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