Showing posts with label Family Tree DNA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Family Tree DNA. Show all posts

24 August 2013

DNA Testing My Nephew

     Yes, I did a DNA test on my one month old nephew.  I never claimed not to be obsessed.

     I purchased an autosomal DNA test from my favorite DNA company, Family Tree DNA, during their summer sale, for $99.  They promised that if test purchases during their sale were strong enough, they would permanently lower the price of their autosomal test, which they have now done.

     We did the two cheek swabs on Jasper a few days apart and just before feeding time.  Thus he was already crying (poor thing!), mouth wide open.  I swabbed from both cheeks on each swab to try and get as good a sample as possible.  I am still a little concerned that we weren't able to get a good sample though.  He has such tiny cheeks!  The test has arrived at the lab, but hasn't yet been added to a processing batch.

     I decided to test my nephew for a few reason. First off, why not?  Second, to see the amount of DNA I share with the little guy.  My nephew is the son of my identical twin sister (who I have not tested), so it should be more of a parent/child amount of DNA.  As a bonus, if it does come back parent/child, it will confirm that my sister and I are identical.  Third, it's a way to test my brother-in-law, who doesn't really care one way or the other about genealogy.

     Hopefully I'll get the results back in about 6 weeks and have some new DNA data to play with.

03 May 2013

Family Tree DNA Pricing Updates

     Family Tree DNA has recently been offering sales prices for National DNA day, while at the same time indicating that they would be permanently lowering prices.  Now, ftDNA has announced some of those lowered prices, as well as information on temporary "price rollbacks."   Read about the updates bellow:
"With the end of the DNA Day promotion, we (Bennett and Max), considered how to continue offering the best prices, yet keep control in the lab to avoid delays from high volume. Since demand is directly related to prices, we decided to implement a temporary price rollback whenever lab capacity allows us to do so. 
Despite an extremely successful sale, we believe that with our increased lab capacity, we are able to continue offering reduced prices on several tests. While the prices are not as low as they were for the DNA Day promotion, you will notice that these temporary reductions are extremely attractive, and should be a real incentive to anyone that did not take advantage of the sale to order now, while the prices are reduced. With this system in place, prices may go up on different tests at any time based on lab volume. 
Additionally, on April 1st when we permanently reduced the price of the Y-DNA12 to $49, we mentioned that our R&D team was working towards a price reduction for the equivalent mtDNA basic test. Good news! Not only did we manage to achieve this goal, but we did it for the mtDNAPlus test that covers both HVR1 and HVR2. Therefore, we're discontinuing the HVR1-only test. Our basic mtDNA test will now be the mtDNAPlus (HVR1+2) at the $49 price point! We hope that with the basic Y-DNA and mtDNA tests very reasonably priced, a whole new group of people will be tempted to begin their own DNA experience and increase the size of your projects!"
     I'm excited to see lower prices from my favorite DNA testing company.

12 November 2012

Family Tree DNA Year-End Sale

     Just as Family Tree DNA ended its 8th Annual Conference, they announced the start of their annual Year-End Sale.  These are some good prices and are available to everyone through December 31st. You don't have to do anything special; there is no code. Simply visit, pick out your test and you'll see that it's on sale.

     As I mentioned in my post about AncestryDNA's new autosomal DNA test, I feel that ftDNA offers a superior product. Currently, the autosomal Family Finder test is $199, the same price as's non-subscriber price. FtDNA offers you a ton more features that will help you find relatives and allow you to use third party websites to delve deeper into your ethnic analysis.  If you were thinking about getting a DNA test from Ancestry, I highly recommend your purchase from ftDNA instead.

18 September 2012

Another Albea DNA Match!

     I woke up yesterday to an email from a Family Tree DNA match, telling me that we were related through the Albea family.  The match, Patricia, was the Great-Great Granddaughter of Tilman Albea and Julia Glaze. This couple were my Great-Great-Great-Great Grandparents, which makes us 3rd cousins, 2x removed.

     Patricia shares DNA with me, my mom, my half-brother, one uncle, and my great aunt. She does not match the other uncle that I tested.

