Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Phasing the X-Chromosome

Understanding the transmission of most human DNA is fairly straightforward. Y-DNA is transmitted from father to son and follows a patrilineal descent equated with a man’s surname lineage. Only males have Y-DNA and they can only pass it on to their sons. Mitochondrial (mtDNA) is the exact opposite and is passed from mother to child. It follows a matrilineal descent – great-grandmother to grandmother to mother to child. While men receive mtDNA, they cannot pass it to their children. Only women can pass mtDNA.

A third type of DNA is autosomal DNA. It is passed from the 22 pairs of autosomes that we as humans have. For each pair, one chromosome comes from our mother and one from our father. The chromosomes we receive from our parents are also combinations of the chromosomes passed from our grandparents. All of our ancestors, to a point, contribute to our autosomal DNA.

Finally, there is X-chromosomal DNA. Contrary to popular belief that it was named after its X shape when two X-chromosomes appear together, the 22 autosomes also appear roughly “X” shaped during mitosis and therefore there was nothing unique about its appearance. Hermann Henking named the chromosome the X element because of its unique properties. The “X” designation has been applied to other items with unique or unknown properties such as X in algebra, X-rays, and Planet X (Pluto).

X Inheritance Patterns

The X-chromosome, however, has a bit of mystery to its transmission. While it is not difficult to understand, it takes time to explain the unique ancestry that contributes to an X-chromosome. Additionally, the X ancestry for women is different than for men adding to its mystique.

Men only receive one X-chromosome as they receive a Y-chromosome from their father which in turn determines their gender as a male. Men inherit their X-chromosome from their mother. It is possible that a man may inherit his X as one of his mother’s two X-chromosomes completely intact; however, it is more likely he will receive a recombined X that includes segments from each of his mother’s two Xs.

Since women receive two X-chromosomes, they inherit these from each parent. The one received from a woman’s mother is transmitted the same way as a man receives his X-chromosome. The other X-chromosome transmitted intact from a woman’s father. This comes from his mother and may be an intact chromosome or a recombined X transmitted to him from his mother.

To get a clearer picture on the overall inheritance patterns of the X-chromosome for men and women, I recommend two blog posts by Dr. Blaine T. Bettinger: Unlocking the Genealogical Secrets of the X Chromosome and More X-Chromosome Charts.

My Specific X-Chromosome Issues

My interest in the X-chromosome transmission is based on the lack of matching X segments I have with my two brothers. In fact, the amount of 14.7cM on one segment on the X that I share with my oldest brother is rather insignificant by comparison to others in my family. My other brother and I share 45.9cM over two segments. My two brothers share quite a bit with each other on the X with 142.2cM across three segments.

To add to this disparity, I share more with my two first cousins than I do with my oldest brother on the X: 44.7cM over two segments with one and 102.9cM across two segments with the other. Even larger than these shares, my family has two second cousins who share 122cM on one segment. The grandmothers of these two second cousins were sisters.

Others’ Experiences

I was curious about this inequality and I asked individuals to post on 23andMe’s Community Forum their total matches on the X-chromosome with known relatives; however, some exceptions needed to occur as parent/children relationships will share 100% on an X-chromosome, a paternal grandmother and granddaughters will share 100% on an X-chromosome, and sisters and paternal half-sisters will share an exact copy of their father’s X-chromosome. Obviously, these numbers would skew the results somewhat and do not represent an unknown quantity.

While I won’t list all of the results here, I will list relationships where at least five matches were documented. The lower and higher ranges, as well as the central tendencies of mean and median, are represented in centimorgans (cM).

RelationshipNumber  Low  High  Mean  Median
Great Avuncular911.0178.041.526.1
First Cousin2316.0135.266.461.4
First Cousin, Once Removed2111.1196.063.956.3
Second Cousin617.0122.050.743.4
First Cousin, Twice Removed97.183.818.031.9
Second Cousin, Once Removed615.947.324.917.2

*full brothers, full brother/sister, maternal half-brothers, and maternal half sisters.

The numbers are probably skewing higher, as I discounted all non-matches. This was done because I could not verify if the given relationship fell within X-chromosome inheritance patterns. For example, a male subject may have listed a second cousin relationship as 0cM without realizing that a male’s paternal second cousins do not share genetic material on the X.

This exercise revealed that it is difficult to ascertain a relationship on the amount shared via the X-chromosome, as the numbers were across the board. Part of the inequality may be attributed to daughters receiving an intact X from their fathers. Without recombination during these transmissions, larger segments of X-DNA will be inherited across generations.

In my family, a sibling match of 14.7cM was the lowest of the observed sibling pairs; as mentioned earlier, this was between me and my oldest brother. The aforementioned second cousin match in our family at 122.0cM is the highest reported for that relationship.

Phasing My X-Chromosome

Since spring 2010 when my results and those of my siblings were returned, I have been immensely curious on why I share so little on the X-chromosome with either of my brothers. In addition, Ancestry Finder lists my oldest brother (Chuck) as having three matches on the X. Two of those matches exceed the amount we share (20.6cM and 26.6cM). My brother John also has three matches – two of those match Chuck’s shares and one is unique. Unfortunately, I have no X matches in Ancestry Finder.

As I ruminated on the results, I began to realize that recombination of my mother’s two X-chromosomes dealt Chuck and me X-DNA from divergent maternal grandparents. The question was who inherited from whom?  My mother's parents and siblings, which would help in determining this issue, had died decades ago.  While I have five living first cousins on my mother’s side, three were adopted.

Of the two remaining blood first cousins, I tested Joan first in 2011 – she is the daughter of my mother’s sister Louise. Unfortunately, she could have received her X-DNA from either or both of our grandparents and there was no way to determine the origin of her matching segments.

Jane, my other blood first cousin, tested in 2012 and she and I had two matching segments totaling 102.9cM. This large match was significant in that she is the daughter of my mother’s oldest brother. Because of this relationship, I could use her results and partially phase our X-chromosome segments to specific grandparents.

Since she received one X from her father and one X from her mother, the matching segments she had with me, my brothers, and Joan would come only from our maternal grandmother. The X-chromosome that passed from Jane’s dad came solely through our grandmother. This is unlike my mother and my aunt who received an X-chromosome from their mother and an X-chromosome from their father.

In addition, those areas where Jane matched me but not my brothers indicated that my siblings received their corresponding segments from our maternal grandfather. While I could not satisfactorily phase all of my X-chromosome, over half of it was attributed to my mother’s mother.

Those areas where we did not match Jane do not indicate that those segments came from my grandfather. If fact when comparing Jane with my mother, they only match on the same segments that Jane matches with me. This indicates that my mother and her brother received different X-DNA from their mother due to X recombination.

