“We’re Cousins?!” DNA for Genealogy Reveals Surprising Relationship

Two cousins recently chatted after learning that they share DNA. The first asked whether the second is white. “No,” she answered. The response: “Are you sure?”  

In our modern society, families are defined in a myriad of different ways. Using DNA for genealogy is certainly contributing to these

A family and its female slave house servants in Brazil, c.1860. Wikimedia Commons image. Click to view full source citation.

changing definitions, as families find themselves genetically linked across social and cultural boundaries to kin they never expected.

Such is the case for a Bartow, Florida resident who submitted a DNA test out of curiosity and found more than she expected. Through a combination of DNA testing and social media, Mary McPherson, who is white, met one of her cousins, Dolores Washington-Fleming, who is black.

Peter Williams entry in 1850 U.S. Census Slave Schedule, St Bartholomews Parish, Colleton, South Carolina. Image from Ancestry.com.

Peter Williams’ entry in 1850 U.S. Census Slave Schedule, St Bartholomews Parish, Colleton, South Carolina. Image from Ancestry.com.

According to an article on The Ledger, the two women share a great-great-grandfather, Peter Edward Williams, who was born in South Carolina two centuries ago. Peter was a slaveholder. The 1850 census slave schedule shows that he held a female slave who was a few years younger than she was. Dolores believes that’s her grandmother’s grandmother.

The two finally met this past May for the first time and enjoyed this new definition of family. I think what I like most is what Dolores’ son said about the situation: “My mom and I are fascinated by history, and this is history. We represent what the times were like back then.” It still boggles my mind just a little that we are able to use the DNA of living people today to resurrect the past, and bring depth and meaning to the present, and possibly even prepare us for the future.

I find myself in a similar situation to Dolores and Mary. My mom was adopted, and even though we have had DNA testing completed for several years, we didn’t have any close matches, and honestly, we weren’t looking. Though she did have a passing interest in her health history, my mom did not feel the need to seek out her biological family. But then over the last few months various pieces of her puzzle have started to fall into place. This is much because of a key DNA match that popped up in March.

With that one match and subsequent correspondence, our interest in my mom’s biological family has skyrocketed. Why? I think it is because our DNA match, sisters from Texas, have shown us genuine kindness and interest. They have truly shown us what it means to be family. Even though we are unexpected, even though we aren’t sure yet how exactly we are connected, they have embraced us without reservation without hesitation.

To me, this is what family is. They accept you in whatever condition you come in and do their best to make you feel like you belong. Now, that kind of welcome isn’t felt by everyone who meets their genetic cousins, and people should carefully consider whether they’re ready for unforeseen results or unanticipated reactions from DNA matches before they get started.

But what about you? If you’ve started down the genetics path, how has DNA testing expanded or strengthened your definition of family?

Learn more about DNA testing for genealogy–how to get started or how to make sense of testing you’ve already had–with my quick guides available at the Genealogy Gems store, and then contact me at YourDNAGuide.com to arrange your own personal DNA consultation.

Resources for DNA for Genealogy

DNA Quick Guides for Genealogy (Bundle them for savings!): Getting Started, Autosomal DNA, Y Chromosome DNA, Mitochondrial DNA, Understanding Ancestry, Understanding Family Tree DNA

New AncestryDNA Common Matches Tool: Love It!

Confused by Your AncestryDNA Matches?

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Episode 204

The Genealogy Gems Podcast

Episode #204

with Lisa Louise Cooke

Canadian expert Dave Obee shares the story of the Canadian home children tips on newspaper research. Also in this episode:

New site features at MyHeritage, including improved DNA ethnicity analysis (it’s free?upload your DNA!);

An excerpt from the Genealogy Gems Book Club interview with Fannie Flagg about The Whole Town’s Talking?and a great summer reading idea;

A detailed get-started guide to British Isles research: Terminology and census/civil BMD record tips from Kate Eakman at Legacy Tree Genealogists

Why so many weddings are traditionally held in June.

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Download the show notes

NEWS: DNA AND CATALOG UPDATES AT MYHERITAGE

MyHeritage.com: DNA ethnicity estimate updates and new collection Catalog

View an example of the new ethnicity analysis presentation here: https://vimeo.com/218348730/51174e0b49

3 top uses for the new MyHeritage catalog (with additional details and commentary)

MyHeritage Quick Reference Guide (Newly-updated in 2017)

 

Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites. This brand new, comprehensive guide helps you answer the question, “Which genealogy websites should I use?”

MAILBOX: BOOK CLUB COMMENTS

Visit the book club here.

