Saturday, February 14, 2015

My Grandmother's DNA

I have often heard that when it comes to DNA testing, older relatives should be the first priority.  Unfortunately for me, by the time autosomal testing came around three of my grandparents were long gone.  Fortunately for me, the one grandparent still around was also my link to my most frustrating to research families.  Obviously, I should have tested her sooner than 2015 but regardless of when, the spit has officially been collected and processed.

My grandmother was a bit bewildered when I presented the test to her on Christmas morning, but she was quite willing and I will be eternally grateful to her for it.  After five of the longest weeks on record, her results were posted at the end of January.

Before testing my grandmother, I was feeling pretty good about myself having around thirty-five matches in the "4th cousin or closer range."  She has nearly 160 (and more all the time), including second and third cousin matches that didn't come up for me at all.  Obviously my grandmother's percentage of relatedness accounts for her much larger pool of matches.  Case in point, my grandmother's great-grandparents, all people she shares about 12.5% of her DNA with, as opposed to my roughly 3%:
  • BERGER, Henrich Michael (1788-1871) and MATZ, Fredricka (Elisabetha) (ca. 1793-1868).  Born in the Rinnthal area of the German Rhineland-Palatinate, they eventually settled in Marshall County, Indiana.  Their son, John W. Berger, was born there in 1841 and died in Oakland, Alameda, California in 1891.  MATCHES: I was really glad to see that my grandmother has a close match who was also a descendant of Michael and Fredricka.  While the paper trail has always supported them being John's parents, the fact that Fredricka was nearly 48 when he was born has always given me pause.  I feel like I can finally put my doubts to rest on this one.
  • vonALLMEN, Christian (1814-1887) and STEINER, Barbara (1822-1886).  Born in Switzerland, they came to the US in the early 1840s.  Their daughter, Susanna vonAllmen, was born in Olney, Richland, Illinois in 1849.  The family relocated to Evansville, Vanderburgh, Indiana about five years later.  Susanna died in Stockton, San Joaquin, California in 1932.  MATCHES: My grandmother actually got several vonAllmen matches and matches with people from the same community in Switzerland as the vonAllmens.  The early information I have on the vonAllmens, I received from another researcher.  I'm glad to know that research appears to be pretty on point.
  • WELLONS, John Chapple (1805-1896) and HUDSON, Sarah Elizabeth (1816-1861).  Born in Pulaski County, Kentucky, both of their parents were originally from Virginia.  Their son, George Washington Wellons, was born in 1849.  Not long after this the family moved, eventually ending up in Warren County, Iowa.  George moved around a lot, finally settling with his family in Siskiyou County, California, where he died in 1932.  MATCHES: The Hudson matches are many.  She also has quite a few Wellons matches.  Matches further back are a bit of a mystery still.
  • WEBB, Andrew J. (1820-1902) and MASON, Priscilla (1822-1863).  Born in Indiana, I know very little about their parents (they all might have been in Kentucky prior to Indiana).  Andrew and Priscilla's daughter, Mary Anna, was born in Lawrence County in 1862.  A year later, Priscilla died.  Andrew had a hard time settling anywhere for long, but eventually ended up in Siskiyou County, California where he died.  Mary Anna died there also in 1926.  MATCHES:  Of all my grandmother's matches, the Masons are the most prevalent.  I'm very glad of this because Priscilla is especially important to me, considering she is my mother's mother's mother's mother's mother.  I would really like to make some headway with this line.  Unfortunately, the matches' lines seem to be as mysterious as mine (and dead-end in roughly the same timeframe).  My grandmother does seem to be closely related to the Masons who were early settlers in Sullivan Co., Indiana though.  The Webbs are going to be a bit of work.  I thought I had found the right family before testing my grandmother.  However, her matches don't seem to be corresponding with that candidate family at all.  Back to the drawing board!
I tested my grandmother through AncestryDNA.  I know of the big three (along with FamilyTreeDNA and 23andMe) tests, AncestryDNA isn't regarded very highly.  While I completely agree with the criticism AncestryDNA gets, I chose it because of the huge pool of possible matches it offers as well as the great track record I have there when it comes to contacting matches.  I have also uploaded her data to FamilyTreeDNA and GEDMatch (her kit number is A171694 for anyone who thinks they might be connected).

