mtDNA. 

b) What is the conclusion if Angela's test matches both Max 22 and Emmy 28? 

While no relationship between Max' family and Emmy Martin's, that does not mean that they share a maternal line so far undiscovered. It would not answer Angela's question of which cousin could be her birth mother. 

4. Two woman have taken full-mtDNA tests but show no match. However, they may share a female ancestor Tempy Gordy. Do the test results rule out a relationship in the female line? 

No. Because the differences are not "fast changing" differences from the CR, they may or may not be significant. The common ancestor link is speculative on one of the trees. Therefore, more genealogical work may need to be done to resolve this question, and more testing of descendants of Tempy Gordy may help as well. 

5. Annabell Martin wants to prove that her 5th great-grandmother was Cherokee, as family stories have said. Which of the following must be true for an mtDNA test to prove the story?

a) Direct matrilineal line between Annabell and her ancestor
b) Direct matrilineal line between willing test-taker and the ancestor
c) A full mtDNA test
d) A low or medium-resolution test
e) at least 3 test-takers

B and D must both be true, however the results at best can indicate native American; not a specific tribe. Documentary and historical evidence would be needed to find a specific tribe or tribes.

A - Any matrilineal descendant can take the test
C - While a full test might be useful for other purposes, it is not necessary to find the haplogroup
E - The haplogroups native peoples are known; more tests are not necessary for this purpose.

6. Two test-takers who suspect a common ancestor on the matrilineal line take medium-resolution mtDNA tests (HVR1 & HVR2). Neither appears in the match list of the other. Their lines back to the ancestor are well-documented.
a) Does the fact that the test-takers do not match preclude Jane (Vick) Otis from being the mother of of both Mary Otis and Elizabeth Otis? 

No. If the haplogroups were not a match, then yes. Mutations are random, so the lack of a match is not conclusive.

b) Would a full mtDNA test help answer the question? 

Perhaps. A full mtDNA test might be more conclusive, but that is not certain.

c) What other things might be considered, based on the lineages shown? 

An au test (or tests) might provide more evidence. Many au tests might have to be run since this is at the edge of the genetic tree for some descendants. Since the mother-daughter relationships are suggested by the common place, Rowan County, North Carolina and suitable ages, and a shared haplogroup, more focused research could be done in that county.

7. Sarah and Jane upgrade to Full mtDNA tests and receive results; still do not appear in one another's match list.

a) Does the fact that the test-takers do not match preclude Jane (Vick) Otis from being the mother of of both Mary Otis and Elizabeth Otis? Do they proved that Jane is mother of both Mary and Elizabeth?

No, and no. The results do not answer the questions.

b) Do these results explain why neither appears in the match list of the other?

Yes, their differences fall outside of the parameters set by the testing company for showing a match.

c) What do the Ys and Rs in the list of mtDNA differences from the reference sequence mean?

These are both heteroplasmies Y = C or T, R = A or G. If both of their shared heteroplasmies could share common values, then they could have a close enough match to perhaps answer their genealogical question, so more close analysis could be done.

* Note: I did consult the "answers in the back of the book" in order to check that my blog post accurately reflects the information from the book. Also note: no longer exists. Please consider uploading mtDNA test results to both and YFull: ($)

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Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Genetic Genealogy in Practice: Chapter Two

 Chapter 2 Exercises

1. The goal is to determine when Isaac Ryan first bought land in what is now Jackson County, Mississippi. Can DNA evidence help achieve this goal? If so, how. 

No. However, if could help provide more evidence that the tester is related to this Isaac Ryan if preliminary family tree research makes a clear and proven case that the tester is descended from this man. DNA provides no evidence that could help with a date of land purchase.

2. The goal is to determine whether the Isaac Ryan who first bought land in 1798 what is now Jackson County, Mississippi, is the ancestor of Jonathan Ryan. Can DNA evidence help achieve this goal? If so, how. 

Again, if there is a complete family tree built and proof given with other evidence, DNA can provide *more* evidence of the descendancy. Y DNA can prove or disprove a shared male line. It cannot, however, prove parentage. Neither autosomal nor mitchondrial DNA would have any use here.

