Thursday, December 31, 2015

A New Space for a New Year

As 2015 draws quickly to a close, I am here with my year-end wrap-up, for those of you still along for the ride!

As usual, life got in the way of genealogy as it always seems to do. But that doesn't mean I still haven't been working on my family tree. THAT will never change.

Recently, I decided to take over a portion of our basement so I could have a dedicated genealogy space. Previously, the files and computer for my husband's small side business were housed in the basement. He was "supposed" to work down there. Slowly but surely, he and his files made their way upstairs into the computer loft, where both my little workspace and the family computer are located. Rather than compete for space, I made lemonade from lemons and took over the basement.

The basement is divided into a kids video game area and storage, with some basic studding separating the two. My new space consists of two folding tables plus a 6' plastic storage shelf. I bought two new industrial rugs on sale at the local home improvement store to keep the floor area warm. The kids' video game TV was starting to fail, but the PC connection still worked. I hooked up that TV to a basic PC and will use it for internet access to read records on a big screen! My bifocals heartily approve. Then I will continue to use my laptop for my family tree entry and basic computer work.

For storage, I had two rolling IKEA tables. I kindly left one upstairs for my husband. The other one holds both of my scanners and neatly rolls underneath the smaller table. Good use of space!

Finally, the only real decorating expense of my project was shower curtains! We haven't figured how (or if) the basement will be finished, but for now I tacked up two plastic shower curtain liners between the kids' space and mine. Voila - room divider for $5.

Now it is a basement and you may wonder about water problems. Oh, we've had them. June of 2015 brought terrible rain and storms to Illinois. We did have some water in the basement after power loss and the sump pumps not working. We tossed the old carpet scraps and went through mops and bleach, but in the big picture, damage was pretty minor. We do, however, have everything stored in the basement in plastic buckets, all our files are on racks with feet and nothing of value is actually on the floor - we learned! My family photos are stored upstairs, if you were worried.

For file backup, I use a redundant system of backup drives. And Santa brought me a new 2 terabyte drive for Christmas! Files are routinely backed up and the drives stored away from each other.

I think the best part of "moving" will be the opportunity to go through all the papers and notes I dragged downstairs to refile. Sorry - no pictures of that mess. I don't want to spoil your image of me! And as an added bonus, I can keep an eye on the laundry while I'm working ;)

For less than $50 and re-purposing many things we already had, I have a new place of my own!

So now you'll know where I'll be, once my kids are back to school and NOT USING MY NEW SPACE!

Happy New Year to you all!

© 2015 Sally Knudsen

Monday, October 5, 2015

Oh Ancestry, or How I DNA: Part Two

Last week, I shared an overview post of my family's DNA results from 23andMe and Family Tree DNA (FTDNA). This post is devoted to AncestryDNA's results.

To review, here are the tests for me and my family:

When Ancestry had a sale, I ordered two $79 "spit" kits. I took one, and since I had not yet tested my mom, she agreed to take the second one. I have a full Ancestry account and was able to link both tests to my account. Mine shows as me, and hers shows as "managed by me."

Ancestry provides the same basic information: ethnicity, matches from their testing database, and their own "hints," "circles," "new ancestry discoveries," and recently, "shared matches." Additionally, since I have tested my mother, I can sort my own matches against "mother" by selecting that sort option.

(+) Ancestry's biggest connection feature is their Hints, via family trees. In your list of DNA matches, some will show the Ancestry "shaky leaf" hint. These matches share DNA with you AND have a discernible match through a tree in Ancestry's database. However, just because there is a match doesn't guarantee that that is the actual DNA connection. Use it as a hint and only a hint. In some cases, Ancestry also shows a DNA Circle. These are links based on both DNA and multiple trees (albeit through a computer algorithm) that may also give you connections to pursue.

this is a good hint that matches what I already had - yay!

The above graphic is one of my hints that is also my only Circle (cue the sad violins). There are four people in this circle: me, my mom, and two other descendants. This is a tree hint to one of the descendants. I have done a large amount of research on my branch of the Maxson family and am comfortable with this connection. This is a great way to review other sources or connect to other researchers.

