DNA Problem Solving – Using Genetic Genealogy to Find Answers

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.  

Special Guest: Sara Allen, Librarian, Genealogy Center at Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, IN
Email: genealogy@acpl.info

How to Start Solving Genealogical Problems with DNA

Sara shared her basic over-arching plan for using DNA to answer a genealogical question:

  1. First, do comprehensive traditional genealogical research on the problem.
  2. Then do DNA testing.
  3. Follow the clues where they lead.
  4. 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

  1. Identify your research problem.
  2. Summarize genealogical research results.
  3. Choose most relevant DNA test/tests to order.
  4. Choose the most helpful family member(s) to test. These are people who carry the particular DNA that falls you will need.
  5. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Y Chromosome test – only males can test. It tests a man’s direct paternal line.
  3. 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

  1. Sort your matches out by family line or common ancestor couple.
  2. View your match’s name, family tree or family names, and shared matches to help you sort into family lines.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Match Summary

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

Results

Evaluated trees of the possible matches from Leroy’s side. Two match groups identified:

  1. Hedges family of PA
  2. 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…

Resources

Church Records for Genealogy on Archives.com

UPDATE:  THIS COLLECTION HAS BEEN EXPANDED AND IS NOW ALSO AVAILABLE ON ANCESTRY.COM.

About 4.6 million genealogical records from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) are now available on Archives.com.

Alfreda Sporowski CHILD SMALLThis project represents a unique collection for Archives.com, which partnered with the ELCA Archives to digitize and index about 1000 rolls of microfilmed records of affiliated church. According to the company, this collection represents records that have never been online before. It eliminates the major barriers we usually have in researching church records: not knowing which specific congregation an ancestor attended; not knowing where those records are now and not having easy access to them.

According to a company press release, “The records in these collections date from the mid-1800s through 1940 and include births, baptisms, confirmations, marriages, deaths, and burials. Details vary from church to church, but often include parents’ names, dates and places of the event, and other biographical details. Many of the churches were founded by immigrants from Norway, Sweden, and Germany and had immigrant families as their members.”

I was curious to see what I could find in the collection on my own family. You can imagine how happy I was to find this record (image below) of my grandmother, Alfreda Sporowski (image right) from Gillespie, Illinois:

Church record naming Alfreda Sporowski, from Archives.com's collection of Evangelical Lutheran Church records.

Church record naming Alfreda Sporowski, from Archives.com’s collection of Evangelical Lutheran Church records.

 

I remember years ago writing a letter to the church and receiving a letter in reply with this information. Now I’m looking at the original document in just seconds from my home computer. We’ve come a long way!

Not a member at Archives.com? You can sign up here for a free 7-day trial membership.

Celebrating Freedom and Records Access: 50 Years of FOIA and Genealogy

Happy July 4th–and Happy 50th to the Freedom of Information Act! Read more about the FOIA and genealogy records we can access because of it.

Today we in the United States celebrate our Independence Day with grateful hearts and parades. Well, genealogists with U.S. ancestors have an extra reason for fireworks: today marks 50 years since Congresss signed the Freedom of Information Act into law, and the U.S. became one of the first nations to open its records to the public.

The Freedom of Information Act

The FOIA opens certain kinds of information about the federal government and certain information created by the federal government. It doesn’t apply to everything, including documents that relate to national security, privacy and trade secrets. The FOIA also only applies to documents created by the federal government, not state or local governments.

Since it was passed, the FOIA has continued to be expanded and amended. Over the years, the numbers of FOIA document requests has skyrocketed, too. In the first five years after the FOIA passed, it only resulted in about 500 total requests for information–that’s an average of just 100 per year. Last year alone, there were more than 700,000 requests!

The FOIA and Genealogy

So, of course we have to ask the question: how well do FOIA and genealogy go together? As it turns out, quite well. My favorite FOIA request is for an ancestor’s Social Security application (the SS-5 form). This is the form that generated the assignment of a relative’s Social Security number and was the first step to receiving any Social Security benefits. It’s what the very limited information on the Social Security Death Index comes from, as well as the much-richer (but not comprehensively available) Social Security Applications and Claims database at Ancestry.com. That was released last year and caused a LOT of us to do a serious genealogy happy dance.