Companion video recommendations:

Genealogy Journey: Running Away to Home video (click here to see the book)

You Came and Saved Us” video with author Chris Cleave, Everyone Brave is Forgiven

Alan Cumming on Who Do You Think You Are? Episode summary

Not My Father’s Son  by Alan Cumming

For more information: www.nwgc.org

 

Lisa Louise Cooke uses and recommends RootsMagic family history software. From within RootsMagic, you can search historical records on FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com. In the works: soon RootsMagic will be fully integrated with Ancestry.com, too: you’ll be able to sync your RootsMagic trees with your Ancestry.com trees and search records on the site.

Learn more or sign up for Backblaze here.

Keep your family history research, photos, tree software files, videos and all other computer files safely backed up with Backblaze, the official cloud-based computer backup system for Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems. Learn more at http://www.backblaze.com/.

INTERVIEW: DAVE OBEE

Continuing our celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday!

Dave Obee is an internationally-renowned Canadian journalist, historian and genealogist. Dave is a columnist for Internet Genealogy and Your Genealogy Today (formerly Family Chronicle). Dave has also written about family history for Canada’s History and Your Family Tree in the United Kingdom.

Put Dave’s books on your shelf – you can get them here.

Finding Your Canadian Ancestors: A Beginner’s Guide

Counting Canada: A Genealogical Guide to the Canadian Census

Destination Canada: A Genealogical Guide to Immigration Records

Making the News: A Times Columnist Look at 150 Years of History

Canada research tips:

Look in newspapers for ship crossings, notable people sailing, approximate numbers of passengers etc.

Don’t just rely on search engines for digitized newspapers. Browse the papers where you find some hits.

Canada Home Children: Watch and Learn

 

Forgotten, an award-winning documentary (watch the trailer here)

Childhood Lost: The Story of Canada’s Home Children documentary (watch it on YouTube)

 

LEGACY TREE GEM: ENGLISH PARISH RECORDS

Visit Legacy Tree Genealogists: http://www.legacytree.com/genealogygems

Read a companion blog post on English parish records, with several image examples and links to the resources Kate Eakman recommends.

Legacy Tree Genealogists provides expert genealogy research service that works with your research goals, budget and schedule. The Legacy Tree Discovery package offers 3.5 hours of preliminary analysis and research recommendations: a great choice if you’ve hit a brick wall in your research and could use some expert guidance.

GENEALOGY GEMS BOOK CLUB: FANNIE FLAGG INTERVIEW

The Whole Town’s Talking by Fannie Flagg

Genealogy Gems Premium website members may hear this entire conversation in the upcoming Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode #148.

BONUS CONTENT for Genealogy Gems App Users

LINK IMAGE TO: http://lisalouisecooke.com/get-app/

If you’re listening through the Genealogy Gems app, your bonus audio content for this episode comes from Melissa Barker, the Archive Lady, in honor of International Archives Day on June 9. The Genealogy Gems app is FREE in Google Play and is only $2.99 for Windows, iPhone and iPad users

 

Start creating fabulous, irresistible videos about your family history with Animoto.com. You don’t need special video-editing skills: just drag and drop your photos and videos, pick a layout and music, add a little text and voila! You’ve got an awesome video! Try this out for yourself at Animoto.com.

 

MyHeritage.com is the place to make connections with relatives overseas, particularly with those who may still live in your ancestral homeland. Click here to see what MyHeritage can do for you: it’s free to get started.

 

PROFILE AMERICA: June Weddings

Genealogy Gems Newsletter Sign Up

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Lisa Louise Cooke, Host and Producer

Sunny Morton, Editor

Diahan Southard, Your DNA Guide, Content Contributor

Lacey Cooke, Service Manager

Vienna Thomas, Associate Producer
Check out this new episode!

Join me at MyHeritage LIVE Tel Aviv 2020

I was honored to speak at the first MyHeritage LIVE conference in Oslo, Norway in 2018. After another rousing success in Amsterdam in 2019, the event is coming to Israel in 2020. I’ll be there speaking along with many of your favorites. MyHeritage LIVE is an event like no other that you won’t want to miss. Here are all the details from the folks at MyHeritage.

MyHeritage LIVE 2020 Tel Aviv

From Daniel Horowitz, Genealogy Expert at MyHeritage:

Following the success of MyHeritage LIVE 2018 and 2019, I am delighted to announce that our third annual MyHeritage LIVE conference will take place from 25–26 October 2020 at the Hilton Tel Aviv in Israel!