As far as further testing is concerned, there are some second cousins and second cousins, once removed that are descended from my grandmother’s sisters that may shed additional light on the propagation of the X in our family. Finding these individuals and convincing them to test may prove difficult.

While my grandfather was his mother's only child, his mother had siblings whose descendents should have some matching DNA segments to our family. Shared genetic material with these individuals may further confirm from whence my brothers’ and cousins’ X-DNA originated. In certain cases, tying our X-chromosome segments to a specific great-grandparent may also be possible.  

Some Theories

Since I can only confirm the originating grandparent of 51% my X-DNA, I tend to believe (but cannot confirm at the present) that my X-chromosome may be an exact copy of my mother’s inherited X from her mother. If this is the case, I would not have inherited any X-DNA from my grandfather. This would also indicate that my brother Chuck’s X-DNA is 97% from our grandfather and only 3% from our grandmother. My brother John would then have 77% of his X-DNA from our grandfather and 23% from our grandmother.

If my hypothesis is correct, it may suggest why I have no matches on the X-chromosome. With exception of one line which originated in Southern France, my grandmother’s ancestry was German. If one follows her X-chromosome inheritance to its natural genetic conclusion, her X-chromosomes were 100% Germanic in origin. The earliest date for her ancestors immigrating to the US was 1848.

While my grandfather had a significant German element to his ancestry, his X-inheritance contains Swiss, Scots-Irish, German, and probably English antecedents. To the best of my knowledge, my grandfather’s family appears to have been in America from at least the time of the Revolutionary War.

Since becoming a 23andMe customer in 2010, I have noticed a dearth of matches to my German lines. Since my mother is roughly 70% German and 12% Swiss, I find that most of her 23andMe matches appear to be related to her English and Scots-Irish ancestries rather than to her German and Swiss roots.

While I do not have facts and figures for 23andMe’s customer base, it appears that Germans are not among the best represented groups. While Ancestry Finder is not a perfect indicator of ancestral matches, it does allow for some additional conclusions to be drawn. For my mother, Germany ranks third behind the United Kingdom and Netherlands for her matches whose grandparents were born in these countries. I would have assumed that her German matches would have ranked first; however, this was not the case.


Despite my theories which remain unconfirmed, I was able to phase a large portion of our family's X-chromosomes to a particular grandparent by comparing our results with a first cousin who was the daughter of a maternal uncle. In the absence of a tested grandparent, a greater number of tested relationships of maternal uncles and female first cousins descended from maternal uncles would aid anyone in phasing his or her maternal X-DNA.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Reunion 78 Years in the Making

Several years following my Uncle Walt’s death in 1980, my mother tasked me with the mission of finding his oldest child – my first cousin Jane. I had heard about her and that no one in our family had seen her since the 1930s. The story of her parents, Walter and Kathleen, was a tale of two lovers and a tragedy that caused their separation from each other with no fault of either party.

Walter later in life (circa 1940) and Kathleen in 1929 as a high school senior.
They were married in Wellsburg, West Virginia on May 16, 1930 and over 2 years later, their daughter Jane was born. In short time, the Great Depression had taken its toll, Walter was unemployed with no prospects for work, and at the request of family members, it was suggested that the two divorce. Reluctantly, they did.

A page from my grandmother's bible.

When Kathleen later remarried, she asked Walter to sign over Jane to be raised by Kathleen’s new husband Ron. He agreed and Jane was raised with the Miller surname of her new father. Walter too remarried and had a son, William Martin Brakeall. Bill was a successful Navy helicopter pilot. Having survived being shot down in Vietnam during his two tours of duty, he was killed in a freak helicopter explosion over Springfield, Missouri in 1971. The tragedy occurred just days prior to his planned discharge from the Navy.

Bill Brakeall graduating from Naval Officer's Training
According to Jane, “Growing up I knew that I had been adopted by my dad, Ron Miller, but I knew nothing about my biological family other than the surname, Brakeall. In 1972, Mom and I traveled to McKeesport to attend Jane Randolph's funeral. Mrs. Randolph was a dear friend for who I am named, i.e. Jane Randolph Miller Boyce. While I was there, the funeral director gave me a note from Louise [Walter’s sister]. She asked me to call her and gave me the number. I called that evening and we had a nice chat wherein I told her about my life, my husband, my children, our home in Florida, and I suppose a lot more.”

She continued, “In 1980, someone gave my mother a copy of the Walter Brakeall obit and she passed it on to me. The obit mentioned my half-brother, Bill. That was the first time that I knew that my biological father had another child. (It also gave his [Walter’s] address that was only a few miles from our home in Florida during the sixties and early seventies. I have often wondered why he never took the time to contact me. Maybe Louise never told him about our conversation.)”

It is likely, for whatever reason, my Aunt Louise never told anyone about talking to Jane. She and my mother were not only sisters, but best friends. It was not unusual for us to see Aunt Louise daily as she stopped by our home after work nearly every day. We often visited her home on Saturdays and we sat in the same pew every Sunday at church. They were confidants and they often shared information with each other that they never shared with anyone else.

Apparently, Jane’s conversation was a piece of information that Aunt Louise took with her to the grave. My mother was never aware of it and neither was Aunt Louise’s only child, my cousin Joan. So, it is likely that she never shared this tidbit with her older brother Walt. There may be reasons for that as well.

The conversation with Jane occurred less than a year after Bill’s death; and perhaps to give him time to grieve, she never mentioned it. In addition, Aunt Lou, Uncle Walt’s second wife, was a fiercely jealous woman and would have not have welcomed any contact with his former family. It is likely then that Aunt Louise never told anyone. Unaware of this important but hidden piece of information, I trudged on with my search.

Over the years, I had attempted to find Jane or her mother. We knew of the Miller surname, but not Kathleen’s husband’s first name of Ron. We were also misinformed that Jane’s dad was a dentist – he was not. That sent me on some wild goose chases. There also was the uncertainty during this time whether Kathleen and Jane were even still living. I had assumed that due to Kathleen’s age that she probably had died, but she hadn’t.

Since Miller is the seventh most popular name in the US, this made the prospect of finding Jane a near impossibility. Add to this the great possibility that Jane was probably married and her married name could be anything. It was the proverbial needle in the haystack.

When I first got access to the Internet in 1995, I thought this new technology would probably be my only vehicle in finding Jane. All through the subsequent years, my mother encouraged me to look for Jane, as she would like to see her again. She was probably two years old when my mother last saw her niece.

