Tag Archives: DNA testing

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
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2018/01/23/down-the-dna-rabbit-hole-dna-painter/

Down the DNA Rabbit Hole – Mitochondrial DNA

A few weeks ago, I wrote how the X-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA are different. Both have unique inheritance patterns but they are not the same thing, not by a long stretch. Many people are not familiar with mitochondrial DNA as it is not the most popular, or well known, of the DNA tests. However, everyone has mitochondrial DNA which they inherited from their mothers which makes this type of DNA a great tool for solving some DNA mysteries.

While yDNA is passed down from father to son, mitochondrial, or mtDNA, is passed down by a woman to all of her children. While male children inherit their mtDNA from their mothers, males cannot pass it down to their children. Only female children pass down mtDNA. Both yDNA and mtDNA are passed down for many generations without mutation unlike autosomal DNA which recombines with every new generation. These two types of DNA testing are great for ancient ancestry, going back hundreds of years.

The mitochondrial inheritance line through a child’s mother’s mother’s mother.

In my own research, I have only tested the mtDNA of one person, my father. I chose to do this test because I have a brick wall ancestor in his maternal line:

David, my father
Gladys (Foster) Yegerlehner, my grandmother
Emily “Emma” H. (Lawhead) Foster, my great grandmother
Margaret A. (Rea) Lawhead, my 2X great grandmother
Sarah A. (Jewell) Rea, my 3x great grandmother

Eventually I hope to use the information from my father’s mtDNA to discover (and confirm) who Sarah A. (Jewell) Rea’s female ancestors are.

Going down the tree from Sarah, there are only three living people in my immediate family who share this mtDNA – haplogroup H1g1 – my father, his first cousin, and her son. My grandmother only had male children with my father being the sole surviving child. My grandmother also had a sister, hence my father’s female first cousin and her son. Once they are gone, I will have no immediate family members who share this mtDNA. Margaret (my 2X great grandmother) had two daughters. However, her second daughter’s only child was a son; the mtDNA was not passed down beyond her grandson, Roscoe, on that line. Potentially, Sarah has living descendants with her mtDNA; she had two daughters, Margaret and Jane. Jane had four daughters, three of whom had daughters, and so on. Sarah’s direct female descendants will share the same mtDNA.

Potential mtDNA carriers from Sarah (Jewell) Rea

I currently have 234 mtDNA matches at FamilyTreeDNA; only four are perfect matches with zero (0) mutations. Since mtDNA mutates very slowly, even though I have four perfect matches, I have not been able to determine how these matches are connected to my family. Our most common recent ancestor (MCRA) likely lived hundreds of years ago.

To solve my brick wall, I can sit and wait for another “perfect” match to test their mtDNA and hope that we can find the connection, OR I can do some targeted testing. Even though I have no direct evidence of who Sarah’s parents were, I have a lot of indirect evidence. And if you have been following along, you KNOW I have already traced the collateral lines of Sarah’s potential siblings, especially her sisters. I might even have a direct female descendant (or two) that might be worth pursuing to see if they carry the same mtDNA.

Two of the best modern examples (and my personal favorites) of genetic genealogy forensics using mtDNA are the mysteries Richard III and the Romanov family:

Richard III

Romanov family

©2017 Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2017/05/30/down-the-dna-rabbit-hole-mitochondrial-dna/

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
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2017/05/16/down-the-dna-rabbit-hole-second-cousins/

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
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2017/05/09/down-the-dna-rabbit-hole-collateral-lines/


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
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2017/05/02/down-the-dna-rabbit-hole-visual-phasing-with-two-siblings/

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
Post originally found:  https://genealogylady.net/2017/04/25/down-the-dna-rabbit-hole-x-chromosome/

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
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2017/04/18/down-the-dna-rabbit-hole/

Monthly Update – August

My brain is currently scrambled. The last month has been crazy. This year I accepted a position to share a contract with another teacher in a fourth grade classroom. It has been almost a decade since I was actually responsible for a class of my own! Last week was the first week of school. I survived three teacher in service days and two days in the classroom. Lots of new faces, new rules, and beginning of year assessments. And of course, this year my school is implementing a new reading/language arts program so everyone is super crazy trying to figure out what it is exactly we are going to do! My genealogy writing has been put on the back burner for a few months, but I am still managing to work on several projects.