     Here you can see the DNA segments (of at least 5 cM) that my mom (right) and I (left) share with the match. Mom and Patricia are 3rd cousins, 1x removed. They share an extra segment on the 15th chromosome that I don't have.


     Here's the DNA my Great-Aunt Ree shares with Patricia. They are 3rd cousins, but actually share less DNA than Patricia shares with mom and I, who are more distant cousins.  The DNA she shares is consistent on the 8th chromosome, but otherwise different from what Patricia shares with my mom and I.  Thus, my mom's father must have had more and different segments of DNA in common with Patricia in order to pass it on to my direct line.

     This is the second match that I have found in which our most recent common ancestors were Tilman and Julia Albea.  I want to compare what segments of DNA each of the matches shares with my family and see if there's any DNA in common.

     This is a closeup of my Mom's 8th chromosome. The blue segments represent the DNA she shares with Patricia and the orange is the DNA she shares with our other Albea match.  They share a small, exactly similar, 3.24 cM segment of DNA with each other and with my mom.  I'm excited to see the DNA we have in common.  This was a difficult family to research and these DNA matches are helping to back up my paper trail.

30 July 2012

5 cM, minimum (or is that 7?)

     The popular autosomal (aka "cousin finder") DNA tests are still a new science. Some folks still seem to be skeptical of the results and their accuracy. For sure, I have a ton more matches with unknown common ancestors than I do ones with known common ancestors. But in general, I'm optimistic about my overall match list (1,003 at 23andMe, 290 at ftDNA).

     In general, a "real" match shares at least a 5 centiMorgan segment (or 7cM; depends who you're talking to).  That doesn't mean that matches with less DNA aren't real, just that they might not be... Our DNA recombinants; it mixes up. The smaller cM segments might just be a recombination that happens to have gotten mixed into a segment that looks like a match with someone else.

     The two major companies have taken this into consideration and you won't receive matches that have a smaller than 5 cM segment.  FamilyTreeDNA shows matches at 5 cM. For some people who prefer the 7 cM limit, this means that they might ignore some of their ftDNA matches.  23andMe shows them at 7 cM. However you can choose to share data with people who do not share enough DNA to be on your match list, but with whom you might share smaller segments (more on this later).  You can also see smaller matches if you upload your data to, which allows you to choose your own settings. They recommend a minimum of 7 cM.

     But those little segments aren't actually worthless. Each segment of DNA you have in common is yet another piece of evidence of the relationship. Say you have a match with one segment of 5 cM. Is that the only DNA you have in common? Or do you also have a smattering of 3 cM segments? It does offer up a tiny bit more proof of a relationship.

     As a visual example, look at a match from my Great-Aunt Ree's list at ftDNA. She shares a total of 73.75 cM with a confirmed third cousin. Their longest segment is 23.89 cM, more than enough to be a "real" match. But she has a number of other segments that are much smaller (3cM or less). These segments add credence to the match, but on their own wouldn't be enough to confirm a relationship.

                                           5 cM                                                      Additional cM

     So matches with a minimum of 5-7 cM are reliable matches.  How much DNA do you need to share with a match to have a chance at finding a common ancestor?  For me, I have a confirmed common ancestor with someone who shares 26.76 cM, with the longest segment being 8.75 cM. We are 6th cousins.
     I mentioned before that you can share data with 23andMe users who do not appear on your match list.  Say you search for surnames on the site. You see a person who has one of your surnames in their profile. If they aren't already in your match list, it's because you don't share at least 7 cM of DNA (or you are capped out at 1,000 matches) You can send them a request to share DNA.  If you view this person's DNA in "Relative Finder: Advanced," you might find that you share a small 4 cM segment or less.

     A segment of this size is not enough to prove a relationship - but might hint at one.  This is where testing multiple relatives comes in common. Say I share only a 3 cM segment. My mom might share 5 cM. My Great-Aunt might share 10 cM.  If I had not test my mom or my Great-Aunt, I wouldn't be able to see the larger segments and would not have good evidence of the relationship.

     So take-away here: trust the segments of 5 cM (or 7!) or larger and test multiple relatives. Hopefully this information was helpful and good luck cousin hunting!

