Thursday, June 28, 2012

iPhone App for 23andMe

The genetic testing company 23andMe has released an App for the iPhone.  Today I downloaded the App to my iPhone 4.  The current format allows for viewing of only medical results, which is dissappointing because I use the site for genealogical results.

Display screens for the new 23andMe App on the iPhone 4.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Growing the Blog . . .
For the first time in the history of this blog I have surpassed 1000 views in a month!

Thank you to all my readers.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Last Names

Here's a quote from Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne for all those who claim that your last name was never different.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

You are not done! Compiled genealogies.

Compiled genealogies can be great.  Finding ONE of your lines does not mean that you are done with researching, though.  You have infinite number of other lines to research, as well as the lines not covered in the book.  You also need to research every piece of information in the compiled genealogy for accuracy.  Sloppy and inaccurate genealogies harm other researchers as the information is perpetuated over the years and across the internet.

Let's look at The Transactions of the Rockefeller Family Association by Henry Oscar Rockefeller mentioned a few posts back.  How much of my genealogy is in the book?  I have a diagram to illustrate.

The blue and pink entries inside the red enclosure are my direct ancestors in this particular compiled genealogy.  The book is a great resource, but would not lead me to conclude that no further research is needed.  Look at all of my other ancestors who are left untouched, naturally because they have nothing to do with the Rockefellers of Germantown, New York.

This is my most recent direct ancestor mentioned in the book.  Using this information, I found a record of her second marriage to James Miller in Jersey City on the date mentioned.  I have not found a record of her first marriage.  I suspect another marriage in 1898, which is not mentioned in the book, nor are her children by these marriages mentioned in the book.  Plus, the parents of spouses are omitted, understandably so, but they need researching also!

A kind soul tipped me off that Annie Hyser was married again in Albany in 1898.
See why genealogists prefer to look themselves?
Having a date of remarriage significantly narrows down the possible years of death for the first spouse.  A visit to Catskill Village Cemetery in New York located the graves of Annie Hyser, her siblings, and parents, as well as a possible match for her husband, William H Cumming, died 1882.

Is this William H Cumming 1856-1882 the William H Cummins who married Annie Hyser in 1877?
The compiled genealogy does not tell us.
Catskill Village Cemetery, Catskill, Greene County, New York

These compiled genealogies are just another part of your research.

Friday, June 22, 2012

AncestryDNA Tester

The AncestryDNA test kit has been utilized.  The donor of the DNA sample was adopted in New Jersey in 1936.  Although the original birth certificate is not available, the court records are public.  [A 1940 statute sealed future adoption records.]  The documents are housed in the Essex County Hall of Records and are not indexed, but I had a date and adoptive parents' names to work with, so I found the correct papers easily.

I have the name of her mother, but no other identifying information, such as her age.  I do not know if this is the mother's birth name or a married name.  No father is mentioned.  Even though I know the name of the person I am seeking, I cannot be sure that I found her.

The traditional paperwork research reveals that there were a few families using this last name or a variant in Essex County, New Jersey, and many more families of this name if the search is expanded to neighboring counties.  The first name of the birth mother was popular in every branch, with most family units naming a baby girl this way, and many men marrying a woman of this name.  The result was many eligible candidates with nobody alive today to confirm which one was the mother.

We shall see what the test tells us.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Autosomal DNA Matching: A Diagram

When you test your autosomal DNA, you reveal bits of your DNA from any one of your ancestors.  Your genetic distant cousins in the database are a match with you because you share the same identical little segment of the same ancestor.  The trick is to figure out which ancestor you both have in common.  The common ancestor could be along any of your lines and any of their lines and could be many generations ago.

People without extensively documented trees may have a problem making connections to their genetic distant cousins.  This should not hold you back from testing your DNA and may be the only way of discovering otherwise elusive lines.  DNA testing does not replace "traditional" genealogical research of original documents, census entries, cemetery records, etc.  DNA testing can also reveal ancestry for people who are adopted and, if a close match is in the database, can reveal the family of origin.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

DNA Matching: Autosomal versus Y-DNA

When my DNA results produce matches at 23andMe, I look at two factors to try to figure out the most recent common ancestor, or the source of the little identical segments of DNA.  The first source is common surnames and the second is common geographical areas.  Both options pose their own problems, but you need to try some path to make the match.  Surnames change over the generations.  People move around, from state to state and continent to continent.  Someone may not uncover all areas that their ancestor called home.  Autosomal DNA testing reveals the little segments of DNA that you still carry from your distant ancestors.  Some other descendants of these same ancestors still carry the same segments, producing a "match."  The trick is identifying which ancestor or ancestors you have in common with your genetic match.