As one of the most celebrated genealogy events of the year, MyHeritage LIVE brings together family history enthusiasts, top international experts, and MyHeritage staff for two days of fascinating lectures covering the latest topics in genealogy and DNA. Each year, hundreds of MyHeritage users from around the world attend.

The venue is situated right on the Tel Aviv coastline with breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea. This year’s conference presents you with a wonderful opportunity to connect with fellow genealogy enthusiasts and tour a unique and beautiful country steeped in ancient history.

In addition to a plenary session from MyHeritage Founder and CEO Gilad Japhet, there will be multiple lectures, panels, and workshops covering genealogy and DNA, as well as sessions from local speakers covering Israeli resources and Jewish genealogy.

We’ve lined up an excellent array of international speakers including: 

  • Roberta Estes, 
  • Thomas MacEntee, 
  • Dick Eastman, 
  • Diahan Southard,
  • and Lisa Louise Cooke.

MyHeritage LIVE 2020 Tel Aviv Speakers

Joining them from Israel will be Garri Regev and Rony Golan along with others to be announced soon.

From the MyHeritage team, you’ll also hear from Maya Lerner, VP Product; Schelly Talalay Dardashti, U.S. Genealogy Advisor; Michael Mansfield, Director of Content Operations; Daniel Horowitz, Genealogy Expert; and more.

We’d be delighted if you share this news with your followers and let them know that they can register now on the MyHeritage LIVE 2020 website to secure early bird pricing of $100 per ticket

MyHeritage LIVE Conference Details: 

From the MyHeritage Blog:

“MyHeritage LIVE 2020 will take place on October 25–26, 2020 at the Hilton Tel Aviv. Set in landscaped Independence Park, this upscale hotel is a short 8-minute walk from the Mediterranean beachfront and just 5 km from the Tel Aviv-Savidor Center train station.

If you haven’t visited Tel Aviv yet, now is your chance to experience a beautiful, vibrant city that’s known as a “city that never sleeps,” making it a perfect fit for night owl genealogists who toil late into the night to work on their research. Explore the past and experience new cultures in a truly unique country steeped in ancient history.”

Tickets

Conference tickets include access to lectures, workshops, coffee breaks, lunches, and the MyHeritage party, all of which you don’t want to miss!

Past events

Both MyHeritage LIVE 2018 in Oslo, Norway, and MyHeritage LIVE 2019 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands received tremendous praise from conference participants, who declared the events some of the best conferences they’ve ever attended.

There were three different tracks: DNA, genealogy, and hands-on workshops. Riveting talks by guest speakers and MyHeritage staff captivated full audiences. MyHeritage Customer Support representatives were on hand throughout the conference to provide comprehensive, hands-on support. 

Watch the 2019 Highlights:

Watch My Presentation from MyHeritage LIVE 2018

How to Find Your Family in Newspapers with SuperSearch:

 

Episode 197

Episode 197

with Lisa Louise Cooke

This episode celebrates the most recent family history there is: our own. A chat between host and producer Lisa Louise Cook and Gems editor Sunny Morton explores the meaning and memories behind heirlooms hanging in Lisa’s bedroom. They comment on the larger value, for self and others, of recording our own memories in honor of Sunny’s new book, Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy.

Also in this episode:

  • A spotlight on new marriage records online for the U.S. and around the world.
  • Lisa walks a listener through several tips for learning more about her immigrant ancestors (a mother and daughter). Lisa shows how to use today’s technology tools to help with traditional research skills such as locating passenger lists, immigrant society records and naturalization.
  • Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard talks about organizing your DNA matches so you can get the most out of them.
  • Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author and Victorian lifestyle expert Sarah Chrisman describes what it’s like in her home–which doesn’t use electricity–as the days grow shorter and the darkness comes earlier.

NEW RECORDS ONLINE: Marriage Records

New York City Marriages: a new index to more than 3 million marriage licenses for recent New York City marriages (1950-1995)

Free FamilySearch marriage record collections recently added or updated include:

Learn more about marriage record research: Listen to Using Marriage Records in Family History: Episode 24 in Lisa Louise Cooke’s free step-by-step podcast, Genealogy: Family History Made Easy.

 

BONUS CONTENT for Genealogy Gems App Users: Finding Copies of Images Online with Google on Your Mobile Device

If you’re listening through the Genealogy Gems app, your bonus content for this episode is an exclusive step-by-step tutorial PDF that shows you how to use your mobile device and Google to locate copies of images online. Remember, the Genealogy Gems app is FREE in Google Play and is only $2.99 for Windows, iPhone and iPad users.