25 July 2012

An Albea autDNA Match

     I checked my mom's FamilyTreeDNA matches yesterday, sorting my date to view the newest matches. She had received 14 new matches on July 18th and one of them got me really excited.  She had a predicted 5th Cousin - Remote Cousin match with a Ms Hauch, who had Albea and Glaze listed in her surname list. This is the first time I've found a match with someone who shared the Albea name in their family tree.  Researching my mother's maiden name had been particularly difficult, so it's great to make this connection.  We are both descendants of Tilman Albea and Julia "July" Glaze.

      Here are the DNA segments that Ms Hauch shares with my Great-Aunt (3rd cousin), my mom and her brothers (3rd cousin, 1x removed) and me (3rd cousin, 2x removed). 

30 May 2012

Anyone Want A Family Finder Coupon?

     I received a bunch of emails from FamilyTreeDNA yesterday, offering me coupon codes for their Family Finder test.  With the code, customers can purchase the Family Finder test for $179 (a savings of $110!). The only fine print it that each code can be used once and must be used by June 10th. Remember that the FF test can be taken by both men and women and finds cousins on all lines of the family tree, as well as an geographic origins breakdown.

    I'm holding a few of the codes for myself, but still have 6  2 codes to offer up for the first six  next two people who contact me (email I'll edit this space if I run out of codes.

19 April 2012

DNA Day & Sales

     The past few years genealogists and DNA enthusiasts have waited excitedly for National DNA Day, which falls on April 20th this year. Like many other "holidays," the excitement is often about the sales. The past two years I've purchased discounted DNA tests on DNA Day. I really shouldn't spend more money on DNA tests, but if the sales price is right...!

     I received an email from Family Tree DNA this afternoon that their sale started at 6pm (central) and will end at 11:59am on Saturday. The prices are their regular sales prices - nothing amazing, but still a good deal.

     Checking the 23andMe Facebook page, I was disappointed to learn that they are not planning to have a sale this year.  They said:
"Did you know that the first human genome took 13 years and $3 billion dollars to generate? Out of the budget! Today, however, your genome is accessible and affordable -- available online and for only $99 and a $9/month subscription. This year on DNA Day (April 22) we will celebrate accessibility and affordability of the genome and promote genetics education with our Genetics 101 tools; we will not be offering a discount to our $99/$9 price. Come visit and learn about you!"
     Meh. The way I see it they should have offered a token offer of free shipping or $23 off (as they've done before).  Something.  They do know that their biggest competitor is having a sale, right?  That savvy consumers have saved up their money to buy a test on DNA Day?  What's to stop those consumers from buying from Family Tree DNA? They might have shot themselves in the foot by not having some sort of offer. I know that if I do buy a test this week it will be at a sales price.

     There's one other major company that I'm waiting to hear from:  Will they open up their new autosomal DNA test for National DNA Day?

     UPDATE: I ordered a Family Finder test from Family Tree DNA for my half-brother. I saved $90!

20 February 2012

Dr McDonald's DNA Analysis, Pt 2

     I recently wrote about having my 23andMe raw data analyzed by Dr McDonald. Part of the reason I did this was to see if he could confirm the small segments of African and Asian that showed up in my DNA. He confirmed that they were "small but strong and likely real."  But here's the thing: both my Mom (at 23andMe) and Dad (at ftDNA) show up as 100% European. Where were these segments coming from? I thought that the best way to figure this out was to send him my parent's data as well and to find which one had those same segments in their data.

     My mom's data is from 23andMe. As I said, there she showed up as 100% European, with no other segments. Dr McDonald's results agreed. The only non-European data shows up in her X Chromosome, which he thought was "iffy." Here's her chart:

      Ok, so Dr McDonald has confirmed the interpretation of 23andMe's findings for my mom and myself.