Dear Mother, Love Daddy

Dear Mother, Love Daddy cover

Book sales have been slow and steady this summer. I am about to order a new shipment of books in anticipation of my lecture in September. I have three copies left if anyone wishes to purchase an autographed copy directly from me. Please use the contact form to message me privately.

Looking ahead, I am beginning to focus on the next volume of letters. One of the first steps is to come up with a name for the second volume. I like the idea of using some of the common phrases that Roscoe used to sign off his letters. A couple possibilities are So Solong, Love Daddy and Lots of Love, Daddy. Feel free to offer suggestions in the comments! Bear in mind that there will be several volumes of letters so I could use more than one suggestion.

Sacramento Library

Genealogy Programs Summer Sac LibraryLast month, I attended the lecture by Jim Walton on Understanding the Logic of Genealogical Research. Despite a bit of technical trouble at the beginning of the presentation, Jim did a great job breaking down the research for his article that appeared in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (which was published earlier this year). I missed the lecture on August 2nd, but there is still time to attend the third lecture in the series on September 13th. Genealogist Melinda Kashuba will discuss using digital maps for tracking the migration patterns of our ancestors.

My Ask A Genealogist session at the end of July went well. I helped three library patrons explore their Chinese, African American and Mexican roots. Two of my three time slots for August are already booked so if you are interested in signing up, don’t delay!

The weeks are getting shorter and I am still trying to put together my presentation on Why Genealogy? The presentation will be on September 19th at the Franklin branch of the Sacramento library. Depending on how well the presentation goes, I would like to do some future presentations, including one on DNA research and/or identifying time periods in old photographs. Right now, I have to write a paragraph for the advertising blurb for my upcoming lecture!

Discovering Your Past

Discovering Your Past - Episode 1I have been informed that the next episode should be forthcoming. Maybe by the end of the week?!?! Due to a technical glitch during filming, I was unable to see my co-host! I basically talked to a blank screen while I heard a voice in my head (through my headphones). During my segment, we talked about putting together a research plan. If you missed the first episode, it is available on the Discovering Your Past YouTube channel.

Genealogy Lady Newsletter

I managed to write a second newsletter this month. If you are interested in signing up, there is a sign-up button on my Facebook page. With my new schedule at school this year, I am not sure how often the newsletter will be published. Generally, the newsletter will feature popular articles from my blog, and other events or happenings.


1079809-Clipart-3d-Green-DNA-Crop-Gene-Modification-Helix-Plant-Royalty-Free-Vector-IllustrationI had some GREAT DNA news this month. My son’s DNA results were finally processed at 23andme this week. It seems like my daughter’s results were done in less than three weeks, but my son’s stretched on for two months. The most fascinating part of doing my children’s DNA is seeing what and how much they share with their grandparents. We are all taught that a person shares 50% with each parent, and 25% with each grandparent, etc. But in reality, past the 50% with each parent, the rest is completely random and does not always follow statistical probabilities. It makes me wish even more that I had been able to test my grandparents. My son shares between 28-29% of his DNA with his maternal grandfather. He inherited his X chromosome from me, completely un-recombined, straight from his maternal grandfather, which means, that my son has Gladys’ X chromosome. It is so neat to really realize that my son has this chunk of my grandmother in his DNA.

The second amazing DNA discovery this month was a new match in my father’s match list. We now have a confirmed 4th cousin descendant of Alfred M. Dicks from one of Alfred’s siblings who did not leave North Carolina. This has been one of my DNA goals. To prove that Alfred M. Dicks was a descendant of Nathan and Eleanor (Leonard) Dicks. Since I published my book on Alfred last fall, I acquired a DNA match with a descendant of Achilles Dicks, who I theorized was Alfred’s brother. Because the Quakers were a relatively endogamous population, I have been nervous about claiming that my proof was completely solid. Having this additional DNA evidence makes my argument even stronger.

