Monthly Archives: April 2015

Don’t Let My Tree Fool You

largemouth-bass-jumping-with-dragonfly_zklgzDUO (1)

There are probably people who would look at my tree and say…. that’s wrong, they don’t match the people I have… and you would  probably be right and I’m not even going to say that my tree is the correct one. There are times that I enter information that was correct at the time and still may be correct but I haven’t been able to prove it one way or another.

Like my Beaton family tree. When I originally entered it,  it was what my true belief  was at the time. Or my genealogy tree vs my genetic tree.  You see the family story was always that my great-grandfather; William Beaton was adopted by his father but the lady that raised him was not his mother. So I’ve worked a lot on my Beaton family tree and I feel like I know them all, well,  kinda like family. Heck I’ve been to Kingston, Ontario on many occasions and spent three weeks last summer trying to figure out the family dynamics.

Then last summer I convinced one of the Beaton descendants to do an autosomal DNA kit and found that she and my mom were not a match and they should have been second cousins.  I do know that doesn’t mean I’m not a Beaton  descendant but I know it means that someone isn’t. So until I can have another descendant take a DNA test I’ll have to wait.

So what do you do? Do you take down your tree? Or do you leave it, sort of like bait on your fish-hook hoping for a bite to see if you can figure out the mystery?  I’m going for the bait. That’s why I never look at other people trees and use the information in my tree.  I always like to prove things for myself. Not that I’m saying they are bad researchers but perhaps they too are just throwing out that bit of bait  to see who bites.


Reverse Engineering Someone Else’s Tree


Have you ever check out someone’s DNA tree and thought….. this isn’t a tree it’s a sapling. It’s hard to figure out your connected if they are your third cousin and they only have a bit of information and if they are fourth cousins forget it.  So what do you do?

You get out your tree program or a piece of paper and start gathering  the information they do have and start building a tree . As I’ve mentioned before the tree view on Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) could use some work. Your connection may not be familiar with how to create and upload a gedcom file or they may have done it manually. Also if you think about it if they are your 3rd cousin that means you have a common 2x great grandparent. If you do the math that means they would need to have all 16 of those  2x great grandparents.  That’s a lot.. and as I said if they are a 4th cousin.. now were talking about 32  3x great grandparents.

In the case of Ancestry sometimes you have matches and the person has their tree marked as private so that won’t help you at all.  I know people are hesitant about opening up their tree but if you want your DNA to work for you then you will probably have to open up your tree. If your really concerned you can always create a tree with limited details and attach that to your DNA and then have another private tree with all your research.

Whatever the reason for your cousins lack of tree or lack of branches you might just want to at least ask the question.  After all isn’t it all about finding other family members?

Are you responsible?

Spotlights Shining On A Small Stage With Black Background

This past week the news is about Ben Affleck’s asking Dr. Gates to remove from the episode of Finding your Roots,  the fact that his ancestors owned slaves.  Then the rest of the week was spent saying sorry that he denied it and PBS dealing with the fallout and defending their editorial integrity.

It’s not the first time that a celebrity has been informed that their ancestor had done something that  wasn’t acceptable.  It’s my opinion that you can’t be held responsible for what your ancestor has done. No it’s not a shining moment and no you’re not proud, but its history, it’s what happened in the past and you can’t change that.  I think the better way of handling it would have been to do as many  (and there have been many) of the other celebrities have done in the past. That being;  to face it and let people know that it’s wan’t acceptable.  After all; Kevin Bacon,  Ken Burns, Anderson Cooper, Melissa Etheridge, all have received the same news.  I’m sure Cynthia Nixon’s wasn’t proud that her great-great-great grandmother killed her husband with an axe either.

I think that what Ben Affleck missed  about his family history was the irony of it all.  Ben’s 3x great-grandfather had owned 25 slaves but it was also revealed that his mother had marched  for civil right in Mississippi 100 years later.

The bottom line is that when you do your family history you don’t know what you will find . We all would like to be descendants of scholars, military leaders or even kings or queens but the reality is that it doesn’t always turn out that way.

Should I Have Two Trees


One of the things that became apparent when I was finally able to do my DNA on Ancestry (Up until Roots Tech 2015 I wasn’t able to get access to a kit because I live in Canada) was that I needed to merge two of my family trees.   You see I have always had a tree for my dad’s family and a tree for my mom’s family.  Now their trees finally did need to marry. Wow it has only been for real for 60 years.


