Memorial Sites & Historical Preservation

The National Genealogy Conference was large and impressive.  2,166 people attended in person and another 200+ online.  I posted regularly on my twitter account from the sessions I attended.  A wide variety of sessions offered almost something for everyone. There were some things I loved and some things that were not so much for me since this was my first time attending.

I started the conference with the Civil War Tour of Grand Rapids.  Like most Americans I have at least one relative that served during the Civil War.  My biological family as I have discovered is from Michigan and my three times Great Grandfather enlisted out of Kalamazoo into the Union Army.  Likewise, my husband Mark has a two times Great Grandfather who served in the Union Army also enlisted in Kalamazoo.  While my Grandfather died in the service Mark’s Grandfather survived the war and returned home to Michigan where he married and had children. IMG_6639.jpg

The tour was informative and highlighted the restoration projects that Grand Rapids has lovingly completed to preserve the memory of those who served the nation so that their sacrifice will not be forgot.  The large fountain downtown is a wonderful example of restoration and community involvement.  We even stopped at the memorial to the Spanish American War.  Why? Because, the sons of those Civil War soldiers served in the Spanish American War. They volunteered when they heard the call to remember the Maine!


Many of us imagine Theodore Roosevelt riding his horse, Texas onto Cuban soil but in reality many of the young men, like Mark’s Great Grandfather, George Smith, served in the Philippines.  He wrote home to his mother in Kalamazoo and she shared some of his letters with the local newspaper.  He survived the war but brought home something from the jungles that would end his life much quicker than he would ever guess, malaria.

Preserving memorials to those that have sacrificed.   We need to tell the stories that go with the memorials, to talk about why it happened, to understand our history and our responsibility in preserving memorials and documents.  I spend hours every week with old documents.  I know that most people don’t understand why I do it. There are important stories that aren’t being told often enough.  We all need to tell our stories and listen our neighbor’s


National Genealogical Society

I’m nervous and excited. I leave for the National Genealogical Society’s conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan tomorrow.  I’ve signed up for the civil war tour prior to the conference. As luck would have it I was able to visit my 3x great grandfather’s grave who served in the 12th Michigan during the Civil War this past week and it’s made me wonder about those brave relatives that served in that bloody war.

I am eager to find new ways to connect with the past and other genealogists. I feel a bit like a kid in a candy shop, where to start? I’m excited to hear from the New York genealogists, I need help tracing ancestors there. Don’t we all have that one spot that we are weak? I’m also excited to hear about the Irish immigration to Michigan.  My husband’s family immigrated to Michigan from Ireland so finding more information about his line and possible records would be helpful.  I can’t wait to possibly find little geeky genealogist items on the trade show floor. I noticed that one vendor is from La Porte Indiana. That’s just down the road from me.

I will be posting from the conference, sharing my enthusiasm for all things genealogy, digging my roots and my loved ones.



23 and Me Upload

Today only 04/25/2018 upload from Ancestry to 23 and Me.  This is a great chance to not wait.  Get your DNA over there.  Fish in the ponds.  Especially if you are looking for relatives, have a brick wall you are trying to break down or just want another perceptive.

Just an Edit to this. they are not allowing relative matching in the download not even for an upgrade fee.  You have to buy a kit, spit and send in.  So, if knowing your ethnic makeup from another source is important have at it.  I can see the advantage for 23 and Me- they have managed to increase there database for the promotions if they choose to use these new uploads in the total numbers of clients.

I uploaded my husband and his ethnicity was off and vague.  It lumped him in UK instead of a more refined Irish which we know through paper trail that he has a large percent. His direct paternal line is from Ireland (Confirmed with Y) as well as both of his maternal 2x Great  Grandparents immigrated from Ireland.

More Testing Sales

IMG_6432Your double helix should be mapped at a bargain price, at least that’s what the sales are saying. After I posted my original post about the sales going on 23 and Me decided to show up late to the party.  They came in with a sale on their Ancestry only kit which is normally $99 for $69, which is available through the 25th of April.