Jane as a baby with her grandfather and great-grandmother Brakeall
Over the years I used the various search engines and genealogy sites to make a connection; however, nothing even close emerged. In 2008, however, the tide began to turn. Florida’s death records were indexed on and I found Jane’s maternal grandparents in the listing.

I sent away for the death record of Jane’s grandmother; however, no new information was gathered from it, the cemetery, or the funeral home. All listed Kathleen Miller as the next of kin, however, I could not find any current reference to a Kathleen Miller in the area that proved to be her.

My mother thought that Jane had grown up in Connellsville, Pennsylvania; however, she was only born there. Misinformed, I visited the Connellsville library in June 2008 and searched the high school yearbooks for a Jane Miller – nada. I also perused the city directories for a dentist named Miller – no hits on that one either. I felt I was no closer to finding Jane; however, that would quickly change.

On August 12, 2008, I logged onto and was filling in details for my family tree. While I was adding the various hints for my Uncle Walt, I found a family tree hint – you know one of those “leaves” that Ancestry advertises. Intrigued on who might have him listed on a personal tree, I found the missing link. The other Ancestry subscriber’s tree had a child listed under Walter Brakeall and Kathleen Graffious. This child’s information was blocked because she was living. It also showed a blocked husband and two children.

Typically, I am suspect of personal family trees as many are riddled with misinformation. One tree I encountered had my sister-in-law married to my great-grandfather. This was interesting as she was born 30 years after his death. This new listing, however, was the real deal.

Jim and Paul; September 13, 2012
I immediately emailed the owner of the tree and she explained that Jane’s husband Paul had written a booklet on their families and she would send me the relevant pages. She apparently received this from a relative of Jane’s that had received it directly from Paul.

My copy arrived in the mail in a few days later and I was able to ascertain Jane’s and Paul’s address. I felt that for this introduction a telephone call would be too abrupt for a first encounter, so I wrote Jane a letter. I was able to go into some detail and would give her the opportunity to ruminate on the information. If she called, then she was interested. If not, we at least knew that she was well and had raised a family.

It was a few days later and I arrived home one evening after teaching class. I was met at the door by my wife Pam who had a horrified look on her face. “You’re going to kill me,” she said. “You know that cousin of yours you’ve been trying to find? Well, she called tonight and I thought she was one of those political telemarketers and I let her have it for calling after 9 PM.” She explained that when she found out it was Jane that she apologized “six ways to Sunday” about the misunderstanding. She was right; I was ready to kill her right then and there.

Being that it was the 2008 election year and my wife and I do not share the same political affiliations, we were besieged by representatives of both parties and by numerous political action committees about who we were going to support. Some of these calls violated FTC regulations regarding when such calls could be made. The cutoff was 9:00 PM local time and frequently when we received calls after that, I would remind these callers that they were violating a federal telemarketing statute. Pam’s reaction was learned behavior from me.

Jane’s husband Paul reminded me of this recently and said that Jane being “rebuffed, decided not to call again. I don't know what happened on your end, but within a few minutes you called back and the rest is history. I can't help thinking that could have been the end of it. Jane probably would not have called again.”

With my tail between my legs, I called Jane and apologized profusely. She graciously accepted the apology and we had a wonderful conversation. She told me what she knew about the family; and from that point, I corresponded with Jane and Paul – frequently speaking to Paul on the phone about his research on Jane’s newfound family. Finding Jane was a great birthday present for my mother who was turning 90 in just a few days. I shared this information with our mutual first cousin Joan and she too began corresponding with Jane.

Jane’s mother, albeit in her late 90s, was still living at the time. Unfortunately, she would not be a source of any additional information. According to Jane, “It’s strange, and I have no explanation for it, but my mother never talked to me about her first marriage, so I essentially was in the dark about it until only recently. Even after my contact with you she evaded questions about her marriage.” Kathleen passed away in 2010.

While Jane and Paul wanted to come back to the Pennsylvania to visit, that did not get to happen until two weeks ago. My cousin Joan coordinated a lunch gathering at a local restaurant and it was followed by a small get-together at Joan’s home. Paul, by the way, had enlarged his family history into much expanded volume and had brought a copy for us to peruse. His research and layout was impressive.
Jane and my mother, September 13, 2012
My 94 year old mother finally got to see her oldest niece – 78 years later. In addition to Jane, Paul, my mom, me, and Joan; the event was attended by another first cousin, Nancy; my brother Chuck; and Joan’s daughter Kathy. Children from all four Brakeall siblings that attained adulthood were present. It was a wonderful event and it was like Jane had been among us all of her life. She and Paul fit in well with our crazy bunch.

Nancy, Joan, Jim, Genevieve, Kathy, Jane, & Chuck

You can tell we are family, as at times the topics turned to those two forbidden subjects of religion and politics, yet no one got angry – that’s family. Meeting Jane was one of those items on my mother’s and my own bucket lists. At our meeting, Jane thanked me for writing that letter. The reunion was the highlight to my year. What once was a mission impossible became a mission accomplished.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Death Styles of the Rich and Famous

Those who know me well realize that I’ve spent a great deal of time in cemeteries. While it’s hardly a record, I’ve been to cemeteries in 77 locations in 12 states. Offhand, I cannot tell you how many I’ve visited as many of those aforementioned locations had several of these resting places. Since I’ve done much of my cemetery research in Pennsylvania, some of the towns where I’ve researched grave markers had quite a few cemeteries.

One of my favorite locations is Homewood at the edge of the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh. It’s rolling hills and pastoral setting is a perfect backdrop for some of the more interesting monuments and mausoleums in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.


While taking a leisurely drive through Homewood Cemetery last Friday, I rounded a corner and a stream of yellow light caught my eye. I backed up my car and noticed that it was the stained glass in a mausoleum. I parked and grabbed my camera to snap one of the most interesting examples of stained glass I’ve ever seen.

I’ve been aware that some mausoleums had stained glass windows, but never paid any attention to these works of art. I decided to look at several examples of (cue the Robin Leach impersonation) the “Death Styles of the Rich and Famous.” All but one of the following examples come from Homewood Cemetery. These are typically located on the rear wall, but several also have side windows as well.

This first example is the one that started the idea of this series and remains my favorite memorial glass art. From a simple mausoleum with an Egyptian motif, this picture of Cleopatra is truly amazing. It is in surprisingly good shape with the exception of the flaking of the brown paint in the headdress and the fading of the colors around the bars that protect the window.

This is from the tomb of the William S. Stimmel family. Stimmel was the manager of the John Hancock Insurance office in Pittsburgh. Stimmel was also an art collector and it is only fitting that one of the more beautiful examples of funerary art was found in his final resting place.


