Category Archives: DNA

Down the DNA Rabbit Hole – DNA Painter

My latest DNA obsession is the online program DNAPainter. To be honest, I’ve been hearing a lot of great things about the program for awhile, but hadn’t wanted to venture into these waters. Because I just knew, once I did, I would fall deep into this rabbit hole.

The purpose of DNA Painter is to map chromosomes, using shared segment data from one’s matches. The program accepts data from several sources, including Gedmatch, 23andme, and familytreeDNA. AncestryDNA data is not usable since the company does not provide a chromosome browser. A match would have to transfer their raw data file to Gedmatch or familytreeDNA first.

As a highly visual person, I like to see how all the different segments I share with my relatives line up. This is especially useful when tracking triangulation groups. Entering data into the program can be time consuming—depending on how many matches one has. I chose to import data from only known relatives at first. I wanted to see how much data I had and if I already had some triangulation groups forming. Below is a screen shot of my chromosome 7. As you can see, I already have a lot of data for this chromosome.

Chromosome 7

The purple bars on my paternal chromosome all belong to relatives on my paternal grandfather’s side—the Yegerlehners and Schieles. Based upon the members of the purple group, I can assign this group specifically to the Schiele side. The small purple segment on the far right belongs to a distant Yegerlehner relative. The red bars are matching segments I have with my paternal grandmother’s side—the Fosters and Lawheads. The first red bar on the left can be attributed to my ancestral couple George Rea and Sarah (Jewell) Rea; and, the longer red bars to James B. Foster and his wife Lydia (Dicks) Foster.

Since I have matching segments with a variety of relatives, it is easy to see where my recombination points occur. There are three recombination points on my paternal chromosome—at about 14 cM, 103 cM, and 152 cM. Compared to the visual phasing that I did between my brother’s DNA and my own last year, the two charts align well together.

Two-sibling visually phased chromosome 7

DNA Painter has many great features, such as the ability to see all the members of a shared group, or how a specific individual matches the profile person. Matches can be assigned to either the maternal or paternal side of the family, or even to an “I don’t know” group if the relationship is unknown. Matches who share more than one set of common ancestors can have each individual segment assigned to different ancestors. Groups can be named or color-coded to the user’s preferences. For my preliminary profile, I used color-coding based on my four pairs of great grandparents. If you haven’t tried playing around with DNA Painter yet, I highly recommend it. There are many great features that I continue to discover as I work with the program, and I have barely mentioned a fraction of them in this review. Happy mapping!

©2018 copyright Deborah Sweeney
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Momento Mori

This month our family lost one of its oldest surviving members. My father’s oldest cousin. The first grandchild of James E. Foster and Emma (Lawhead) Foster, my great grandparents.

Indiana birth certificate, 1914, “Waneta” Geneva McCammon (Image courtesy

Born in 1914, Juanita lived a long life! It was a life filled with tragedy early on. Her mother died when she was not yet five. Her only full sibling, Wesley, died in a car accident on his way to school, aged 11. Her father remarried and produced a large family with his second wife. Jesse McCammon survived until his 101st year, but his daughter surpassed him by celebrating her 103rd birthday last November.

I never met Juanita in person. I corresponded with her a few times after I discovered who she was. I even helped, in a small way, to bridge an introduction between Juanita and another first cousin whose branch of the family had disappeared for 50 years. Juanita shared some lovely stories of my grandmother and my great grandmother Emma. After Juanita’s mother died, she spent parts of her childhood living between her two sets of grandparents.

Gladys Foster with Juanita and Wesley, 1918 (Image author’s private collection)

My grandmother, Gladys, was only ten years older than her niece so they were close when they were younger. When my uncles John and Mark were young, Juanita came to stay for a while to help take care of the boys, while Gladys ran her beauty parlour and Roscoe attended medical school.

I am most grateful to Juanita because she left me a legacy, beyond her letters and stories. Her DNA. Several years ago, unbeknownst to me, her family asked her to do an autosomal DNA test. I use this data on a regular basis. Most likely, without really knowing it, Juanita has helped me to solve several family mysteries over the last few years. I will be forever grateful for Juanita’s willingness to take a DNA test. Rest in peace, dear cousin!

©2018 copyright Deborah Sweeney
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Down the DNA Rabbit Hole – More Visual Phasing with Two Siblings

[Editor’s note: Several months ago, I wrote a post on visual phasing, or chromosome mapping, with two siblings. That post can be found here.]

Phasing is the task or process of assigning alleles (the As, Cs, Ts and Gs) to the paternal and maternal chromosomes. The term is usually applied to types of DNA that recombine, such as autosomal DNA or the X-chromosome. Phasing can help to determine whether matches are on the paternal side or the maternal side, on both sides or on neither side. Phasing can also help with the process of chromosome mapping – assigning segments to specific ancestors. The use of phased data reduces the number of false positive matches, particularly for smaller segments under 15 centiMorgans (cMs).