 

MAILBOX: Finding a Female Immigrant Ancestor

Question from Jo: “I have been fortunate to find information about most of my great-grandparents.  I have hit a wall with my maternal great grandmother who immigrated from Switzerland to the US in the 1880s when she was 8 years old. I was hoping that by upgrading to International records on Ancestry that I could find the ship and where she and her mother came from. The curious thing for me is that she and her mother traveled solo to the US and went to Cincinnati, Ohio. I’ve been to Cincinnati and have searched there and have found directories with addresses but no profession is listed like other people. I didn’t find any ship records either. Where might you suggest that I look or search to find more information?”

Tips for searching passenger arrival lists:

Consider what ports would have been the most logical point of arrival for an immigrant ancestor based on the time period and the U.S. location in which you find them. Cincinnati, Ohio, was reachable by rail by the 1880s from major ports, as well as by water via the Mississippi River for southern ports, so that doesn’t narrow things down much. According to an Ancestry.com article, more than 80% of immigrants arrived at the Port of New York by the 1890s, so Jo might scrutinize those New York passenger arrival lists for the 1880s again.

Free New York City passenger arrival databases at

Search multiple NYC passenger lists simultaneously at Steve Morse’s One-Step web portal

For “deeper” searching at Ancestry.com or other sites with powerful, flexible search interfaces: do a “nameless search” (without any name) for girls around age 8 for arrivals in particular years. Try additional searches with various combinations of name, place of origin (Switzerland) or “Swiss” in the keyword field, which will bring up that word in the ethnicity or nationality column. That column doesn’t have its own search field in Ancestry.com but it is indexed, so use the keyword field to search it.

Research Swiss immigration to Cincinnati during that time period. Who was coming, why they were coming and where they were coming from? Click here for free tips about researching historical questions such as these.

The Swiss in the United States at Internet Archive

Swiss-American Historical Society and Swiss Center: Genealogy

Tips for researching records of immigrant societies:

In the U.S., the time between an immigrant’s arrival and naturalization is often documented in records of ethnic organizations such as fraternal benefit societies, immigrant aid and colonization societies. These kinds of community groups often existed in cities and towns where specific immigrant groups had a strong presence.

Become an expert Google searcher (for genealogy and everything else you want to find online) with The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, 2nd edition, by Lisa Louise Cooke. Or click here to get started with basic Google search strategies you can use now.

Tips for researching naturalizations:

Naturalization records from that time period won’t reliably tell you where an ancestor was from. But they’re still worth looking for, especially if census or other records indicated that the person naturalized.

When looking for women’s and children’s naturalization records, remember that during this time period, they automatically became naturalized if their husband or father did, so individual records for married women and minor children won’t exist under their own names. But a woman could apply on her own, too. Click here to read a free article on women’s naturalizations.

Learn more in a free, 3-episode series on immigration and naturalization records: episodes 29-31 in the free, step-by-step Genealogy: Family History Made Easy podcast.

Lisa Louise Cooke uses and recommends RootsMagic family history software. From within RootsMagic, you can search historical records on FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com. In the works: RootsMagic will be fully integrated with Ancestry.com, too: you’ll be able to sync your RootsMagic trees with your Ancestry.com trees and search records on the site.

 

Keep your family history research, photos, tree software files, videos and all other computer files safely backed up with Backblaze, the official cloud-based computer backup system for Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems. Learn more at http://www.backblaze.com/Lisa.

 

INTERVIEW: Sunny Morton on recording your own life stories

 

Story of My Life

 “Some people about writing their life stories like I do about going to the gym. I put off going, but once I do I remember how much I enjoy it?and how much good it does me.” -Sunny

Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy available as a writeable PDF ebook or as a full-sized softcover workbook

GENEALOGY GEMS BOOK CLUB: Sarah Chrisman

 

This Victorian Life

Featured Genealogy Gems Book Club author Sarah Chrisman describes what it’s like when the days get shorter and the darkness comes early?in a house without electricity.

 

 

 

 

Legacy Tree Genealogists provides expert genealogy research service that works with your research goals, budget and schedule. The Legacy Tree Discovery package offers 3.5 hours of preliminary analysis and research recommendations: a great choice if you’ve hit a brick wall in your research and could use some expert guidance. Click here to learn more.

GENEALOGY GEMS EXCLUSIVE OFFER: Go to www.legacytree.com/genealogygems and use coupon code SAVE100 with your purchase of research services.

 

MyHeritage.com is the place to make connections with relatives overseas, particularly with those who may still live in your ancestral homeland. Click here to see what MyHeritage can do for you: it’s free to get started.