The Stimmel glass was not the first I had photographed – that distinction belongs to a window in historic Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans. I spied the monument for Laure Beauregard Larendon and its circle of stained glass during a visit to the cemetery in July 2012. This particular glass is unusual because it was open on both sides and was not inside of a mausoleum.

This beautiful design also includes nine cut glass jeweled inserts. The monument and window were commissioned by Laure Larendon’s famous father Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, the Confederate General. Her husband was Colonel Charles A. Larendon of South Carolina.


Typical of many windows are simplistic geometric designs. I like this one as the border reminds me of a Persian rug and the pastel glass in the center is similar to Amish hex signs. This window is found in the family crypt for Edward Worthington, Jr. Worthington was the assistant auditor for the Penn Oil Company.


In the tomb of oil magnate John A. Steel, four members of this family – husband, wife, son, and mother-in-law are bathed in the serene light of this pastoral scene. Notice the detail of the white and purple lilies in the lower left corner. The location of this mausoleum is in one of the higher elevations of the cemetery and its interior is one of the more pristine I’ve seen.


This cannot be said of the Young tomb which was erected in 1907. Although the external façade is beautiful, the window shows damage. Notice that one of the pieces of glass is missing, another has slipped from of its associated lead came, and a third is broken and missing a piece. I tend to believe that the face of the angel probably that of the patriarch of the family. Note that the flesh tone of the neck is nearly gone and beginning to flake off on the face.

Because of the broken glass, water inside the structure has allowed mold and mildew to accumulate on the window. This is the worst example that I have in this series and I’ve only included it to show what could happen when one of these works of art are damaged. This tomb is the final resting place of the Andrew Gray Young and his family. Young was a traffic manager in the steel industry and the tomb was constructed following the death of his daughter Agnes Gray Young.


Another pastoral scene is found in James W. Cheswright’s mausoleum. The sun was directly hitting the top left portion of the window, so it appears washed out. This window is not without some damage as the lowest blue pane is cracked at it appears that it was hit by a hailstone in the past. There may also be some cracks in the orange colored glass as well.

There is also dirt and cobwebs that one might expect. In addition, the front glass doors were very dirty with mold on the inside indicating that there was some water seepage in this structure over its lifetime. Its owner was an officer in the North American Savings Company.


David P. Reighard’s mausoleum has a traditional funerary design with the lilies of the valley. This was shot with direct sunlight that shows a shadow of the grating on the outside of the window used to protect the window and prevent access to the interior.

Reighard’s primary business concern was in oil; however, he also held interest in Duquesne Light Company, the Pittsburgh and Allegheny Telephone Company, and Central Bank of Pittsburgh.


The Frederick J. Kress family lies in state in a modern styled mausoleum which is on the Dallas Avenue side of the cemetery. Unlike the other monuments I perused, its window was of a different size than others.

This window is a fairly standard Christian design of a cross and a crown that might be found in a church building. Its vibrant colors and geometric designs are elegant.


Shaped much like the Rotunda at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, the Henry J. Heinz (yes that Heinz) mausoleum is a medium sized, but impressive piece of architecture with a Romanesque portal. In the rear of the crypt is a Romanesque window depicting Gabriel holding lilies.

The colors of this window are muted, but that should not be an interpretation that the quality of the workmanship is lesser in this Old World style window. The Heinz name is synonymous with ketchup and the 57 varieties for which the H.J. Heinz Company was once known to produce.


Unlike the tomb of his brother-in-law Henry J. Heinz, Sebastian Mueller's window's colors were not muted. In addition to his family connection, Mueller was a vice president of the H.J. Heinz company. His mausoleum is found in another section of Homewood Cemetery.

This Egyptian themed crypt is fronted with a winged sun and impressive columns. The structure is not square, but tapers and has an interesting pediment in an Egyptian style fit for a pharaoh. The window glass depicts the pyramids along the Nile.

While the physical structure of the window was in excellent condition, there appears to be some flaking of the paint on the left side and some outside water stains on the right third of this piece of art.


One of the larger mausoleums in the cemetery is for the Benedum family. Having made his fortune in the oil business, Micheal Late Benedum’s tomb is not only impressive, but it has its own courtyard surrounding the crypt. The Romanesque window depicts a warrior at the end of his journey flanked by the archangel Michael and the messenger angel Gabriel.

At the bottom of the window, a quote of Mark 10:45 intimates the ministering functions of this family, as the Benedum name in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia is synonymous with philanthropy. Our university has a Benedum Center – a gift of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. The window is starting to show some damage on some of the darker gray panels.


Finally, our last example may be one of the more expensive windows in Homewood Cemetery. Found in the crypt for the Albert C. Opperman family, it is the only window in this installment that contains a company’s mark. Franz Xavier Zettler of Munich may have been the best known stained glass artisan in Europe during the late 19th and early 20th century.

Zettler graduated from Munich Art Academy in the 1860s and apprenticed under his father-in-law Joseph Mayer, another well known artist. While any number of artists in Zettler’s firm could have crafted this window, a Zettler window was a prized possession for any structure. While Opperman, who owned a lumber concern, was not one of Pittsburgh’s wealthiest residents, his window is summarily impressive.

This scene doesn’t follow typical funerary art in that it depicts a mother with two of her children. The craftsmanship is exquisite. Unfortunately, an urn with a dried arrangement obscures a portion of the window.

Because these windows are found in mausoleums, their beauty is hidden from the general public. I felt they needed to be revealed.  While I did not depict any of the structures, the windows held the hidden beauty for these “Death Styles of the Rich and Famous.”  In closing, as Robin Leach would say, “champagne wishes and caviar dreams.” Dreams bathed in elegant colors, that is, until eternity.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mystery Great (Grandparents That Is)

Those of you of a certain vintage will remember the 1960's Milton Bradley game “Mystery Date.” Obviously, I didn’t play the game, but I was familiar enough with it due to the countless number of commercials aired on television. In fact, I can still sing the first line of the commercial’s song ♫ “Mystery date” ♪ – now, that’s scary. The only other thing I could remember from the ad was the line – “Is he a dream or a dud?”

What about our “Mystery Greats?” – mystery great-grandparents in all configurations. We all have them and it is humbling experience to see how many there are in a set number of generations. I have taken the challenge of counting the number of my known ancestors. This exercise was inspired by the recent posts from the following blogs: Judy Russell's The Legal Genealogist and From Helen V. Smith’s Keyboard.

A number of genealogists have counted their known ancestors up to and including seventh great-grandparents. That’s nine generations with a possible total of 1,022 collective ancestors.

