MGS had a winning Spring Workshop.

I attended the Maine Genealogical Society (MGS) DNA Workshop last weekend. I was impressed with the conference organization and agenda.

The logistics were excellent. Registration was easy; the conference program booklet was done well with a few extra blank pages for notes. I don’t know how many people were there, but I’d guess a couple hundred. The venue, The Augusta Elks Club, was adequate for the event, and the food was good. The MGS bookstore people were there. If you have ancestors from Maine, the MGS Bookstore probably has a book or two that can augment your research. Also, the Maine Historical Society had folks there promoting the society.

However, the real reason for my attending was to see Blaine Bettinger (@Blaine_5) speak. I had never seen Blaine before, but I have used several of his genetic genealogy charts for years. Because I have respected his work for several years, I was excited to meet him in person and hear him speak. I was not disappointed. Blaine was energetic all day and kept the audience engaged and interested. As the day progressed on his topics got more and more advanced.

His first topic was “Introduction to DNA for Genealogists” and he explained the types of chromosomes (X, Y, Mitochondrial, and autosomal) and the tests for each of them. He also went through inheritance and what each of the tests might show you.

Mitochondrial DNA
Picture : by Emmanuel Douzery
[CC BY-SA 4.0]via Wikimedia Commons

His second session was “Using mtDNA and Y-DNA to Explore Your Genealogy.” He explained Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), what HVR1 & HVR2 tests are about and what a full genome test is. He also provided information about how mtDNA test results may be used to solve family mysteries. Then he moved on to Y-DNA testing. He described STR (short tandem repeat) testing versus SNP (single nucleotide polymorphisms) testing. I understand the STR explanations fairly well, but I got lost in the SNP stuff, again. I’ve listened to other people speak about SNPs, I didn’t understand them either. One of these days, I’ll get it.

Again, he spoke about using the test results to solve family mysteries. As you may know from reading my blog, in my case, I was able to use Y-DNA results to be certain that “Roberts” surnamed individuals were on my paternal line. See: My Paternal Brick Wall and Finding Family … tools to determine my biological father and half-siblings for details.

After lunch, Blaine continued with “Using Autosomal DNA to Solve Family Mysteries.” Besides the basics of what Autosomal DNA is, he reminded us that we have two family trees. A Genealogical Family Tree and a Genetic Family Tree. The chance of matching a first or second cousin is really high (over 99%), but the chance of matching a fifth cousin might be as low as 10%. That is to say that only one in ten of your fifth cousins may hold a DNA string that you also inherited. That is understandable, on average a 5th cousin would match only 3.32cM or .0488% of a match.
(See http://www.isogg.org/wiki/Autosomal_DNA_statistics for details.)

Blaine Bettinger
Photo used by permission

Blaine’s 4th talk of the day was about “Using Third-Party Tools to Analyze your DNA.” This talk was an intermediate session with a close look at some of GEDMatch’s tools. Besides looking at the various matches available, but also looked at phasing and a tool he runs on everyone he imports into GEDMatch, the “Are Your Parents Related” tool, which answers questions regarding homozygosity that can skew your other results. He also talked about Lazarus and triangulation tools that GEDMatch has.

Although Blaine took questions throughout his presentations regarding issues at that point, he also had a more formal Question and Answers session at the end of the conference using Q&A cards written during the conference.

I thoroughly enjoyed the conference. I thought Blaine Bettinger was a great speaker. He kept to the topics. His slides were legible and decipherable from across the room. I would go out of my way to attend future conferences where he is a speaker.

To learn more about Blaine Bettinger, Ph.D., J.D., see his Genetic Genealogist website. His website includes a biography page, a presentations page, and a “Contact Me” page. I’m sure you will enjoy having him as a speaker for your conference and your attendees will learn a lot.

On May 21st, I’ll be going to the “Third Annual Southern Maine Genealogy Conference” sponsored by the Greater Portland Chapter (GPC) of the Maine Genealogical Society. This conference will be in Portland, ME, (much closer to me) and will feature D. Joshua Taylor of Who Do You Think You Are? fame (no known relationship). Another fantastic day of genealogical programming is scheduled. I’m looking forward to listening to him talk. You can register for this conference on the GPC-MGS website.

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Another DNA Success Story

Cousins figure out relationship.

One of my early atDNA matches was on Family Tree DNA. Family Tree DNA suggested that GV and I were probably 4th cousins. He had some Roberts in his tree, but I figured that there was only a one in 32 chance that our match was on his Roberts ancestor. There was another person, MA, who shared the exact same segment of DNA with GV and me. If I could find the common ancestor between GV and MA, because of triangulation of the same segment matching, we’d know the common ancestor they share with me. I worked to help MA develop his tree further but never found a connection for him to GV and consequently never determined a common ancestor to me.