3. Nathan suspects that Ethan Kilgore disinherited his sons Hugh and Philip just before his death in 1861 because, according to family legend, Ethan's wife informed him in a fit of rage that they weren't actually his children. Instead, the legend goes, they were the children of a former neighbor called Simon or Samuel Smith. Research in census records reveals a Samuel Simons living next door in 1820 and 1830, years that bookend the decade during which Hugh and Philip were born. Can DNA evidence be utilized to examine the question of why Ethan Kilgore disinherited his sons?

Not directly. However, DNA evidence could shed light on whether or not Hugh and/or Philip were full or half siblings to the rest of the children of the couple. If there are male descendants of some of the male children and of Hugh and Philip, and those male descendants are willing to test, some light could be shown on the male lines and whether or not they are a close match. Of course, more research would have to be done on the possible bio-father of Hugh and Philip; he possibly shared a paternal line with Ethan, and this must be ruled out. Possibly he had male issue whose male-line descendants could be tested. It would be unusual for autosomal DNA to be useful in such an old case and of course mitchondrial DNA in this case would shed no light at all. 

4. Henry has been a professional genealogist for 25 years and is well-versed in every record by that could be utilized for this project. However, Henry is skeptical of DNA testing, and has never used or explored it in his or his clients' research. Can Henry's research satisfy the GPS for this project if he intentionally doesn't consider DNA because he doesn't believe it is accurate?

No. We would not think that it was acceptable to disregard land or tax records, for instance, if they would be useful to answer the research question. We should never rule out possible sources because they can be untrustworthy at times -- all sources can be partly or wholly problematic but we must nevertheless seek them out and properly evaluate them on their merits.

5. Henry decides to inform his client that Y-DNA or atDNA testing could potentially shed light on the question, but that he is not educated on the subject. Henry suggests that he or the client contact another genealogist who is well-versed in the use of DNA. The client informs Henry that he isn't interested in that option. Can Henry complete the assigned project with any confidence, and can the project satisfy the GPS?

He can complete the job, certainly. Genealogists can be hired for tiny jobs such as fetching a document from a repository. There is no expectation that completing every job will satisfy the GPS. This assignment cannot, since some of the evidence will not be provided or even sought.

6. After extensive research Julianna discovers that the first Wilcox family, descended from Thomas Wilcox, has thousands of descendants but no direct-line male descendants. If Y-DNA testing of the Thomas Wilcox line is impossible, and atDNA is not possible for various other reasons, can Julianna's research satisfy the GPS when analyzing whether Thomas Wilcox was the son of Benjamin Wilcox?

Of course. The GPS does not require us to conjure sources out of the ether. The above description describes two sources which are unavailable, like a will which was destroyed. 

7. Some years later, Julianna learns that before he died the last man with Thomas Wilcox's Y-DNA had a son that the family didn't know about. This living son is in fact the last-known male with Thomas Wilcox's Y-DNA. When Julianna contacts him, he refuses to undergo any type of DNA testing. If DNA testing of the Thomas Wilcox line is possible but cannot be performed due to refusal by the last living direct-line male, can Julianna's research satisfy the GPS when analyzing whether Thomas Wilcox was the son of Benjamin Wilcox?

Same answer as above. No one has the right to another person's DNA. If a source exists but is unavailable to the researcher, then it cannot be had. "Exhaustive" does not mean changing the facts on the ground.

8. [Brenda] submits the KDP without any Y-DNA evidence, even though it is technically available to her.... Has she failed to conduct thorough research that considers all sources?

Much the same as the previous two questions, if it is not possible to *ethically* obtain the sample, it is unavailable. 

9. ... Brenda has reservations about using the results without her father's explicit authorization.... Can her KDP satisfy the GPS or has she failed to conduct thorough research that considers all sources?

Again, the GPS or any of its parts cannot outweigh our own ethics or judgement. We cannot do the impossible or the unethical.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Genetic Genealogy in Practice: Chapter 1 Questions

 Genetic Genealogy in Practice by Blaine T. Bettinger, Debbie Parker Wayne. National Genealogical Socety; 2016

Chapter 1: Basic Genetics

Questions to which you will want to know the answers

What are the types of nuclear DNA?

  1. Autosomal
  2. Sex: X, Y

What is the other DNA which can be tested for genealogical purpose? 


Which test can be taken only by one sex? 