(-) Every rose has it's thorns and AncestryDNA has bunches, in my opinion. First, Ancestry is basing the hints to your DNA connections on it's trees. Argh! Online trees can be a notorious means of error dissemination. Therefore, proceed with caution! The DNA doesn't lie, but the trees - perhaps. But many do not have a tree of any kind or keep it locked:

no help here

Which brings me to drawback #2: the messaging system. Ancestry employs a blind messaging system so that you need to connect within Ancestry (not by email). The system is often broken and there are loads of instances where messages don't get though. That's a problem. And some people choose only to test for ethnicity or at the request of a family member and will likely not ever reply. You also cannot search by tree name or by tester name. Huh?! Kind of a big drawback, but that is a site-wide concern, not just DNA.

Finally the biggest and most egregious issue is NO CHROMOSOME BROWSER OR SEGMENT DATA! We can only rely upon the data in the form Ancestry chooses to share with us. I consider that a huge fail. The other two companies provide actual segment comparison tools as a means to analyze and compare connections. Really, this is the basis of DNA testing! I wish that Ancestry would provide this option, even though perhaps only a small percentage of testers might utilize it. It can't be more difficult than offering up silly circles and new ancestor discoveries. 

Addendum: New Ancestor Discoveries

Holy cow, what a weird thing to waste your engineering resources on, in my opinion. I now have four of these and they make be laugh harder every time I see them.

I'll keep the Circle and ditch the rest...

I clicked on the NADs, even though my sensible inner voice told me not to. I looked at the trees of the first two. The names and especially the locations have no connection whatsoever to my tree. In fact, they even made me start to question my own research. But I am not going to fall into that trap. I am confident in my own genealogy (what the heck, I have REAL documents, pictures and family stories!). 

On closer inspection, all four of these NADs are in the 13,000+ family tree of DNA relative Bob. Now Bob is only a 5th-8th suspected cousin, which is already beginning to stretch the usefulness of DNA and it's predicted amounts (you know, from ACTUAL DNA segment research). So somewhere waaaay back, Bob and I have common DNA. It could be a very small segment that we were both fortunate enough to inherit, but we will never know because Ancestry WON'T GIVE US THE DATA! And it still doesn't mean that any of these people are the reason Bob and I share DNA. Oy.

I appreciate Ancestry for the clues, but my kingdom for some data! If you can afford to, or are all-in with Ancestry, by all means, test! But if you are hoping for serious genetic genealogy, you will be disappointed.

Off to lower my blood pressure! Thanks for reading.

Next time, I'll offer some pitfalls to avoid with your DNA results.

© 2015 Sally Knudsen

Monday, September 28, 2015

How I DNA - Part One

The focus of my genealogy research lately has been on DNA matching. Working with DNA matches goes hand-in-hand with traditional DNA: you cannot locate the match connection unless you have a paper trail to use. I plan to write a few posts on what I do (and don't do) with my DNA and some mini case studies of real matches.

I started out with DNA testing in 2013 using 23andMe. At the time, they were the first of the "Big Three" companies to lower a test to $99. Good enough for me! Over the next year or so, I was able to test other family members, so I have multiple results to compare as well as having a view of how each of the tests work.

Here's what I did for testing:

I am not made out of money, so some of my decision making was financially-based, and some was obtaining as much information as I could. I'm fortunate that both of my parents are still living. They've put up with my genealogy stories for plenty long, so it didn't take much to convince them to take a test. All of these tests were autosomal (cousin-finder) tests that are applicable to both men and women. My last tester was my brother. In addition to the traditional autosomal test, he also took a Y-DNA test for me, so I had a test for my very unknown Irish male lineage in my DNA arsenal. 

Short of having everyone test everywhere, this lineup has been working pretty well for me. I have a wide variety of tests and results. With some family at multiple companies, it also helps to sort results between paternal and maternal families.


This was my first company. It is a "spit" test. They provide ethnic breakdowns, Neanderthal percentage, haplogroups, general ethnicity by chromosome, and lists of matches by percent of DNA shared and by number of segments in common.

(+) Having my dad test there also allows MY matches to be designated "P" for paternal. What a plus! I don't take this to heart the farther away the matches become, simply because the shared DNA is too small. My dad has one grandparent who is French-Canadian, and easily 75% of his matches have ancestry from Quebec. If you have French-Canadian ancestors, test there!

(-) The biggest drawback is the connection system. You can opt for public or private. If you are private, your connections can see basics, but must agree to connect to see the actual DNA segments. The whole point, in my opinion, is having the segment data, so when a match does not reply or agree to share, it is very frustrating.