—ISOGG wiki

In my quest to map the chromosomes of sibling pairs (vs. sibling trios), I turned towards phasing kits on GEDmatch earlier this summer. In order to use this technique, at least one parent must have been DNA tested. Since both my parents have tested for me, I was able to use their results to create phased kits for my brother and myself. To phase a kit, use the GEDmatch phasing tool.

Image courtesy of GEDmatch

After I created phased kits for my brother and myself, using the one-to-one comparison tool, I compared the maternal kits against one another, and then the paternal kits. As a result, the crossover, or recombination points, for each chromosome are clearly delineated. Because only one chromosome from each pair is being compared, the colors are different from a standard one-to-one comparison. We see purple on the top bar where my brother and I share DNA. Red indicates where no DNA is shared. Likewise, on the bottom bar, dark blue shows where DNA is shared, and grey where it is not.

Maternal phased chromosome 13

Paternal phased chromosome 13

Because the kits are phased, I can see which crossover point belongs to which parent, instead of having to spend the extra time deducing—maternal vs. paternal.  Afterwards, I assign the segments based upon collected data from close relatives.

Unassigned segments for chromosome 13

Every time I obtain new segment data, I record it in my master spreadsheet. I place only the data from known relatives in this spreadsheet. By known, I mean the lineage is documented and I know where the person fits into my tree. None of this data is speculative. Below are my brother’s and my matches for chromosome 13. We have plenty of good matches on chromosome 13 due to several of our father’s first cousins having tested. Additionally, two close relatives from our maternal side—who share segments on chromosome 13—also tested for me. A sprinkling of third and forth cousins assist in the mapping as well.

Segment data for chromosome 13

My brother and I share a segment with my father’s paternal cousin S.Y. I continue with the Yegerlehner segment for much of my paternal chromosome. My brother has a crossover point (31) and can be seen sharing with my father’s maternal cousin J.R. for the bulk of his paternal chromosome. Around the crossover point at 92, I begin to share with some more distant cousins on my paternal grandmother’s line. While at the end of his paternal chromosome my brother crosses over to where he inherited a Yegerlehner/Schiele segment.

On the maternal chromosome, my brother and I share part of the McGraw/Kerschner segments. However, I match some New England cousins from my maternal grandmother’s line.

Chromosome 13 – Mapped between two siblings

I continue to collect data where I can. One thing to remember about mapping (like all genealogy research) is that new data may affect how we interpret all the data. I recently discovered that I had misattributed a segment shared with a 1C1R (and it was throwing off how I had assigned a segment on my map). It was a small segment, and I assumed because he was a known relative it was a real segment. It turned out that once I analysed this segment with my mother’s kit, they did not share this segment at all! So either the small segment I shared with my 1C1R was a false segment (a random alignment of DNA), or we have another common relative on my paternal tree. Happy mapping!

©2017 copyright Deborah Sweeney
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Down the DNA Rabbit Hole – Second Cousins

A few weeks ago I noticed a new cousin in my father’s match list at AncestryDNA. The new match was the top person in the third cousin category, an “extremely high” connection sharing 189 centimorgans (cM) over 8 segments. Based on the averages from The Shared cM Project  (version 2.0) graph, my father’s newly discovered cousin landed squarely between a range of second cousin (2C) and second cousin once removed (2C1R).

Using Ancestry’s “shared matches” tool, I discovered that our new cousin (whom I will call Fred) also matches my father’s two first cousins on his maternal side, as well as a couple extended cousins on the Foster side of the family. At this point, the additional shared matches have allowed me to narrow down which branches of the tree I should explore. I do these steps before I ever try to contact a match. I like to have an idea of how I am connected to a new cousin to increase the likelihood of having a productive correspondence. How many of us have received generic queries such as “I don’t have any of those surnames in my tree” or “How are we related?” Doing preliminary research saves time and frustration later.

Since Fred matches my father’s first cousins, I checked to see how many centimorgans they share with him. Cousin A shares even more than my father does: 264 cMs across 8 segments. Cousin B shares considerably less: 46 cMs across 4 segments. Such is the randomness of recombination! However, if I average the amount of shared DNA between these three first cousins, the amount is 166 cM. The amount still falls between the average ranges of 2C and 2C1R.