     Next up: my dad's data. I tested my father at Family Tree DNA, where he shows up as 100% European.  But both my parent's can't have 100% European DNA if I have "strong and likely real" segments of African and Asian DNA.  It turns out that my dad does have those segments. I don't know why Dr McDonald found these segments and ftDNA didn't, but they are there. In the same locations as mine, plus some. He has .8% African DNA and .4% Native American (compared to my .6% and .3%). Here's his chart:

     So this analysis confirms the rumors of Native American heritage in my Dad's side of the family.  But there was no expectation of African DNA. Apparently though, this isn't uncommon. A lot of people with Colonial American heritage apparently have African segments in their DNA (read about them here on 23andMe's message board or this blog post).

     I wonder if this comes from the same family line or different ones? I wonder if I'll be able to find it? I highly suspect my Barfield family could be the source and I hold little hope of ever tracing that line any further back than where it's stuck in 1852.  Perhaps by testing more of my paternal relatives, I can narrow down the source.

13 December 2011

Albea DNA Update

     A little while back I was contacted via email by a family researching the Albey family of Vermont. They were interested in finding out more about my Albea/Alby DNA Project and how it could help them trace their Albey line.  Although our families didn't connect on paper and didn't live in the same areas, they both spelled their name "Alby" at some point in time.  It's an uncommon name that isn't spelled the way is sounds, which leads to many variations (Albea is pronounced ALL-bee).  Surely we were related?  Or could the name have multiple origins?

     We recently got our results back and they weren't what I was expecting.

     What was I expecting? A clear cut result where we either matched through the 37 markers that we tested or no relationship at all.

     What were the results? A twelve marker match with a distance of One. According to Family Tree DNA, this relationship indicates that we have a "Possible Relationship"
"You share the same surname (or a variant) with another male and you mismatch by only one 'point' on only one marker. For most closely related or same surnamed individuals, the mismatch markers are either DYS 439 or DYS 385 A, 385 B,389-1 and 389-2. To ensure that the match is authentic you should utilize additional markers.
     As you can see here, our mismatch is at DYS385 B. My Uncle has a 15 and they have a 14.

     At the 25 marker level, we have 8 mismatches. These are at DYS markers such as "458, 459a, 459b, 449, 464 a-d, which have shown themselves to move most rapidly".

     At the same time, the Tip Report gives a 75% chance that we are related within 28 generations. I could be wrong about this, but from what I understand, that is 28 generations between the two testors, not from them to the common ancestor. So there's about a 75% chance that we are related about 14 generations back.

     So from all this, I believe that our two Albea/Alby/Albey families are related - but at such a distance that we will be unlikely to find our common ancestor (both lines are currently stuck in the 1700s).  We're both looking for other folks to test who have paper trails on our specific family lines.

     Are there any DNA savvy folks who would like to comment?

15 November 2011

It's A Year End Sale From Family Tree DNA

     Well they promised and they delivered. Family Tree DNA is having a sale that will last through the end of the year.  This is quite a long sale compared to their usual 24 hour offers. To collect on these prices you just go over to and order. There's no coupon required.

     I'll probably end up purchasing a Family Finder test for my Waters cousin to go with his 37 marker Y-DNA test I just bought.  I've got over a month to save up!

14 November 2011

Talking to Family Tree DNA at the Family History Expo

     On the second day of the expo, during the third class session, mom and I visited the vendor booths.  I wanted to visit the Family Tree DNA booth when it wasn't being overrun by other attendees so that I could ask a few questions. Also, I heard they had a coupon :)

     I got to the booth just as the only other person there was leaving and picked up a flyer (sure enough: coupon).  The woman in the booth came over and greeted me, saying that she recognized me from blogging. She introduced herself as Elise Friedman and I immediately knew who she was. I've taken her webinars at RelativeRoots and learned a lot. If you are at all confused about DNA you should take her webinars! The introductory course is free and subsequent ones are only $10. Trust me, it's well worth the price.

