About Me

Kitty Munson Cooper

I am a blogger, genetic genealogist, genealogist, programmer, retired web designer, speaker, mother, grandmother, gardener, dog lover, cat lover, and World Champion Bridge player. For more about my web design company, which I am now retired from,  go to my business site Open Sky Web Design which has my resume as well. For more about my genealogy try my family history site. For more about my bridge career go to to my bridge teaching site.

In the late 90s I got the genealogy/family history bug after a beloved Aunt died with too many of her stories unrecorded. What happened was that I remet a second cousin who was a genealogist at her funeral. He showed me many charts of our ancestry. I had always loved listening to family stories from the older generation but now I felt that I had to preserve them. So I started a family history web site for my family with the pictures and stories that I collected.

Then in 2012 I did the NatGeo test, then 23andme, then Family Tree DNA for my Dad, then I got a few cousins to test and my brother. Found many cousins on the Norwegian side who helped break a few brick walls. Next we tried Ancestry.com DNA testing as well … yes I caught a severe case of the genetic genealogy bug and even started blogging about it, mainly to keep everything where my family and I could find it. Soon I found myself presenting and speaking about my passion as well; click here for my upcoming talk schedule.

ISpeaker Badge wrote my first program in 1966 and went to work as a programmer after I graduated from college (Harvard ’72 cum laude). I had intended to be an architect, combining my art and math skills. While in college, I decided to become an animated film maker instead. However I fell in love with computers along the way and took a job as a systems programmer to save up the money for grad school in film. Programming was so much fun that I never did go back to school.

When the internet got graphic, I saw a way to combine my artistic bent with programming and quit my corporate job to develop web sites as a free lancer.  That developed into my own business, Open Sky Web Design, with subcontractors and interns and my late husband doing the back office work. A good life. I have mainly retired from that now and he is gone but I do some genetic genealogy consulting because I love to help people and have to support my genalogy habit!


31 thoughts on “About Me

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  1. Hi Kitty,

    I love your insightful articles about genetics and geneology.

    I am curious if you or anyone you know has ever tried DNA Spectrum’s test?

    I love getting information and feedback on comparisons, and also just stories about how the information our (or other tests) from your DNA have influenced your life.

    Best regards,

    Alice Edwards
    DNA Spectrum

  2. Hi Kitty,

    Do you do MySQL programming? I have a need for someone to create a program to search markers in a Y-DNA haplotype database. Please send your answer to my private email. Thanks!

  3. Wow, who knew? Have seen your name in many North American Bridge Championship Daily Bulletins, and here you are. Good to see another bridge player into genealogy. The age range for the two groups is about the same. Wonder why more aren’t into genealogy. Maybe genealogy people are a little older. I’m trying to grasp chromosome browsing after taking Ancestry, 23andme and FTDNA DNA tests (Y-chromosome & Autosomal with FTDNA) & uploading results to Gedmatch. Subscribed to your blog. Thanks!

    • Bill – There are a few bridge players that I know of who are into genealogy. The most notable one that I know of is Peggy Sutherlin, but very few also do DNA. Yes I agree it is surprising that there are not more of them. After all it is a wonderful and endless puzzle, much more interesting than a card game …

      • True I am quite new, and I am completely crazy about it, I never studied these field til someone dropped this … “you know something, I remember you said in the playground that they are not your parents (20 years ago)… and they are not .. I let you find out as i heard from someone from the place you used to live.. not any longer I lived in the country where I grown up… making the search a bit more complicated

        Ah ok done a dna test and boom the cracks started to appear and is like diving into a maze no idea where is going do lead…

  4. Some months ago, you presented to the San Diego Genealogical Society. In neither your handout (still online) nor my notes can I find the sequence of “cheap” ways to do ONE full DNA test and then send – sequentially – the resultant database to other services. Help, pls?

    North San Diego County Genealogical society and Randy Seaver from SDGS both suggest the full blown Ancestry test, then sending the database result to FamilyTree & GEDMatch. It seems, though, that there was more.

    Ready to spit….