Armed with my growing excitement and an arsenal of data, I contacted Fred. He responded within twenty-four hours! A miracle! And then, I learned, Fred was adopted at birth. He knew only sketchy details of his origins, including the city where he was born. I have heard that some people shy away from matches once they learn a person is adopted, however I provide all the assistance I can. I knew Fred was connected to a specific branch of my family, and relatively closely. Based upon Fred’s information and his DNA test, it is likely that my family was a paternal match, not maternal. If Fred was possibly a 2C or 2C1R, I needed to determine who the potential males of my family tree were at these ranges.

Finding the Second Cousins

Most of us know who our first cousins are. For me, it’s very simple. I can count them all on one hand and still have my thumb left over. I am a little sketchy on how many second cousins I have without my family charts in front of me. I’ve never actually counted them! Both my parents had plenty of first cousins, resulting in many more second cousins for me than first cousins. Going further back up the tree, I needed to know how many second cousins my father actually has. In order to help Fred solve his mystery, I needed a firmer grasp of my tree. For Fred, his DNA was a small needle in a very large haystack. He had no idea where to begin looking to solve his puzzle. Whereas I had several clues and a very narrow field of possibilities.

My father’s second cousins on his maternal side

It turns out that my father has twenty-seven known second cousins on his maternal side. This type of research falls under the category of collateral line research, in my opinion, since one must trace all the descendants of a targeted pair of ancestors. Because Fred’s shared amount of DNA with my immediate family falls between the range of 2C and 2C1R, I also had to consider that Fred was likely the child of one of the second cousins, making him a 2C1R. Fred is closer to my age than to my father’s, so there is a potential generational difference between Fred and my father.

Some Foster relationships in comparison to Fred

Since I did not find any likely candidates for Fred’s father amongst my father’s second cousins, I tried to find as many of their children as possible. This generation would be my third cousins or my father’s second cousins once removed. They were a little more difficult to find as many were born after the 1940 census, but other records (like obituaries) became more useful. So far, I have identified over twenty-five cousins in this group. Of these, one male fits all the criteria, including being in the right place at the right time, to be Fred’s potential biological father. Granted I haven’t tracked down all of the cousins in this group, but I feel fairly confident that we have found a highly probable candidate.

In the future we have several options including: sitting back to wait and see who else tests (just this morning a new known 2C1R on this branch of the family popped up), or be more proactive and solicit one of Fred’s potential half siblings to test.

©2017 Deborah Sweeney
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Down the DNA Rabbit Hole – Collateral Lines

Many years ago when I first began my genealogy journey, one of the first strategies I learned about was collateral line research. For some people, the primary purpose of their genealogy research is to learn about their direct ancestors. Who were they? What did they do? Some researchers never move beyond this phase of investigating their family’s stories. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with this approach. We all research (or don’t research) our family history for different reasons. For myself however, I wanted more. I strive to learn not only my direct ancestors’ stories, but who else populated the vast tapestries of their lives.

In the short hallway of my grandparents’ house in Centerville, Indiana, hung two handwritten family trees, one for each of my grandparents. My grandfather’s tree had one female ancestor named Mary. She was the wife of Jacob Troxell, an early settler of Fayette County, Indiana. I descend from the only child Jacob and this second wife, Mary. They both had children from their first marriages, and I can imagine Jacob and Mary’s rowdy household that included a dozen children, aged twenty something to infancy, in 1843. Sadly, Mary died in 1844 when my 2X great grandmother, Sara Ann, was one-year old. Because Sara was so young when her mother died, there wasn’t much information passed down about Mary. She became a launching point for me, or in other words, a reason to dive deep (and wide) into a rabbit hole. The only way I was going to learn more about Mary (and her branch of my family tree) was to follow her other children. In other words, to learn more about Sara Ann, I had to trace the lines of her older half maternal siblings.

Fast forward twenty plus years later…

My diligent research into the collateral lines of Sarah, Mary, and countless other ancestors, has proved extremely useful for my 21st century DNA research. When we find DNA cousins in our match lists, at a very basic level, these cousins are descendants of the collateral lines in our family trees. A common hurtle I have repeatedly had to overcome with DNA matches is the direct ancestor goggles. How many of us have matches with two surnames or perhaps only four surnames posted on their profile? Matches who have only searched their tree up (direct), and not out and down (collateral) may not be familiar with ALL the surnames that are connected to their tree. A direct line surname can change very quickly, especially with daughters marrying into other families. To combat the frustration of finding matches with limited trees or knowledge of their ancestry, I have turned to my database of collateral line research.

For many years, I tried to establish a link via traditional paper research from my ancestor Alfred M. Dicks to an Alfred Dicks in Guilford County, North Carolina. With the addition of DNA, I had a new tool to establish a connection. Through the estate documents of Nathan Dicks, who died intestate in 1833, I had a complete listing of Nathan’s minor children: Achilles, Alfred, Cornelius, Elizabeth, Esther/Hester, Rachel, Mary, Nathan, and Lydia.