Here is a table of data for my dad at 23andMe, showing me in green and three of his first cousins. Who wouldn't want all that information?!

Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) does autosomal tests and currently accepts transfers of DNA data from Ancestry. This is how my mom and I moved our data to FTDNA. My brother took their "cheek scraper" autosomal test. FTDNA provides ethnic breakdowns, match lists, longest segment shared, ability to add a family tree, an ICW (in common with) list, and several other features. It's a little clunky, but provides great information.

(+) Using the ICW list is helpful in determining who a match might also match. Using the list, as well as any tree information, you may be able to narrow the connection. ICW does NOT mean they all match each other in the same place, but in a more broad sense; think Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. FTDNA also has a chromosome segment map that is very useful.

(-) Two of the bigger drawbacks using FTDNA are that (1) they tend to overestimate the closeness of a match, and (2) your matches are sorted by largest block of DNA, not total amount. When you dig a little deeper with your matches, sometimes you'd rather have total DNA shared, not just the longest block.

Here's what my top four DNA matches look like on FTDNA. First is my mom, then my brother, then a maternal match and then a paternal match:


Ancestry has so many features going on - good and bad - that I will leave them for their own post!

Thanks for reading!

© 2015 Sally Knudsen

Saturday, August 22, 2015

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Seems like an appropriate post title, considering that it is back to school time. Again.

Back to school time for me means the household has a better routine. Thanks for hanging around - I do appreciate it. Hopefully, my brain will be more engaged in blogging and reading everyone else's posts.

My last post was from the deep South. I traveled to Alabama in May because my college son qualified for NAIA track and field National Championships in the 5000m. He's settled in so well in college and we were so thrilled for him. Unfortunately, competing in 85 degrees and 85% humidity on the Gulf Coast of Alabama was less than ideal. He still finished 20th, though a long ways from his personal best time.

#1194, white over black

Back in Illinois, high school son was hoping to qualify for the Illinois 3A state track and field meet in the 3200m (2-mile). He did! So after flying back home from Alabama, I packed up and we drove to Eastern Illinois University to watch him compete. As it goes with my sons and coincidences, he also finished 20th! We were so proud. The best part is that they were both just sophomores, so hopefully there will be more qualifying ahead. Now...cross country season!

#6, orange and white

The rest of the summer was spent working and dealing with everyone's crazy schedules. We took a family weekend to Wisconsin and Lake Michigan, and now it is back to reality.

Lake Michigan, near Port Washington, Wisconsin

Part of MY routine, of course, is genealogy. That will never go away. So even though I didn't blog this summer (and frankly, I am still exhausted from #52Ancestors in 2014!), I have continued my research. I keep up with my DNA matches and because of that, keep working on my tree. Previously, I usually added new lines and sometimes in-laws, based on what I learned. Now with DNA in the mix, comparing my tree to another's may not yield an immediate match, but if we both fill in our trees, that potential match may show itself.

In addition to the tree-ing, I have jumped back into my online database ( I use TNG to present my research online, and have been learning more of the behind-the-scenes "coding" to make it appear to my liking. That will always be a work in progress! One thing I decided to add was a DNA logo for those people who I have discovered a DNA match with. Here's an example.

I learned how to add Google maps in my database to show a person's life locations. That was easy. Then looking at my database, I realized how badly I needed to actually update the locations. Wow, was that a (necessary) chore. I use Legacy Family Tree for my database (which uses Bing) but TNG uses Google. I've decided Google maps are far superior to Bing maps. That meant manually geocoding many locations. I think I got most. If you see something that looks weird, do tell me!

I still want to start posting about my DNA work and the connections I've made. I'm not sure of the approach - do I start with basics, assuming this audience is not terribly familiar, or do I jump right in? Hmm, more to ponder.

I hope you all had great summers! I, for one, am glad to be back to the grind.

© 2015 Sally Knudsen

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day in Biloxi

For the past several days, I was in various parts of the South: Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. While driving through Biloxi, Mississippi yesterday, I paid a visit to the Biloxi National Cemetery. It was established in 1934, and lies on the grounds of the US Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Thank you to all who served.

© 2015 Sally Knudsen

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy (early) Mother's Day to my mother, grandmother (at age 96!), and all of our ancestral mothers before us.