The process was quite easy and especially when you call the people at Ancestry. They are so helpful and send you documentation or walk you through things. For me it took two calls one to a very nice man (sorry I didn’t catch his name) who sent me the documentation which was very straight forward.  Always be sure to back up what you already have just in case something goes wrong.

First of all you need to merge through your Family Tree Maker not on Ancestry.  After backing up the two trees you are merging you have to decide which will be the final tree.  In my case I choose my dad’s tree, although it says to use the larger tree, my mom’s was only slightly larger. One of my concerns was should my tree have to stay with a name than Thompson/Clark was my preferred choice. But I was able to change the name to Thompson/Middlebrough quite easily later.  So you are safe to choose the larger of your trees.

Once you tell the system to merge,  if you are like me; you will have several names that overlap. It will also ask you what to do when it finds matching information and how different can it be before it’s not considered a match. If you go to the advanced you will see how it will handle it.  I chose the default  of 400 and it worked quite well.


When the system stopped buzzing along (it didn’t take long at all) it gave me a list of 4 names that it wanted to confirm what I wanted to do with.  They were myself, my husband Kevin, my ex-husband and my son Jason.  The reason being, that some had a slightly different selection of a place-name; such as for my husband; Toronto, Ontario  on one tree compared to Toronto, York, Ontario only on the other and then in the case of my son I had added more information to one tree in comparison to the other tree. So you review each name and it provides what the system thinks it will do and you just visually confirm if that’s what you want. If you don’t;  you can click on the other suggestion and then that’s what will happen.  After your done then you click; merge. Then more buzzing.. (this takes a bit longer) and finally  voilà it’s done.

So the tree went from 400 names to 1084.  The second call to Lee at Ancestry was more for emotional support than anything.  I just wanted to be sure that I wasn’t going to do something that I thought was the right thing to do, but that would completely mess me up.  Lee was great and walked me through the process of unmerging my old Thompson/Clark file (so far I hadn’t change the name) and then when I was going to upload I then was able to change the name to Thompson/Middlebrough Family Tree.  Then it was off to the DNA tab to change the link of my DNA to the new Thompson/Middlebrough Tree.

Thompson Middlebrough

I’ve added the link provided by Ancestry to merge trees together and if you need help give them a call. So far every time I’ve called its been a 5 star

My DNA Work in Progress or Finding my Tree in the Forest

Beech Trees in the Eifel

I have to tell you that at times when I work on my DNA kits I feel like I’m not looking at my tree but more like  I’m in a forest.  As with many things that I involve myself with, I tend to dive in, but slowly I’m learning.

When I originally became interested in family history I remember someone doing a talk about DNA and I thought wow… that’s way over my head. But now some 15 years later I am the keeper of 17 kits and I’m learning at a rapid pace.

It’s kind of a snow ball effect. You start with yourself; or in my case my dad. I started with Ancestry as at the time they offered the Y-DNA and the mtDNA kits. I got a few matches but not a lot. Then along came the autosomal tests and that’s when I got a bit carried away. By that time I’d moved my dad’s DNA over to Family Tree DNA ( and so it was easy to add this test for him. I was attending Roots Tech and I’m always a sucker for a deal so I purchased a kit for myself as well. Then of course you need to have as many of the elderly family members tested while you are able and then you buy a few more tests to see if you can refine the matches to differentiate one line from another.

One of the funniest experiences I  had was when I got the results for my own kit and my dad was a match. Somehow it had never dawned on me that it could be otherwise. But it was then that I realized that tests could give surprising results.  I’ve had one kit for a cousin that although they should have been a match to my father, they were not. It was a tough discussion.

One of my uncles that I recently had tested jokingly ask me; “will I find out that I’m not who I think I am?” After the number of test that I have had done, my reply was; maybe. I think it’s important  if you are getting people to do DNA kits for you it’s only fair that you warn them that it’s a possibility.

For  some that do DNA their results are much like their tree. They have matches and those matches, match names in their tree. But for me, because I’m using the testing to not only confirm my tree but to also use it to see if I can get pass some of my brick walls,  many of the names aren’t in my tree and I’m trying to figure out how they might fit in.  So that leads to more kits to refine the results.  So it’s wait for a sale and then try to identify which family member will give you the most bang for your buck.


Kissing Cousins

Heart Face

The hottest DNA test on the market, at least in my opinion is the Autosomal DNA (atDNA) test. When it was introduced it was great news for women, as either sex can take the test.