Guilford County, North Carolina, Orphan’s Court, Petition of Eleanor Dicks, widow of Nathan, November 1833

With the exception of Rachel and Nathan, the remaining seven children had large families. If we assume my Alfred M. Dicks was the same man as the Alfred named as a child of Nathan and Eleanor, the following list shows their names, spouses, and number of children:

  • Achilles, m. Sarah Ann Frost, lived in Clark Co., IL – eleven children
  • Alfred, m. Ruth Reynolds and Nancy Hamilton, lived in Crawford Co., IL – eight children
  • Cornelius, m. Eunice Blackburn, lived in Guilford Co., NC – twelve children
  • Elizabeth, m. Alfred Story, lived in Guilford Co., NC – five children
  • Hester (Esther), m. Levin G. Ross, lived in Guilford Co., NC – five children
  • Rachel, m. Hugh A. Wiley, died soon afterwards
  • Mary, m. Eli Hanner, lived Randolph Co., NC – nine children
  • Lydia, m. William A. Weatherly, lived Indiana – eleven children
  • Nathan, died young

Since Alfred and his siblings were born between 1815 and 1830, and they had sixty-one children between them, by the early 21st century, they collectively and potentially have a lot of descendants with many different surnames!

Generation One


Generation Two


Generation Three


In three generations, a single surname from  Nathan and Eleanor (Leonard) Dicks has increased to twenty-three possible surnames between their descendants, all before 1900. Imagine how many surnames there are in 2017!

Another tip to remember: Just because your direct ancestor did not leave the county or state where they were born, does not mean their children stayed there. Of Nathan and Eleanor’s nine children, three of them (Achilles, Alfred, and Lydia) left the south and migrated to Indiana/Illinois.

I recommend tracing out as many lines as possible to increase the likelihood of recognizing collateral surnames. When you are done, you can write a family history! So okay, maybe that’s just me…I love writing ancestor descendant lineages.

Over the years, I have found many online trees for DNA matches. Time and again, the trees are one or two generations short of our shared ancestor. By becoming familiar with all the descendants of a targeted ancestor, you will increase your potential for discovering the connection with a DNA match.

Using the Collateral Name List

My father has a fourth cousin match on 23andme. There is no tree, but the match provided a list of sixteen surnames.

Fourth cousin match, 23andme

Fourth cousin match’s surname list

Because I had done extensive collateral line research on the potential family of Alfred M. Dicks, I recognized the surname Hanner. Alfred’s sister, Mary, married Eli Hanner. I was able to focus additional research on Mary’s family. I knew how our families were connected when I contacted the match. It made for a much more productive and positive conversation. Additionally, since finding this match, descendants of Achilles and Lydia, as well as another Hanner cousin have all DNA tested. They match my father and me, further confirming a DNA link to Nathan and Eleanor (Leonard) Dicks, and proving that Alfred M. Dicks of Crawford County, Illinois, and Alfred Dicks of Guilford County, North Carolina, were the same person. Of course it didn’t hurt that I finally found a document naming Alfred M. Dicks and Achilles Dicks of Crawford County, Illinois, as grandsons and heirs of William Dicks, Nathan’s father…

© 2017 Deborah Sweeney
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Down the DNA Rabbit Hole – Visual Phasing with Two Siblings

Visual phasing of two siblings, a method of chromosome mapping, is possible with the assistance of first, second, and more distant cousins. The methodology of this technique is very similar to three-sibling visual phasing. One of the biggest differences is how segments are assigned to the four grandparents (two maternal, two paternal). For more in-depth coverage of the three-sibling technique, Blaine Bettinger’s five part series on Visual Phasing is essential (see links below). This how-to assumes that the reader has basic knowledge of the three-sibling technique. The following is a condensed version of how I visually phase my chromosomes using my brother’s DNA in comparison with my own DNA.

In the beginning, I used Microsoft Word for my mapping. The process was clunky, and I moved on… I mention this step because there are various programs one can use to achieve the same results. Feel free to use the program that works best for you!

Lars Martin published a fabulous how-to YouTube video on using Excel to map chromosomes. There is no volume (so don’t worry!).

Instead of having three bars comparing each of three siblings to each other, my visual phasing only has one (since I am only comparing myself to my brother). Using Lars Martin’s method, my blank frame looks like this. In the example below, I have already filled in the recombination points and drawn the lines and boxes. To find the numeric recombination points on Gedmatch, both the “Graphics & Positions” button and the “Full Resolution” button must be checked when viewing a one-to-one match. (see diagram 1)

Diagram 1

The other key factor in visual phasing with only two siblings is having close family members, generally at the first and second cousin relationship. But any known cousin relationship will work. Parents will not work, nor will immediate relatives beneath the generation being phased. For example, my first cousin’s son will not work because I can not differentiate his DNA between our set of shared ancestors. He descends from both of my grandparents as well. First cousins can also be tricky because they share one set of grandparents with the siblings being phased.