But if you want to see everything in that SS-5 application, you should order an image copy of the original (you can now also order a computerized abstract of it, which is cheaper but might not get everything right). Here’s what an SS-5 application looks like:

Osby Johnson SS5 FOIA and genealogy

This one confirms the names of an African-American man’s parents–parents who survived slavery and left few other records of their existence. This man was part of the first generation in his family to legally learn to read and write. His signature is on the record.

You can also access other key 20th-century genealogy records that haven’t made it online yet–and in some cases, haven’t even been sent to the National Archives yet.

These include the following (with links to where to learn more):

There is some fine print on some of these records request procedures, so read carefully what records are there, what you’re allowed to order and how to request it. Happy Independence Day–and Happy FOIA anniversary!

More FOIA and Genealogy Gems

Social Security Death Index SSDI Try This Now! U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index

Search the SSDI for Your Family History

Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 21 about military record requests through FOIA

Applying to Lineage Societies: Why Hire a Pro to Help You

A professional genealogist can help you apply to lineage societies. Joining is a time-honored way to honor your heritage and document your family history research. But it’s not easy! Here’s why even experienced genealogists may want to hire a professional to help with the process.

Professional genealogist can help you apply to lineage societies

Thanks to Legacy Tree Genealogists for supplying this guest blog post.

Applying to lineage societies

Do you have an ancestor who lived in Colonial America when the Revolutionary War was fought, or perhaps earlier in Jamestown, Virginia? Does your ancestry extend back to New England when the Mayflower arrived? If so, there are various lineage societies you could consider joining:

family history video documents applying to lineage societiesWhile each organization has different requirements for their lineage society application, most have the same principles: prove a connection from yourself to the person of interest by use of vital records (where available). Where not available, other documentation that proves family connections can be used. (DAR now also accepts DNA evidence.)

You may not know that most societies allow you to “piggy-back” on applications they have previously accepted. Let’s say your second cousin Steve already joined a society based on your common patriot (or pioneer) ancestor, Alexander Smith. You would just need to provide documentation proving your connection to your parents, your relevant parent’s connection to his/her parents, and your relevant grandparent’s connection to your common great-grandparents, who were already mentioned in Steve’s application. You may then be able to reference Steve’s application for the remainder of the lineage going back to Alexander Smith.

Overall, this may sound like a simple process. But it often takes quite a bit of work because the records needed to prove each generational link are not always readily available–and sometimes they just don’t exist at all.

Why get help when applying to lineage societies

Below are five ways that a professional genealogist can help you apply to lineage societies:

1. Help you determine how to apply. As we mentioned, each lineage society has different requirements, so you’ll want to be sure you know what they expect in order to be as efficient as possible in gathering documentation. A professional can help you determine exactly what documentation is required and locate contact information for those with whom you need to work to submit your application.

2. Identify where your research should stop and start. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, as the saying goes. If your lineage ties into one that has already been acceptably documented by another member of the society, you should use it! A professional genealogist can help you identify any previous lineage society applications that have already been approved for your lineage. This single step can save you a lot of time and money.

3. Organize your information. A professional genealogist can work with you to determine what documentation you already have and what you will need to order. They can help you order copies of missing vital records or find acceptable substitutes in archives, libraries, and online.

weigh conflicting evidence applying to lineage societies4. Conduct in-depth research as needed. Many times, at least one ‘problem’ generation requires in-depth research, circumstantial evidence, and a proof summary in order to make the connection. A well-written proof summary explains how all the circumstantial evidence fits together to support the generational link, and often aids the applicant in obtaining membership when not enough concrete documentation is available (or when it conflicts). This often involves delving into land records, tax lists, probate records, and other more obscure sources to find any and all clues and pieces of information that can be used to tie two generations together. It can be a time-consuming task. A professional genealogist can do this efficiently and thoroughly.

5. Compile and present all records to the lineage society for admittance. You’ll be the one to present or submit your documentation, but professionals can help you get it all ready so that you’ll be as prepared and organized as possible.