Louise Wilhelmina Dork Hummel (1895-1973)
died Lansing, Ingham, Michigan

Wilhelmina Kopkau Dork (1871-1915)
died Lansing, Ingham, Michigan

Wilhelmina Stachel Kopkau (1842-1914)
died Lansing, Ingham, Michigan

Gottliebe Schmidtke Stachel (1815-1900)
died Lansing, Ingham, Michigan

Anna Maria Macziewska Schmidtke (1785-after 1854)
died Kreis Rosenberg, West Prussia

Christina Brant Macziewska (unknown)
died Kreis Rosenberg, West Prussia


reprinted from my original post 5/12/12

© 2015 Sally Knudsen

Friday, April 24, 2015

Slightly Sidetracked

I'm still here, I swear.

Now that I've discovered DNA testing, I've vastly altered how I research. It takes a lot of time and I am so fascinated! I hope to get a better grip on various results and start blogging about them soon.

So many ways to get sidetracked! This:

and these:

Kid1 winning a college 3000m last weekend

Kid2 (r) running an Illinois Top 10 1600m time last weekend

Me: wandering through the past and cheering on the present. Thanks for your patience!

© 2015 Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tombstone Tuesday - He's Hilarious

This is one of my favorite "stumbled upon" stones.

Hilarious and Margaret are buried in St. James at Sag Bridge Cemetery in Lemont, Cook, Illinois.

I find that Hilarious is a true Latin name, meaning 'cheerful.' From the Behind the Name website, there was a Saint Hilarius, a 4th century theologian, and a Pope Hilarius in the 5th century.

© 2015 Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Family With 17 Children

One part of my ancestral makeup is French-Canadian. I recently made a double-cousin connection via DNA. This cousin and I each descend from the same Blanchette and Dionne families two times. Making that connection got me back to filling in gaps on my tree. Those gaps can be pretty big because a lot of my Quebec families had a large number of children: 8, 10, 12 and more was not uncommon.

I was in my database, updating the fourteenth baptism in a particular family, and I thought, hmm, I wonder how big is the biggest family in my tree? And never one to shy away from data, I spent some time in the Statistics tab of my family tree software to see what other shocking interesting facts I could find.

I use Legacy Family Tree 8.0. Here is where I find the Statistics tab:

The report in Legacy comes 'pre-filled' with a number of interesting facts like longevity by century, number of children, most popular names, etc. I have about 7,000 people in my database including both parent's trees and my husband's tree. The report includes the entire database.

Let's begin!

Longest female lifespan:   102 years, 1 month, 10 days
Longest male lifespan:        99 years, 11 months, 5 days

Average female lifespan:    59 years, 7 months, 27 days
Average male lifespan:       59 years, 2 months, 22 days

Sorry guys!

Families with 10 or more children:   49
Most children:   17    (yes, that really says 17)

Ignace Blanchette and Julie Lampron of Ste-Monique in Quebec had 17 known children, including two sets of twins, between 1846-1876. Ignace is my first cousin 5 times removed. Julie has my sympathy.

Most popular names in the 1800's:   Mary and Joseph
Most popular names in the 1900's:   Dorothy and Edward

Not sure I even know a Dorothy in real life!

Most popular locations:

  1. Lansing, Ingham, Michigan
  2. Chicago, Cook, Illinois
  3. New York
  4. L'Avenir, Drummond, Quebec, Canada
  5. Locke Township, Ingham, Michigan
  6. Joliet, Will, Illinois
  7. Birtley, County Durham, England

It's fun to look at your genealogy in a different way. What fun facts can you find in your tree?

© 2015 Sally Knudsen

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday DNA Fun

I haven't been writing quite as much lately. With a number of family DNA tests back, I have been busy analyzing those tests, as well as working on updating my family tree.

This recent exchange with my son was too good not to share.

He is a teenager and recently was fitted for contacts. One afternoon last week, I picked up a new trial pair from the optometrist's office. I laid the bag on the bathroom counter:

Yesterday I asked him why he hadn't used the new contacts yet.

"OOOHHH that's what that bag is? I thought it was one of your DNA tests!"

True story.

© 2015 Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  Sláinte!

Of my eight great-grandparents, three are of full Irish ancestry.  Using my basic math skills, that makes me 3/8ths Irish.  In other words, 37.5% of my DNA is probably* green.