If the mother of a family has died, which of her children can be tested for mitochondrial DNA? 

Any or all of them

From which parent do you get your Y dna


Your X? 

Men: mother. Women: both

What are the DNA variations tested for genealogical purposes? 

SNPs and STRs(Y). Both are often called "markers."

What is a SNP? 

Single nucleotide polymorphism

What is an STR? 

Short tandem repeat

How much of our DNA is identical to all other humans? 


What is a DNA match? 

  • Enough matching DNA with a person above the threshold, usually 5-10 or 20 cM
  • People with matching DNA segment(s)

What is genetic distance? 

In mt & Y tests, the number of markers which are different between two testers. 

  • In mt tests, 0 distance sometimes means most recent common ancestor (MRCA) hundreds of years ago. Sometimes 1 or 2 difference can be close maternal relatives. 
  • In Y STR testing, a difference of 0 in a 111 test can be as close as brothers, and as far as the beginning of surnames.

What is a haplogroup? 

A main branch of the family tree, used with mt & Y test results. The more markers are tested, the closer one can get to a precise haplogroup. Although some mt and y haplogroups have similar notation, they are entirely different.

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Friday, December 25, 2020

End of 2020; Time for Something New!

As the year draws to a close, it feels time to start something new in a an old container: this blog. I've been writing for my society at I've learned a lot about DNA and how to do better research, and it's about time to tell some of the stories uncovered along the way. 

I'll also be writing here for the new study group we are beginning in January, of the book Genetic Genealogy in Practice

First though, new book for Christmas:

Mastering Genealogical Proof, by Thomas W. Jones, 2013: National Genealogical Society, Arlington, VA

Thank you Paul & Tara! It is a textbook, with questions at the end of every chapter. 

Mastering Genealogical Proof Chapter One: Genealogy's Standard of Proof

1. What is genealogy?

Genealogy is the study of families, known and unknown, by "accurately reconstructing forgotten or unknown identities and relationships of all sorts.[1] Research is drawn from all sorts of records, including those created by governments, businesses, journalists, photographers, family record-keepers, historians, courts, police, demographers and and genetics. This list is not complete! To assure accurate conclusions, genealogists have agreed on standards, call the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS). 

2. What are the GPS's five elements?

Before one can begin applying the GPS, a research question must be posed. If research begins with a narrow question about identity or relationship, the search can be focused and exhaustive without being exhausting!

GPS element one is reasonably exhaustive research. Gathering evidence can begin once the question is asked. Often rare or obscure record sources must be consulted, and if there questions about multiple people being conflated, each candidate must be thoroughly vetted and compared. "Negative evidence" should be noted as well as sources which seem to answer the research question. At this point, a hypothesis begins to form, which must be supported and proved. 

GPS element two is informative citations, which describe sources which support the hypothesis, and show how the evidence in sources proves the case, and allows others to easily find and consult the source and evaluate it.

GPS element three is analysis and comparison, or correlation. An argument supporting the conclusion is built on the foundation of the evidence found during research, and demonstrated by the citations. 

GPS element four is resolution of conflicting evidence. There will always be conflicting evidence because human-created records are never completely accurate. All the conflicts must be resolved.

GPS element five is a written conclusion. Thus your work is exposed to public view, and available for independent evaluation.

3. You have shared your family history with someone who wants you to omit all the proof statements, proof summaries, and proof arguments, including explanations of reasoning and documentation. How do you reply? 

Asking for a "history" with no proof and documentation is like handing someone an empty (but pretty) plate and saying "Enjoy your dinner!" The whole work is valuable not only now, but to researchers in the future. Without proof, not so.

4. Why can't a genealogical conclusion be partially proved? 

A conclusion means the case is proven and closed until new evidence is presented. If the research is not exhaustive, the case is still open. If the citations are not presented, the analysis and comparisons are not fully made, if all the conflicting evidence is not resolved, or the case is not been written and presented for analysis by others, the case can not be considered closed. 

5. What is the first step in genealogical research? 

Successful research answers a question, so the first step is crafting a clear, focused question. 

Upon consulting the "answers in the back" -- I did leave out that genealogy research covers both living and dead people, and that we seek all the relationships and related information, whether adoptive, biological, marital, extramarital, and other kinds of relationships. In question 5 I left out the word "interdependent" about the 5 elements of the GPS, although I did describe why they depend on one another.