Then, I did determine who my biological father is, connected with new half-siblings and have been exploring my new family tree. I thought back to my connections with GV and MA and wondered if I could find the link now.

I took a look at the surnames I’ve been researching and compared them with the names in GV’s tree. Sure enough, we both had a John Roberts marrying an Elizabeth Blackwell. We found our common ancestor.

His tree had my “Asa” as “Acy” but otherwise, it fit my ancestors entirely. The generations are:

GV’s Roberts Line
Relationship
My Roberts Line
John Calvin & Elizabeth
3rd Great
John Calvin & Elizabeth
Elijah Josiah Roberts
2nd Great  
Asa Ellis Roberts
John Roberts
Great
Hugh Ellis Roberts
Myrtle Roberts
Grandparent
Bert Allen Roberts
[Living]
Parent
[Name Suppressed]
[GV]
Us
Me

Our common ancestors are our third great-grandparents, and we are of the same generation, so we are 4th cousins (sharing 59cM). That fits the amount of DNA we share perfectly.

GV and I have long known we are related genetically. It is just so fulfilling to finally confirm the relationship with a paper trail.

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DNA Testing and Shared Research on my Darling Line.

I just can’t express how important I find genetic genealogy. I often hear others talk about learning more about ancestors and finding other living relatives who might have information on your family that you don’t know. But, there is more to it than just that. Recent communications with a distant cousin of my mother-in-law reminded me of the importance of connecting with these distant DNA Cousins.

Claudine Boerner and my mother-in-law are a distant match, 4th to 6th cousins on Ancestry DNA. That means that they are likely to share a common 3rd, 4th, or 5th great grandparent. I often don’t expect much on matches that distant. In my mother-in-law’s case of the 32 possible surnames, she would have among her 3rd great-grandparents, we only know 15 of them. So, the odds of finding a common ancestor between 5th or 6th can be even more daunting. In my case, having only 15 of 64 (4th great) or 15 of 128 (5th great) possible surnames the odds of finding a common ancestor seems very remote. 
However, in the case of Claudine, she and my mother-in-law share one common surname that we know of, Darling. We don’t know if that is the genetic connection or not, but we do know that we are both researching the Darlings in upstate New York during the 1700s and early 1800s. As she was doing her research, she came across an individual, Rufus H. Darling, whose name she remembered was in my Darling tree. She sent me a note that she had seen some information that included Rufus in the “Beekman Patent.” She mentioned some material was in a book, Dennis Darling: of Braintree and Mendon and some of his descendants 1662-1800 by William Albert Martin and Lou Ella Johnson Martin. I was able to locate a copy and found the entry where Rufus is mentioned along with his parents, whom I had determined previously (unbeknownst to Claudine). It also had the names of several of Rufus’ siblings, whose names I didn’t have previously. It included the names of Rufus’ father (Abner), siblings and his father’s name. Another Abner, and his father’s name, Ebenezer. The book has a reasonable amount of footnoting (sources) so I am able to use those to validate what I find.

1776 map showing the Beekman Patent
A 1776 map showing the Beekman Patent [i]
I was also able to find a website regarding “The Settlers of the Beekman Patent” Dutchess County, New York. It includes “An Historical & Genealogical Study of all 18th Century Inhabitants of the Patent.” I then contacted the author, Frank J. Doherty, of the material and asked if “The Darling Family – 12 pages” included information regarding Rufus H Darling and his father, Abner Darling (1780-1839). He replied that it did and I ordered a copy of it. I quickly received a copy of it electronically. It too is excellent. It is a 12-page document regarding the Darlings of the Beekman Patent plus another 12 pages indicating the sources of the information. It also indicates that Ebenezer’s name was Benjamin and his father’s name was Dennis. I was a little disappointed that some of the material in the Dennis Darling: of Braintree is verbatim from the Beekman Patent pages, but still, the information provided is well worth the modest fee Mr. Doherty charges.

With the information in the book and Doherty’s Darling Family pages and the sources provided I have hundreds of hours of work to review, analyze, document, and verify the information, but the information, the source suggestions are invaluable.

With me possibly pushing back another two to four generations on my Darling line and Claudine’s continued research, it is possible we will find our shared common ancestor. Then again, maybe that ancestor is one of the other 128 fifth great-grandparents. Either way, one significant benefit of connecting with distant cousins are the important clues they can provide to your research.

ENDNOTES:

[i]  Source: Our Hoxie Heritage. 

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Finding Family – Ancestry and AncestryDNA provided the tools to determine my biological father and half-siblings.

