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Clicking Over from DNA Ancestor Hints

The great new features just keep coming for Ancestry‘s DNA product. Now we can click new people into our tree from a DNA match with an Ancestor hint. This can be done from the page where it shows the pathway for each of you to the common ancestor, explained in detail on the next page of this post. Hopefully you will all be careful about this, checking sources and so forth …

One thing I love about Ancestry‘s common ancestor feature is that it always uses my tree first before extrapolating from other trees and records. Yes that’s right, it uses records!

When I look at a DNA match with a common ancestor I always note the relationship in the notepad and then color code by great grandparent line. This means that when I look through my DNA matches with common ancestors, the ones not yet categorized are easy to see since they have nothing added in the right hand column, for example Susan in the diagram above.

The other approach would be to filter by “Matches you haven’t viewed” and visually scan for common ancestors since you cannot combine those filters. Personally I have too many distant cousins that I have not looked at yet, but I often use the group filter of “Close matches – 4th cousin or closer” and combine it with the sort by date. People who have just gotten their test results are more likely to be on the site and thus may respond to your message.

The problem with the latter approach is that some matches you have already viewed may have recently added some tree information and Ancestry has found a common ancestor that was not there before. Therefore it is best to add notes and/or color codes and periodically check the list of people with common ancestors for new finds.

The other day I saw a very fanciful looking match with distant cousin “A” to my VE line from Hordaland. Her ancestry was almost entirely Norwegian with a bit of Swedish so that fit. Curious about an ancestor called just “J” in her line I had to investigate.
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South African Cousins! Thanks to DNA

Recently my maternal aunts, cousins and I had a strong DNA match at 23andme to a woman whose name was not familiar to me, Sharon, born in South Africa. This was exciting because I had thought that I had no family left there. I knew that my Jewish great grandmother Charlotte Langermann Thannhauser had had three brothers who went off to South Africa to make their fortunes. None of whom were thought to have any living descendants.

Extracts from the chromosome browser at 23andme comparing Sharon to my family

One of the brothers, Max Langermann, of Johannesburg and London, did become very rich but had no children of his own. Another, Jakob, also of Johannesburg, died in his 30s in 1898, unmarried, and his will names his five living siblings at that time as his heirs, each of whom received 105 pounds (about $20K today). The third brother, (Ernst) Isador, died in his early 40s, on board ship returning from India to his home in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (now Harere, Zimbabwe). His son Frederick was adopted by Max. My mother had told me that Fred was Jakob’s son but since Jakob died a few years before Frederick’s birth, that could not be. Documents I found seemed to indicate that Fred was Isador’s son but Frederick had no children of his own, So who could this new relative be descended from?

from Jakob’s will – note that Isador’s given name was Ernst – all documents are also on GENI

Frederick Edward Langerman signed Max’s will, 8 years after Isador’s death, he was about 18

Since Sharon was listed as 28% Jewish and her mother has no Jewish DNA, she deduced that her father’s mother, whose name she did not know, had to have been Jewish. I sent her my Langermann family tree. Sharon consulted with her mother and sent me this:

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My 2019 Jamboree Roundup

Another wonderful Jamboree, the 50th birthday celebration, is over. This is my favorite conference not just because of the great weather and outdoor bar but also for the manageable size and a day for just DNA, not to mention the high quality of the presenters. So I was very sad to hear that it will not happen next year; they are reinventing themselves for 2020 – click here for the announcement on their blog.

Ask the DNA Experts: Brad Larkin, Kitty Cooper, Tim Janzen, Angie Bush, Dave Dowell, moderator Alice Fairhurst photo credit: Ann Schumacher

The DNA Experts Panel this year went particularly well. However when looking at one attendee’s evaluation form I saw that they had taken notes on their form (including my “read my blog!” refrain); so I include that image without the ratings (all good, yes we read what you say!) at the end of this post in case they did not make another copy.

My plan at a genealogy conference is always to attend a maximum of 2-3 talks a day (more is information overload for me) and otherwise hang out in the exhibit hall looking at what’s new from my favorite vendors. Plus spend time with friends over lunch and in the bar when the day is done. Thank you all for the glasses of wine!

When I get home after the conference, I like to watch some of the presentations that were streamed, particularly the early morning ones that I was not awake yet for. The genealogy ones are free online, thanks to Ancestry‘s sponsorship, until July 31. Go to https://webcastandbeyond.com/streaming/jamboree/ to get a login id.

