Elevenses with Lisa Episode 44 Show Notes
Do you have a DNA problem?
Maybe it’s as simple as having a ton of matches and not knowing what to do with them. How do you keep track of all those matches. How to you know which matches to focus on? How can you can use all your matches to do what you really want to do, which is learn more about my family history?
In this episode of Elevenses with Lisa we are visiting with someone who has worked past many of those problems. She uses her DNA matches to solve some of her genealogical questions and the questions of her patrons. Today she’s here to help you!
My special guest is Sara Allen, a librarian at the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library. I wanted to talk to Sara because she’s not a biologist, or a Genetic Genealogy Guru. She’s like you and me: she’s passionate about family history! She shares genetic genealogy with folks in a very practical, and easy-to-understand way.
As a side note, we were lucky to record this episode because the day Sara and I were to meet to record the library was closed due to a snow storm. I’m in Texas and we’re buried in a deep freeze with devastating power outages, and at our house, no water for a time. But we moved things around and got it done. However, in all the chaos I managed to put my microphone on the wrong setting, so I’m going to sound like I’m sitting in a Folgers coffee can. But that doesn’t matter because it is what Sara has to say that’s really important.
Oh, and they were also doing construction at the library the day we finally recorded, so it’ll sound occasionally like we use jack hammers on our DNA! However, neither snow nor ice nor lack of water nor construction zones will keep us (as your faithful genealogists) from the swift completion of this appointed show.
How to Start Solving Genealogical Problems with DNA
Sara shared her basic over-arching plan for using DNA to answer a genealogical question:
- First, do comprehensive traditional genealogical research on the problem.
- Then do DNA testing.
- Follow the clues where they lead.
- Use the genealogical proof standard to come to an accurate conclusion/solution. Also view the DNA standards.
Then she shared the specific steps for her research plan.
Research Plan for Solving Genealogical Problems with DNA
- Identify your research problem.
- Summarize genealogical research results.
- Choose most relevant DNA test/tests to order.
- Choose the most helpful family member(s) to test. These are people who carry the particular DNA that falls you will need.
- Complete the rest of your family tree to at least 4th great grandparents (4GG) if possible.
Choosing the Right DNA Test
Step 3 was to choose the most relevant DNA test. This is important because there are three main kinds of tests out there. Each has strengths and weaknesses. Understanding what each test is capable of is key to getting the results you need.
- Autosomal test – autosomal DNA is inherited 50/50 from mother and father. Both men and women can be tested. Start with this test, unless your mystery goes farther back than 5-6 generations of great grandparents.
- Y Chromosome test – only males can test. It tests a man’s direct paternal line.
- Mitochondrial (mtDNA) test – Both men and women inherit Mitochondrial DNA and can be tested for it. However, it’s important to understand that only women can pass it on to the next generation. Follow the line of potential inheritance in order to identify the right person to test. The Mitochondrial test tests the direct maternal line only.
How to Choose the Best Family Member to DNA Test
If you’ve decided that an Autosomal DNA test is what you need, a relative one or two generations older (on the correct side of the family) is always better. Examples: Parents, Aunts/Uncles, Grandparents, Great-aunts/uncles, Parent’s first cousin
If you’re going to do a Y or mtDNA, choose a family member who falls within the correct path of DNA inheritance.
Sorting DNA Matches
- Sort your matches out by family line or common ancestor couple.
- View your match’s name, family tree or family names, and shared matches to help you sort into family lines.
- Use known cousins to help you sort. If you are related to a cousin in only one way, then your “shared matches” with that cousin should be “relatives” on the same side of the family as the cousin.
- Sara uses color coding dots to stay organized and detangle matches.
If there is a family tree, copy it, either electronically or print it out on paper. Compare and contrast trees looking for common names, common ancestor couples, common places. Work on establishing relationship between the different matches based on their trees. In other words, do genealogy!
Case #1: Who Were the Parents of Dovey Renolds Allen?
Here’s an outline of the case Sara covers in this episode so you can follow along.
Step 1: Define the Problem
Dovey Reynolds was born around 1822 in North Carolina and was married in 1846 in Owen County, Indiana to Phillip Allen. She died in 1901 in Jefferson County, Kansas. No records have been found naming her parents.
Step 2: Write a Research Summary
- Records for Dovey as a married adult were found
- Dovey’s obituary and death certificate from Kansas were sought. No death certificate found. Obituary did not name parents.
- Owen County Library, Archives and Court house were searched. Extensive research was done, but not exhaustive; I did not document the sources that I used….so this work needs to be redone
- 1840 Census searched for Owen Co. Indiana Reynolds. 1 household found with female 15-19 years old (age Dovey would be), headed by William Reynolds.
- William Reynolds died in 1856, leaving a widow Amy, and naming children Jane, Solomon and Edmond in his will. Dovey not mentioned
- Possible father. No records found linking Dovey to this father
Step 3: Select the Right DNA Test
- Autosomal DNA: Dovey was my 3rd great grandmother. I have inherited approximately 3% of my autosomal DNA from her.
- Mitochondrial DNA is not relevant to this case due to inheritance path.
- Since she is a female, Y-DNA is not relevant.
Step 4: Select the Right Relative to Test
Autosomal DNA – test the closest living person to the mystery ancestor: Test my father or his sister (aunt) to get one generation closer.
Step 5: Complete Family Tree for Other Family Lines
DNA Match Analysis Strategies
- Search DNA matches’ trees for “Reynolds” surname.