     We sat down and talked and Elise was able to answer some questions and provide information on what's new at Family Tree DNA (much of which has already been reported in blog posts about the recent ftDNA conference).
  • I had been confused when I tested two of my mom's brother's at different companies and they came back in a tiny bit different. One was listed as R1b1a, etc and one was R1b1b, etc. Elise explained that this wasn't due to an error, but simply different versions of the Haplogroup Tree. Each company was using a different version of the tree. When there was a change in naming tree branches, one company updated their information and another didn't. This makes sense because the haplo tree is being updated all the time. Users don't want to log in and find a different haplogroup name every other month (or however often). What really matters are the markers. The uncle I tested with ftDNA is haplogroup R, U152+.  One company may call these results one name and the other may call it something else, but the markers remain the same (unfortunately 23andMe does not show these markers, a reason I prefer ftDNA)
  • In a few weeks (a month or two? I forget), 23andMe users will be able to upload their Autosomal test results to ftDNA for $50. Users will not be able to upload their Y-DNA or mtDNA.
  • There is a sale coming very soon, maybe this week. Elise wasn't sure what the prices would be, but it is coming.
  • We talked about pedigree collapse (see my previous post). I have a lot of it on my Dad's side due to colonial ancestry and Elise has it due to her Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. FtDNA is aware of the problems caused by pedigree collapse and is constantly working on updates to help with this.
  • I talked about how I would like to be able to compare my results directly with someone else who doesn't show up in my matches. It turns out Elise had suggested something like this to ftDNA already. The main holdup on something like this is privacy concerns.
  • Our personal pages at ftDNA will be updated soon - even as soon as this week. The new 2.0 version should roll out first to project admins (that includes me!) and will be much more user friendly. I'm not sure if this update is part of the new 2.0, but there will be a way to compare your  mtDNA, Y-DNA and FF matches against each other.
  • I talked about how I was trying to pick out my next DNA "volunteer" and which tests I had already had relatives take. Her main recommendation was to test the older family members first. You never know when you might loose a family member and the older generation have DNA that can often be more helpful. 
     I'm really glad that Family Tree DNA came to the Expo this year and I was able to talk to Elise. I'm also very grateful for the coupon. In fact, I've already used it.  I was brainstorming with my mom, trying to figure out whose DNA would be most helpful with my research. We came up with a few people, but nothing that struck me as "yes, I must buy a test immediately!"

Our Waters Cousin
DNA volunteer
     Out of the blue, mom asked "what about the Waters side of the family?" We have a male cousin who descends directly from my Great-Great Grandfather, Leverett Waters. Who was Leverett's father? Possibly John or James Waters; possibly from Cobb or Cherokee or Milton County, Georgia; possibly born around 1850; possibly the son of Elizabeth whose father was from England.  This is one of my earliest brick wall ancestors and I need something new to jumpstart this research.

     We hadn't spoken to these cousins in a while and had to track down a phone number. We called a female cousin who is involved in genealogy herself. After a few minutes of greetings she asked "have you found anything new about the Waters family?" Unfortunately we had to say no, but said that we'd like to try DNA. She quickly called her brother and he agreed to the test. We're all very excited that DNA might help us progress in our research.

17 September 2011

In the Mail

My Uncle Charlie's 23andMe DNA kit went into the mail today!

My DNA testing history is as follows:

Uncle Roy
Great-Aunt Ree
Uncle Lloyd
Uncle Charlie

     Why do I test with two different companies? They have their differences, but they offer very similar services. What one company doesn't do, the other does. Their results can be directly compared through the 3rd party site, I usually pick a company based on prices during a sale.

11 September 2011

DNA Comparisons - Why I'm Testing My Uncles

     I recently had a few family members take DNA tests, one at ftDNA and two at 23andMe.  I personally prefer to use ftDNA for their ease of use and great features, however 23andMe has lower prices and different types of test results.      My Uncle Lloyd took the Family Finder test with ftDNA and his results came in almost a month earlier than predicted.  Since siblings only share about 50% of their DNA, testing my uncle can provide me with results that my mom's test could not. (For more information on sibling DNA, check out this great post at Genetically Curious

     This chart shows my DNA compared to my uncle's. The orangeish-yellow is where we share DNA and the navy blue is where we don't. By testing my uncle I can find more cousins through the 50% of DNA that my mom does not share with her brother (again, read the blog post linked above).

     Specifically, my uncle has 105 matches. I share only 27 matches with my uncle. That means that by testing my uncle I found an additional 78 matches! Of those, 16 are in the "distant cousin" range of 4th cousin or closer, to my uncle. These are the matches with whom I would be most likely to find our most recent common ancestor.

