Friday, June 27, 2014

Update 06/27/2014

My Blog this week is about research frustration. I think I am at an all time high this week. Having decided to come out of hiding, I revived the Blog, revived my Blevins-Va forum, dedicated myself to completing my work on the Native Americans and Quakers through to publication and to paint my garden swing. I know the swing is not about research but I am now in the second week of trying to paint this swing and it keeps raining. And it is raining on my research.

First, a lot of resources are being taken away by corporate that were “free” sites. I guess they finally figured out that a lot of paying subscribers are sharing the information that they find on with the rest of the family. I am guilty. And I know they have big resources and additional employees eating into their profits to provide these free services and they are now traded on NASDAQ. Goodbye free...

Since I worked with Microsoft in database admin, it was a given that to unwind these portions of their company, others would crash in the process, hence Rootsweb has been down. I know they have another spin to it, but as a result researchers all over have come to realize just how dependent they are on the mailing lists, forums and free trees as research tools. The cynic in me says it is just a matter of time till these are gone also. So I decided to be proactive and revive my website. It is in the works. But things are piling up as I attempt to find a simple solution to not becoming a spread to thin corporation myself.

Now the bright side is that since all the free stuff is down, I found that some of my research groups have become more active in communicating with each other and I am meeting a lot of new people who do not understand how to do autosomal research, so I think it is time to start from the beginning again.

This group started with an experiment to find out if a group of complete strangers could effectively break down some brick walls through atdna research and we did. The success came only to those who took the time to share their trees and talk to each other. They were not overwhelmed by the fact that they did not know the answer before they got there but were willing to trust the process. I am sure most of you have heard the phrase about a lost object, “Why is it always in the last place I looked?!” Because once you find it you quit looking.

This is the new genealogical place to look. But looking here is not traditional and requires a whole new mindset. But we already know that we do not know and we know that traditional methods have not found it for us, so you have to want it bad enough to look someplace new.

That is my second frustration this week with research. Having to explain this over and over again. This is not traditional research. This requires you to be a brave new explorer and combine all your skills to find your lost ancestors. The old hope is that someone has them hiding from you in their tree and they probably are but you don't know who they are so you don't recognize them anyway.

So here is the new process.
  1. Look at the big picture, the whole chart, not just one surname.
  2. Keep going as long as you are learning about people that you do not know about.
  3. Go with the flow
    Here is an example. I was researching one of the family groups in my Blevins line that I do not know how we connect except through some distant grandfather. I know it is worth my time because I already have a Blevins Spreadsheet and I match every Blevins that I can find that has ever has atdna testing done. So first step is to take a family line and using any and all services or friends, put everyone that you match in that spreadsheet. Do not get sidetracked by how you might match, just enter the DNA sequences into your spreadsheet, their email address and why and where you found them.
Once you have 6-10 people go though and mark the matching segments. You are now ready to do an analysis of your matches.
  • Are there segments shared by everybody?
  • Are there people who do not match anyone ?
  • Can you see subgroups that share 3 or more segments?
Copy your finding into new subgroup spreadsheets (copy/paste, very easy step)

Now email them and see if they have a tree or if they know if they are descended from the name you are researching.
I have had matches to people who have Blevins in their trees but it is an aunt or uncle. This can be good because you are looking at a subgroup or a family group that has shared a common locality. Don't discard these people as not useful. You will need them later. I have about 45 spreadsheets and when I do a search of their email on my computer in my “Raw Data Folder”, they now show up in multiple families so I know that the odds are building that there is a central location where our ancestors lived together.