1. Mastering Genealogical Proof, by Thomas W. Jones, 2013: National Genealogical Society, Arlington, VA, page 1.

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Peace Declared 100 Years Ago; Women Who Served

This Veteran's Day is more special than usual because this is the centenary of the Armistice in Europe. So I was very excited to discover that my aunt Florence Estella Rawles who was born and died in Montana (1925-2007), trained for the World War II Cadet Nursing Corps in both Montana State College in Great Falls, Montana and in Providence Hospital in Seattle! It seems that the war was over before she was sent to serve, and later married my uncle Hollis McBee. When I shared this new information with some of my genealogy buddies, David got excited because he also had an aunt who served in the Nursing Corps, and also trained in or around Seattle. However, it turns out that his aunt served in the Great War, which we now call the First World War.

David sent me his research on his great-aunt, which has been written up so well that this will be a guest post.

Zowitza Nicholas, World War I Army Nurse
"Zowitza Nicholas left Dawson to study nursing in Seattle. She joined the American nursing corps and served in France, where she was called "The Angel of Ward 7" by one of the soldiers she cared for." - David E. Cann on page 188 of From the Klondike to Berlin: The Klondike in World War I

Zowitza S. Nicholas (1893-1984) was a daughter of two migrant parents who were naturalized Americans. Zowitza and her two siblings were born in Seattle (1892, 1893, and 1895) so were native-born citizens. Zowitza’s parents were estranged and her father died in 1917 and is now buried in Dawson, Yukon Territory, Canada... Zowitza’s mother’s date and place of death/burial is still unknown although David has reason to believe she died in California in or after 1935.

David contributed his research to a book From the Klondike to Berlin: The Klondike in World War I by Michael Gates (available at and other booksellers). Much of the rest of this post will be quotes from this fine book.

Zowitza (Zoe) Nicholas, second daughter of Mrs. Jennie Nicholas of Dawson, and later Mayo Landing, joined the US Army Nurse Corps and eventually left with a Seattle contingent. -pages 15-16
Zowitza Nicholas was...resting after the cessation of combat. She had left Dawson City sometime befor to study nursing in Seattle. A former Dawson High School student, she came north with her parents during the gold rush when she was just five years old. Her father took the name John Nicholas when he immigrated to the United States from Greece. Her mother, Jennie Wilhelmina Erickson, was a Swedish immigrant who married John in 1891. John had worked as a barber from his arrival in Dawson until his death in December 1917.  
In the summer of 1918, Zowitza shipped out as an army nurse and was stationed at Base 50 Red Cross Hospital at Mesves, France. It was one of more than one hundred hospitals established by the Army to tend to the wounded. After the armistice, she was granted leave and travelled widely through occupied Germany, Belgium and France. She travelled from Nantes to Paris, then Metz, Koblenz, Cologne and Brussels, visiting cathedrals, art galleries and museums. She travelled with another nurse to Nice, where they spent several days enjoying the warm Mediterranean climate. But it is the description of her journey from Brussels to Paris by train that stirs the emotions. The ten-hour trip took her through the battlefields of France and Belgium. There, she saw the barren wasteland that had been created by war. She saw countless bridges destroyed by the conflict; she witnessed overturned locomotives in the ditches beside the railroad tracks. She observed the wire entanglements, mowed-down trees and shell holes, big and small. She saw trenches, trenches, and more trenches. Small white crosses populated the landscape, some single, others clustered together. One had a helmet hanging from it. 
It is hard to believe that the mass of stone was once a town or a house or that people ever lived there and worked," she wrote in a letter to her mother: There are rods of twisted iron...and there there is the inevitable pile of stone. Stone and red bricks; perhaps a piece of wall standing, perhaps not, and more piles of stone. Town after town is like this--no people there--no sign of life.... 
At one place I saw a man with a long stick or rake--I don't know which--digging and pushing and scraping aside a mass of stone. I wondered if he was intending to build himself a home, or if he was only looking for riches that were once his treasures.
She didn't describe the horrors she saw in her hospital. Sixty years later, though, she remembered her work. Many soldiers died of influenza in the closing weeks of the war. The room was so full of coffins we had to step over them," she recalled. "I could never get over the terrible things that happened to those poor boys." She was remembered as the "Angel of the Ward" by one soldier she cared for in the winter of 1918. Sixty-five years later, he tracked her down to find her in suburban Los Angeles, where she continued to nurse until 1979. [see]
The 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic that struck the soldiers in combat continued its spread around the world. The pandemic broke out on the eastern seaboard in early September. The deadly virus spread rapidly, and within weeks, reports from various cities and military camps confirmed the news that this influenza was highly contagious and killing people in large numbers. -pages 189-190
A lovely postscript: The University of Washington chose Zoe's image as provided by David E. Cann for a poster commemorating the hundredth anniversary of World War I. They did a research project and public display on what was then the 100th year commemoration of World War I and the Washington residents who left home to fight it and ended up making full-sized posters of Zowitza and put them all over the U. of Washington and other places. Zoe wound up the representative symbol of the entire display.