     Another part of the Family Finder test is the Population Finder test. This test is still in beta, but does attempt to predict which populations make up your DNA. My Uncle shows up as 96.87% European, specifically French, Orcadian, and Spanish. Since I'm still trying to find the origins of the Albea family, I'm very interested in these types of tests. You can see the regions on this map:


      Just in time for my uncle's results to come in, another DNA site,, unveiled their new report, called Admixture Chromosome Painting. Here is only a small portion of Uncle Lloyd's results on top, followed by my mom's:


    Each color in the charts represent a regional population. For example, purple is West European, the pink is East European and the blue is Mediterranean. You can see that there are a lot of similarities between the two, especially on the left side. Further to the right however, you can see differences in the colors. Uncle Lloyd has more blue and teal where my mom is purple. Again, these changes are where I'm likely to find DNA matches through my uncle's test that I would not find by just testing my mom.

      Although DNA testing is expensive, it's worth it to test as many relatives as possible. Each relative will provide you with a mix of common results and new results. I can't wait to seeing what I uncover when I get back my other uncle and great-aunt's tests. 

15 May 2011

Autosomal DNA Testing: Will You Find A Match?

     Since I first heard about genealogical DNA testing (around 2004?), I'd wanted to try it. I was hopeful that DNA would help prove connections between distant families. I was first able to afford a test in 2007 and have since purchased a number of different DNA tests. Last spring I purchased an autosomal DNA test from Family Tree DNA called Family Finder and last month I purchased a similar test from 23andMe called Relative Finder. I've blogged about aspects of these tests a number of times, including some of the matches I made. Here's a consolidated rundown on my results:

Family FinderRelative Finder
MembershipMar 2010May 2011
"Close" Cousins106158
"Distant" Cousins83791
Requests Sent11615
Replies Received109 (93%)4 (26%)
Ancestor Found51

     My results are a bit skewed by the limited amount of time that I've been with Relative Finder. I've only tried to connect with my closest matches, but I have few responses from them. On the other hand I have received a very high response rate from my Family Finder matches. The key here is that many folks test with 23andMe for the health report - they aren't interested in genealogy. Those who test with Family Tree DNA are almost all genealogists.

     However despite a high response rate, I haven't actually uncovered our common ancestor very often. I've gotten lucky with a few where we have a surname in common and can follow it back on already researched lines. Other times I've found a common surname in a common area and with more research, made a match. Two of my oldest matches were made by connecting to a match's well documented family tree.

     For the most part, however, I haven't made a match.  Some folks I match with have trees that don't seem to match mine at all.  In these cases I have to assume that it's on one of our brick wall lines or the match is very far back.  In the end though, most of the matches I've made are pretty far back.  Here are my known common ancestors:

Bedie (maiden name?) Evansabt 18334x Great Grandmother
Moses Cashabt 17855x Great Grandfather
Samuel Armstrongabt 17425x Great Grandfather
George Harrisbef 17706x Great Grandfather
William Yanceyabt 17307x Great Grandfather
John Boatrightabt 16807x Great Grandfather
Thomas Powellabt 160011x Great Grandfather

     Pretty far back! I'd say that if you really want to make matches from these autosomal DNA tests, you need to be able to trace a majority of your family lines back to the 1700s. It all comes down to chance - are your distant cousins involved in genealogy and DNA testing and do you both have the paperwork to make a connection?

     Of course that's not to say that if you can't trace back that far that you shouldn't take the tests. These are my results and my experiences, others may be different. Good Luck!

01 May 2011

Albea DNA - Results

     In order to try and find the origins of the Albea / Alby family name, I asked my uncle to take a DNA test. I purchased a 37 marker Y-DNA test for him from Family Tree DNA in February.

     The test results are in and my uncle has been placed in the the R1b1a2 Haplogroup. It appears that this group is very predominant in Western Europe. I added my uncle to the R1b group on FTDNA, and took their advice to purchase a deep clade test ($89). This test might be able to pinpoint a more specific region of origin (celtic, germanic, etc).