By Don Taylor


Determining my biological father and discovering new half siblings is, by far, the greatest success I’ve had in my genealogical activities.  Thanks to Ancestry and AncestryDNA, I have been successful in answering lifelong questions regarding my paternity and my ancestry.
Don with step father's 1964 Olds Dynamic 88, the car he learned to drive on.
Don [Matson] Taylor with step-father’s ’64 Olds Dynamic 88
(The car in which I learned how to drive – c.1965)
Note the white sidewall tires — “Budgar” had to have them.
My quest started when I was sixteen and I needed a copy of my birth certificate to get a driver’s license.  That is when I learned that the man I thought was my father not only didn’t die in a car accident when I was a baby, but he wasn’t my father either. I had used his surname (Larson) for 12 years after which I used a new step-father’s name (Matson) for four years. Now, after sixteen years,  I had a completely new identity.  My biological father’s name was completely unknown and the surname on my birth certificate was completely made up. (That’s another story.) I adopted my birth surname then and have lived with it ever since. My mother gave me some hints as to possible friends of my biological father that I might be able to contact and learn my father’s name, but following those leads were never successful. My frustration was high but I’d go back to searching and seeking over and over again.
In 1994, a here-to-unknown half-sister, Glennis Peterson, who had been put up for adoption, found her birth mother and I suddenly had a new half-sister. Glennis didn’t learn she was adopted until she was in her 20s and had been searching for her birth mother (and a known older brother – me) for nearly 20 years. (That is another story but it is her story to tell – I think it will make a great book and she is a writer.) Anyway, her finding her birth family was a major impetus for my expanding my genealogical activities. First, I wanted to support her in learning about her new family (our shared Brown/Montran line), but also her finding us meant that maybe, just maybe, I’d be able to figure out who my biological father was. For the next few years, I retraced my previous efforts making sure I hadn’t missed anything. Again, to no avail.
In 2008, Ancestry offered a Y-DNA test and I took it.  Through that test, I learned that my closest Y-DNA matches all had the same surname, “Roberts.”  The problem was all of the matches were many generations away (eight to ten generations or more); there were no close matches. Although I tried, I was unable to find any of these people having a Roberts ancestor who had descendants in the place at the right time as my conception.

In 2011, Ancestry knew they were going to eliminate their Y-DNA testing and concentrate on atDNA testing. They sent me a free “Beta” test package, so I could be included in their atDNA database. My results weren’t very exciting, most matches were known distant relatives on my mother’s side. There were a few paternal matches, but they were very distant and never had any Roberts surnamed individuals.  I was disappointed and frustrated.  I even worked on someone’s tree for a while looking for potential matches on another person’s tree that the three of us shared a segment on the same chromosome.  Still no luck. Then the wall came tumbling down.
In December 2015, I had a new match – 1st to 2nd cousin.  Wow.  And that person had a tree on Ancestry.Com.  I looked at her tree and found her grandfather’s surname was Roberts.  Could it be?  If we were second cousins we would share a great grandparent, so I used Ancestry to learn about her great grandfather’s life.  I then used that information to further understand his children. He had three sons and one of them was in the right place (Detroit, MI) at the right time (Nov. 1949).
I decided to post two stories on my blog about my findings so far.  First, I wrote about “My Paternal Brick Wall and how I believe it to be shattered. A couple weeks later I wrote about Compulsive searching – Bert Allen Roberts (1903-1949).” It was my intent to examine and explore this family line more and more until I knew if it contained my people. 
A couple weeks later, I was contacted by Melody Roberts Jackson. She was Google searching her grandmother’s name and came across my “Compulsive searching…” article. Melody read it and “My Paternal Brick Wall” post and was amazed. These were her people that I was writing about. After exchanging a few emails we chatted at length on the telephone. She said she would contact one of her cousins, someone I suspected might be a half-sister.  The potential half sister, Beverly Roberts, then called me.  And we chatted for a long time. I indicated that the only way we’d know for certain was if she took an atDNA test as also.  She agreed. AncestryDNA sent to test directly to her and she sent it in.
Hugh Eugene “Gene” Roberts
Photo Courtesy: Tom Roberts
Then the agonizing wait.  AncestryDNA says six to eight weeks, possibly longer.  We were hoping for six weeks, but it took the full eight weeks. When the results came in, we learned that we share 1593 centimorgans of DNA across 58 DNA segments.  The DNA doesn’t say we are half siblings but gives clues to possible relationships.  The only relations we share that much DNA with are grandchild, niece/nephew, aunt/uncle, or a half-sibling.   I am older than BR so I can’t possibly be her grandchild. Her oldest sibling is younger than I am, so I can’t possibly be her nephew. Her (our) grandfather died fourteen months before I was born, so I can’t possibly be her uncle. Simple logic eliminated all potential relationships except one, that of half-sibling.  Which means I finally determined who my biological father was, Hugh Eugene “Gene” Roberts. From discussions with my mother over the years, I am pretty certain he was never told of my existence.
Sadly, Hugh Eugene “Gene” Roberts died in 1997, so I’ll never have a chance to meet my biological father. However, my new found Roberts family is excited to have a new family member.  I now have five new half-siblings and a passel of new cousins. There is a whole new line to explore genealogically. But best of all, I am looking forward to meeting my new Roberts family in person later this spring and I really feel they are excited to meet me too.