*No scientific basis for that fact.

Here are some of my Irish roots. Have a connection?


from County Tyrone
oldest known ancestor is Daniel McBride, born circa 1805
his son Daniel, born circa 1840, left Ireland for Birtley, County Durham, England
he married Mary Ann McAleer in Birtley
Daniel, Mary Ann, and son Joseph arrived in Illinois in 1880

Daniel had two known siblings:
Jane (c1838-1912), married Michael McCormick in Durham
Edward (c1843-1903), married Ellen Dinnery in Durham

and two more likely siblings:
Bridget (c1831-1893), married Samuel Lee(s) in Magherafelt, Ireland
Alexander (c1835-1902), married Mary Monaghan in Durham


from unknown county in Ireland
oldest known ancestor is Joseph Kerr, born circa 1790
his son Robert, born 1829, left Ireland for Kilbirnie, Ayr, Scotland
his son Robert, born 1853, wife Sarah Donaldson, and baby Margaret arrived in Illinois in 1876
Robert worked in the coal mines of Braidwood, Will, Illinois


from County Westmeath
immigrant and oldest known ancestor is Thomas, born circa 1840, died 1915
arrived in Illinois as a child with unknown family members
settled in Lockport, Will, Illinois during height of I and M Canal construction
married Mary Ann McWeeney of County Lietrim in 1865

I need help with these lines!

Reprinted from my 2014 post

© 2015 Sally Knudsen

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Three Questions from Spitland

There are three things I think everyone needs to consider before taking a genetic DNA test. No, it's nothing sinister or scary. My three things are lessons I've learned long after testing.

My DNA journey began well over two years ago, when 23andMe dropped their genetic test kits to $99. Yep, please take and analyze my spit. After that, I was doomed. And by doomed, I mean time stolen by that genealogy 'shiny' we all fall victim to; that thing that sends us down the proverbial rabbit hole. DNA is my shiny. (You can read more about me in the DNA tab on the blog menu)

My name is Sally and I'm a DNA test addict. If you're still reading, you might be too.

So here are my questions for you to consider:

(1) Why are you taking a DNA test and what do you expect from it?

(2) Do you have some go-to resources to educate yourself before, during, and after testing?

(3) Do you have endless free time, extreme patience, excellent communication skills, and a knack for data analysis?

Those are the three questions I pose to you. Ideally your answers should be (1) to connect with distant cousins to help further my research, (2) yes, ISOGG is my friend, and (3) absolutely!

Let's explore these questions. These are things I know now but didn't know then, and will hopefully help you during your quest. I am not an 'expert' but I have been analyzing my own tests long enough that I feel like I have found another calling. Genealogy was the first, and adding DNA data analysis to it - ah, perfect! I have personally tested with 23andMe and Ancestry, transferred to FTDNA, tested each of my parents, have a Y test pending for my brother, use GEDMatch and GenomeMate faithfully, and answer questions on various Facebook message boards. Did I mention I check each of my DNA kit sites weekly at a minimum? Yeah, I'm that one.

Back to the questions...

(1) Why are you taking a DNA test and what do you expect from it?

'Because everyone is doing it' is not the right answer. It's great that so many people are testing, don't get me wrong. But ideally you will know what the test will offer you once you do have your results. I had no great expectations, other than hoping to find long lost cousins who could help me shore up some loose ends and further my various lines. I have been working on my own genealogy for over 20 years, like back in the Dark Ages of renting microfilm days. But there are many lines I just can't get past. I hope DNA, in time, will help connect me to others in my distant family.

Many testers I encounter have unrealistic expectations. DNA will not solve every mystery. DNA will not knock down every brick wall. It will not tell you your familial GPS coordinates many moons ago. It is a tool, a means of connection, another method of analysis, but it does NOT provide every answer.

(2) Do you have some go-to resources to educate yourself before, during, and after testing?

The best advice I can offer is educate, educate, educate yourself. DNA and genetic genealogy is so new and so rapidly evolving that it is nearly a full-time job to keep up with. I can't stress enough how valuable reading and learning from others is in this area.

These are the blogs of a few of the real pros in genetic genealogy:
These are but a handful of blog resources. They answer questions and are willing to help. There are many Facebook pages geared toward testing and the test sites. Read them, join them, and you will learn a great deal.