Some of these individuals are the same due to pedigree collapse; however, with my known ancestry only five from my paternal grandmother’s side and two from my maternal grandmother’s side are counted twice – thus, 14 slots represent the same seven ancestors.

I know there are other duplicates, but their identities are currently unknown. In addition, two of my maternal grandfather’s Myers lines are related; however, we do not exactly know how. The common ancestors for these two lines are likely my fourth or fifth great grandparents.

Enough talk, let’s see how I fared.

 Relationship   Possible    Known    Percentage  
 Parents   2  2  100.00% 
 Grandparents  4  4  100.00% 
 Great Grandparents   8  8  100.00% 
 2nd Great Grandparents   16  16  100.00% 
 3rd Great Grandparents   32  28  87.50% 
 4th Great Grandparents   64  40  62.50% 
 5th Great Grandparents   128  57  44.53% 
 6th Great Grandparents   256  63  24.60% 
 7th Great Grandparents   512  71  13.86% 
 Total  1022  289  28.27% 

My score of 28.27% is higher than some and lower than others. As for finding these missing leaves from my family tree, many lived at a time when record keeping was scarce, that is if documentation occurred at all. For example, my patrilineal 7th great-grandfather lived from 1636-1676 – therefore, he was born 376 years ago.

My numbers were influenced by the ancestries of my grandmothers. My paternal grandmother’s lineage is Colonial New England and these lines are fairly well documented. As for my maternal grandmother, her German ancestry is also well documented. Some of this knowledge came with a chance encounter of a third cousin about four years ago.

He knew the town from which our second great-grandmother was born; however, he did not know her name. I knew her name, but nothing about where in Germany she originated. The parish records were available on microfilm and he was able to secure copies for us to peruse. Our family trees were significantly enlarged.

It is my grandfathers' ancestries where the holes exist – especially the lineages from Pennsylvania before 1850. I can only go back so many generations and the trail is cold. I have some hunches that might take me back another generation, but I can neither prove nor disprove a relationship to other families with similar surnames. These places remain as blanks on my family tree.

I began my genealogical research in 1978, but must confess that I spent most of that time researching my surname by collecting data on collateral lines and seemingly unrelated lines of individuals who shared my low frequency surname and its variants. I only worked on other lines when it was convenient. Most of my research outside of my surname occurred from 1998 onward.

When I began in 1978, I could name all of my great-grandparents and 8 of my second great grandparents. I’ve come a long way, but at 28.27%, I have a long way to go. “Dream or a dud?” Finding any “mystery great” is always a dream.

Monday, September 3, 2012

My Top 10 Genealogical Finds

Over the years, I’ve had some interesting discoveries about my family. A few years ago, I made a list of 25 things I learned through my own research. Recently, I stumbled on that list and decided to add to it and whittle it down to the top ten. While I first became interested in family history in 1968, I did not begin serious family research until 1978.

Some of the following broke down brick walls, while others were just plain interesting and added to the information I already knew about an individual. I have listed these discoveries in descending order in importance. Much like Billboard magazine has a Hot 100 chart, my Famboard list has my personal “Hot 10.”

1. There are three branches of my Owston surname that cannot be satisfactorily connected back to the 1500s by traditional methods; however, Y-DNA testing indicates that all three lines share a common patrilineal ancestor.

East Riding of Yorkshire - home of the Owston families.
Four of the participants (two from the Ganton family and one each from the Sherburn and Thornholme families) have 100% matches. Six other participants also had significant matches to these four individuals.  Our I1 haplogroup is a possible indication that we have Viking forebears which is consistent with the Old Norse prefix in our surname.
2. William Owston, my third great-grandfather who was master on the flagship HMS Superb in 1815, was presented to Napoleon as one of the ship's officers. This occurred when the emperor surrendered to the Channel Fleet and was presented to Admiral Henry Hotham in July of that year.

Napoleon on the HMS Bellerophon in July 1815
Although this discovery began as family legend, historical sources confirmed that it was valid. According to the ship’s logs, Owston was in command of the vessel that day and Hotham’s memoirs corroborate that the wardroom officers had brunch with their esteemed guest. Additionally, Hotham was criticized by the Admiralty for offering military courtesies to an enemy of the Crown. Napoleon spent three hours on the Superb before returning to the HMS Bellerophon.
3. For years I was misinformed of my great-grandmother's name. I was always told that it was Alice Amy Champlain. Through her husband’s pension records, I found that she really was Amy Alice Champlin. Once I made this discovery, I was able to trace most of her lineage through the 1600s.

Patriot Marker at the Gardner-Bulkeley Cemetery, Bozrah, CT
Her ancestry includes at least four Revolutionary War patriots – of which I utilized my lineage to one (William Gardner of the 20th Connecticut Militia) to gain membership in the Sons of the American Revolution this year.
4. My Gardner ancestors (of which I have three lines that converge) can be traced to King Edward III of England as well as to 70+ other royals in his lineage. These royal ancestors ruled areas that encompass geographic regions of the modern countries of England, Scotland, France, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Ukraine, Italy, Germany, and Israel.

King Edward III of England
While many Europeans (perhaps most) probably have similar claims – it still seems interesting to have a traceable royal connection nonetheless.
5. My 7th great-grandfather George Owston became so interested in the Society of Friends, that he locked the door of the Church of England Parish Church (St. Hilda's) at Sherburn, Yorkshire. He absconded with the key and tied the bell so it could not be rung.

St. Hilda's Church prior to its 20th century restoration
Because of his actions, he was the subject of a visitation by the Archdeacon of the East Riding of Yorkshire in 1670. Five years later, George was buried under the floor of this same church.
6. My grandfather's half brother (Ross Milton Covalt) attempted to steal a woman's purse in Hancock, Maryland in 1908 while intoxicated. He was chased down by a Catholic priest who happened to have been a former golden gloves champ and a sprinter. The priest gave him quite the pounding. The Hancock police felt so sorry for Covalt that they sent him home to his mother in Pennsylvania and dropped the charges concluding that the priest's beating was sufficient enough punishment for the crime.

The Washington Herald, May 4, 1908
The story appeared in numerous newspapers across America where he was misidentified as Jackson Covalt also known as Jackson Brakeall.
7. The house that my 3rd great grandmother, Ann Elizabeth Rausch Völler Eichenauer, had owned and had deeded to her daughter Elizabeth Eichenauer Goebert, was lifted off of its foundation during the Johnstown Flood of 1889 and was moved approximately 175 yards down two streets without suffering any major structural damage or loss of life.