I use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of my close as well as more distant established cousins. For each chromosome, I keep track of which relatives match my brother or me, recording the start and end points of each segment that is shared. Paternal cousins are on the top of the chart while our maternal matches are at the bottom. The example shows our matches for chromosome 13. (see diagram 2)

Diagram 2 – Excel spreadsheet showing matches on chromosome 13

The Paternal Chromosome

Next, I begin to fill in the segments like a giant logic puzzle. I could start anywhere on the chromosome, but I have started on the far right. Between recombination points 108 and 114, my brother and I share nothing. We inherited different segments from each of our four grandparents. Luckily we have data that shows who inherited which segment from whom. I also created a color key for each of my grandparents.

Jack shares a segment from cousin 1C1R – RG between 108-114 on the paternal chromosome. I did not. 1C1R – RM belongs to the Yegerlehner side of the family so this segment is colored green. Since I did not inherit the Yegerlehner segment, my segment is colored blue for the Foster family. On the maternal chromosome, since Jack inherited a segment from the McGraw side of the family while I must have the Leonard segment. While I share several segments with my second cousin MM, I do not share this segment. So logically, I must have a Leonard one. (see diagram 3)

Diagram 3 – End segments colored

For the next portion, I am moving on to the green blimp between points 28 and 31. The bright green on the top line of of the chromosome comparison indicates that my brother and I share the same segment on both our paternal and maternal chromosomes. We share the same paternal segment with 1C1R – SY, in this case, another Yegerlehner segment. My brother stops at point 31, while I continue to share the segment with 1C1R – SY for a little longer. From approximately point 33 through 104, Jack has a series of matches with cousins on the Foster side of the family. Since he does not have recombination points at either 33 or 104, I have extended this segment from recombination point 31 to recombination point 108. (see diagram 4)

Diagram 4

Since I do not match any of the Foster relatives until recombination point 92, I continue my green bar until point 92. At this point, my paternal chromosome recombines, and I begin sharing the Foster segments. (see diagram 5)

Diagram 5

To complete the last part of the paternal chromosome, I color both green. Yegerlehner cousin 1C1R – SY begins matching us at point 21. Since neither of us have a recombination point there (point 21), our segments are extended to the beginning of the chromosome. (see diagram 6)

Diagram 6

The Maternal Chromosome

Jack and I each share part of the same segment with maternal cousin 1C2R – RS. My segment begins at recombination point 28 and continues past point 50. Jack’s segment begins before point 28 but ends at point 50. I extend Jack’s segment to the beginning of the maternal chromosome. On my maternal chromosome, I extend the McGraw segment to point 73.

Looking at points 0 through 28 and points 50 through 73, I observe the blue and grey bars on the Gedmatch one-to-one chromosome comparison as well as the yellow top bar. The Gedmatch colors tell me that from points 0 though 28, Jack and I match on only one chromosome. We have segment data from a paternal cousin which we both share. Logically, this indicates that Jack and I do not have matching segments on our maternal chromosome. If Jack has part of the McGraw segment, then I must have inherited the Leonard one. Similarly, from points 50 through 73, Jack and I do not share any segments in this part of the chromosome. I share part of the McGraw DNA so my brother must share the Leonard side. (see diagram 7)

Diagram 7

The last section of the maternal chromosomes is completed with a combination of shared segment data and more logic. From points 73 through 89, Jack and I must share the same maternal segment. Gedmatch indicates that we share a half-region, and we do not share our paternal chromosome. We also have distant cousins 5C1R – AF and 5C1R – MG who share segment data with us. Even though these are distant cousins, our maternal grandparents came from different regions of the country so it is unlikely there is intermingling of these two branches of our tree. The paper trail also verifies the match. Jack stops sharing the segment at recombination point 89. From points 89 through 92, I do not share any DNA with Jack. From 92 through 108, we already share our paternal segment, so we must have different maternal segments. I continue to share with maternal cousin 5C1R – AF on the Leonard branch of the family while Jack shares part of his maternal portion with a McGraw cousin. (see diagram 8)

Diagram 8

And voilà! Chromosome 13 is mapped, only 22 more to go!

Chromosome mapping with only two siblings is highly dependent on matches with accessible segment data. Sometimes it takes time to find that one cousin who will provide the segment data you need. Just be patient! All it takes is one spit at a time…and possibly a lot of tenacity, and a little bit of bribery.

