Archive | February 2014

Getting Cousins to Test, a Rootstech Talk

I really love the title Blaine Bettinger, the Genetic Genealogist, used for his talk -“Begging for Spit” …
Having test results from my two second cousins has been extremely useful for narrowing down which family line new matches are related on. So I would really like to get  more cousins to test.

Blaine suggests using these three Es to guide you:


When discussing each of these, he stressed that you do not want to overwhelm your contact. That means no three page emails filled with technical terms! Make your request specific, short, and to the point. Make it visual and informative.

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Searching the Norwegian Digital Archives, a Rootstech Talk

UPDATE 6 June 2017 – the archives have a new look and new site at

Many of us Norwegian-American researchers have been complaining about the new archives and its search function. So I went to the talk by Finn Karlsen of the Digitalarkivet hoping to gain a better understanding. Of course the first thing he told us was that the old archive would die at the end of March as would the links we might have been using in our trees to reference data there. This is not news as we have been hearing it for a while.

After listening to him I thought I understood what I had been doing wrong with my searches at the new digital archive site – I had not understand how to correctly use wildcards there. Apparently the asterisk * wildcard can only be used at the beginning or end of a word, not in the middle. Also the pipe character | can be used as an OR.

Finn of course made it look easy with his examples of searching. He promises to have his presentation posted at his website by the end of next week. He already has some explanations of how to use the simple search on his site.

The simple search example he gave in his talk was

Bernh* nes*|næss*

So I tried that at home and got this:

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Finally a good basic book on genetic genealogy

There is finally a really well-done book on understanding and using autosomal DNA testing, so of course I have been wanting to review it. At last on the plane to Rootstech 2014 I had the time to read it:  Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond by Emily Aulicino. I thought that I would know most of what was in there but was pleasantly surprised by a number of helpful insights.

I will reread chapter 6, “Convincing a Person to Test” several more times. I have found that the DNA match ups of my 2nd cousins who have tested are extremely useful for figuring out which line a new relative is related on. Thus I need advice on how to get few more of them to test!

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Pedigree Collapse or the Family Braid

Long ago I heard that genealogy is better described as a family braid rather than a family tree. Clearly the further back you go the more often ancestors will be repeated in your pedigree. An article at explains that well:

If we double the number of ancestors in each generation, 2 parents, 4 grandparents, and so on, we can see that by the time we are back 10 generations, we have the potential for 1024 ancestors. But is this true? If we were to go back to the time of Charlemagne, we would find we had the potential for 281 trillion (YES!) ancestors all living at that one moment in history. This is statistically impossible! So where did our ancestors go?

In my own family I have seen some evidence of repeating ancestors at about my 7th-10th Norwegian grandparents, several of whom are in my tree many times, thus significantly reducing my number of ancestors back in the 1500 and 1600s. For example my 7th and also my 8th grandfather, Nils Anderson Eig Øvrebø is in my tree multiple times.

However recently I got a really amazing example of pedigree collapse in a wonderful email from my newly found 4th cousin Susannah which said:

I have no one else in my family who can appreciate this so I just had to send to you. My mother-in-law’s 23andMe results finally came in today and I was shocked to see a ‘2nd Cousin’ match in DNA Relatives, given that almost all her ancestors come from Bossico, Bergamo, Italy.

… Now, if I look only at the paternal line, their common ancestor is 10 generations back – her 8th g-grandfather born in 1575. But I can quickly see that every female that married into this line also has a surname that is in my mother-in-law’s ancestry and can see her gg-aunt, 3rd g-aunt, 4th g-aunt etc. in his tree. I always wondered how that would look DNA-wise so now I have my answer. …

I fleshed out the tree and found the closest relationship to my mother-in-law- they are 3rd cousins 1x removed. Out of curiosity, I checked the autosomal stats, and saw that predicted average for that relationship is 0.391% and 26.56cM. Per 23andMe, Giovanfranco & Maria share 3.46% , 257cM on 20 segments. Wow!
Comparison Half IBD # segments
mother-in-law vs. son 126 cM 11
mother-in-law vs. father (3rd cousin 1x remved) 257 cM 20

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