A nice bonus to testing my grandmother is that I am also able to learn more about my late grandfather's DNA.  I was able to use GEDMatch's phasing program to create a profile for him.  While it isn't a full profile (only what my mother inherited from him), it is a might more than I ever thought I'd have for someone who has been gone nearly fifteen years.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


I've been concentrating on my possible x-matches a lot lately.  After filling out a chart (I used the ones here) to see what my inheritance pattern was, I've started whittling down the unlikely lines.  By unlikely lines I mean those that haven't been in the US all that long, originated in small, rural localities in Europe, and/or were small families that didn't, to my knowledge, leave many descendants alive today.  I'll revisit these lines somewhere in the future, but for now they are on the back burner.

After all this, I am left with the lines that are likely candidates for an x-match.  Since all these lines are through my mother, these percentages are based on her relatedness and not mine:

  • EGBERTSE.  Barbara or Barbary's son, William Lucius Rose, was married to the Charlotte Clara Smith below.  I haven't don much research on this family, but I believe they were Dutch in origin, maybe with some French in there also.  Barbara died in New York City in 1806.  My mother's approximate percentage of inherited x chromosome DNA is 6.25%.
  • HUDSON.  Daniel's mother was supposedly Nancy Harris.  I have yet to do the research to confirm or discredit this.  In any case, Daniel's daughter, Sarah Elizabeth Hudson, was my third great-grandmother.  Daniel's family was originally from Virginia and came to Pulaski Co., Kentucky.  Approximately 6.25% of my mother's x chromosome DNA is from Daniel and by extension, his mother.
  • LESTER.  Mary (aka "Polly"), married to Daniel Hudson above, was born around 1787 in what is now Kentucky.  I believe she was related to the Vincent Lester/Laster/Louster/Lister who came to the area from Virginia around the time Polly was born.  Polly contributed around 6.25% of my mother's x chromosome DNA.
  • MASON.  Priscilla, married to Andrew Webb below, was born around 1822 in Indiana.  I believe Priscilla's parents were Samuel Mason and Nancy Moore who married in Wayne Co., Kentucky in 1806.  My mother received approximately 6.25% of her x chromosome DNA from Priscilla.
  • SMITH.  Sisters Mary Green and Charlotte Clara Smith each married and had children.  Mary's son, Isaac Thomas Mott, married Charlotte's daughter, Mary Johanna Rose.  Isaac and Mary had a daughter, Mary Gertrude Smith Mott, my third great-grandmother.  Since I am doubly related my mother's approximate combined percentage inherited x chromosome DNA is 18.5% (12.5 from Mary, 6.25 from Charlotte).  I don't know a lot about the origins of the Smith family.  Mary and Charlotte's father, Thomas, was supposedly from Ireland and there is a rumor he changed his name, possibly from Douglas to Smith, when coming to North America.  He lived in New York City and died there in 1791.  Thomas' wife, Mary, might have been a Green before marriage.  She was supposedly a Tory during the war (unlike her husband), which could mean English in origin.  Mary re-married a William Fosbrook and died in New York City in 1820.
  • WEBB.  Andrew's daughter, Mary Anna, was my mother's mother's mother's mother.  I believe Andrew's mother was Martha Leet.  Martha might have been related to the Joseph Leet who lived in the Warren Co. area of Kentucky.  Andrew was born in 1820 in Orange Co., Indiana.  Andrew and his mother contributed 6.25% to my mother's x chromosome DNA.
Not surprisingly most of my x-matches have roots in colonial Virginia and the Carolinas.  So far I haven't been able to fit them in my tree, but I am seeing several surnames over and over again.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Charles' Last Chapter

When I found my third great-grandfather's death record, I expected it to close the book on his story.  I never thought it would be the gateway to an entire last chapter of his life.