She did her nurse's training at Seattle General Hospital in Seattle, which became Maynard Hospital (where my dad was an orderly before WWII) before disappearing.

Zowitza S. Nicholas Anderson's resting place:

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Wednesday, September 05, 2018

South King County Genealogy Society

SKCGS is on the move! At the last Board Retreat, we created a twitter account and set up a blog. Follow @skcgs1 and watch the website to see the blog go live soon.

Our newsletter will publish a final issue, at which point our blog will be our broadcast to the world about South King County past, records and stories and how you can help our society preserve and educate about these resources.

The big story is our Seminar which is coming up Saturday, September 22 at Salish Hall on the Green River College campus in Auburn. Register now!

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Rootsweb Lists Spring Back to Life!

Rootsweb was offline for some months, and is now coming back online,
one piece at a time. First to return was World Connect: and the Message Boards have
continued to work and were not offline.

Now lists have been upgraded and restored, and the archives are being re-filled from backups. Find your way here: Create a new login here:
Once you have set up your account, you will be able to control list mail and how you receive it. Remember to link older email accounts as well.

Washington State lists are here: -- including the Washington State Genealogical Society lists.

If you would like to support this effort, why not become a listowner?
Create a login: and then head over to to adopt one. There is even a list for new listowners:

Once lists are working perfectly, the websites will return too!

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Tip of the Week: search

I was reading the excellent genealogy blog on, and came across the Tip of the Week: about surname search in the National Archives Catalog.

Just put your surname of interest in the search box at the top right of the home page: I did so and my first hit was an unknown cousin! I searched for "baysinger" and the first hit was I was both saddened and proud to read of my cousin's sacrifice and service.

Using MyHeritage to search for Donald Freeman Baysinger with the keywords of his hometown Buckley, Pierce County, Washington where my daddy used to live, led right to FamilySearch where I found his family tree.

We share gxgrandparents Peter Baysinger 1808–1886 and Elizabeth Rice 1814–1895 whose gravestone my cousin Terri placed for them in the Bear Canon Cemetery, Sedalia, Douglas, Colorado, USA.

My line to Peter and Elizabeth is through my mother, Lola McBee Cowan, through her mother Anna Baysinger and her parents John Alfred Baysinger 1872–1942 and Minnie Disney 1876–1959 and his parents Elias Henry Baysinger 1832–1900 and Sarah Maria Goosic 1842–1882. Elias Henry is the oldest brother to Zacharia Taylor Baysinger below.

Donald Baysinger's line goes through Peter and Elizabeth's son Zacharia Taylor Baysinger 1849–1923 and his wife Mary Elizabeth Toliver 1860–1924, and their son Charles Elmer Baysinger 1882–1970 and wife Retta May Akers 1890–1970 to their son Earl Clifford Baysinger 1908–1989 and wife Ella LaRue Smith 1916–2001. I'm so sorry to hear of their loss, and want to thank Earl and Ella Baysinger for their sacrifice.

You can see the tree on FamilySearch here:

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

23andme once again becoming useful for genetic genealogy

For quite awhile, I've been cautioning people that 23&me did not want genealogists, and was not serving us. Now although they still hide the tools, they are available.

First, many people have now "opened" their profiles, allowing matches to see what the match IS. Of course this is the default on all other sites. And I've figured out how to see all those opened matches on your matches page: Sort by Open Sharing.

