Returning to Blogging in the New Year – Refreshed and Excited

The definition of taking a break is interrupting one’s activity briefly. When I went into hiatus the end of October I didn’t expect it to be over two months before I would come back to blogging.

I was touched by the people who reached out to me while I was missing in action. Several messaged me directly to find out if all was well. From my young 3C1R Luella who I’ve known nearly two decades to my #1 reader/commenter/blogger Amy to my follower from Brazil whose ancestors lived in the same village as my ancestors.

All were worried. They didn’t know I’d fallen into a rabbit hole, spinning down winding double helix strands carrying our DNA. It took me a while to gain my orientation and find the even more twisted ladder out of the hole.

Who’s Fault Was It?


Blaine T. Bettinger shared my post How DNA Results Helped Discover Luxembourg Emigrants in the Facebook group Genetic Genealogy Tips & Techniques.

Great blog post about how the DNA Match Labeling extension for Chrome helped solve a genealogical mystery! Genetic networks and clustering tools are the future of DNA evidence!

I had no idea I was even on Blaine’s radar and it explained a spike in traffic on my blog during the week following the post. Being noticed by Blaine was fantastic.

Even more incredible was the help I received from a member of the Genetic Genealogy Tips & Techniques group.  Jonathan Brecher sent a message offering to run a Shared Clustering tool he has developed on the AncestryDNA test I manage to help me tickle out the maternal matches.

Shared Clustering

As mentioned in the above post [over two months ago] maternal matches are few and far between as that side of my family tree is Luxembourgish with a few branches which reach into France and Germany during the periods of time when the area belonged to Luxembourg.

Jonathan’s tool is not yet available to the public. He sent a CSV file with the heat map of my matches and a list of the clusters in text format. He paid special attention to my starred matches as these were the ones I had already been able to identify as maternal.

The heat map generated 66 clusters. Four of these are for maternal matches while 61 are for paternal. One cluster remains unknown at this time but looks more paternal than maternal.

The number of matches in each cluster varies greatly. There are a dozen clusters with only 2-10 matches, 33 between 11-100, 11 between 101-200, 4 between 201-400, 5 between 401-500, and one with 705!

I pinned down the fourth maternal cluster this past week – when I was supposed to be working on this post. I felt the pull of that rabbit hole, again, and checked each match and their trees until I found the connection. They descend from immigrants, two BAUSTERT brothers who were great-grandsons of my 5th great-grandparents Matthias SCHRAMEN and Anna Barbara LEIBRICH (BURG) of Ferschweiler, Eifelkreis Bitburg-Prüm, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany. Did the Baustert brothers know their 1C1R Nicholas SCHRAMEN had emigrated about 20 years earlier and originally settled in Iowa where they were also found?

What I’ve Been Working On

As the CSV file Jonathan sent included my notes, the paternal clusters were easily identified as coming from one of the four paternal grandparents’ branches. Some could even be associated with specific branches of a grandparent’s ancestral line.

I’ve been amending my notes on AncestryDNA to reflect the cluster number as well as a surname and possible generation. The cluster numbers are only for reference and make it easier to sort them on the AncestryDNA page using the Chrome extension AncestryDNA Helper atDNA Helper or in Genome Mate Pro when sorting the MRCA (most recent common ancestors) notes. [Note: The name of the Chrome extension was changed in April 2019 after they were notified the name was a violation of Ancestry’s trademark name.]

Cluster 40 with 13 matches is labeled GROELINGER-MERGEN(6) as the MRCA have been identified as my 4th great-grandparents (6 generations back) Johann GROELINGER and Anna Maria Benedikta MERGEN. Six of the 13 matches have been identified as descendants of this couple. I’ve sent messages and am waiting for replies.

Once the notes have been fixed on AncestryDNA, I move all matches for a cluster over to Genome Mate Pro (GMP) using another Chrome extension, Pedigree Thief (collects the match information, notes, and the shared matches). When the matches are in GMP, I begin adding the matches’ trees once again with the Pedigree Thief which reads the pedigree view of the tree and converts it to an Ahnentafel chart. GMP has a very steep learning curve and I’m still trying to assimilate and grasp the abilities of the program.