Personal Research Update

I have had SO many amazing discoveries this summer. I really am saving the best for last. In the WWII letters, Floyd Yegerlehner made many home movies. My father and I have both wondered if the movies still exist. The answer is YES!!! Floyd’s son, Steve, is in possession of many of the films. We were all curious to see whether they survived 70+ years without being degraded. Some are more so than others. Steve has been working hard this last month to digitally transfer some of the films. So far four have been completed. They are all posted on my YouTube channel. This clip was made in December 1942, and is mentioned in the letters that will appear in the next book.

These videos are a great example of how families can work together to save their shared history. Have a great month of genealogical adventures!

©2015 Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/08/18/monthly-update-august/

Three Cheers for DNA

Since I do not have the time to spend on book writing until the end of this month, I have been using my spare minutes to work on some of my DNA puzzles. I have had lots of genetic goodies land on my doorstep so far this month. Here is one of them.

One mystery in my family tree is the parentage of Sarah Ann Jewell. She was born in Kentucky and later moved to Greene County, Indiana, where she married George Rea on 13 March 1842. Now presumably, my sweet young Sarah Ann did not travel from Kentucky to southern Indiana by herself. In the first half of the nineteen century, Kentucky and Indiana were still considered frontier states. Sarah most likely arrived in Indiana with her parents or other family members.

After combing through census records and other various limited records available online (Greene County does not have a very strong online presence NOR does it have many microfilms available from the LDS library), I determined that there was only one Jewell family in Greene County in the first half of the nineteenth century. The patriarch was Samuel Jewell: a miller by trade and an Irishman by nationality. Born in Ireland around the time of the American Revolution, he immigrated to Virginia where he married Rachel Painter on 31 December 1798. They soon moved west, living in Ohio (1820), Kentucky (1830), and finally Indiana (1840). Samuel and Rachel had at least three sons who followed them to Indiana: John, William, and Isaac.

So my next puzzle was to determine which of Samuel’s sons was Sarah’s father. Isaac was eliminated by pure logic. He was born in 1815, only ten years before Sarah was born. For the same reason, William was too young as well. I have come across several unsourced family trees over the years which claimed that William was Sarah’s father. William was born in 1812. He was too young to be Sarah’s father. (Another reason why one should not trust unsourced family trees!) William married his wife, Mariah Miller, in Shelby County, Kentucky, on 9 November 1835. This left John P. Jewell as the only potential candidate.

John Painter Jewell was born about 1800 in Virginia. He married Mary Hoagland, on 18 October 1820, in Bullitt County, Kentucky. Three nods in John’s favor! John was old enough to be Sarah’s father; he married his wife before Sarah’s calculated birth year; and, he had lived in Kentucky.

John was enumerated on the 1830 census in Greene county. Among his household were two girls between the ages of 5-9 (remember this for later!). Unfortunately, only the heads of household were enumerated by name. Sarah died relatively young, perhaps in childbirth. She did not live in the time of compulsory death certificates. Luckily, a transcription was made of her gravestone in the mid twentieth century. I do not think it survives as I have yet to find a willing Find A Grave photographer to capture her stone. I am still working on locating a will or land records for John Painter Jewell in Greene County, but I have been unsuccessful thus far in gaining access to the records. (If you know of anyone who is willing to do ‘on the ground’ research in Greene County, Indiana, let me know!)

So this mystery has remained at a standstill until now. A few months ago, I was contacted by another researcher who was looking for the parents of his ancestor Rachel Jewell of Greene County, Indiana. He had also come to the conclusion that John P. Jewell was likely Rachel’s father, which would make my Sarah and his Rachel sisters. After several conversations back and forth via email, I finally convinced him to do DNA testing. His results came back this week. The disappointing news is that he does not match either my father or me. However, he does match another cousin on this same branch of the family!