The big three have all chimed in, now that 23 and Me is at the table.  The Ancestry only test does not offer the limited health aspect of the full test they offer for $199, which is also on sale for $139. It does, however,  give relative matches, ancestry composition, maternal and paternal haplogroups, Neanderthal ancestry, and comparison of your DNA family.

Who doesn’t need to know how much Neanderthal is in their DNA? I could put it on my audition for a Geico commercial, right? Well, it is a novelty to say the least. If you are a female you will only receive your maternal haplogroup but men will get both, oh double helix why do you make me test my male relatives to find my haplogroup? The haplogroup groups are just general, to get an in-depth study of Y-DNA or mtDNA you will need to do a specific test like Family Tree DNA offers.

The data base here is smaller and there are not family trees but there are also not additional fees after the fact. The tests, however are only intended for use in the United States, in fact it’s stated at the bottom of the sale page.  They don’t have the international clients that many of the other companies have.  If you think that your relatives might be overseas this might not be the choice for you.

MyHeritageDNA is also on sale for $69. They do accept samples from other countries.  In addition to diversity in matches, MyHeritage has the option of building a family tree and researching records.  There is a fee if you want to join their service for complete access to all of their records for a year. They have a chromosome browser and ethnicity algorithm.

Comparatively I have 1050 matches on 23 and Me and over 4500 matches on MyHeritage.  I should point out that in the past MyHeritage has had issues with its matching algorithm. My top matches I can actually place in my tree and the centimorgans that I share with them are within an expected range for the relationship. I have not went into the depths of my distant matches. MyHeritage also has an option to transfer existing DNA.  If you are searching for a missing family member or trying to solve a mystery or NPE then uploading from another source is an economical way to not miss a DNA connection.

Ultimately DNA testing is a personal choice, the right test should reflect what you hope to achieve.   The results of a DNA test can be more than ethnicity, it can bring unexpected new relatives and shine a light on truths that have been hidden for far too long. Having more relatives is always a blessing.



Of Sales, Money, and Time

Sales, Sales, and More Sales. Yep, that’s right DNA testing kits are on sale!  It’s time to get kits to find long-lost relatives, find ethnicity, break down brickwalls in genealogy research, or just for the heck of it. Maybe this week is the time to get your DNA kit.IMG_6426

Which test is right for you? Well, let’s take a look at what’s onsale.


Ancestry has the largest database available among the DNA testing companies. Statistically a large base of potential relatives would be a good thing to start with right?  $59 dollars is a bargain price to test.   What your $59 will get you is a DNA kit that you complete at home by filling a tube with saliva. The saliva is then shipped to Ancestry’s processing center where your DNA will be extracted. Your 23 chromosomes will then be compared with that large database to determine relatives and ethnicity. Easy, peasey, lemon squeezey.

What doesn’t the $59 give you? Access to the genealogy information available through Ancestry or the family trees of your matches.  You have to pay extra for that.  Ancestry offers monthly fees for those options, which can be down right affordable. For $19.99 a month a subscription to the United States Discovery package is available.   If you are on a tight budget, many libraries have Ancestry available for research.  Reserve time and use the resource, plus they may have a full access package that may get you into 3-Fold (Military Records) also.

Not to be outdone, Family Tree DNA is running a sale beating Ancestry, for just $49 you can use their convenient swab test to find out your ancestry, ethnicity, and they have a chromosome browser to compare matches.  No extra charges after the fact, however, they don’t have genealogy records.

In addition to DNA testing kits Family Tree offers a free upload option for existing DNA kits.  If you have already tested at another company you can upload your result for free into their database. For an additional $19 you can open all of your matches and ethnicity, what a deal!  If that isn’t a sure enough sell, maybe using one of their maternal or paternal testing options might be? Using deep DNA testing can help with brick walls or simply be another way to extend your research. Y-DNA or mtDNA may be just the ticket to find your country of origin or unlock the mystery surrounding your 3x Great Grandfather or Grandmother.