Another frustration this week is in that I am becoming more aware that people are finding it hard to give up linear research methods. For the first time, I can do a search and find out if a theoretical grandmother could be correct. If a find 6-10 good matches, I go with the flow and find out all about these people. They match me and match each other, I go with the flow as they will eventually end up in one of my holes. But if there are no matches that do not match each other, that theory is probably all wet and I need to find a better use of my time.
  • Check out all theories for your “possible” lost generation
  • Make a spreadsheet on Grandma's parents
  • Do not forget to make spreadsheets on the surnames of the female siblings

This last one is very important. All of your grandparents, children and generations of grandchildren carry your DNA. I realized this quite significantly when my Johnson line research revealed that I was matching a lot of Newlins and Mendenhalls. I was able to find the line back but now I know why I match so many Quaker families. Thomas Mendenhall and Joan Strode had 11 children and my line is a grandmother Mary who married Nathaniel Newlin, all in the late 1600. The daughters alone added Martin, Spiers, Thomas, Maddox, Maris, Wright, Benson, Stubbs, Mooney, Pennell, Roberts, Taylor, Pearson, Beeson, Ruddick, Hill, Gillispie, Woodward, Holiday (so that now explains why there was a Holiday living in grandma's household when she was little), Metcalf, Bacon and Moon. I have seen these names in my Family Finder matches for the past year and a lot mean nothing to me and they may not know their Mendenhall connection if it is a female, so now we have something new to talk about.

My frustration with people not knowing how to do atdna caused me to be unkind yesterday and that is not the normal me. I know people do not know how to do this. It is almost the first thing in most responses that I get, “I don't know much about the autosomal thing.” I know that this person belongs to one of my lines. They have a double test of siblings so good material to work with and a Revolutionary War pension that puts their brickwall grandfather in the exact location of all my lines of that surname and their descendents. And they match every single person in the spreadsheet. Will they ever find a paper trail? I don't know but I know it is much more hopeful to know that I match everyone else from that location than to know that I only match one person. I know that there was only one son in this line so they could have daughtered out but that does not matter with atdna. If they would explore there matches with the daughter and the husbands are know and documented by legal records (what a gift) and they have 10 to 25 more matches and those matches match all of the original matches, they have an ancestral pool to draw from. Thorough elimination of the known descendents of the originals, which we have birth and marriage records for, we could very likely narrow it down to just a few men and possibly prove that this is the only option. When I started it was called “the only stud in the barn” proof. But I snapped. I don' t like to sound pompous and keep trying to prove that I know what I am doing, so I just snapped. But it is a new day and a new way. I need to keep in mind that most people have not even boarded the atdna train.

I liken it to the old lady that never learned to drive but wanted someone to drive them everywhere. I can't be the only driver and I am feeling like I am the only person doing spreadsheets, even after they have met me and see that they work. Is anyone even trying this? Am I wasting my time on this when I could just be working on my personal family?



    Thanks for the email notifying me of this post. Forgive me that I'm not a regular subscriber to your blog. I thought it wise to reply via email as well as via blog comment so your other readers can see my reply.

    In your email, you asked those in your contacts list if they thought it was worth your time to blog. Only you can put a "price" on your time. No one else can answer that question. What we, your readers can say, though, is whether it's worth our time to read it.

    I found this blog post informative, entertaining, and educational. On the other hand, I'm one of those people you probably get frustrated with. I've been doing family research for 40+ years, genetic genealogy research for several years, and personally don't care much for delving into atDNA. Autosomal DNA research, for me is both baffling and too time consuming for me to profit by it at the moment.

    That doesn't mean I don't ever want to delve into it. Until then, though, I prefer to rely on those, like you, who are more expert at it. When it becomes my research interested, I'll jump in head first. Until people like me get more into it, it may appear to people like you that no one is interested, that you have to keep repeating the same old things.

    Here's what I suggest. Researcher Roberta Estes, the expert voice of , doesn't repeat. She simply shares a link to her previous blogs that explain the principles she wants people to learn. If you would share what you've learned, write it in a blog post (this one?), copy, save, and file the link on your computer, and share the link with any reader who wants to know the same things in the future.

    Is it worth your time to continue blogging? I maintain a couple blogs, two other personal genealogy websites, and several other personal sites. In addition, I am an administrator for a DNA site as I've continued my own research for the past 4 decades. I don't blog weekly. In fact, I sometimes go months without blogging. Maybe this could work for you.

