Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Sticky DNA Puzzle

Have you read Roberta Estes' recent post on DNA generational inheritance? If not, I encourage you to do that. The numbers made my head spin and I didn't even try to follow the math and statistics. However, her points are extremely important for those of us working with DNA and genealogy.

What I took from it is that inheritance is not really 50-50 from each parent. And some DNA seems to stay together (clump) and pass nearly unchanged for many generations (sticky). And sometimes what looks like a match is merely randomness. That's known as IBS or identical by state.

Of course we already know that siblings share only about half of their DNA.What's surprising about her charts is the way we inherit all versus nothing of a parent's DNA segment, rather than having interspersed inheritance. So even if we expect a match with a certain individual, we might not see such a match. It doesn't prove there's no relationship.

My Sticky Clump

I'm glad that Roberta wrote this post, as I'm dealing with matches of my own that appear to be both clumpy and sticky. I wrote before about a group of people with a significant match on chromosome 16. Unlike her example, we don't yet know the source of that DNA.

My contact, "John", and I theorized that the connection might be in our Weakley County, Tennessee, families. Another theory is that the clump belongs to a Williams ancestor. Both of these lines belong to my mother.

Surprise Number 1

My Dad's DNA analysis threw a monkey wrench into the theory. Dad (not Mom) matches the group!

Notice how the sticky DNA (the blue area) did not pass from my daughter to my granddaughter. It entirely disappeared. That sudden disappearance makes me think this is a clump that passes nearly unchanged through many generations.

My Dad has a lot more holes in his tree than my Mom does, so finding the source of this DNA will likely fall to other members of the group. Sorry, team!

Surprise Number 2

I got another surprise from Dad's DNA. My father's ancestry is largely Swedish, which would include ancestry from Finland and Norway. My mother has no known Scandinavian ancestry.

Working at GedMatch, I picked all my matches with email addresses ending in "se" and "fi". These are people who currently live in Sweden and Finland. I cross-matched those four people with my four kits, using the 3D chromosome browser tool.

Notice Ms. T matches me at a higher threshold (yellow) than the other matches. She also matches me on the X chromosome for an additional 8 cM. Yet she does not match my Dad at all. Nor does she match my daughter or granddaughter.

Also notice how the match totals fall within our family kits (red). It isn't exactly 50 percent in each generation, but it's close.

Another interesting item is that Mr O doesn't match to my daughter or granddaughter. Yet we think we're related through a particular ancestor from Hannäs, Sweden. The matching DNA vanished, just as the chromosome 16 clump did.

Back to Ms. T. I had always assumed she was a match on my Dad's side. Now I have to consider three options:
  • my Mom has Scandinavian ancestry
  • Ms. T has ancestry from Germany or the British Isles
  • the match is IBS (random) and not a real match

If Ms. T is an actual match, consider that the only way to identify that match was by testing my DNA. This shows how important it is to test everyone that you can. I'll be looking for more family volunteers soon!

Monday, February 24, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #8 Harry Francis Kahn

Harry Francis Kahn was my grandmother's first cousin, but was not close to the family due to his mother's untimely death. He was born in Chicago to Laura Crispen McQuiston Kahn and Louis Kahn on August 5, 1893. Among the keepsakes that I inherited are two photographs of Harry. In one photo he poses alone. In the other, he is with his maternal grandmother, Nerinda Margaret Kerr Crispen Tookey.

Digital template and elements from ClubScrap

Laura, Harry's mother, died in March, 1900, before his seventh birthday. Louis married Minnie Hanson and had another son, Stanley. Minnie died in 1915 and Louis in 1933.

Harry worked for the City of Chicago water works, as an engineer. His draft registration in 1917 tells us that he was working as a "stationary oiler" at the Central Park pumping station. In 1942 he lists his place of employment as the Thomas Jefferson station. He was 65 inches tall and had red hair, just like his Crispen cousins.
Harry married Modesta Bertha Heide in Chicago on March 27, 1916, and to their union were born two daughters: Grace Beverly Kahn, in 1918, and Bettie Lucile Kahn, in 1919. A 5-year-old daughter named Jan or Jane is also with the couple in 1920, but I can find no proof that she was their child.