     Right now I don't have any surname matches, nor any exact matches after 12 markers. I encourage any male with the surname Albea - Alby, Albee, Aulby, Albey, Allbee - to take a DNA test and compare results. Information can be found here: Albea Surname Group.

02 March 2011

Albea DNA

     Thanks to a recent sale, I was able to purchase a 36 marker Y-DNA test for my Uncle Roy. I've wanted to do this for a while so that I could trace my mother's side of the family. It's been difficult to trace the Albea family and I wonder if DNA might help.

     When I purchased the DNA test I also searched for a Surname Project to join. Not surprisingly, there was no group for the Albea name (or Alby, as the oldest known ancestor spelled it). So, I started one!

     If there is anyone else with the Albea (Alby, Albey, Albee, Allbee, Aulby, etc) surname who would like to join, please do! If you are a female, you will need to have a male Albea relative take the test, as I've done with my Uncle.  Please visit the the group order form page to purchase a test: or join the group if you've already been tested.  If you order a test through the group, you will receive a discount (I strongly suggest order a test larger than the 12 marker test, which provides very minimal results).

01 February 2011

Who Were Mary Harris' Parents?

     Mary Harris married John Miller. The couple lived in Edgefield County, South Carolina and can be found there in the 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 censuses. I know Mary's maiden name from the death certificates of two of her daughters, Alice and Silvestra. I found a record for a marriage between John Miller and Mary Harris in Edgefield County, SC on 9 Oct 1845 in an index on

     And that it, that's all I can find on Mary Harris Miller. I haven't been able to find a death date, which also means that I haven't found an obituary or headstone. I haven't been able to find any records that would tell me who her parents were. And that's not good, because the Harris family is the line that I'm closest to matching with on a FamilyFinder DNA match. Both myself and the other researcher have Harris families in Edgefield County, SC during the mid 1800s. So I really wanted to find Mary's parents.

     Part of the problem is that Mary never appears in a census with her parents. There wasn't an easy answer. I decided to start with the 1840 census and look for Mary. Of course, Mary would not be recorded by name, but rather by a tick mark. Hoping that the family had not moved, I pulled up all the Harris families in Edgefield County, SC in 1840. There were 20 results. I then narrowed down the results by seeing which families had appropriately aged females in the household, which left me with three options: David, Joshua and Wesley Harris.  So which of these men, if any, was Mary's father?

     Knowing that Mary was living with her husband by 1850, my mom suggested looking at the 1850 census for each man and seeing if the female child was still living with them. Wesley was nowhere to be found, but this step eliminated David from the running. But what about Joshua?

     Looking at Joshua Harris' 1850 census, everything seemed to click. The children and their ages matched up, allowing that some of the girls had married and left home. But the kicker? Looking at a list of Mary's children compared to Joshua's family. Can you see it?

Joshua Harris, 1850
Mary Miller, 1860

     Mary named her first child Joshua and named one of her daughters Sylvesta. It would be very likely that she named her children for her father/brother and sister. 

     I started searching for Joshua Harris online and quickly came across a family tree that stated that he had a daughter named Mary who married a John Miller. This tree stated that Joshua was the son of George Harris, who also had a son named Craven Harris. Tada! My DNA connection on this family line has traced their family back to a Craven Harris. If this information is true, I've just made my first genealogy connection via DNA.

     Unfortunately, further searching turned up multiple variations of this family. There seem to be three versions that have been copied and pasted into about 50 different trees. None of them match my information. So, anyone still reading this: Do you think my research looks sound so far? Can you see any errors? 

     I'll continue to research Joshua and Mary and hope to find proof of the connection. I hope that this turns out to be correct and that I've made my first DNA genealogy connection.

08 May 2010

The Popularity of Edgefield County

As I've stated in previous posts, my Family Finder DNA test from FamilyTreeDNA gave me five "close relative" matches and a large number of speculative matches. As of yet, I haven't identified a common ancestor with any of the matches, thought there are a few promising leads. And just about all of those leads lead to Edgefield County, South Carolina.