    • Yes, do a DNA test at Ancestry unless your family is very recently in the USA, then prefer 23andme. After results are back, upload to the others Randy mentioned plus MyHeritage and DNA.land

  5. See you are the site manager for the Beckjord family that immigrated from Norway. I bought a image of Knute H. Beckjord on e-bay and spent some time this afternoon researching his life. The image I have must be from the 1860s. I have not looked at the census records but he must be born around 1825-30.
    His sister or aunt was Joran Halvorsdatter (Julia) Beckjordan). Knute was a tailor in St. Paul, Minnesota. He was naturalized in Ramsey, Minnesota. He married a woman named Nellie and by the end of his life was living in a nice neighborhood in St. Paul at 788 West Osceola Avenue in a Georgian Revival built in 1890. By 1913 Nellie is a widow. Would you like an image of Knute?

  6. Dear Kitty,
    I am an adoptee and have tested through 23, Ancestry and Family Tree and am wondering if you assist privately, apart from your blog. I would certainly pay for the service.
    I have tested through 23, Ancestry and FT. I’m fortunate to have found my maternal family through extensive research and have been in contact with a (confirmed) half-aunt and uncle. My half-aunt and I tested and she came up as my 1st or 2nd cousin.
    I I’ve recently encountered a couple of 1st and 2nd paternal cousins on 23. I’m half Jewish, so I’m certain they are related through my father. My mother was Irish etc.
    I have a couple of things I would like to explore. First, my half-aunt’s DNA and segments on 23 are really close to my 2nd paternal cousin. I’m wondering if he might be a nephew or something other than cousin.
    To complicate things, my half-aunt has questioned whether her mother is her real mother (long story), and so I was wondering if you could read our results to help clarify.
    Second, I’m wondering if it’s possible to tell more specifically how the two paternal cousins are related. I know that the “cousin” rating can be any number of things. The first cousin is new to 23 and recently contacted me. Our shared DNA is 13, pretty high. From his writing style/language, I sense he is a good deal younger than me (I’m 66). He initially showed interest in exploring our relatedness, but I sense he may have some apprehension. .
    Thank you for reading through this long winded message! Hope it makes sense.
    If you are interested in assisting, I would be grateful, but I want to pay for your time. Please let me know how much you charge and all.
    I tried enrolling at GEDmatch but not sure I’m doing it right.
    Best Wishes, Lynda

  7. Hi Kitty. Is it possible for me to converse with you via private email ? I’m kind of on a mission to identify a victim and have a couple questions. Your expertise would be greatly appreciated.

    • There are several parts to using genetic genealogy to solve a case
      1) the autosomal DNA in question has to be sequenced. Personal genome tests like at ancestry.com use about 700,000 data points, far more than CODIS
      2) a data file has to be made of those results that mimics the DNA results from ancestry or family tree DNA or 23andme and then uploaded to GEDmatch.com
      3) a genetic genealogist works with those results to build a tree from currently tested relatives in that GEDmatch database. Usually getting to grandparents or great grandparents
      4) Then you need to target DNA test relatives to id the actual person

      Parabon Nanolabs does the sequencing and much of the rest I think. I do not know the cost.

  8. Kitty I tried submitting a message through your contact me function, it’s giving me a weird error page.
    Could you please email me because I’d really like your wisdom on a few things. Helping an adoptee and this is my first DNA rodeo.

  9. I am trying to find someone who could help me see my paternal Grandmother’s house in Norway. My cousin, Nellie Venn Griffin, said to reach you as you had visited there. I saw some photos on your blog from Norway and one taken from a hillside looking at a house looks very much like the one my mother took when she visited there. My name is Susan Helen Halverson Norman. My grandmother was Helen Haaland who married a Thomas Halverson in the late 1890’s. They had 7 children all born in the US…Edwin in 1900, my father Harold in 1903, Beatrice, Lloyd, Donald, Fred and Arlene, my cousins mother. My mother, the late Helen Lois Briggs Halverson from Los Angeles, California, visited this home in late 1967, either in Sept or October and stayed in the home. She took a hydrofoil boat to reach the area and was met by a couple and their son. A cousin of my grandmother’s was living in the house at that time and my mother was entertained royally while there. I just want to see the house and perhaps the Lutheran church that she would have attended. Can you help me please….My husband is looking at a cruise that ends in Norway and we would very much like to extend our time to come and see where my family tree began…Thanks for any help….