- Each DNA company has a tool for searching your matches (23andme is not as good as others.)
Results of our search for “Reynolds” in matches’ trees: Look for Reynolds in key locations in Dovey’s life such as NC and IN, especially Owen Co. IN, and maybe KS:
- Matches with Reynolds in their trees from New England, Canada, England, etc. probably NOT related.
- Create a note for yourself, saying, for instance, “Maine Reynolds family” so you don’t waste time on probable irrelevant matches.
24 matches to William Reynolds’ descendants (27 cM – 8 cM)
- 10 matches from daughter Lucy
- 4 matches from daughter Diana
- 1 match from daughter Temperance
- 3 from son Solomon
- 2 from son Edmond
- 4 from daughter Deborah
DNA Preliminary Conclusions
- DNA links my aunt to descendants of 6 of William Reynold’s children.
- This does not prove that Dovey was William’s daughter. She could have been his niece or other close relative.
- Aunt shares the correct number of cMs with the matches to be 4th-5th cousins with them.
- Aunt’s shared matches with these Reynolds matches are on her paternal line – which is the correct side of the family.
- More genealogical research could provide the definite link.
Case #2: Mysterious Leroy Porter
Step 1: Define Problem:
- Leroy Porter was born in 1897 in France or PA
- Married Ina Hill and died in Michigan.
- Leroy was a teller of tall tales; family wants to know his origins, his parentage, and was he really from France?
Step 2: Research Summary
- Death certificate (informant wife) says parents were Daniel Porter and Mary Baschley of PA.
- Leroy cannot be found on any census prior to 1920 as Leroy Porter.
- No trace of parents of those names found
Step 3: DNA Testing Options
Granddaughter Kathy took the autosomal DNA test.
- Y-chromosome test not applicable for Kathy (there may be a candidate for Y DNA testing within the family)
- Mitochondrial DNA not applicable
Step 4: Test the correct person:
- Several of Leroy’s daughters are alive, so if they took an autosomal test, would be one generation closer.
Ancestry DNA match sorting options:
- “Add to Group” option
- Allows you to name the group, and add colored dots, up to 24 different colors
- Notes field = enter free text notes about matches
Evaluated trees of the possible matches from Leroy’s side. Two match groups identified:
- Hedges family of PA
- Crute family of PA
Can we find a marriage between these 2 families? Yes – Daniel Hedges married Alice Crute ca. 1894 probably Warren Co. PA.
More Genealogical Work
- Sara found “LeRoy Hedges” in the 1900 Warren Co. PA Census!
- She went through Kathy’s tree to find matches to Hedges/Crute family
- Were the cMs within range for the relationships? Yes = 2nd DNA points to Leroy Hedges being Leroy Porter.
Leroy Hedges = Leroy Porter Summary
- Family broken up by 1910
- Parents remarried
- Siblings in orphanage
- Leroy Hedges ran away and was not heard from again
- Did he go to Michigan and marry Ina Hill as Leroy Porter?
- No official name change document found
- Could compare photographs if Hedges family has one…
I’ve blogged before about the relatively new Digital Public Library of America (here’s a post introducing the DPLA and here’s one on historical maps you’ll find there). Now the Library of Congress has posted a 31-minute webcast that features the DPLA content director, Emily Gore. She not only demonstrates some great examples of what you can find in the public portal of the DPLA, but also discusses the potential for gathering even more materials (she gives an example using local sources.) It’s a great introduction to the site, and Gore answers some questions from the audience that seem to be on a lot of people’s minds.
Looking for a more basic intro to the DPLA? Check out this introductory video, too.
Not sure how to use microfilm or microfiche readers? Watch these quick video tutorials before your next trip to the library!
Recently I heard from a Genealogy Gems Premium member who is digging in deep to her family history. But she confessed that she left the Oklahoma Historical Center in Oklahoma City “in tears because I really didn’t know what I was doing” with the microfiche machine and with microfilms.
I totally understand. Microfilm and fiche readers are not my favorite part of genealogy research, either. But despite the wealth of digitized records that continue to appear online, microfilm is going to be around for a while! FamilySearch and other publishers of microfilmed data (like state archives) do not have copyright permissions to digitize all their microfilmed materials. Even if they can get it, it’s going to take a long time to make that happen.
Meanwhile, we will continue to need microfilm and microfiche readers!
- Microfilm is a long reel of film (up to 125 feet, I’ve heard) that are essentially page-by-page photos of a document collection, book, newspaper, etc.
- Microfiche is a single sheet of film (about 4″ x 6″) that contains the same, only shrunk down so small you need a magnified reader to make sense of it.
These were standard technologies for duplicating records in the pre-digital era. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City alone has over 2.4 million rolls of microfilm. Yes, that’s million! (And yes, they will lend them out to a Family History Center or FamilySearch Library near you.)
To access these fantastic films and fiches, you will need to use microfilm readers and microfiche readers. It’s easy to walk into the library and think everyone knows how to use them but you. But that’s not true. In fact, every single genealogist has had to face their first encounter with a reader. Don’t be shy about asking politely for a tutorial (and help when you do it wrong and something gets stuck). And don’t be shy about watching these tutorials on YouTube before you go to the library again:
How to Use a Microfilm Reader:
How to Use a Microfiche Reader:
As you can see, YouTube is a fantastic place to pick up essential genealogy skills! Click here to check out our more great ideas for using YouTube for family history.