John Painter Jewell

DNA is fickle. The predicated relationships that the DNA companies come up with are just that….predictions. They are based on a mathematical algorithm. In theory, a person inherits 50% of their DNA from each parent; 25% from each grandparent; 12.5% from each great grandparent; and so on. By the time one travels back in time to their third great grandparents, the potential inheritance is only 3.125% per individual. There are 32 individuals in the third great grandparent generation. Even though my father and Mr. Lawson are likely 4th cousins, there is no guarantee that they would inherit the same 3.125% from either John P. Jewell or Mary (Hoagland) Jewell.

The DNA lesson that I would like everyone to take away from this story is the importance of testing as many people in your family as possible. DNA is NOT inherited equally. Had my 3rd cousin not already tested, I would have assumed that my new cousin, the descendant of Rachel Jewell, was not related to me.

©2014 copyright Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2014/10/11/three-cheers-for-dna/

Progress – September 27th

Well, this update is not about the book because I am on book hiatus until the end of October. [Insert crying face emoticon here] I have too many other projects on the stove cooking at the moment to devote time to the book. I am frustrated by this lack of time. I want to be able to focus on the book completely instead of stealing a moment here or there. But the time just is not there at the moment, and I have to be realistic.

My main focus is writing my proof argument for my ProGen Study Group. The first draft was due September 25th which I turned in a few days early. After I wrote mine, I had to review the four papers of my group mates. We have such different writing styles and research problems. It is great to see what we are all working on. This next month we have to take the comments and suggestions of our group mates and polish up our first drafts into the final arguments.

I chose a research problem which I have been working on for 20 years, since I first starting working on Gladys’ family. One branch of her family has Quaker ancestry which stretches back to the early days of Pennsylvania and William Penn. Due to all the various migrations across the eastern part of the United States in the early years of the nineteenth century, some records are non-existent. The purpose of a proof argument is to gather indirect and direct evidence together in one place, and to write an argument “proving” whether or not events occurred. In my case, I have been searching for the parents of Alfred M. Dicks, Gladys’ great grandfather.

I believe I have a very solid argument. My first draft was 18 pages long, and over 6,000 words. I received some good feedback from some of my study group mates, and now I am beginning to make some corrections and additions. It is also my plan to publish the argument as an eBook when I am done in October.

In my genetic genealogy work, my father’s mtDNA results came in last week. I have two exact matches, but I think they are several generations too far away to help me at present. Mitochondrial DNA is the type of DNA which was used to prove that the bones buried under a parking lot in England belonged to Richard III. My goals are a little less lofty, but no less important to me. I am hoping to prove the connection between Sarah Ann (Jewell) Rea and her parents with mitochondrial DNA. The most plausible candidates are John P. Jewell and his wife Mary (Hoagland) Jewell. My father’s haplogroup is H1g1. This haplogroup appears to be more common in Germany and the Northern European countries. If Sarah’s mother was Mary Hoagland (who was of German ancestry), and I can find another of Mary’s descendants who matches, then I may have solved this mystery.

Last night, as I was searching for more information about Crawford and Clark counties (in Illinois) where Gladys’ family lived, I discovered that the Marshall Public library has begun digitizing the local county newspapers, back to the 1850s. This is AMAZING news! I have been stymied by the lack of records access in these two counties for the last two decades. I finally had to step away from the computer at midnight, but I could have gone on for hours more. The website says that they are still scanning and adding more newspapers, so patrons should check back often! [Can you see me doing Snoopy’s happy dance?] I was able to find the obituary of Gladys’ great grandmother, Belinda C. Foster, which previously I had only been able to find in a transcription, and many other little tidbits of gossip about my ancestors.

I will leave you with a small sample from the weekly news gossip column of West York, Illinois, from March 1896, announcing the marriage of Gladys’ parents.

Foster-Lawhead Marriage Announcement, 1896

Clark County Herald (Marshall, Illinois), 11 March 1896, p. 5, col. 2.

©2014 Deborah Sweeney.

Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2014/09/27/progess-september-27/