Three companies offer autosomal testing ; they are Ancestry .com, Family Tree DNA ( and Each company is slightly different in how they can extend your family history.

Ancestry is great if you have a well established tree on their site. One of their shortfalls is that up until recently their test was only offered in the U.S. so the matches will be primarily that. However, they are now testing in England and will in, 2015,  be providing their testing in Canada and Australia. Ancestry does not provide the same genetic tools that the other companies provide.

FTDNA is a more scientific based company and you will gain a greater understanding of DNA through their site. Also they have a wider data base as they have been providing kits worldwide. Their shortfall is that their pedigree comparison tools are lacking and I don’t feel they are as user-friendly as they could be.

The next company is 23andme. I’ll be honest I haven’t used this company so I can only advise on what I’ve heard. 23andme have a diverse customer based and some individuals are not normally involved in genealogy. I do know that the company is more involved in the health of your DNA and you may want to understand their privacy policy. But I have heard that their ancestral maps are very useful.

But back to autosomal DNA. Half of your chromosomes come from you mom and the other half from your dad so what this test does is identify your best matches among the hundreds of living relatives that have taken the test with the company you choose. Although the companies are different, each of them is testing and coming up with the same raw data, so matches are the same; First it determines how much total DNA is shared between two people. Next based on the total amount shared and the lengths of the shared segments, this determines an appropriate relationship possibility.  Once you have your matches you should investigate all your 4th cousins or closer matches and compare their trees to yours.

This can be challenging; as many of the participants haven’t put up their trees.  If a person hasn’t put up a tree I caution you to please be understanding. I have heard many times; “why did they do the DNA if they aren’t going to put up a tree”.   It may be because they are adopted or they may have adopted parents so their really isn’t a tree that they can put up. I also think many people have gone into the field of DNA to help them push through a brick wall so sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know. Also even if a person has put up a tree it may not be extensive enough to confirm how you relate. After all, if you are 4th cousins this means you have a 3rd great grandparent in common and not everyone has that information. But it can be something you work on together. That’s why I feel it’s important to work your tree as widely as you can in both directions; not just up and down but from side to side.

Some people may not have put up a tree but have listed family names. Have a look at these and see if you can find connections. Send them messages and see if you can work together to discover how you are connected.. After all,  one this is for sure…. They are your cousins.

It’s a Girl

Girls Written In Plastic Kids Letters

All kidding aside, what can mtDNA do for you? Well, it can help you find an unknown mother for your ancestor. Or if you’re not sure of your female origin it can provide that.

Mitochondrial DNA is pass on a bit differently. First of all, the mother passes her mtDNA to all her children. However, only the females can pass on to the next generation.  So in other words it will provide you with your maternal direct line. As women changed their names when they married, you will have have your genetic connection but not necessarily a surname connection.

One thing I do know is if you have had a mtDNA test done and an Autosomal DNA test done and you have an exact match on the mtDNA and you match that same person on Family Finder this can then indicated that you may have a direct maternal line connection within six generations.

The other thing I know is that it will  provide the  origin for your maternal line and we are talking 60-70 thousand years ago.

Finally I do know that if you don’t have a lot of matches this may seem disappointing but it can actually help you.  Having a rare mtDNA profile makes the matches more valuable.

As I’ve said before… I’m by no means an expert but I’ve tried my best to read as much as possible about DNA.  Some of the information I’ve passed along can be found on  guides written by Diahan Southard which  are available (sorry for the plug) at Shop the Hound my e-store site.

Who’s Your Daddy? Or it’s a Boy…..

Baby Boy Written In Kids Letters


If you read my blog yesterday you will already know a bit about the Y-chromosome. YDNA will provide you with your direct line information as well as provide your ancient ancestral origins.


If you have decided to do a YDNA test then you will be testing with Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) as they are the only company that offers this test for recent paternal ancestry. Ancestry did offer it but discontinued that test in 2014. Next you will have to decide how many markers should you test? You can test 12, 25, 37, 67 or 111 markers. As with most things, more is better. Ok, maybe not desserts.  But if costs are a factor then at minimum you want to test 37 markers.  This will tell you that yes you are related but, if you want to learn  more than you will have to test more markers. However this will only help if your matches have tested to the same number of markers. So if you have tested to 111 markers and they only to 37 markers then that is as close as you know. If you wanted to learn more  you would have to convince them to purchase an upgrade to the kit.