Movement of the Goebert Home during the Johnstown Flood.
It was later moved back to its original location. It is not known if any of their large family was in the home at the time the disaster struck.
8. My second great grandfather, George W. Staley, who served in Tennessee in the 62nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, had a questionable injury during the Civil War. Some of his fellow soldiers testified that the ax wound he received as a pioneer was intentionally self inflicted and not accidental as he claimed.

Grave at Independence-Butler Cemetery, Butler, OH
Not enough evidence was present to prove the allegations and the US government granted him pension despite the testimony of some members of the 62nd OVI. Over 40 years later, the wound festered and required his leg to be amputated. He died shortly thereafter.
9. My grandmother's first husband Timothy Dalton’s 1903 murder at the Hotel Victory in East McKeesport, Pennsylvania was precipitated by racial slurs and pop-bottles hailed at the assailant. John Walter Swingler (sometimes identified as Zwingler and Zwlinger) drew a revolver and fired two shots – one mortally wounding Dalton and the other wounding my double great uncle John Freemont Merriman.

Hotel Victory in East McKeesport, PA.
A capital murder charge was brought against Swingler; however, he was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Swingler was sentenced to 8 years in prison but the sentence was commuted to 5 years and 3 months for time served and good behavior. Swingler later returned to McKeesport and married. He is recorded as living with his brother Howard in the 1940 census. His wife Pearl predeceased him and they had no children.
10. My step-father's father, Axel Peter Akerberg, was thought as being the only one of his family born in the US. This was the understanding of my stepfather and apparently the understanding of his father as well. Census records and the World War I draft registrations list him as being a natural born American citizen.

Axel Akerberg and his wife Edith and son Charles circa 1905
Emigration records from Sweden, however, indicate that he was born there and traveled with his mother and brothers to the US when he was five months of age. His father had moved to the US earlier that same year.

These are the Top Ten genealogical discoveries I’ve made since beginning my journey as a family historian. I hope you found this as interesting as I had in making these personal discoveries.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Triangulating Autosomal DNA Data

One of the more difficult things with autosomal DNA testing is determining relationships with those you match. If you are an autosomal customer with 23andMe, FTDNA, and/or Ancestry, finding the relationship between you and your "declared cousin" often is an impossible task. Sometimes, however, you can get hints on a relationship based on location, listed surnames, or by triangulating the data with other known relatives.

Originally, the term triangulation was the estimation of distance or height by using the measurement of triangles – hence, the name "triangulation." In marine navigation, sextants were used to help triangulate positions of celestial bodies in reference to the horizon.

Triangulation in DNA analysis allows for an unknown to be measured along with constants to determine a possible relationship with another person. In this post, I was able to narrow down the possibilities of the relationship between me and a person that shares a particularly high percentage of DNA.

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a lady named Jan who recently shared genomes with me and my brother. Her match at 0.41% was the fifth highest match of those who were not my known family members. With my brother, her 0.44% match was his sixth highest match for non-family members.

When Jan contacted me about how we might be related, I went by a methodical process of elimination that helped in the triangulation process. Since I have only one living parent, I checked if Jan matched my mother. She did not; therefore, such a high match was relegated to my father’s side. In many cases, this is as far as it goes as there are no indications where on a particular side the connection occurs.

Since I’ve been particularly interested in my patrilineal line, I have had several relatives that have tested at the third cousin level and further distant. Not counting two individuals that have non paternity events within their lineage, I have five fourth cousins and a fourth cousin, once removed in this lineage. Since these folks are fairly distant, I am rarely able to triangulate relationships using these relatives.

I am, however, blessed in having several closer paternal relatives by which to ascertain from which set of great-grandparents from where I could trace the connection. These individuals include the following:

  • A half-cousin: George;
  • Two second cousins: Dick and Jodi;
  • A second cousin, once removed: Jerry;
  • A second cousin who is also a second cousin, once removed: Suzanne; and
  • A second cousin, twice removed who is a also third cousin, once removed: Craig.
Since, I know that Jan’s connection is on my paternal side, I began looking to see if she shared with any of the above. Of the six individuals, Jan shared with only one – Suzanne. Although it was fortunate that the share was at the same location on Chromosome 19, there was one problem. I share 100% of Suzanne’s paternal ancestry and she shares 75% of my paternal ancestry. The only paternal line we do not share was my surname lineage and its related lines. For the Day/Champlin lines, our grandmothers were sisters.

For the Merriman line, Suzanne's grandfather and my great-grandmother were siblings.

Unless other data were available, it looked like the match could be from most of my paternal lineage. I needed some way to eliminate either the Day/Champlin lineages of my grandmother or the Merriman line of my grandfather, his mother, and her forebears.

I began looking at others in our family to see if anything could be gleaned from Chromosome 19. With luck, we found a matching segment to a third party that was shared between my half-cousin George and my second cousin, once removed Jerry. Since they match on this segment, it had to be transmitted to George and Jerry via their common ancestors – the Day/Champlin lineages.

George received this segment from our common grandmother and Jerry from his great-grandmother, Lydia – my grandmother’s sister. We can also theorize the identity of the great-grandparent of mine from which this segment originates. Among the surnames listed for the matching individual is the name “Bulkeley.”

Interestingly enough, my great-grandmother has numerous family members buried in the “Gardner-Bulkeley Cemetery” in Bozrah, CT. While my great grandmother had three Gardner lines, we are uncertain how the Gardner families and the Bulkeley family were connected – but it appears that there may have been some other connection beyond sharing the cemetery name.

With the elimination of my grandmother’s lineage in the connection to Jan, we turn to Jan's shared segments with Suzanne, Chuck, and me – the Merriman family. While I know very little about some of the names contributing to this lineage, the names I do know are Merriman and Jones (my second great-grandmother’s maiden name).

While Merriman is an English surname, it does not appear to be the ancestry of my Merriman ancestors, as many secondary sources list the family as German in origin. According to these accounts, the family came from Germany and settled in Maryland prior to obtaining property in Allegheny County, PA around 1800. While the Merrimans are a large family, it is unfortunate that many of the maiden names of the women in this lineage are unknown.

Another person matching Jan and my family members on Chromosome 19 listed that her paternal great-grand parents were born in Germany and maternal lineage was Scandinavian. This would seem to indicate that our connection would be German in origin, as I have no recent Scandinavian ancestry. Others matching my brother and/or me at the same location also have some German ancestry. We know these matches are paternal, as my mother does not match any of these individuals. Since my second great-grandmother was Welsh, this would appear to eliminate her lineage and concentrate on the Merrimans and their allied families. Unfortunately, the records of the Merriman family prior to 1800 are scant.