ENDNOTES

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Half-Sisters – Part 1

DNA testing results have, for me, always been something of a mixed bag. In most cases it does a fantastic job of confirming relationships that I have been pretty certain existed. For example, it confirmed that my half-sister, who was put up for adoption, is my half-sister. It also can provide for leads in other lines. For example, when a first cousin popped up on my completely unknown paternal line, it provided the clues as to who my biological father was. I am still confirming that line and I expect a definitive answer in a few weeks.

My feelings of being “Stuck in the Mud”
Front Street, Dawson City, Yukon, 1898
[Public Domain] via Wikipedia Commons
DNA test results have also led me down some dead ends. Researching the results that say “second to fourth cousin” are time-consuming when you don’t have a tree that names a common ancestor.  I’ve spent a lot of time stuck on muddy roads looking for the gold that the DNA map indicated was there.
On rare occasions, a DNA match completely changes everything. I originally had my wife test her autosomal DNA looking for clues regarding her paternal line.  I traced her paternal line to her 2nd great-grandparents but ran into several brick walls beyond that.  I didn’t find anything that got me on the right track.  I didn’t look her results for several months until I revisited them this week.
Oh, my.  Someone new showed up on the list as “Close Family” – Possibly a first cousin. I thought, “Interesting, I wonder who this is.”  The name on the matching account, “Birdsong….” wasn’t an actual name, so I was a bit confused. Ancestry DNA doesn’t let you see the actual matches but, if you click on the individual’s name then click on the little info logo, it will show you the amount of shared DNA. I clicked on it and was startled.  It said 1,702 centimorgans shared across 54 DNA segments. Wow. That is the range of an aunt or uncle, niece or nephew, grandchild, or half-sibling. I wondered which of the nieces had their DNA tested. I sent “Birdsong…”, my standard inquiring message via Ancestry Messaging saying that said that she and my wife shared DNA and I was interested in exploring the potential relationship.
I took a break from the computer; I try to take a break every hour or so, and told my wife about my exciting new find.  She, who doesn’t do genealogy, much less genetic genealogy, heard me say, “Wawh, wawh, wawh, wawh, DNA, wawh, wawh, wawh, niece, wawh wawh.” It didn’t sink in just how profound a match of over 1700 centimorgans can be.
My wife went back to her atelier and her painting and I went back to my office and my research. I noted that the individual didn’t match with my mother-in-law, so it had to be a match on my wife’s father’s side.  Then looked at Birdsong’s family tree on Ancestry. nothing made sense to me. None of the surnames matched my wife’s surnames. Of course, Birdsong’s information was private so I couldn’t get any more information, but I did see information about her mother.  I searched the internet and found an obituary.  It provided the names of this woman’s children and that included the name for “Birdsong” – Robin. I also knew her father’s name from the obituary so I searched for Robin K____ using her mother and father’s names and found her birth information; she was born in 1947 in Washington DC. Interesting. I knew that my wife’s father lived in Washington DC in the 1940s.
Robin had two siblings, both older and both passed now. I though, oh my, it doesn’t look like an aunt or a niece, could this be a half-sister?  Very interesting.
I jotted down the names, dates, and places and then chatted with my wife about my findings. She is so good about listening to me when I find something interesting and is exciting to me. I was telling her about my findings and she said, “Who?” then snatched the notes out of my hand. Apparently, I was mispronouncing the surname. She immediately recognized the names. looked at my notes, saw Robin’s name and her parents’ names and her jaw dropped.  She knew the people from when she was a child. “OMG – I know this family.”
Mind Blown

My wife was just plain gobsmacked — a half-sister, totally unknown before this. Her mind was totally blown, so blown she could be in a commercial for Jet.Com. It was fun to watch her wander around the house saying, “Wow.”

There is a saying in genetic genealogy, “you should never take a DNA test unless you are sure you want to discover the truth.”  There is wisdom in that. In this case, the truth iss there is a half-sister that my wife, her mother, and her siblings knew nothing about. Genetic genealogy can be really fun.

[Note: I anticipate Part 2 of this article to be about my finding my half-sister after searching for nearly 50 years. I am still awaiting DNA confirmation.]

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