Now for the fun stuff. Go to and search for your first open match. The code controlling the search is a bit funky, but keep at it and search for the rare part of the name, rather than the common part -- "hiram" rather than "smith". One can compare two other users as well as with yourself. I do that before before writing to people, so I can give them a bit of information. Be sure to scroll down below the simplified chromosome map to the detailed information. I paste all that into a text file; those who love spreadsheets will use those instead.

The first time one writes to a match, it is always good to have some information to them. Many of these people will be new to genealogy, new to genetic testing for genealogy, or even just new to the site. They may not know they the conversation can move to email, or how to use Gedmatch, or anything about their other matches - yet. We can help them get started by giving them some information that gets them interested in doing the work.

So digging out the information from those open profiles can provide (along with the Gedmatch matches) the information about exactly how you match, and who else might be part of the search for the common ancestor.

By the way, I'm also encouraged today by FTdna. Last time I tried to upload my raw 23&me dat to go along with my mtDNA kit, it was disallowed. Today I re-downloaded my raw data from 23&me, and was able to upload to with no problem. So I'm looking forward to being able to see a few more matches there. My mother's brother has a kit there, and I will enjoy looking at that match using the FTdna site. Of course I will add this information to my text file too!

This should give another boost to my McBee, Baysinger, Disney, Walters, Triplett, McFarland, Jack research!

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Book: The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome

This book by Alondra Nelson is only tangentially about genealogy and family history and sheds no light about how to use DNA to do research. It is about how our recent knowledge of the genome has fundamentally changed how we view facts about our ancestors.

The modern popularity of genealogy research began with Roots as a mini-series being televised in 1977. Before then, genealogy in the US had been mostly an upper-class pursuit, by white people. Of course, the LDS (Mormon) church had long been encouraging their members to document their ancestry -- also a mostly white project. Roots changed that, and now there are large numbers of black Americans looking for their ancestors both black and white, slave and free. And many want to go beyond the racialized labels assigned by the culture and the records and the African continent to find ancestral countries or tribal groups of origin.

Research both archaeological and "coroner's method" removal of graves in the "Negro Burial Ground" in the 90s exposed an old, racialized way of classifying the bones, in contrast to the new archaeological research which focused on using every clue found to place the person in the context of their lives in New Amsterdam, now lower Manhattan (near Tribeca). For instance, patterns of wear on the bones reveal the nature of the work these enslaved people did, and the African birth of some of them.

Once local people became aware of the excavation of graves, groups formed of probable descendants and others interested in preserving and studying and preserving the graveyard, which is now a National Monument. Another eventual outcome was the establishment by Rick Kittles, a brilliant scholar and activist, of African Ancestry, a company founded to help slave descendants find their African origins, and reconciliation with their history. His company offers both yDNA and mtDNA tests to help people connect with a country, a tribe.

There is a great deal more in this slim volume: the use of DNA to unite grandmothers with their missing grandchildren separated by the "Dirty War" in Argentina, forensic use of DNA to solve crimes of genocide, and eventually a very nuanced discussion of reparations politics in the USA.

This is not an easy read. It made me wonder why my genealogy society is all white. It made me ponder the history of how we've made use of our new knowledge of the genome, and what is ahead. It made me think about reconciliation with the past, and how we move forward once we know the truth.

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Monday, January 30, 2017

Thinking about ordering an DNA test? What can you do with it?

If you have been considering buying a DNA test to use for genealogy, here are a few things to consider.

First, have you found most of your ancestors through old-fashioned research? If not, DNA might not yield you much information. That said, even if you are adopted and don't know much about your birth lineage, with a lot of work, you can make some matches, and learn more. However, the more you know, the better you will be able to use what you learn from DNA.

Next, what sort of test will help you learn the most? If you want to learn more about your "surname line," that of your birth father, his father, and on up -- then you want a yDNA test, and FamilyTreeDNA is the only place to get it. You will need a male of this line to do the test; daughters do not inherit their father's yDNA. Of course, you can test a male in *each* of your surname lines, but again, this only tells you about the male lines. You will want to test as many markers as you can afford; at least 67 markers if possible.