After divorcing between 1920 and 1930, Harry married Helen ____ before the 1940 census. Harry Francis Kahn died in Toledo, Ohio, on May 30, 1971.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Do It Now: Lessons Learned in DNA Sample Collection

In the past few months I've encountered some challenges in DNA sample collection and storage. So I thought I'd share what I've learned.

At the FGS conference, I heard the message to test the oldest generation, test as soon as possible, and test as much as you can afford. That message was certainly reinforced to me recently.

A Quality or Storage Problem

First, I encountered problems with my own stored DNA sample. It was collected by me, using what now is an FTDNA test kit of two cheek swabs. I submitted that sample in early 2005 as part of the National Geographic Genographic project. In August of 2013, I ordered an upgrade from the original mtDNA analysis to a full sequence.  FTDNA had my samples in storage, so I wouldn't even need to take another test.

But there was a problem -- they couldn't extract enough DNA from those 8-year-old sample(s) they had in storage. I'll never know the exact reason they couldn't proceed. Perhaps the sample was lost or degraded or perhaps I just didn't gather enough DNA. I received a new test kit in late January asking that I repeat the test. 

What if I had died before that new kit came? Or what if one of my descendants ordered a test after my death? I'm so glad I was alive and able to do the retest. Now I've personally taken care of the need to do as much as I can as soon as I can.

Testing Challenges for an Older Person

Testing the oldest generation was the other missing step that I tackled. I talked to my Dad and he agreed to do the FTDNA test. In September, I ordered $300 worth of tests on his DNA. He's in his 80s and his health is failing. His hearing is bad, he had cataracts (now removed) and he is getting senile. I asked his wife, who has her own health issues, to help with the test. 

The kit sat in their home for months as I kept my fingers crossed that he would do it before his time ran out. And I am definitely guilty of nagging a bit. At Christmas, my brother, who lives three hours from them, visited and helped my Dad with the sampling and return mailing. He called me to ask about the release form, which I had not even considered. I guided him through it over the phone. He didn't mention postage, but since I had to put stamps on my own kit, I imagine he also had to pay postage.

The lesson I received from this is to make sure you have commitment from your elder family members and their caregivers. Review any forms they will need to fill out and be ready to advise them about those forms. Send or give them stamps to pay the postage (right now it's about $2.10 for FTDNA). If you have any concern about their ability to follow through, either go yourself to assist with the sample or find a nearby relative that is willing and able to give that assistance.

Why the Oldest Generation?

The results of my Dad's test put a new spin on my own matches. That's another post.

While making Valentine Day's cards, I created a visual about why the oldest generation is so important to our DNA matching.

Assume that red card at the top is the total of my Dad's DNA. I inherit 50% of it, give or take. My daughter gets half of my half and her daughter gets only half of that. The smallest heart represents the amount of my Dad's DNA that is carried in his great-granddaughter. It's actually about 1/8th, give or take a few percent.

The ability to find useful matches diminishes so quickly across just a few generations. I want as much DNA as possible to work with.

Thanks, Dad!

Monday, February 17, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #7 The Prayers of Kizziah D Fry Childers

My great-great-great-grandmother Kizziah was one of 25 children born to Philip Fry (Frye) and his two wives. Her mother was Maria Magdalena Derrick (Dirk), the first wife of Philip. Kizziah was born in Tennessee, about 1809, near the end of Maria's child-bearing years.

The German language was often used in the Fry home, although both parents were American-born. I envision a young German-American girl with many older siblings to spoil her. By the time she was 11, the family had moved to northern Alabama, her mother had died, her father had married a young wife who was not Germanic and more children were being added to the family. Kizziah's life surely changed as her older siblings married and she had to accept more responsibility to help her step-mother and to care for the younger ones.

On May 1, 1828, Kizziah D. Fry wed James C. Childers (Childress), in Madison County, Alabama. James was a farmer and, at times, a Justice of the Peace. The marriage continued Kizziah's transition from the German culture to the English-American. The family was of the Methodist faith and there were ministers among both Kizziah's descendants and the extended family.