Save time and money when applying to lineage societies

A well-prepared lineage society application often shortens the waiting period to be accepted into a society because it is easier to verify and follows the rules of the society. If an application is poorly prepared, it can take several submissions before acceptance into the society is granted. And of course, the lineage society determines what they will and will not accept as proof, so there’s never a guarantee. They may request additional information, and then you have to go back and keep digging! But since professional genealogists have experience working with the various societies and know what types of documentation are usually accepted, working with a pro can make the application process to a lineage easier, more efficient, and in the end, more rewarding.

If you have an ancestor in your lineage who may qualify you to join a lineage society, experts at Legacy Tree Genealogists can help you gather your documentation and prepare your application. They are the world’s highest client-rated genealogy research firm. Founded in 2004, the company provides full-service genealogical research for clients worldwide, helping them discover their roots and personal history through records, narratives, and DNA. Based near the world’s largest family history library in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, Legacy Tree has developed a network of professional researchers and archives around the globe.

Contact them today to discuss your options–and your ancestors. EXCLUSIVE OFFER for Genealogy Gems readers! Receive $100 off a 20-hour+ research project from Legacy Tree Genealogists with code GEMS100. Offer good through December 31, 2017.

FamilySearch Updates Include VA Pension Cards, South American Records

FamilySearch recently added another 192 million+ images and indexed records from North and South America and Europe to its growing FREE online collections. In the list at the bottom of this post you’ll find content from Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Spain, Switzerland, the United States, and Wales.

Notable collection updates include the 314,910 images from the Spain, Province of Barcelona, Municipal Records, 1387–1936,

collection, the 576,176 indexed records from the United States Veterans Administration Pension Payment Cards, 1907–1933, collection, and the 189,395,454

Sample image from “United States Veterans Administration Pension Payment Cards, 1907-1933.” Index and images. FamilySearch. https://familysearch.org : accessed 2013.

indexed records from the United States Public Records Index.

Here’s an example of a V.A. pension card, created by the Bureau of Pensions and Veterans Administration to record payments to veterans, widows and other dependents. FamilySearch describes the cards this way: “On the front of the cards for invalid veterans are recorded the name of veteran, his certificate number, his unit or arm of Service, the disability for which pensioned, the law or laws under which pensioned, the class of pension or certificate, the rate of pension, the effective date of pension, the date of the certificate, any fees paid, the name of the pension agency or group transferred from (if applicable), the date of death, the date the Bureau was notified, the former roll number, and ‘home.’ On the reverse side of the form appears the name of the veteran, his certificate number, and the record of the individual payments. The army and navy widow’s cards are similar to the invalids’ cards with the addition of the widow’s name and occasionally information regarding payments made to minors, but they do not indicate if the veteran had a disability.”

Collection

Indexed Records

Digital Images

Comments

Brazil, Mato Grosso, Civil Registration, 1848-2013 0 126,870 Added images to an existing collection.
Brazil, Minas Gerais, Catholic Church Records, 1706-1999 0 827 Added images to an existing collection.
Brazil, Pernambuco, Civil Registration, 1804-2013 0 94,516 Added images to an existing collection.
Colombia, Catholic Church Records, 1600-2012 0 111,526 Added images to an existing collection.
Peru, Puno, Civil Registration, 1890-2005 0 176,918 Added images to an existing collection.
Spain, Province of Barcelona, Municipal Records, 1387-1936 0 314,910 Added images to an existing collection.
Switzerland, Fribourg, Census, 1839 0 2,552 New browsable image collection.
Switzerland, Fribourg, Census, 1842 0 2,851 New browsable image collection.
Switzerland, Fribourg, Census, 1845 0 3,062 New browsable image collection.
Switzerland, Fribourg, Census, 1850 0 2,968 New browsable image collection.
Switzerland, Fribourg, Census, 1860 0 20,530 New browsable image collection.
Switzerland, Fribourg, Census, 1870 0 22,554 New browsable image collection.
U.S., Alabama, County Marriages, 1809-1950 324,971 690,459 Added indexed records and images to an existing collection.
United States Public Records Index 189,395,454 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
United States Veterans Administration Pension Payment Cards, 1907-1933 576,176 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 644,004 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
Wales, Court and Miscellaneous Records, 1542-1911 0 84,676 Added images to an existing collection.

 

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