My matches and I have been exchanging a variety of family tree charts and websites while we look for matches. Here's what we've seen so far:
  • My closest match, a predicted 3rd cousin with Mr. A Peppers, might match a Parish / Paris family in Edgefield County.
  • A 4th cousin match with Mr. E Hill might match a Harris family in Edgefield County.
  • A 4th cousin match with Ms. M Barton doesn't match any surname, but we both have a large number of ancestors from Edgefield County.
That's 3 out of 5 matches that might be traced back to Edgefield County, SC! Now, the way the matches are made is by comparing segments of DNA to see if individuals share identical segments on the same chromosome. With all of these Edgefield matches, I have to wonder if we're all related.

On the FTDNA website, I can compare up to three of my matches at a time. You can see three different colors on this chart and can see that each color has a long segment and a lot of little ones. The green segment is my 3rd cousin match and the blue and orange are my 4th cousin matches. You can see that in two places the green and orange match and in one place the blue and green match. But these are very small matches, so we don't all descend from the same recent ancestor. It might be that we share a very distant ancestor though...

Out of all the people in the world who might have taken this test it strikes me that so many of my matches look to have descended from the same location. I do have a lot of ancestors from the Edgefield County Area (which broke up into Greenwood, Saluda and McCormick Counties), but I have equally large amounts of ancestors from Emanuel County, GA, Elbert & Hart Counties, GA and Lexington County, SC. I guess it's just up to who takes the test... but it still strikes me as odd.

03 May 2010

Family Finder Results Are In - Pt 2

In my first post, I showed screenshots of what my Family Finder DNA test results looked like. In this post, I'll talk about contacting my matches.

First, I didn't really go into the scientific details of the test in the previous post. My DNA test results were matched to other folks' results. Here's how FTDNA explains it:

"Family Finder detects your near and distant cousins by comparing your autosomal DNA with that of other Family Tree DNA customers. If two people share identical segments of DNA then they may share a recent ancestor. When the Family Finder program finds matching segments, it uses statistical methods to determine if the segments are likely to be Identical By Descent (IBD). If they are determined to be IBD then the Family Finder program calculates the relationship based on the shared segments’ number and size.

The Family Finder program declares a DNA segment to be Identical By Descent (IBD) if it contains at least 500 matching SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) in series.

A DNA segment (block) that is 10 centiMorgans (cM) or larger indicates conclusive shared ancestry while a block that is between 5 and 10 cM is highly suggestive of shared ancestry. Additional factors such as the number of shared blocks that are at least 1 cM and their size are also used for the degree of relatedness calculations."

It's all very scientific isn't it? This explains the two numbers on the matches page (Shared cM and Longest Block). It also helps explain what I'm looking at on the "Chromosome Browser" Page. I showed both of these screenshots shown in the previous post.

I should say at this point: I have yet to receive notification from FTDNA that I have any FF test results or matches. I only knew about these matches because I've been checking for results. I'd expect better communication from FTDNA on this...

So, my results gave me one predicted 3rd cousin and four predicted 4th cousins. If these estimates are accurate, I might be related to these matches through my 2x and 3x Great Grandparents. The match for 3rd cousin has a larger number of shared cM than the 4th cousin matches, at 45.56, with the longest block being 19.41. Based on FTDNA's explanation, this looks like a very good match. I didn't recognize any of the surnames listed for this match, but it doesn't look like that many are listed.

I went ahead and emailed all of my matches (the five "close relatives" as well as the more distant "speculative" ones). I sent them a prepared letter listing my surnames, website and contact information. I was shocked by the almost instant response I received. Within a few hours I had received emails from all of my close matches and a few speculative matches. So far, there haven't been any instant connections, which I also found surprising. This test is supposed to find matches within six generations - which I have almost fully charted. But with no obvious ancestor found yet, the shared ancestor is obviously more ancient than that. My matches and I are all exchanging pedigree files to look for a more hidden connection.

And, although we're not matching names, we are matching geographic locations. Three of my close matches have family in many of the same locations as mine. We might be able to focus on researching certain lines where both of our trees show up at the same place and time.

Based on comments from others, I should continue to make matches as other folks receive their test results. I'd love be able to make an easy match - instant gratification and all that. But, these difficult to make matches will probably help my research more than an easy match. Fingers cross either way!


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