Blaine Bettinger ‘s Visual Phasing blogs:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

©2017 Deborah Sweeney
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Down the DNA Rabbit Hole – X chromosome

I recently attended an all day genealogy seminar. Overall, the day was a success. After lunch, I intended to listen to a lecture on the importance of encouraging family members to preserve their history for future generations. Unfortunately, the speaker didn’t show up. At that point my choices were limited, so I chose to attend a lecture on beginning DNA research. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have bothered, but I am curious to see how other speakers handle the topic. The speaker was very entertaining, and he covered the basics. However, I was extremely dismayed to hear him treat mtDNA and the X-chromosome as BASICALLY THE SAME THING. He couldn’t have been more wrong! And he did an extreme disservice to the audience, who were mostly inexperienced newcomers who didn’t know the difference between y-DNA, mt-DNA, and autosomal DNA, let alone understand the difference between the X-chromosome and mt-DNA.

When genetic genealogists talk about autosomal testing, they are referring to the twenty-two pairs of autosomes that make up the human roadmap. Currently, the autosomal DNA test is the most widely administered DNA test for genetic genealogy. In addition to the twenty-two autosomes, all humans have a pair of sex chromosomes, also known as chromosome pair twenty-three. A female receives two X-chromosomes, one from each of her parents. A male receives one X-chromosome from his mother, and one Y-chromosome from his father. The Y-chromosome makes a baby a male, and is only inherited from the male parent. Sadly, Henry VIII didn’t know this in the 16th century and blamed his wives for the lack of a male heir. The Y-chromosome test was the first DNA test made available to genealogists well over a decade ago. Only males can take this test. When a person takes an autosomal DNA test, their X-chromosome(s) is/are included in the test.

Gladys (Foster) Yegerlehner, 1929

Because of the unique way that the X-chromosome is passed down, hopscotching it’s way over male descendants, tracing X-chromosome matches can rewarding. [On a side note – because the X-chromosome sometimes skips generations, it often experiences less recombination. In practice, this means that a cousin match can actually be farther back than predicted.] A perfect example is my son’s X-chromosome. He only inherited one…from me. It turns out that he did not receive a recombined X-chromosome. Typically, part of the X-chromosome of my father and part of the X-chromosome of my mother would have been broken apart into segments and then pieced back together to create one whole X-chromosome for my son. What my son received was the entire X-chromosome from my father, without any recombination. And where did my father receive his X-chromosome? From his mother (and in case if you have been following my blog for the last five years, you are very familiar with her!), Gladys (Foster) Yegerlehner. So my son is the recipient of an entire chromosome that he received directly, un-recombined, from a single great grandmother. And doing the math, this specific X-chromosome has been around for three generations. If my son has a daughter, it will survive for another generation as well.

X one-to-one comparison between my father and my son (Image from Gedmatch)

There are some great charts available to help keep track of one’s X-chromosome inheritance. Below is a female X-chromosome chart with the data filled in from my family tree. I only filled in the ancestors who would have potentially provided me with a segment of their X-chromosome.

Female X-chromosome chart (created by Sue Griffith) with Deborah’s potential X-chromosome contributing ancestors

Resources for X-chromosome Charts:

Blaine Bettinger has male and female charts available on his website. Don’t forget to read his in-depth blog posts about the subject as well.

Debbie Parker Wayne has made several charts available on the publication page of her website.

Sue Griffith has versions of X-chromosome charts on her website:

©2017 Deborah Sweeney
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Down the DNA Rabbit Hole

I spend much of my genealogy work these days trying to sort and analyze my DNA research. It is amazing how time consuming this aspect of genealogy can be. However, I find it very fulfilling as well as enlightening. Currently I am working on a project that I think will break down several brick walls. As much as I want to share (because I am excited!!!), I also need to find two good cases to use for my BCG portfolio.

For the last year, many people in the genetic genealogy community have been very excited over a technique using the autosomal DNA of three of more siblings to map their chromosomes. In the beginning, I was stymied by this technique as I have only one sibling. However, I have used the shared DNA of my close family relatives to supplement the “three-sibling technique.”

Why is chromosome mapping important? For me, I love the visual picture of the map. Additionally, and most importantly, the map shows valuable information that I can use when tracing unknown matches. Below is an example of a mapped chromosome.

The top color block shows a one-to-one comparison of my brother and myself from the gedmatch website. The dark blue blocks show where we share half of our DNA while the gray sections indicate where no DNA is shared at all. A small section of bright green between lines 28-31 denotes that my brother and I inherited identical DNA from both our parents. Remember each chromosome is a pair (we inherit one from each parent).