James and Kizziah raised ten children, with William dying between 9 and 14 years of age, after being thrown from a horse. Eight of the children were daughters, leaving only one son, born in 1845, to assist with farming. James, who owned no land in 1850, died between 1855 and 1860. By the age of 50, Kizziah was a widow with four minor children. She hired out as a domestic, as did her eldest daughter Mary Jane, also widowed young.

As the Civil War brewed, Kizziah would surely have leaned on her faith and on prayer. Her brothers, cousins, nephews and sons-in-law were called to serve. The safety of her only son, James, must have been heavy on her heart. She would have prayed that the war would end without costing his life. She prayed for her daughter Frances who was raped or seduced and left pregnant and unmarried. She prayed for daughters Sarah and Elizabeth who were widowed and fled to the North. She prayed for daughters Sophronia and Hannah, wherever they might be. She prayed for the safety and souls of her grandchildren. As the war came to an end, leaving behind destruction and devastation, Kizziah would have prayed for her family to merely survive each day.

As did many other Southerners, some of the Fry and Childers family members packed their meager possessions and moved to Texas. Kizziah and five of her children arrived in Texas by 1873. The other four daughters had been severed from the family by the war and contact was lost. Kizziah died at age 67, in the family's new home of Erath County, Texas, in 1876.

Through the magic of the internet, the descendants of two of the lost daughters, Sarah and Elizabeth, have been able to connect with the rest of the family. But daughters Sophronia C. Childers and Hannah Ann Childers Williams are still lost to history. We're looking for their descendants. Along with my cousins, I'm still praying to know what happened to our missing family members.

Monday, February 10, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #6 Esther Mathilda Ekstrom Johnson of Chicago

Quick drop page from Two Hearts, Designs by Anita, Scrapper's Guide (now Digital Scrapper), Sep, 2012

Esther Mathilda Ekstrom was my great-aunt. I've seen only a few photos of her, as she died young of diabetes complications in 1923. Had she lived another year, insulin would have been readily available and that miracle drug would have enabled her to live a normal lifespan.

She was born on December 16, 1894, in Chicago, to Agnes Emilia Fors Ekstrom and Gustaf Emil Ferdinand Ekstrom. According to her birth record, she was born at her mother's home at 79 Baxter Street, Lake View Ward.

Esther married George Walter Johnson on December 18, 1912, at Bethany Swedish Methodist Church, Chicago. To this union was born only one child, Russell, in 1913. I suspect Esther's pregnancy triggered an unsafe diabetic state, discouraging any further pregnancies.

She died on May 1, 1923. Her brief obituary was published in a Swedish language newspaper.

Svenska Amerikanaren
Torsdagen Den 10 MAJ 1923
Dödsfall i Chicago
Esther M. Johnson, född Ekström, 2157 Summerdale ave., maka till George W. Johnson, moder till Russell, dotter till Gust Ekström och dennes maka, afled den 1 maj, 28 år gammal.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: # 5 Document Your Family Medical History, Remembering Nicholaus Egetemeir

I was reminded this week of the importance of documenting my family's medical history. That's one of the reasons I started researching my family. Yet I've never written a list, relying instead on memory. This week I learned how very important it is to write it down and carry it with me on a mobile device.

My significant other, Joe, was being quizzed by a doctor about his family history. As the discussion progressed, Nicholaus Egetemeir crossed my mind. I almost reached for my iPad right then. My mistake. By the end of that quiz, I had totally forgotten about him. The next morning I awoke with Nicholaus on my mind and looked at Joe's family tree, confirming that Klaus was important medically.

Our lesson learned, I'll be putting our family medical history in writing so we don't forget key information. Also by writing it down, we can see where we need to gather more information. The story of Klaus we heard only by accident while reviewing a probate file with Joe's mother. She had never mentioned her youngest brother in previous discussions about her family in the old country.

Nicholaus Egetemeir

Nicholaus was born on December 7, 1946, in Blaustein (Ehrenstein), Baden-Württemberg, Germany. Klaus was a very talented skier with Olympic aspirations. Young Klaus died of an epileptic seizure on January 8, 1962, just one day after winning a local ski competition. His death at such a young age saddens me. 

Come Out and Play digital kit by Amanda Heimann for Scrapper's Guide (Digital Scrapper), Jan 2009