 

 

DNA WITH DIAHAN SOUTHARD

Parents spend a good portion of their parenting time ferreting out the real story from their children. One time when Henry was in Kindergarten he was playing outside with another little boy. I was in and out of the house watching him and checking on other things. Hours later I noticed that his bike had been spray-painted black. When confronted, he claimed he had no idea how such a thing could have happened. Unfortunately, I jumped to conclusions and blamed the other kid (you have to give me credit, at six Henry was such a good boy and had such an angelic face with his blue blue eyes and blonde blonde hair). But as I was on the phone with my husband telling him about the issue I looked over at Henry and I saw it- that guilty look and my stomach sank, recalling the things I had said to the other boy’s mom. “I’ll have to call you back,” I told my husband.

As genealogists, we spend our time trying to ferret out the real story from our ancestors, or at least from the records they left behind, because they’re not sitting in front of us with guilty looks on their faces. We are constantly checking family stories against, say, the information on a census record, then comparing it to the family will, then making sure it all agrees with what’s in the military records. And even if we have total agreement, which isn’t always, more information often comes along, like in the form of DNA testing, and we may find even more apparent discrepancies.

I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal about a reporter, Cameron McWhirter, who talks about finding just that kind of discrepancy between his family lore and his DNA. He even goes so far as to say, “I am descended, at least partially, from liars.” And he makes the point that “many immigrants reinvented themselves when they arrived here (the United States),” which could be a nice way of saying they had a chance to INVENT a new legacy, not just reinvent it. His assessments are certainly interesting, and worth reviewing, to help us see how DNA testing can affect the way we look at family stories and traditional research results.

McWhirter may be the classic modern genealogist, never having set foot inside a courthouse or scanned through microfiche, relying instead entirely, he reports, on internet research. Now before you roll your eyes, just stop for a minute and appreciate how exciting this is. Here is a man who never gave his family history a second thought, yet because of the death of his parents started to tinker around a bit, and then due to the large volume of information online “was quickly pulled into the obsessive world of modern genealogical research.” I say, score one for the genealogy world!

What he found was that while his dad was proudly and solidly a self-proclaimed Scot, the records and DNA revealed his heritage was actually from Ireland and eastern Europe. McWhirter says that his “father hated Notre Dame, but judging by my results he could have been one-quarter to one-half Irish. He spoke dismissively of people from Eastern Europe, but part of his genetic code likely came from that region.”

McWhirter’s evaluation of his genetic report includes only his ethnicity results, which as you can hear, were meaningful to him in the way they flew in the face of his father’s prejudices and assertions of his own identity. But the ethnicity results fall short of the point of testing for most genealogists. He might even more powerfully transform his sense of family identity if he took a look at his match list and saw an actual living cousin, for example, a third cousin perhaps who was also descended from his German great-grandmother, who maybe never mentioned that she was also Jewish.

Connecting with other cousins who also have paper trails to our ancestors serves to provide further confidence that we have put all of the pieces together and honored the right ancestor with a spot on our pedigree chart. It’s like we multiply our own research efforts by finding more people like us?literally?who are descended from the same people and interested in finding them. As long as they’re as diligent in their research as we are, of course.

At a recent conference I met a 5th cousin. Even with a connection that distant it was exciting, and it made we want to look again at our connecting ancestors and pause for just a minute to marvel how my DNA verified my paper trail back to them, and that part of them was around, in me, and in my new cousin. To me, THAT’s a bigger picture I want to see?when the paper trail comes together with the DNA trail and turns into real live cousins, even if they turn out to be a little different than the stories and sense of identity that were handed to us when we were young.

Maybe you’re something like Cameron McWhirter: you’ve taken a DNA test, been intrigued (or disappointed) by the ethnicity results, but haven’t yet fully explored all your matches on your list. I’m telling you, you may be seriously missing some opportunities. If that’s you, I may actually have written my new DNA quick guide just for you. It’s called “Next Steps: Working with Your Autosomal DNA Matches.” This guide will teach you how to leverage the power of known relatives who have tested. You’ll get an intro to chromosome browsers and their role in the search process, and access to a free bonus template for evaluating the genealogical relationship of a match in relationship to the predicted genetic relationship. This guide also gives you a methodology for converting UNknown relatives on your match list into known relatives, which is what we’re going for here.

So check it out, either as a solo purchase or as part of my Advanced DNA bundle.

*Update: The Next Steps guide has been replaced with Breaking Down Brick Walls with DNA.

 

PROFILE AMERICA: Lights Out

 

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Lisa Louise Cooke, Host and Producer

Sunny Morton, Editor

Amie Tennant, Content Contributor

Vienna Thomas, Audio Editor

Lacey Cooke, Additional Production Support

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