I have a few matches where I can't say for sure that we have uncovered the common ancestor, but we seem to have good leads.  One is the surname Rockefeller.  Henry Oscar Rockefeller compiled a family genealogy in the early 1900s, focusing mainly on this line, the immigrant Diell Rockefeller (died New York 1769), but also discussed some of the other Rockefeller lines in the area.  I descend from Diell Rockefeller through my father's mother.  At 23andMe, we both match a man who is descended from another immigrant, Johann Peter Rockefeller (died New Jersey about 1766).

The Transactions of the Rockefeller Family Association by Henry Oscar Rockefeller, 1910.
[Viewable through Google Books or]
A line descended from Diell Rockefeller merged with a line descended from Johann Peter Rockefeller.
My line descends from Diell's son Simon [red] through another daughter, Margaret.
Our genetic "Distant Cousin" descends from Johann Peter's son Peter [blue] through another son, Henry.
Autosomal DNA comparison of the descendant ("Distant Cousin") of Johann Peter Rockefeller to my father and me.
We match on a small segment of Chromosome 12.

It is not known if Johann Peter and Diell were related.  Does the above DNA comparison show that the two Rockefeller immigrants Johann Peter and Diell were related?  Not necessarily.  We could have other ancestors in common that we do not know about that are causing the match.

The DNA testing that could show if both Rockefeller immigrants were related is Y-DNA testing.  Direct male descendants of both men could compare their Y chromosomes.  The Y chromosome is passed almost unchanged from father to son and then to his son as so on down the line of descent.  Neither my father nor our "Distant Cousin" here can participate in such a test because the last Rockefeller in both of their lines was a female, hence breaking the Y chromosome inheritance.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cemetery Visits for the Holiday

Visited some of the gravesites today for Father's Day.  The cemeteries were populated with living people, making the tours more pleasant (and safer).

Family graves at Fairmount Cemetery in Newark, Essex County, New Jersey.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

AncestryDNA Kit Received

I received the DNA kit from Ancestry ordered one week ago for $99.  It is a spit test, the same method of collection used by 23andMe, and will reveal autosomal inheritance.  I have not decided who will be the contributor of the DNA.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

DNA Tutorial for Genealogy

I came across terrific online explanations of DNA from the University of Utah.  The short videos plainly explain four types of genetic inheritance:  autosomal, X chromosome, Y chromosome, and mitochondrial DNA, and their applicability to genealogical research.

The testing that I write about from 23andMe is autosomal.  The kit that I ordered from Ancestry a few days ago is autosomal testing.  The surname projects at FamilyTreeDNA (which I have not done yet) are Y chromosome DNA testing.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Mystery Civil War Photographs

I came across this news article from Yahoo and thought it was interesting.  The Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia houses thousands of photographs carried by dead soldiers in the Civil War and seeks to identify family of the people in the photographs.  As I have previously written, unlabeled old photographs are rather sad.  There is hope for some of these photographs.  The locations of discovery, sometimes on battlefields themselves, is often recorded.  Although the museum staff has limited resources for tracking down possible descendants, I think that some modern-day genealogists might help identify a few photographs.  If you have family who served in the Civil War, track down what you can about their service.  Then contact the Museum (or stop by if you live in the area) to see what kind of a search they can offer you.  I see from their website that the Museum is in the process of digitizing various collections.

Monday, June 11, 2012


Death certificates can provide you with names of parents.  If possible, obtain the death certificates for all children of an ancestor, even though the siblings are not your direct line.  Compare the names of parents on the certificates of all siblings.

Sisters Sarah and Mary Cook died of pneumonia in Whippany 10 days apart in 1885.  Their death certificates are consecutive.  Although they were in their 70s, the informant was able to provide the full names of both parents.  This information is consistent on both death certificates.