We know that some of this family fought with Mad Anthony Wayne in the Indian Campaigns following the Revolution and they settled in Ohio Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania; however, beyond that, the details of this large family are largely unknown. There are also conflicting views on the number of Merriman patriarchs. Some genealogists believe that there was only one while others point to three brothers that sired this large family from western Allegheny County. While I was originally a proponent of the three brothers theory, other data have swayed me to consider a single patriarch view.

While we are no closer in finding Jan’s common ancestor with our family and she cannot pinpoint a specific lineage on her side, we were able to do the following:

  • Assume that the connection was German;
  • Narrow down the ancestry to my second great-grandfather’s family of Merriman and/or its associated lines;
  • Although not covered in the above, triangulation allowed us to determine that the paternal segments on Chromosome 19 for our brother John is from the Day lineage. Since John does not match Suzanne, me, or Chuck (Merriman) or George and Jerry (Champlin) on this segment, he would have inherited his paternal segment from my grandmother’s father. This may be helpful in determining future matches that he has at this location.
Was it an exercise in futility? No, not really, as it showed how testing varied family members can help in formulating a hypothesis of relationship. It also showed how difficult it is track relationships when little is known about a particular family. The moral of this exercise is that triangulation is easier when you have a larger pool of close relatives for which to compare results.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Genealogy by the Numbers: Confirming a Relationship with DNA

There have been few items in the genealogist’s toolbox that can demolish those ever present brick walls; however, one that I have learned to depend upon to help solve some puzzles is DNA analysis. To date, four personal genealogical brick walls have collapsed through the use of both Y-DNA and autosomal DNA testing. Some of these dead ends could not be settled with almost 35 years of traditional research as documentation did not exist.

Last week, autosomal DNA testing solved a mystery that I have been pondering since I discovered a relative at the Boston Public Library in 1988. Named Ruth Day, this woman could have been my father’s half-sister, first cousin through his Aunt Susie, or first cousin through his Aunt Lydia. While I had a theory on her relationship to my father, I could not confirm my suspicions until DNA analysis indicated a solution to this genealogical quandary. This was confirmed by the numbers in light of other family information.

By comparing the amount of autosomal DNA shared between relatives, it is possible to estimate a relationship. Recombination of autosomes occurs randomly; however, as the amount of DNA shared between individuals lessens, the ability to predict a relationship with some accuracy becomes more difficult. For those who have shared DNA with my own family at under 0.75%, some of the relationships are quite distant. Steve Mount has a blog post that explains this very well.

To date, I have been able to confirm only three heretofore unknown relationships – a seventh cousin; a double 9th cousin, once removed; and a 12th cousin, twice removed. These relationships are quite distant and some share more DNA with me than those with known relationships. So predicting at lower levels is a gamble, but predicting approximate relationships with a higher percentage of DNA is possible.

With that said, two individuals from an endogamous group (such as Ashkenazim) will have a higher shared percentage of DNA with more distant relationships. Even those with Colonial ancestry might have higher shared DNA percentages than indicated and that may explain the three distant relationships mentioned above as all three are related to me through my grandmother’s New England colonial ancestry.

Autosomal DNA Shared Between Close Cousins

With each generation, the average amount of shared DNA decreases by half; however, because recombination is random, this number is not exact. For example, I share at a less than average amount of DNA with one of my brothers – 41.00%. His son and I share only 14.90% of our DNA – a difference of 63.7% less than the preceding generation. With the range is outside of the normal range for a nephew, 23andMe calculates us as first cousins.

Add another generation with my daughters and the percentages tend to right themselves. My youngest daughter and her first cousin share 9.13% of their DNA – a difference of 38.7% from the preceding generation – indicating that a more than average amount of DNA was retained with this next generation – although lower than the average 12.5% estimated share. My other daughter shares 7.38% with her cousin, which is a very low share for a first cousin; however, she retained 50.5% of the DNA that her father and cousin shared.

Following a normal curve, statistically 68.2% of all matches should occur within ±1 standard deviation (σ) from the mean score. The following chart indicates the ranges of ±1 standard deviation from the mean for each degree of relationship from first to third cousins.

Since there are a variety of relationships that fall within these ranges, I have identified the percentages according to the degree of relationship between the two subjects. These are based on the civil definition of degrees of relationship which is calculated by adding the total distance from the common ancestors for both subjects. Half first cousins have the same civil degree of relationship (4) as full first cousins; however, the amount of DNA shared is less and appears to be the same as first cousins, once removed (a degree of relationship of 5).

 Relationship DNA Degree 
 of Relationship 
 First Cousin4
 First Cousin, Once Removed5
 Half Cousin*
 Second Cousin6
 First Cousin, Twice Removed
 Half Cousin, Once Removed*
 Second Cousin, Once Removed7
 First Cousin, Thrice Removed
 Half Second Cousin*
 Half Cousin, Twice Removed*
 Third Cousin8
 Second Cousin, Twice Removed
 Half Second Cousin, Once Removed* 
 Half Cousin, Thrice Removed* 

*half cousins have a degree of relationship one step higher; however, they share DNA with relationships of a lower degree.

Finding Ruth Day

During spring 1988, I took a marathon research trip that took me to Newark and East Orange, New Jersey; Boston, Massachusetts; Concord and Claremont, New Hampshire; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During that journey, I had the opportunity to visit the Boston Public Library and was able to find my great-grandfather (Thomas Day) in the soundex for the 1880 and 1900 census records for New London County, Connecticut.

In the 1900 census, I discovered that his household contained a nine-year old granddaughter named Ruth Day. This was the first time that I encountered this name and really didn’t know how she was Thomas’ granddaughter. Since Thomas had three daughters and no sons, there were three primary possibilities of how she could have been related to me.

Although I pondered this over the years, I didn’t think much about it until I visited the National Archives in July 2009. During this trip, I decided to have Thomas Day’s Civil War pension record pulled for a second look. I had accessed it in February 2000 and it provided me very critical information that helped me enlarge my family tree. While looking at the documents, I noticed that Ruth Day was utilized by her grandfather as a witness to his documentation. The final entry that she witnessed was on March 9, 1907. Her address was listed as being North Stonington, CT.

Not being able to find her under Ruth Day in the 1910 census, I assumed one of three scenarios: she had relocated, got married, or had died. I assumed that she must have married. I repeated my search to find a married woman by the name of Ruth who was born from 1889-1891 and who was living in North Stonington, CT.

Three possible married women named Ruth from New London County were returned in the search on Ancestry. While one lived in Lyme and another lived in East Lyme, the third was living in Stonington. Ruth Tillinghast, the wife of Walter B. Tillinghast, seemed like a prime suspect to be my Ruth Day. I searched her husband’s name and found him among the family trees posted on Ancestry with his wife “Ruth Day.” In addition, I learned about the story of their son Julius who, at the age of 4, was adopted out because his mother never bonded with him. Julius Tillinghast became J. Russell “Russ” Deckard.

