Archive | 2018

Not always a happy ending

Most of the unknown parentage cases I have worked on have had very happy endings and I have enjoyed reporting on them here and in my presentations. Sadly it is not always like that.

My observations from the many cases I have been involved with is that the fathers who never knew are frequently delighted; while the mothers who gave up the child often want to pretend it never happened.

There are at least two cases in my files where the overly young parents, gave up their child, later got married, and were happy to have that child back in their lives. However I have another case where although they later got married, they subsequently divorced and are not acknowledging their son.

A 1960s diary

There are also a few cases where the father claims to not even have known the mother of the child. That does not necessarily stop him from being delighted to have a new daughter or son.

Some fathers are not so welcoming. The first case I ever helped out on was a DNA cousin, early in the days of testing, so I did not know she could be more distant than the reported 4th cousin. Regardless, I was happy to help. She lives in the next town over and came to my house to meet me. I did not realize what an emotional moment it would be for her, meeting her first ever biological relative. Subsequently her birth state opened their records, so she found her late mother’s family. With the extra information from her mother’s diary and her Ancestry test, I was able to find her birth dad, my distant relative. However he said in an email response to her, “Sorry, but I have no recall of a [her mother’s name].” Since the story was one of being taken advantage of when drunk at a party, my cousin chose not to pursue this.

Another genetic cousin who turned up early in my DNA explorations was also more distant than I realized, a double sixth cousin. Eventually I suggested he test at Ancestry where he found a paternal half sister born days apart from him. I found their Dad, my distant cousin, and called him, but he wanted no part of DNA testing. His reason was that he was protecting his known daughter who was going through a tough time and besides he was always “good,” never stepped out. Luckily a few months later that very same daughter did an Ancestry DNA test and is thrilled to have a half sister (she had no sisters) and another brother.

The case that broke my heart was a recent one involving two war babies.

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The We’re Related App

I have shown a number of fellow genealogists the We’re Related app from Ancestry on my smartphone because it is so much fun. Let’s face it, we all like being related to famous people. My latest “famous” match is my 7th cousin thrice removed, Hans Christian Andersen, which delights the writer in my soul.

This app has also figured out how I am related to a number of my Facebook friends. Of course, they are usually cousins I that found myself with genealogy or DNA and then friended. I must have connected this app to my FaceBook account when I first installed it and of course I connected it to my Ancestry account as well.

An exciting recent surprise was that We’re Related found my relationship to fellow genetic genealogist Kelly Wheaton, famed for her free online beginning genetic genealogy course. We had long wondered about a smallish DNA segment that we share on chromosome 16, which is also shared with other relatives, so expected to be real. We had assigned it to a location – Seljord, Telemark, Norway but had not figured out the ancestor.

Tree Icon

In the app, each cousin match has several icons below it (two on my phone, three on my tablet). The one with two boxes then another below them represents a family tree. Click on that icon or the person’s photo to learn more about the relationship. Although you most often share an ancestral couple, it only shows you one of them, usually the man for most of mine.

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There is a new ftDNA Chromosome Browser

Family Tree DNA has updated their chromosome browser with a new sleek modern look that allows seven simultaneous comparisons. What’s more, you can click the chromosome browser on the home page and go straight to a page where you select the people to compare. The Family Finder section on the homepage highlights the new browser:

The new selection page sorts by any column just like the Family Finder Matches page:

This new chromosome map it produces is much more modern looking and intuitive to use, plus every segment can be clicked to see the information about it.

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Collecting Family Trees with Automation

Did you know that there are chrome add-ons that can collect pedigree trees from many genealogy sites and DNA testing sites? These tools can collect a tree of ancestors as an ahnentafel list which is a very useful and compact format to scan for common ancestors and locations.

Click here for my post explaining an Ahnentafel list and the tool DNArboretum to create one from a tree at Family Tree DNA.

The pedigree view of a family tree on Ancestry.com or MyHeritage can also be collected into an ahnentafel list with another chrome add-on, a tool called Pedigree Thief (click here to download it).

Saving a new cousin to my tree

When it is just a few new relatives at Ancestry, you don’t need those add-ons. After all, it is easy to use the Tools menu on the Profile Page of the ancestor you want from a tree at Ancestry.com to copy over a few people. In fact, if you copy one person over, you can click back to the original tree and copy them again in order to get their whole family group, just like in an Ancestry hint. I do recommend that you check sources and make sure that this is good information. Even if you are making a Quick & Dirty tree (Q&D) for an adoptee, it is best to check it over, as some trees on Ancestry.com are quite unrealistic with parents born after their children and other such errors.

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October DNA Days (with me)

Blaine Bettinger, one of the best presenters and educators on genetic genealogy, is coming to Carlsbad, San Diego, for a daylong seminar next week on Saturday, October 6. This is a wonderful opportunity to gather knowledge from one of the stars of the field. At the moment, there are still a few seats open.

I will also be doing a workshop on working with your DNA matches that morning in Carlsbad. If you are interested in having your results be an example in my workshop, please contact me with some details.

The idea of a workshop is I talk briefly, then you try it yourselves. Then I talk some more. Then you try some more and we repeat again. So please bring your laptop or tablet or even make do with your smartphone and we will have fun! We will mainly work with Ancestry matches plus a little bit with GEDmatch. If you have not yet uploaded your DNA data to GEDmatch.com please do so. Click here for how.

Blaine’s workshop about visual phasing will be at the same time as mine. Everyone loves this workshop at Jamboree so it is great to have it locally. Blaine is not only the author of several books on genetic genealogy and a blog, but he also runs a FaceBook group of about 46K members called “Genetic Genealogy Tips & Techniques.” His latest endeavor is a web site for self paced learning called DNA Central.

If you cannot make it up to Carlsbad, then come hear me following Saturday Oct 13 when I will be talking to the San Diego Genealogy Society in the Lake Murray area.

Or if you are in New Mexico, I will be talking in Albuquerque New Mexico the following day, Sunday Oct 14!
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