My best web resource is ISOGG, the International Society of Genetic Genealogy. The website (wiki) is loaded with how-to's and charts and files and comparisons and everything a tester could want to know about DNA. Please check them out!

(3) Do you have endless free time, extreme patience, excellent communication skills, and a knack for data analysis?

DNA analysis is a marathon, not a sprint. You will have breakthroughs on occasion. Most of your time will be spent gathering and reviewing and learning.

Digging deep into all of your DNA's potential is not a casual endeavor. Every new test, new website, new cousin connection, and new tree link will take analysis. The one thing about DNA is that the DNA is exact but the connections are anything but. It will require your time. Lots of time. You will need a good way to manage your information or you will be quickly overwhelmed. You will email people with every level of exposure to DNA testing under the sun, so you need to be able to communicate well. You have no idea who is on the other side of your message - a long-time tester or someone brand new.

The only way to know who you may be matching is through your paper genealogy research. Do not neglect this! In fact, this is a great time to flesh out more tree branches, find those siblings of ancestors, create a map of where your people lived and their migration routes. DNA matching is only as good as the leaf to which it connects.

Questions and comments are always welcome. I wish you much success in your journey through genetic genealogy!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

DNA vs Dating

I have been DNA-tested and have been knee-deep in analyzing those results for about two years. For me, it is endlessly fascinating. I love the data analysis and the continual learning. What I don't love so much is the lack of regular communication with my potential cousins. It's an interesting little place, this world of DNA reseach. and it has some unwritten rules. And then I got to thinking...

DNA searching is like dating!

Now I am long married and my children aren't quite at the dating age. But through the media, we are bombarded with ads for dating sites:, eHarmony, ChristianMingle, JDate, and my son's favorite,

You may be chuckling, either at me or at the thought of an online dating site, but I think it's a good comparison!

Taking the Plunge

You enter your, ahem, personal information and maybe a picture (from about 10 years ago, looking awesome) into your profile, hoping to be connected to a perfect match from the website's algorithm. Using a genetic DNA site? Pretty much the same thing.


A match reaches out to you. Or more likely in DNA, it's you reaching out to the match. You carefully tiptoe around, sharing small, but not highly identifiable pieces of information to see if you click: favorite movies or books, or surnames of your great-grandparents. If you're lucky, you get a number to text, or on a DNA site, a profile connection.

The Date

You're finding things in common and decide to meet. In the dating world, maybe it is a movie or coffee or a drink. You find commonalities. You're happy if there is great conversation. You decide if there is intellectual and/or physical attraction. Would you introduce this person to your friends and family? In the DNA world, it's a flurry of emails or messages, and sharing a tree or a database while carefully reviewing your match's family tree. Hmm, do you like the way they created their files? What about their sourcing techniques? Can you live with these differences?! You're happy if there are large matching chromosome segments.

The Aftermath

Do you like this person enough to go out again? Better yet, do you give it a 2-day wait to text or call? And who initiates the follow-up?! Are they really your type, or are they a creeper? Why haven't they texted?! After the initial exchange of family tree information, you have no reply. Maybe for days. Do you email or re-initiate contact? You send three emails. How many emails is too many? Why don't they reply?  Do they think I'm the creeper?!

Back to the Drawing Board

Maybe that wasn't the one for you. You know the phrase: it's not you, it's me. Then try another option to meet people. If you can't get information from a DNA connection, try another. Maybe it's back to searching records, filling out trees with collateral lines and other siblings, and firming up questionable information.

The world of genetic genealogy, while similar to dating, is new and has many of it's own rules of connection and communication. It's taking the time to learn and try and fail and get back up again that will help find you those elusive connections.

If you truly want to further your DNA contact, may I suggest:

  • accept contact on the site
  • reply to emails
  • consider what you write (not "Hey, we're related!")
  • be pleasant and gracious, naturally
  • offer family names to the degree you are comfortable 
  • have a tree posted to your profile, even just a direct lineage tree, if possible
  • just because your surnames don't match, don't discount the DNA
  • update YOUR tree
  • it isn't just names, it's places! let your connection know where your family lived
  • keep reading and learning

There's a relationship for everyone and you will find your connection. Keep on looking for yours!