Choosing a DNA test can seem overwhelming on the surface, however, with just a little research the choice becomes much clearer.  I didn’t have the benefit of a sale or research prior to testing.  I jumped in. I tested at Ancestry and transferred to Family Tree DNA. In retrospect I should have waited for a sale then weighed my options to see which was best for me. It would have saved me money, time, and frustration.

A Mirror Tree By Any Other Name

I build, and around I go again. This time the distance is further away. I have a predicted 2nd to 3rd cousin to build out from. She has a good family tree and she is from the general area that I am from.  There should at least be a possibility that we are cousins through my maternal side.

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2nd-3rd Cousin

I don’t rely on Ancestry’s predictions, I use an autosomal statistics DNA prediction chart for a refined look at possible relationships between myself and matches.  There are several but I seem to go back to the DNA detectives one.  At 251 cMs this relationship falls into group D or E on their chart which could be any of the following: in group D-1st cousin 1x removed, 1/2 1st cousin, 1/2 Great Aunt/Uncle or Niece/Nephew, or in E group: 2nd Cousin, 1st cousin 2x removed, or 1/2 1st cousin 1x removed. Whew!  That seems clear, if I had a slide rule, some string, a pocket protector, graphing paper, a war room and a panda side kick to help clarify.

I went back to my cousin’s family tree and took a gander. Her Great Grand Parents looked like the correct place to start, their children would be the possible key.  I could eliminate the exact line the cousin came from because I know from the cMs that isn’t the line that I am from.  I tested the other family names for matches within my DNA pool to see which area to build.  When I got a hot spot for one of the names, I began to build.

Now,  lightly building the tree based on the cousin’s tree, and viola-a tree to hang my DNA on, which is what I did and waited for those glorious little shaky leaves to appear. Appear they did, like the neighbor’s dog looking in our sliding door.  I had arrived in the correct place.  Now, I had to build the tree out and down to find a person that matched my non-identifying information.


Sharing With Others

I may not know much, but what I do I will help others with.  Yesterday I shared with my genealogy society some basic knowIMG_5450ledge of DNA testing and how it can be used with traditional genealogy.  I’ve tested at all of the big companies so I don’t have an issue telling others about my experience.  It was my first speaking engagement about genetic genealogy, squee!

I love research.  That may seem odd, but I do. In preparation for the presentation I dusted off some information about autosomal DNA and it’s reach, about five generations was what I found, but what did that really mean?  I looked in my family tree that I have been building in my research.  I had went a little overboard it seems.  I have it back to some 5x great grandparents.

Some long nights, some just one more document, and there I am. I know at least with some certainty who my 5x great grandparents are.  I looked at the dates.  He was born in 1749, well before the Revolutionary War.  Knowing the other members of the group are all older than me, we could safely say that we were all living breathing DNA examples of people who lived between 1689-1750.

That is the part of genealogy that blows my mind.  For me it’s actually being a part of history. I read the documents, I can see their lives, their struggles, everything they left to make a life here.  I can see the loss of children and homesteads.  Picking up again and moving further.  Challenging what was expected with what was needed to survive. Until finally it ends with me.

I look through those records and find those stories so it’s not all lost.  I help others to find new ways to find connection because our stories are important.  DNA will help us to tell stories that were thought lost.  Our voices will be heard again, our stories our not lost, they are just waiting to be told.

Somewhere in my DNA

I don’t know what I will do with the information I have. Knowing isn’t the end it’s the beginning. I can begin separating the matches into to known groups.  My paternal and maternal sides without guessing. I have a good 2nd cousin match on the maternal side. She has a great tree and they are from the area of Michigan that I am from.

I know from my non-identifying information that I requested some basics about my first mother.  Bless my obsession with Scooby Doo, I have gathered my clues gang!  I am not falling into this blind though. I have excellent guidance. There are many support groups and organizations out there to help individuals in their search.

The one group that I have found solid advice is the DNA ADOPTION group.  They have a forum based closed group on yahoo groups that offers solid experience based advice. The group is closed so you can ask questions in a format that isn’t out there for public view.  Most likely someone there has been there, done that. There are literally thousands of success stories that have ties to this group.  They offer classes for all levels, I am currently taking a Y-DNA class to find my husband’s  paternal origin but that is another DNA story.