I’ve developed a routine and am slowly getting matches which have been associated with a cluster entered into GMP. Nearly half of the clusters, the smallest, have been added. The larger clusters remain to be done and I’ll be spacing them out a bit. And of course, as new matches are found on Gedmatch Genesis, FTDNA, and MyHeritage they are also added to Genome Mate Pro.

I still feel the pull of the rabbit hole but I won’t let it get in the way of my returning to a regular blogging schedule.

© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Don’t Ignore New Ancestor Discoveries

NewAncestorDiscoveries2We found potential new ancestors—just by looking at your DNA.

A month after my brother’s AncestryDNA results came in I started seeing New Ancestor Discoveries. These are potential new ancestors or relatives who are not already in the attached family tree on the DNA page.

I found this a bit misleading until I realized what we can do with these “shaky leaves” from Ancestry.

The first one to pop up was for the Alexander McDonald Boles DNA Circle. It had 15 members and 3 had DNA matches with my brother. I say “had” because after a few weeks it disappeared.

However, before it disappeared the Mary Ann Burks DNA Circle showed up with nearly the same members as the Boles circle. At first, I was stumped by the names Mary Ann BURKS and Alexander McDonald BOLES. They could hardly be potential new ancestors as they were born around 1852, a time period in which all my ancestors are known and well documented.

In the Mary Ann Burks DNA Circle are 13 members, 3 of these have matches with my brother. One match belongs to a larger family group of 10 persons – none of the others in this group match my brother.

NewAncestorDiscoveries3After taking a look at the trees of L. and G., two of the matches, I discovered the connection. The Alexander McDonald Boles DNA Circle had shown up because he was the father of Mary Ann BURKS’ children – but they were not married.

NewAncestorDiscoveries1One of their children, J.P. “Hard” BURKS, has been in my database for a dozen years. He was married to Susie REELS, daughter of Isaac “Ike” REELS and Margaret Ann WEAVER. Because I do a lot of collateral research the surname REELS was familiar to me and I knew right away where this was taking me.

Genealogy Happy Dance

In 2004 and 2007 I corresponded with David, a descendant (2nd great-grandson) of Ike REELS through his son Millard Green REELS.

At the time I was part of a group of PETERS researchers working together under the guidance of Paula Kelley Ward who has been doing genealogy for over 40 years. We have her to thank for the work she did on Jordan N. PETERS’ War of 1812 pension file.

When David first contacted me we were not certain if the wife of Andrew REEL, Susannah PETERS, was a daughter of Zachariah PETERS and Kesiah “Keziah” LIVELY of Franklin County, Virginia. Born about 1815 she was the right age to be their youngest daughter. However, at the time there were two groups of PETERS families in Franklin County which further complicated matters. One of English ancestry (ours) and the other being of German ancestry. By process of elimination, we determined Susannah had to be the daughter of my 4th great-grandparents, Zach and Keziah.

I needed more than finding the REEL/REELS surname in the families trees of these people who have matches with my brother. When I checked the Shared Matches I found L. and my brother had 4 shared matches – 3 of these have very small or no family trees attached. The 4th has 6 DNA Circle connections with my brother which point to the PETERS family.

ancestorcirclesG. has two shared matches with my brother. One of these has a private tree but since our PETERS group had worked on the collateral lines I recognized her as a descendant of my Jordan N. PETERS through his first wife Mary “Polly” TROUP. As her tree is private she is not in the DNA Circles.

I believe these DNA matches are further proof of the connection between Susannah PETERS, wife of Andrew REEL, and her until now assumed parents, Zachariah PETERS and Kesiah “Keziah” LIVELY. I contacted David, L., and G. about my discovery and am waiting to hear back from them.

Don’t wait to check out your New Ancestor Discoveries. Take a good look at them as soon as they appear because they might disappear as quickly as they showed up. If a circle does disappear and you didn’t have time to look into it, don’t despair. It may show up again. While I was finishing up this post the Alexander McDonald Boles DNA Circle reappeared!


© 2016, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.