If you want to learn about all your relatives, then you want an autosomal DNA (auDNA) test from Ancestry, FamilyTreeDNA, 23andMe, or the new one on the block, MyHeritage. If you are already an Ancestry member and don't care about what your DNA says about your health, Ancestry is the right choice (Ancestry has removed some of the genes which have health implications from their testing).

Update: the newcomer is now LivingDNA. If you want to find out a lot more about your British and Irish ancestors, then it is your best bet. Their website says: If you have British or Irish ancestry then it’s the only test that shows where within Britain and Ireland your ancestry comes from.

If you are already testing at FTdna for yDNA or mtDNA, then "Family Finder" is your best choice.

If you care a bit about genealogy, but really want to know what your DNA says about your health, then 23andMe is the most popular. However, I think that their genealogy "helps" are the opposite these days, the health information seems over-simplified, and the high cost of the kits leads me to advise against using 23andMe. And yes, I tested there! At least it used to be less expensive. I found out more about health effects from Promethease than I have from 23&me.

The new choice, MyHeritage is my current favorite, since it is inexpensive ($75) and you can nearly always see a family tree, which is a problem with the others, even sometimes Ancestry. They use FTdna to do the processing, so they'll be top-notch results. They offer only autosomal DNA too.

If you want to know about your mother's ancestry, then you need mitochondial DNA (mtDNA). Taking this test follows your mother's mother's mother's line far into the past. People have gotten matches from doing this test, but since mtDNA is so stable, it is more about your deep past than present-day cousins. Again, FTdna is the only major company doing this testing.

No matter what company you choose, get your "raw results. If you do an auDNA test, you can upload to GEDMatch if you wish. GEDMatch offers a lot of interesting stuff, such as comparisons with ancient DNA on file, possible localities where your ancestors lived, and the ability to partially reconstruct the genome of a missing relative, given enough other testing. I do not yet know whether or not the MyHeritage kits will offer me the opportunity to download the raw data. I very much hope so, and that GEDMatch will find a way to let me upload this data easily.
* update -- they do.

I think it is also important, if you use Wikitree (and you should) to link in your various tests there too. You do not upload results; simply put in your tests and also report matches among your relatives you have already made. This solidifies the results for cousins who tie into your tree, and may induce them to test too! They make it very easy. Wikitree is all about collaboration, and is the main reason I love this site! Gedmatch has a page about how to make the Wikitree link as well:

If you do mitochondrial DNA at FTdna, they make it easy for you to upload to Mitosearch, which allows people who have tested elsewhere to upload their raw data. I've done it, although without any hits I've not seen on FTdna already. They have a similar free service for yDNA called ysearch. One can upload a gedcom, and I think it is worth doing so, if you have done the tests.

For health effects, there is a site called Promethease, which gives you an amazing amount of information for $5.

Other options: describes four of the best, including GEDMatch and Promethease.

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Genealogy goals for the new year

Given the way that autosomal DNA tests for genealogy work, there are two things that are important for success in using that DNA data to find matches: finding your ancestors back to ten generations, and finding all possible descendants from them.

I came to this conclusion after reading the excellent blog post, How Much of Your Family Tree Do You Know? And Why Does That Matter? where the author says,
whenever we make a conclusion about a particular ancestor or ancestral couple based on segments of DNA shared with a relative, we absolutely must address whether we do, or could, share other ancestors with that relative.

The author made a nice little chart summarizing how much he knew, so I did the same thing. Mine is not as pretty, but here it is anyway:

Key:  Generation: from me; Relationship: to me; Date of Birth: roughly averaged; Matches: description; # Poss. Anc.: total number of possible ancestors in each generation; # Identified: number of ancestors identified by name in each generation; % Identified: percent of generation identified
Totals - Total Poss: total possible ancestors; Total # Indent: total number identified of total possible additively; Total % Ident: Total number of ancestors identified of total number possible additively in each generation
As you can see, I'm missing a lot of information! So I will prioritize finding more of those ancestors, even as MyHeritage continues to make it easy to find their descendants. And I will continue to add that information to Wikitree as I find the time. I really love having all the information open to everybody. That said, if you are a cousin, and want to see what I've got on MyHeritage, just ask to join the tree. Occasionally I also download a gedcom from there and upload that to Rootsweb as well.

Gedmatch: M186808

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