The middle block is a representation of the segments I inherited from each of my four grandparents. The third block paints the segments of my brother’s thirteenth chromosome. I was able to complete this chromosome map thanks to five first and second cousins as well as several more distant cousins who have tested their autosomal DNA. By tracking and comparing the locations of shared segments among the cousins, I was able to determine which segments of DNA my brother and I inherited. Tracking is easily done with a basic spreadsheet.

My known paternal matches on chromosome 13

For future research, the completed map becomes a valuable tool. Whenever a match shares a portion of this chromosome with me or my brother, I can identify which branch of the family the match comes from. I can also use future matches to test the validity of the chromosome map.

©2017 Deborah Sweeney
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2015 in Review

007It’s that time of year! I have already seen several posts from fellow genealogists and societies, and even some from family members. Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and everyone is looking forward to 2016. What new experiences are you anticipating? Many of these posts recommend setting goals (instead of resolutions). My father, a retired career coach, advocates making a few attainable goals and then sharing them with friends and family as a way to keep yourself accountable and on track. It doesn’t help to make impossible goals, a guaranteed set-up for inevitable failure.

Dear Mother, Love Daddy coverFor me, looking back, 2015 has seemed impossibly long and short at the same time. A veritable blur of genealogical activity! I am surprised to recall all the genealogy related events and projects I did accomplish. These are most of the items I can remember….

  • Published Dear Mother, Love Daddy
  • Completed my ProGen studies
  • Attended my first large genealogy conference (SCGS Jamboree)
  • Attended my first all day genealogy seminar (Sacramento Roots Cellar Spring Seminar)
  • Continued to post one WWII letter every single day (for the third year in a row)
  • Wrote over 20 Fashion Moments posts
  • Researched, transcribed and posted over 60 newspaper articles about the smallpox epidemic in the year 1900 in Indiana
  • Transcribed and posted over 70 postcards written to my 2X great aunt Lena Hackleman
  • Had two published articles in the Sacramento Roots Cellar Preserves newsletter
  • Appeared in two episodes of Discovering Your Past
  • Started a volunteer genealogy program at my local library branch
  • Presented my first genealogy lecture
  • Engaged 3-5 paying clients for the year
  • Recruited 3-5 relatives to DNA test
  • Scanned several hundred family slides taken by my grandparents, Roscoe & Gladys, during the 1960s-1970s
  • Reviewed four genealogy/family history related books
  • Wrote five online articles for
  • Began publishing a periodic newsletter as well as monthly updates on the blog
  • Connected with and started some great working relationships with several genealogists around the country
  • Submitted preliminary application for the Mayflower Society

A few items that I wish I had accomplished (but after looking over the above list of things I did achieve, I don’t feel too badly):

  • Publish an article in a national or state level periodical. I keep getting hung up on the whole reasonably exhaustive search aspect of genealogy, and want to keep researching. I need to learn to feel more comfortable writing what I have now.
  • Find a genealogy/writing job which will fit into my teaching and personal writing schedules

Goals for 2016

  • To publish the second volume of WWII letters, currently titled So Solong, Love Daddy. This volume will cover the letters from October through December 1942. I am currently behind on this project. I had hoped to accomplish more during my December vacation. My son has been on vacation with me so I have chosen to spend more time hanging out with him instead of sitting for hours in front of the computer screen editing text. This time around, I have lost my team of editors and proof-readers. I will need to recruit some new help. My goal is to publish the book by Memorial Day, if not sooner.
  • One of my goals from last year that was not accomplished – to publish an article for a state level society or national genealogy periodical. I see this as a goal to work on after the book is published.
  • Seriously begin planning for certification! I want to have preliminary projects started/plotted before I go on the clock. I really have no more excuses at this point since I have completed both Boston University’s genealogy research certificate program and ProGen. I want to have a plan in place by the end of 2016.
  • Continue to work on my skills as a genealogy lecturer. I have two more presentations scheduled this spring; the next one in only three weeks.

Other odds and ends….

Fashion Moments by Deborah SweeneyI want to continue writing Fashion Moments’ posts but I am moving away from the weekly format, perhaps to once a month. It has been hard at times to find material that I am interested in writing about. I would love more feedback from readers and suggestions for future posts so feel free to send me questions or photographs.

This year will likely see the end of the WWII letters. Over the next week, Roscoe will begin his journey home to the United States. He continued to serve through the end of the war, but his duties were stateside. One of his postings allowed Gladys and the boys to live with him. The remaining letters will jump ahead months and weeks at a time with the majority being written by Roscoe. Another large block of the letters were written by people other than Roscoe or Gladys, by people who served with Roscoe, like Dr. Edmund T. Lentz. I definitely feel that the letters are moving into a new phase for 2016.