  10. Hello
    I love your blogs and always look forward to them!

    I am presenting to a group on DNA and was wondering if you would know how or what app to use when you are trying to erase the names (for privacy)? I use powerpoint, but am not sure how to do this easily…You do this often, and I just wanted a pointer.

    • Thanks Susie!
      I use a chrome and/or firefox add-on called Awesome Screenshot which lets you take screenshots and edit them before saving them. That includes cropping, putting a colored box around an item, or even putting a solid shape over a name among many other features.
      I also use Adobe Photoshop Elements as a retired web designer …
      Sometimes I just put a shape over a screenshot where I forgot to remove the name or surname when making a slide over at slides.com where I create my presentations.
      Probably more information than you need!

  11. Very interesting blog. It gave me several ideas to try, as I was adopted & have had no luck in finding my birth parents. I have taken the Ancestry DNA test, but the closest I have come are second cousins. Unfortunately, after contacting several, I still have little to no info. Thanks!

  12. Hi Kitty
    My father Petrus Thannhauser passed away 13 years ago however I remember him saying that he had spoken to you about tracing our Thannhauser ancestor tree. He and my mum migrated to Australia in 1958 and they both grew up in Nijmegen in Holland during the Second World War. I would dearly love to find out my heritage and so wonder if you could please enlighten me? Thank you it would mean a lot to me as I would like to explain to my children

    • Hi Simone,
      Lovely to hear from you. I will email you the genealogy for the Dutch Thannhausers that I previously sent to your father, whose correspondance I truly enjoyed. My sympathies to you for his loss, may his memory be a blessing.
      Here is an explanation of how the name Thannhauser was derived:
      We are probably related but it could be pretty far back. Did you know this was originally a jewish family?
      Have you DNA tested? That is my passion and I would be happy to help you with that or your genealogy in any way.

  13. I think your insight on the accuracy of home-recorded birth dates vs church-recorded baptismal dates is intriguing — I am going to give it a try! Thanks for the advice!

  14. Hi Kitty,

    Your blog is excellent and I have learnt so much. I do have a question also re my DNA matches, eg.

    My 3 cousins and I do not match on Ancestry, but on Gedmatch we do, in the same position on Chromosome 16 and within the Start and End location numbers, but only when I change the default to 5cMs, eg:

    Half 5th cousin once removed = 5.0cMs;
    Half 5th cousin = 5.7cMs
    Half 5th cousin once removed = 5.8cMs.

    Would like your feedback whether these results would be classed as IBS or IBD? Thanking you in anticipation.


    • Janice –
      Unless you find other cousins who match there, it is about 55% to be a false match. Typically we do not look at matches less than 7cM except among known family and even then, unless it triangulates, we all view small matches with suspicion.
      In general about 10% of your 3rd cousins will not match you, so the lack of match is not a surprise unless there are more relatives on that side of the family that only match one or the other of you.

  15. Kitty – I never used a blog before, so I hope this reaches you. Thanks for your answers to my questions today.

    This is a follow up:

    Kitty, Ira again. I opened 23andMe again, sorted the spreadsheet – the Genetic Distance – Highest is at 67++ but only 7 chromosomes – 12,961 SNPS. Eleven others are in 40++ range – 2 – 13 chromosomes – 3 K to 9 K SNPS. So, these 12 connections are the ones for me to focus on? Can I send you the spreadsheet?

    By comparison, however, I note that my known 2nd cousin shows:
    185 lines down the list.
    Genetic distance 21.44
    10 Chromosomes
    3540 SNPS
    1.73% Related DNA
    11 segments

    Note – his mother was from Romanian family. Father was from Turkey.

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