Thomas MacEntee of Abundant Genealogy starting his streamed talk – screenshot from that archive

I really loved listening to Thomas MacEntee explaining how to you can do genealogy in 15 minute chunks. Like you, I said to myself, “No way!” But his presentation taught me a great deal about keeping track of my research, staying organized, and how not to chase those bright shiny objects (BSOs – this latter is my biggest failing!) by adding them to my to do list.

There is always news at these conferences.
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My Grandfather’s Letter

Try to imagine starting over in a different county whose language you barely speak at the age of 50 when at the height of a successful career. That is what my grandfather, my “Opa,” had to do. He was a distinguished German medical doctor and scientist, a university professor and famed diagnostician. The University at Freiburg had constructed a clinic for him to entice him to head up their internal medicine department at their Medical School. But only a few years after his move to Freiburg came the dismissal of all jewish professors as part of Hitler’s new policies.

Opa teaching during rounds in the clinic in Frieburg, he is all the way to the left

My Catholic grandmother “Oma” urged him to leave Germany and accept one of the offers he had from various universities in America and Turkey. My Opa thought the antisemitism would pass as it had in the past, after all he had an iron cross for his bravery in World War I and a flourishing private practice. She eventually convinced him it would be better for their three daughters if they left until it blew over. They never returned.

Oma and Opa on the boat to America

I had not realized how difficult this move must have been for him nor understood why he never went back to Germany even for a visit. However recently I read a translation of a letter he wrote in 1946 to his former colleagues when he was invited to return. This is thanks to my cousin’s son Sam Sherman, an artist living in New York City, who has been travelling in Germany doing research as part of his MFA graduate studies at CUNY Hunter College. When in Freiburg he found much of interest in the University archives, including this letter.

These words my Opa wrote really struck me:I cannot return, the wound is too deep, it will never heal. The disappointment of my trust in the good in German people, in the honesty of my friends was too great. The years that I can still work productively belong to the country that took me in during my deepest anguish and supported me.”

The letter includes poignant descriptions of leaving Germany and of learning new ways of teaching and approaching medical research in America.

All of the following italicized words are from his letter of 1946:

Leaving Germany

“ The train that my family and I would take to the ship gasped in the Freiburg train station. Hundreds of schoolchildren surrounded my three girls, and women, including wives of my former faculty colleagues, brought my wife to the car compartment. Few men were present. They had avoided seeing and greeting me for months. I was alone. “Must I leave, must I then leave the city,” the schoolchildren sang. I believed the world was sinking under my feet. Everything I did, what I loved, my wonderful clinic that I was allowed to build, my friends – everything was lost.”

[UPDATE from my brother] In those days it took 15 minutes for a steam engine to get ready to go (build up a head of steam) so it was customary to see important people or loved ones off at the train station. Thus the fact that the men were not there was a big snub. Also the folk song Muss i’denn is about a young man leaving his beloved one home forever due to larger events in the world beyond his control. So the choice of the women to sing this harmless folk song is perhaps a veiled criticism of the Nazi regime.
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Preserving your Family History on a World Tree

A heartbreaking moment for any family historian is when you discover that your late genealogist cousin’s wife has shredded all his papers. This actually happened in my family. I can only hope that all the genealogical information was passed on to his children first. I think he had long since given me copies of most of it.

Please don’t let this happen to your work. A good preservation solution is to contribute your research to at least one of the online collaborative world trees.

Several years ago I did a blog post on the advantages of using these world trees (click here) and created a comparison sheet of the big three world trees (updated version at the end of this article): FamilySearch.org, GENI.com and WIKItree.com

I also did a Rootstech talk on this topic (click here for those slides). There have been a few changes since then, mainly around DNA and whether or not you can upload a GEDcom.

DNA connections

DNA features abound at WIKItree.com – you can connect your WIKItree profiles to GEDmatch by putting their kit numbers in. This causes the GEDmatch one-to-many tool to display the blue word Wiki which links to your compact tree. So even though it is the smallest of the three world trees, it may be best for genetic genealogists. Another WIKItree feature is that you do not need to login to see trees and profiles so it is great for sending tree links to new cousins. Plus it shows X and Y descendancy pathways.

GENI can link to DNA profiles at family tree DNA and will even display haplogroups on the person’s page. When you and your DNA matches have your family trees on GENI, you can quickly see how you are related. Click here for the blog post I did on how to link your ftDNA reults to GENI.

example of DNA display at GENI

FamilySearch does not have any DNA features yet but surely they will eventually incorporate something.

Adding GEDCOMs

The big news is that GENI now has a GEDcom uploading capability again. Whereas WIKItree has dialed back on the GEDcom uploads but still has good functionality.
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