Sisters Elizabeth Terry and Sarah Scott died ten years apart in Jersey City in 1886 and 1896.  On the death certificates, the names of their parents are not identical.  The names of the parents on Sarah's death certificate are consistent with other documentation.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Purchased AncestryDNA Kit

I logged onto my email tonight just in time to see the awaited announcement from Ancestry that I could purchase one of their new DNA kits.  The offer was good for only twelve hours.

Email from received 9 June 2012.
Offer expires 9 June 2012.

I ordered one kit for $99 plus $9.95 shipping.  [On an aside note, I will get a percentage of the price credited to my Upromise account.  Another 27 years and those school loans will be gone!]

I returned to the Offer Page and tried to order another kit, but was denied.

This new offer from AncestryDNA is autosomal testing, meaning that the test captures DNA that you have from all of your ancestral lines.  [The trick is figuring out WHICH ancestral line you have in common with any one of your hundreds of distant genetic cousins.]  This is the testing offered by 23andMe and one of the tests available at FamilyTreeDNA.  This is not the same test that I did at Ancestry a few years ago for my father, his sister, and myself.

I now need to decide who to test.  I wanted to try the new autosomal testing at Ancestry.  I DO NOT want results for various family members scattered across companies.  I will not be able to compare genetic cousins against known, closer family members if I do not concentrate the tests at one company.

I will keep you posted . . .

Saturday, June 9, 2012

More Genetic Comparisons

Another useful function of the expanded comparison abilities at 23andMe is comparing people who match both my father and his third cousin.  The most recent common ancestors were born around 1830 in New Jersey, Calvin Cook and Mary Neil.  Calvin's lines were in New Jersey and New York several generations before Calvin, while Mary was likely of recent Irish descent.

In the above graph, P. M., who lives in Ireland, matches David and David's third cousin, as well as T. R, who is also from Ireland.  T. R. matches both David and the third cousin (not shown).  Mary Neil represents David's only Irish branch.  Thus, P. M. and T. R. likely match David through one of Mary Neil's lines.  The question remains:  which of Mary's ancestors was also an ancestor of P. M. and T. R.?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Royal Genealogy?

Someone found this interesting handwritten genealogy at a garage sale in New Jersey.  It's interesting, though a bit difficult to follow the lines.  Ancestors include Charlemagne and several Kings of England.

This seems to be the area of more recent people.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

DNA Update: 23andMe

A new feature at 23andMe is the ability to compare matches to one another, as long as they are "sharing genomes" with you.  I compared my father's 250+ matches.  (Took about eight weeks.)  Most matches matched a few others, usually with a very tiny segment.

In the above graph, my father (David) shares genetic material with all three of these people, though not on the same chromosome.  This could indicate a shared ancestry among all four of them.
In this graph, David matches all three of these people on the same area of Chromosome 12.
The limit of this DNA testing is that you are not told which side of the chromosome holds the match.
In other words, you have 23 PAIRS of chromosomes; one side from your mother, the other from your father.
All three people could match on the side from David's father, or from his mother, or one is on the maternal side, the other two on the paternal side.  We do not know from this comparison alone.
The new ability to compare matches against one another enables us to see that C. W. matches N. P, but not R. M.
In addition, N. P. does not match R. M.
From this, we can proceed with the hypothesis that N. P. and C. W. match David on one side of the family, while R. M. matches on the other.  We just have not figured out which one is which (yet).

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

More Family Tree DNA coupons

Here are two more coupons for Family Tree DNA autosomal testing, which they call Family Finder.  The regular price is $289.  The coupon price is $179.  They are only good once and before June 10th, so hurry.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Woodland Cemetery, Newark, New Jersey

Yesterday was the annual Safe Day at Woodland Cemetery in Newark, Essex County, New Jersey.  Thanks to Mary Lish and John Sass for their coordination and help.  It was great seeing everyone!  After a stormy night, the clouds cleared.  The ground was soggy at first, but soon dried under the hot sun.

Woodland Cemetery was established in 1855 and holds over 80,000 burials.  The annual Safe Day allows volunteers to photograph and record gravestone transcriptions and guide the public in locating graves of loved ones.

Woodland Cemetery, Newark, New Jersey
Woodland Cemetery, Newark, New Jersey

Using a weedwacker to uncover these stones from ivy.

Using a metal detector to locate buried treasures.

Spoon found buried at the cemetery.  Silver-plated copper alloy.
Engraving on spoon.