© 2015 Sally Knudsen

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Ears Have It

DNA is the basic building block of life. It determines essentially every physical characteristic we, and every other creature, exhibit. It makes us short or tall, blond or brunette, big feet or small feet. These are typical physical differences we expect.

Sometimes DNA rewires a signal and creates a trait that is very, very specific and unexpected. In my maternal grandmother's line, it is The Ear.

My great-great-grandfather Otto Dork is our earliest known carrier of The Ear. It is a left ear that, unfortunately, sticks out. I know: he's my Dork with a big ear.

It skipped his children. It also skipped my grandmother and her sister. I don't have it, nor do my siblings or nieces or nephews.

My mom has it. And so does my son. 

Behold: The Ear.

*Faces blurred to protect the living...and the inn-ear-cent.

I am on this crazy quest for more family history through DNA. Sometimes the really interesting DNA doesn't come from a lab test, but is visible in family itself.

Do you have a unique family trait you see throughout generations?

© 2015 Sally Knudsen

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Real Me

Check out the navigation bar above! I just added a new page showing my DNA information. Can't get much more 'real' than me at a cellular level!

2015 is going to be the Year of DNA Analysis for me. Be prepared for a lot of posts regarding my obsession with hunt for DNA relationships. I'll share some of my successes, and the parts of the testing process that were both helpful and annoying!

Starting in 2013, I first tested at 23andMe. I was really fortunate that some of my dad's second cousins also tested. Having people to compare to makes DNA searching a w-h-o-l-e lot easier. I have since tested with Ancestry and had my results transferred to Family Tree DNA. Each of my parents have taken one test as well.

I use the free analysis site to enhance my pool of potential cousins, and I primarily use GenomeMate to analyze my results in a database format.

DNA searching, or more properly, genetic genealogy, is not an easy quest. It can be frustrating both scientifically and genealogically. But if you are up to the challenge, finding and understanding DNA relationships is incredibly satisfying!

These are the 'Big Three' DNA testing companies:


Family Tree DNA

There are also three main types of tests, in order of genealogical usefulness:

autosomal, which tests both sides of your family, back a few generations
Y-DNA, which tests your father's father's father's... line
mitochondrial, or mtDNA, which tests your mother's mother's mother's... line

Autosomal testing, which all three companies provide for about $99US, will catch the most potential cousins. Y-DNA testing can be helpful to locate where your paternal ancestors may have originated. I am presently testing my brother so I can hopefully learn more about my paternal Irish heritage. Mitochondrial is probably the least useful, mostly because women's names changed so frequently and having a paper trail many generations back is very rare.

To learn more about DNA testing, check out the multiple resources located on the ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy) wiki pages.

I would love to hear about other DNA experiences. Feel free to comment here or on any of my future posts.

© 2015 Sally Knudsen

Sunday, January 11, 2015

How Many Named Ancestors?: 2015 Edition

Happy New Year!

My first post of 2015 is a little fun - Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, that is. And obviously, Saturday night has now moved into Sunday morning. Better late than never.

+Randy Seaver proposed this latest 'genealogy quest' on his blog and it's a good way to assess my knowns and unknowns.

The proposal is to list the 'known by name' ancestors at each genealogical level: parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. As the potential ancestors double and the available records decrease over time, let's check mine and see where that big research dropoff shows up.

Here's my chart:

I also prepared a similar post last year. And yes, there have been some improvements!

In yellow above are the generations where I found new ancestors. Well, they've always been there but I finally figured out their names ;)

I made a circle chart in my Legacy program to count the knowns and unknowns. My biggest dropoff comes at Level 7, the great-great-great-great-grandparents. Most of my knowns in this period were born in the early 1800's. So it appears I have a real research block beyond that century line.

The records I have the farthest (in fact, to 12 generations) are two French-Canadian lines and one colonial American line. I also have had good luck with my maternal grandmother's Prussian ancestry. I have one ancestral couple identified to the 10th generation and three couples to the ninth generation.

The records I have the most work to do are my dad's paternal Irish lines, where they end at Level 7 across the board. I have no known Irish ancestor born earlier than the early 1800's. [A personal aside: my brother is taking a Y-DNA test, so maybe that will improve things for next year - cross your fingers!]

Last year's total percent known was 16.52. This year's is 19.16, an increase of 27 ancestors.

So I found a few peeps!

Thanks for the idea, Randy!

© 2015 Sally Knudsen