In looking for the death record, I searched British Columbia records.  I know I did.  Why I didn't come across this when I originally looked, I don't know.  I suspect what happened is that, at the time, I still hadn't given up my belief that he had died in Michigan.  So, anything less than an exact match anywhere else, was likely disregarded by me.

In any case, Charles Wood died in Burnaby on 9 April 1918.

Everything on the record either matches or logically meshes with what I already have on Charles.  Everything except one thing: Charles' mother is listed as Jane Galagher.  Jane's maiden name is always listed as Montgomery on every other record I have for the Wood children, except one.  That one being Jane's daughter's (Charles' sister who also lived in British Columbia) death record.  That record also lists her maiden name as Gal(l)agher.  In any case, the Gallagher/Montgomery mystery is something to explore.

The informant on Charles' death record was his wife.  His new, third wife, who was completely unknown to me before this record.  "Mrs. L. Wood" was formerly Letitia Lowes from Emily, Victoria, Ontario.  Letitia married Joseph Mills and they had several children.  By 1891, the family had left Emily and were living in Broadview in what is now Saskatchewan.  In 1901, Letitia is widowed and living with her married daughter in Winnipeg.  In 1906, Letitia is back in Saskatchewan, Moosomin, with two of her children.

Marriage Notice from The Winnipeg Tribune
22 March, 1911, page 5
Letitia went back to Winnipeg when she married Charles Stewart Wood there on 17 March 1911.  Apparently the man who married them was a famous author and Church leader.  A C. S. Wood had arrived in Emerson, Manitoba from Michigan the day before.  I'm inclined to believe this is Charles, but there aren't enough details to know for sure.

They left Winnipeg very soon after the marriage and they were enumerated in British Columbia on June 7 or 8, 1911.  They would move again, but not far, and Charles eventually retired from farming.  Charles was a Mason and was buried in the Masonic section of Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver.  I wonder if any of his children back in Michigan made it to his funeral...

Funeral Notice from the Vancouver Daily World,
11 April, 1918, page 12

Letitia was still at their Imperial St. home in 1921 where she was living with her daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter.  She died in Vancouver in 1944.

In my mind, I had created a picture of Charles quietly spending his last days in rural Michigan, where he had lived more than a quarter of a century.  However, in hindsight, Charles' early life might be a clue as to his apparent lifelong restlessness.  After leaving Ireland for Ontario as a youth, he continually moved between Canada and Michigan before finally putting down roots in Isabella Co. in the mid-1880s, that is until 1911.

Something else I've noticed is I don't think Charles enjoyed being unmarried.  He waited less than a year between the death of his first wife and his marriage to his second.  He waited even less time between the death of the second and his marriage to the third five months later.  I do wonder how he and his last two wives met.  Neither appear to have any pre-existing familial, religious or geographic connection to Charles.

If there is one ancestor I never get tired of researching, it is Charles.  He turns left when I expect him to turn right, and has a track record of making bold choices.  I've reached a point where nothing concerning Charles would surprise me.  For all I know, there could be an entirely new chapter of Charles' life out there waiting for me to find.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Still Henrich

I was excited to recently learn from this post that Stark Co., Ohio land records are online and freely available.  I was quickly able to find my third great-grandfather, Henry Michael Berger and some other possible relations.

The Bergers followed the German tradition of going by their middle names, though Michael never fully dropped his first name, which was originally Henrich.  When the family arrived in the US in 1832, they all also Americanized their names.  I never thought much more about it until I saw Michael's signature when he sold his land in 1838:

Although the quality isn't great, it is pretty clear that Michael didn't alter his signature from Henrich to Henry - and he signed it in German script no less!  Michael was nearly forty when he arrived here, so it makes sense that he wouldn't update his signature.  I do wonder, though, if it changed much in the nearly forty years that he did live in the US.

This record also answers a question I had about Michael's wife, Fredericka.  In the 1860 US Census, she is marked as being unable to read or write.  I've wondered how illiterate she really was (Did it just extend to the English language?  Could she read and write German?  Could she sign her name?) and her mark here appears to clear that up.