    This is a guy's approach. I know sometimes we don't really want to hear solutions, we just want a listening ear. Trust me, I've been there more times than I can count lately. I've found that cooling it helps. In time, I'm ready to get back in. One question you didn't ask is, "Do people appreciate it?" I don't ask myself that question often because I already know the answer -- a resounding NO!

    Living people do not appreciate what you do as much as they should. But those who've passed on will be remembered by future generations because of what you do. That I think is a far more noble goal than whether we're appreciated at the moment. The work you're doing today will live in the future. Because of it, someone will come to know an ancestor they may never have known without your help. What could be more rewarding than that?


    1. I just figured out that Blogger does not let me know that I have comments! I am sure there is a setting somewhere for that, so thanks for sending me the email also or I would have missed these other two.

  2. I've tried my hand at a spreadsheet, but I had some concerns about the methodology I was using, namely, what size segments constitute a true match? There doesn't seem to be a definitive answer to that. FtDNA organizes matches by total shared cMs, but when looking at individual chromosomes I see that sometimes a large share of the shared DNA is in segments as small as 1 cM. GEDMatch has something of a disclaimer leading users to believe that matches of less than 7cMs may not constitute matches within genealogical time, and the adds that some genealogists don't accept segments less than 10 cMs as DNA evidence of a genetic match.

    Add to this is the fact that for those who can trace their lines back to colonial times can have a great deal of homogeneous DNA in those early family lines. I've come across a couple of trees on ftDNA of test subject who share at least two distinct lines with me, making it more difficult to determine where shared DNA originates. I suspect this is more common than we might suspect. Matches that appear near in generations can be much more distant because the total cMs that ftDNA is using to estimate genealogical proximity doesn't account for the likelihood of those totals including material inherited through multiple more distant ancestors. I've had much better luck finding common distant ancestors 8-10 generations with matches on ftDNA then I have finding any within the advertised 5 generations. I'm left to wonder whether this is because I share multiple lines with these matches, or if I'm playing a number game, where the odds of finding a common ancestor doubles each generation further you back look. Are these 8-10 generation matches I'm finding what I'm seeing in the DNA at all, or do I actually have a much more recent common ancestor that I simple haven't found yet?

    1. Just through trial and error with the spreadsheets, I am finding that I am having better luck finding those early matches that I had no idea existed like Mendenhall and Wells. One of our Stewart DNA turned out to be Wells. Most are Quaker that I have the best luck with but that is because they have better records which carry us back in those time and then the census kicks in. So I know small segments are working. I just read an article, which I need to find and post that the "new thought" is that the smaller segments do not change as rapidly as the recent ones so more researcher are finding them relevant. Also, I am definitely finding multiple common grandparents but absolutely no breakthrough on Stewart.

  3. Vivian, I truly appreciate what you are doing. I just discovered you and your blog about a month ago. As with others, I am slowing learning how to use and interpret my DNA results. I tested autosomal with ancestrydna and have uploaded my raw data to ftdna and to genmatch. I also manage three other family members and hope to add more. Spread sheets are on my list of "to learn and to do". I see you have instructions in your tips and trips. I will read them and follow your excellent lead. Please keep us herded and moving in the right direction. Perhaps I will be able to contribute in the future. Best regards, Shirley Wilcoxon

    1. Thanks for the encouragement and letting me know that you found it worthwhile to return. I do have a Wilcoxon family in Ashe Co NC.. It is not direct...yet.

  4. Vivian… please don't get discouraged. I have only begun to catch up on your blogs too. As I still work at least 10 hours per day, I may only have a few minutes here & there to take it all in, but I still am working on it. I believe we are related through the Blevins line and hope to figure out the atdna at some point so it make sense. Hang in there for us slow pokes, please… thanks kathleen kole #F41984

  5. I’ve been perusing your blog and I found your June 27 blog most helpful. The fog is beginning to clear a bit. I think I had been on the right track with Atdna results but I really didn't know enough to be certain. I am now a little more certain and with your explanations and clarity of our goal I honestly think in the near future I just might be somewhat of an asset to you on the Johnson lineage... maybe not the too near future but sometime in the not too distant future, LOL.