So, here I am with non-identifying information, which varies wildly among adoptees.  Mine is pretty good.  A friend of mine had his, it was basically, your birth mother was a woman and she placed you for adoption.  Well, that was enlightening!  Mine was carefully recorded I could see that someone cared, a social worker noted her neat appearance, her curly hair, her tall elegant posture.  I had a picture in my mind of her, I knew her family knew about me. Whether that social worker knew it or not, they wrote me a love letter.

I have never seen or touch my first mother, but I’ve held her in my mind through that social workers words. I knew about her loves, her hair, her family’s high forehead-thanks for that by the way. She was always just beyond reach, somewhere in my DNA.

Under Ground

It’s over whelming. Matches come in every day many without trees or connections now I’ve got a rhythm to sorting them.  No tree? No Problem! I look for shared matches, no shared matches-oh no! Worthless DNA! I might be able to find who they are through user name. If not, I set them aside and move on, maybe they will decide to build a tree in the future.

My two groups have grown. I know names and places.  It’s a surprise to me. I have huge clusters in Illinois. I always thought that all of my matches would be in Michigan. That’s where I was born and raised. Clearly I have a close connection to a large family from Illinois.  Hum, who are these people and how do I fit? I’ve got a great match, in fact it’s my top match. So I jump right into the water and I contact her and crickets…

I’m not stopping there.  Ancestry’s messaging system is legend for it’s lacking. So, I find out how to contact this match outside and lo and behold I get a response.  She doesn’t know anything though, most people don’t, but she is a very sweet elderly lady who I am closely related to. I keep building out the family tree, she does tell me that her family is large and there is something unusual, there are double cousins in the family.

Double cousins share more  DNA than other cousins in similar relativeness.  For example, The Smith brothers marry the Maguire sisters.  Both sets of couples have children those children will share a higher amount of DNA with each other.

That existed with my match and her first cousins. Well, well, well-that would explain why an elderly woman was matching me at a 1st cousin level but not high enough to be an Aunt. I immediately looked at the other set of double cousins, another large family.  Only one son, who lined up in the right age group to be my father. I think I found my father.


Sometimes, all the information seems like the overflow



Pretend it doesn’t exist. Just like I haven’t existed in the lives of my biological family. The big Mother’s Day celebration. What’s a girl to do?  I am at sea with this one.  I’m hot on the trail DNA wise, but Mother’s day is always a day of mixed emotions. If I could reach out to her what would I do?

I am not the flower type, mainly because of my work. I see so many floral pieces wasted that it becomes too sickly sweet and meaningless.  I love flowers but not to send them they remind me of funerals. So, the issue becomes what to do with someone you are biologically related to but doesn’t really outwardly acknowledge your existence. HUM.

Dear Hallmark,

Perhaps, you might make a passive aggressive line of greeting that could fill the void for those of us that don’t know quite what do with these biological relatives?


Biological Child

Perhaps-it could go something like this:

Dearest First Mother,

Though you couldn’t parent me, I wanted to acknowledge you on this holiday and really have no idea what the appropriate way to do that is since you haven’t bothered to tell your family that I exist.

Much Love,

Your First Born

That would cover it right? It does seem a bit hostile though. Maybe not what one would want to put out there.  Perhaps it is better to just bottle up those feelings some more or just write it on a blog.  So, it may appear that this holiday brings out some unworked through emotions.  I think this whole process brings through some unworked through emotions for so many.

I don’t want to diminish the hurt on the first mother side either by my statement, I am only addressing my feeling because, well, they are mine and I’ve had all these years alone with them.  I cannot know her anguish or joy, because the opportunity to know her is denied me.  This is my impasse, wondering about the unknown. Once she is found will she want to be known or will there be a second rejection and abandonment? Speaking with other adoptees I hear this fear echoed.  It is often better to not be rejected again.

I continue……