Speaking of upgrades, once the testing company has your sample you can upgrade tests and purchase other tests until such time as you run out of sample. That’s why it’s so important to get those older family members to test as soon as possible. In my case I tested my mom and now should some new test come along I will be able to test despite the fact that my mom has since passed away.

Is My DNA Showing?

DNA model

15 years ago when I started on this journey into my family history , DNA was a relatively new thing.  But now it’s one of the hottest topics in genealogy.  When you go to conferences you will see more and more presentation about DNA. This week I’d like to explore the subject of DNA. (note that I am by no means an expert but I read everything I can put my hands on about the subject).

I’ve been involved in my own families DNA since 2010.  It was at that time I had my father do a YDNA  and mtDNA test kit with Ancestry. Since that time Ancestry no longer handles this type of DNA and I’ve transferred my dad’s information over to Family Tree DNA.

Whenever you speak with anyone about DNA for genealogy everyone wants to know what company should I use or what test should I take? Before you think about what company you should use or what test should I take, I thinking the first thing you should ask yourself is, what do I want to learn?  When you know what you want to learn that will help you choose the test to take and the company to test with.

Let me explain why I say that. For instance if you were to take a Y-DNA (Y-chromosome) test first of all you’d have to be male or have a male test subject. The Y-DNA test will tell you who that male test subject’s paternal line was. So your going to go down the line of the father’s,  father’s, father’s father’s… you get the idea. That’s because the Y chromosome is passed from father to son almost completely unchanged.  So if that’s what you want to learn about then the Y-DNA test is for you.

Another DNA test you can do is a mtDNA (Mitochondrial DNA) test. For this kit both men and women can take the test.  This test follows the test subject’s  maternal line, so in the case of a male it would be his mother’s mother’s, mother’s…etc. or for a female test subject; her mother’s mother’s, mother.  As this DNA mutations are very rare it’s my understanding that you need an exact matching on the mtDNA full sequence to confirm a common ancestor.

Finally the test that I think that is the most talked about is the atDNA (Autosomal  DNA). Again this test can be taken by both males and females and I like to think that it helps not only with your direct lines but all the family in the middle. This is because you receive 50% of your chromosomes from your mother and 50% from your father. Note that no two children will receive the same 50%.  This test along with a family tree can help you find your family.

So as I said earlier; you need to know what you’d like to know before you choose a test. Over the next few days I’d like to tell you a bit more about the tests and also about the testing companies as well as some of my own experiences with the test kits that I look after (I currently look after 17 kits for my family).

Have You Ever Not Liked Your Ancestor?

Lily Shannon and Harold Alfred

When I first started researching my family history there were ancestors that I already admired.

For instance, my great-grandmother; Lily Shannon. I admired her because as the family story went she had given birth to my grandfather; Harold out-of-wedlock and had kept him, and I think that it would have been uncommon in 1907 or at least having a child out-of-wedlock was unacceptable. My daydream was that she had him and then moved to Edmonton and pretended perhaps that she was a widow.. You know those fantasy thoughts you have.

When I was 16, I received a copy of his birth certificate from my father and when I contacted vital stats to see why his name was the same as his adopted father’s last name,  I was told that he had done a delayed birth registration and that the substantiating information had been census records. The family story had been he’d gone to a lawyer and the lawyer said; you’ve been a Thompson all your life … you don’t need to change now to your mother’s maiden name.

Now fast forward to about 15 years ago. I’m doing my research and I find a birth registration but this one was done at the time of his birth. It gives the name of his father as Godfrey Myrtle; stone mason.  Suddenly I was very angry with my great-grandmother. Why wouldn’t she have told my grandfather who his father was? After all this had been something that had bothered him all his life. Had actually affected his self-esteem as I had understood.

But after a few days you start to think about other scenarios. Perhaps his father had been a bad person and she didn’t want him to know that. Perhaps she intended on telling him when he was a man of 21, but she didn’t get a change because she had died when he was 19. Ok, maybe that’s a stretch but I wanted to give her a way out.

To this day I really don’t know what the story was. I couldn’t find a marriage to Godfrey and I’ve never really been able to find out anything more about him.  Furthermore,  when you look at my father’s Y-DNA you’ll clearly see we are Palmer’s. Perhaps we’ve had more than one non-paternal event  in that line or Lily  just made him up when they came to register the birth and didn’t want to continue with the lie.

Anyway, I’ve forgiven great-grandmother Lily. You must have had your reasons and perhaps someday I’ll know what they were.