Eugene B. Scofield (watermark)

Rev. Eugene B. Scofield

Looking ahead to after the WWII letters (I know it is very hard to believe!), I have an extensive collection of letters that were written between Gladys and David in the 1960s and 1970s. At that time, David was a young adult moving away to college, getting married and relocating to Massachusetts. These letters provide another fascinating glimpse into the world of the Yegerlehners during the mid-twentieth century. In addition, my collection of family memorabilia contains letters from the late 19th century. The Reverend Eugene B. Scofield, a brother to Lena Hackleman, was a traveling minister for the Christian Church in Indiana in the early years of his career. While he was away from home, he wrote many letters to his family.  So even though the WWII letters may be running out, I still have a lot of transcribing and preserving to do.

Have a Happy and Prosperous New Year! And may you find all your elusive ancestors in 2016!

© 2015-2016, Deborah Sweeney
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Monthly Update – November

The clocks have been flung back and Winter is beginning its approach. The cold and the darkness are creeping in as I find myself wearing multiple layers of clothing. I have survived my annual season of state mandated English Language Learner testing and two back-to-back teaching observations. I am ready to reclaim my messy house (and boy have those piles accumulated since my last school break!) and refocus my energy on my genealogy projects.

Dear Mother, Love Daddy coverWorld War II Project

Sales for Dear Mother, Love Daddy are slow and steady. I have ten reviews at Amazon now, including a 4/5 star one. So far I have only had 5 star reviews, which of course is great, but I like having the 4 star review. It makes me feel more legitimate because, in the real world, not everyone is going to like everything all the time. Overall, the review was positive, but the reviewer left some valid points, one especially that I wrestled with when I was putting the first book together. The reviewer felt that the book ended abruptly. So, I ask, where should each book end? For me, I have had to juggle manageable chunks of the letters so that they would fit into a book vs. a daily post on the website. My original concept was to include all the letters from 1942 in one volume. Unfortunately, I soon scrapped that idea because the first volume would have been over 600 pages, making the cost of the book prohibitively expensive.

I want to remind all my readers that my book is not a novel. Life doesn’t have a neat, clean ending. While I want my readers to enjoy the letters, my primary purpose is to preserve the letters and make them available to fellow historians, family members and descendants of the people mentioned in the letters. As I am a historian, I chose not to pick and chose which letters should appear in a “best of” volume. Many of the letters build off of each other, expressing larger arches of tedium and frustration to longing. If one letter is removed, a later detail might not make sense without the complete context. While I encourage everyone to read my book for what it is – a nonfiction collection of letters – I am always exceedingly satisfied when readers enjoy the story behind the historical documents.

Currently, I am transcribing letters from February 1944. In many ways, I can see the end of the project, and definitely the end of Roscoe’s overseas deployment. But, he was not discharged from the Navy after he returned home. [Spoiler Alert!] He served in a few more locations around the United States until the end of the war. There are certainly more letters in the collection after he returned to the States. I recently hit the 1,100 mark and I estimate at least 100-200 letters to go….

The second volume of letters has been tentatively titled Lots of Love, Daddy. The book’s name comes from one of Roscoe’s common closings at the end of his letters. This volume will cover the letters from October through December 1942. At this time, the book looks to be at least 400 pages in length. Readers will also get a first look at the letter Gladys wrote after the birth of baby David, describing his birth. The original letter was not kept with the rest of the letters. My father recently discovered it alongside some other documents and letters. It is now reunited with the rest of the collection.

Sacramento Library

This coming Saturday is my monthly volunteer day at my local branch. There was still one reservation slot empty as of yesterday afternoon. My next scheduled day is December 19th. This is a great opportunity, if you are local, to receive free advice from a professional. The main branch of the library also has a similar program with a larger pool of professionals.

I just submitted a promo for my next genealogy lecture which will be on January 23rd. For this lecture, I will be discussing the basics of DNA & genetic genealogy. I will use a case study from my own research as an example of how DNA is such a useful tool for solving genealogy mysteries when there are not enough surviving paper documents.

Letters to My ChildrenLetters to My Children

November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. While I don’t ever intend to write a fictional novel, I do want to write. Plagued with thoughts of eventually losing my memories and having descendants wonder who I was, I have concocted a new series of writing vignettes titled Letters to My Children. To read more about the basis of this series, read the original post. I envision a book someday organized by category with sections on food, people, places, events, etc., which were important to me. I really like the idea of writing about people who touched my life. As genealogists, we are always looking for the relatives. Oftentimes, the bigger picture (which includes a person’s associates and neighbors not just the family) is forgotten. I am hoping that my project will inspire others to write their own memoirs and to remember those relationships that are not connected by family ties.

Until next month, enjoy a wonderful holiday season with family and friends. Don’t forget to participate in the Great Thanksgiving Listen next week!

©2015 Deborah Sweeney
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