Russ Deckard Chief Radio Officer, SS Evangeline, 1941, World War II

The tree was managed by Deckard’s son Gerald, and he included the transcript of the letter sent by Russ’ birth father to his adoptive father.
Mr. Deckard,
I had no trouble getting Mrs. Tillinghast to sign the paper. I saw her about an hour and she did not mention his name even how he was or where he was or who was to adopt him. It makes me feel bad the interest she has shown in him but it is God’s will. I believe he knows best. You need not worry about her ever trying to see him for she won’t know where he is or who has him. I myself feel bad to do this but think it is the best for him as his mother takes no interest in him. I shall not try to see him here after. I was in the insurance office at Westerly but they had sent my book Saturday morning to the city so you will have to go the insurance office here in the city have it changed for yourself for I may not get the book before I go away but if I do and have time I will make them fix the book and policy. The next premium will be due the 20th of May next as I paid it in advance yesterday 9 weeks. I would like it to have paid 1 year in advance but could not on account of money. I am to have no money for two months in Kavey (???) as they would hold one month back.

P.S. Mr. and Mrs. Deckard. I can never thank you enough for this kind and charitable deed you have done for me and mine and hope you people never have cause to regret it. I also hope you have no trouble to train him to your likes and dislikes.

I remain your respectfully Walter B. Tillinghast

Additional searching provided me further information regarding Ruth Day including her death at 45 in Rochester, Minnesota. I purchased her death certificate online and it arrived a few days later. Her tragic end was detailed by the attending physician. It appears that Ruth fractured her right femur during a fall in 1933. In late January 1935, she had a bone graft operation at the Mayo Clinic because the break was not joining together; however, she developed a pulmonary embolism following her operation and died. In time, her husband remarried.

Even though her approximate birth date and location were known, her birth did not appear to be registered. I could not be certain on which one of the Day sisters was Ruth’s mother. Although I knew more about her in 2009, my ability to determine the identity of her mother had not changed since I discovered her existence 21 years earlier.

Daughter of Susie Eva Day?

As I analyzed the data, her birth on December 22, 1890 at Gales Ferry, CT, and other data helped narrow the possibilities. It would be unlikely that she was Susie’s child, as Susie was married at the time and would have been pregnant with her second child Myrtle in December 1890.

Susie and John Merriman with their youngest child, Lawrence Raymond Merriman

Myrtle Merriman was born in May 1891. If Myrtle was premature, it is possible (but highly unlikely) that Susie could have given birth to both girls in that short period; however, there is also question regarding Ruth’s birth year. The 1900 census lists her being born in December 1890; she is also listed with the following ages on her last birthday during the following census: 1900 – 9, 1910 – 19, and 1920 – 29 – all corroborate an 1890 birth year.

The 1930 census and her death certificate, however, indicate she was born in 1891. If this were the case, her birth 7 months after Myrtle’s could be believable, but not very probable. With Ruth having the name of Day, it is another strike against her being Susie’s daughter as she was already married to John Merriman at the time of Ruth’s birth.

Daughter of Lora Gardner Day?

Although Susie could be eliminated by the virtue of her own pregnancy, this was not the case with the second daughter Lora – my grandmother. In my mind, she was eliminated because in 1904 she gave birth to the fifth of her sixth children and named this daughter as Ruth E. Dalton. While it is possible to have two or more children with the same name (ask George Foreman), it wasn’t very probable.

Lora with her youngest child: Charles Ellsworth Owston

Daughter of Lydia D. Day?

As far as I was concerned, Lydia, the youngest daughter of Thomas and Amy Day, was the best candidate for being Ruth Day’s mother. Lydia was born on September 10, 1875 and she would have been 15 years old when Ruth was born. Although younger than her sisters, circumstantial evidence pointed toward Lydia; however, I had no proof that she was the rightful mother of Ruth Day.

On Ruth’s death certificate, a mother isn’t listed; however, Thomas Day was listed as her father. A birth certificate for Ruth Day was not found at Ledyard which includes the village of Gales Ferry. Although Thomas Day is listed on the death certificate for Ruth, it does not appear that he was her actual father. In the 1900 census, she is listed as his granddaughter and in various documents in his Civil War pension file, she is not listed among his children.

Lydia (left) with sister Lora; identity of the baby is not known

Of the sisters, Lydia is the one of which I know the least. She was the first of the three to pass away (August 1931) and she is the only one of the three to divorce a husband. She married Frank Ernest Botham circa 1892. One child, Elmer Ernest Botham, was produced from the union in 1893. It is uncertain when she divorced, as in an affidavit dated April 14, 1898, her father lists her as Lydia Botham and that she was married. In the 1900 census, Frank Botham was listed as still being married and having been so for eight years – even though Lydia was married to someone else by then.

When she married William Henry Gorton in 1898, it appears that custody of her eldest son was retained by his father. The relationship she had, if any, with Elmer Botham is currently unknown; however, it appears to be negligible at best. He is not counted among her children in the 1900 and 1910 censuses. Four children were produced from her second marriage and included William H. Gorton, Jr. (1899), Henry Reynolds Gorton (1902), Mary Gorton (1904), and Elmore Gorton (1907). It appears that young Elmore died prior to the enumeration of the 1910 census.

Being the youngest child of Thomas and Amy Day, Lydia was not quite 13 years of age when her mother passed away. During her critical adolescent years, a mother’s influence was absent, and this may have had a profound effect on Lydia. If she were Ruth’s mother, her pregnancy occurred in less than two years from the time of her mother’s death.

Since the rearing of Ruth was consigned to her grandfather and Lydia’s child Elmer was raised by his father, it creates an interesting picture of Lydia’s psychosocial development. This same abandonment scenario appears to have occurred with Ruth and her son Julius and therefore, the behavior could be considered cyclic. That is, if Lydia was her mother – but neither Susie nor Lora had similar experiences with their children. In fact, Susie took in a grandchild and raised him as her own.

Unfortunately, psychosocial similarities are not accepted proofs of descent. Without a birth certificate to prove Ruth Day’s maternity, I was back to square one – I knew she was related but not how. In August 2009, I messaged Gerald Deckard through his Find A Grave account to attempt to make contact with this newly found cousin; however, he did not discover my message until January 2012. After a series of emails, we decided to try the autosomal DNA route to see if a specific relationship might be confirmed.

Shared DNA Segments

By using induction, we should be able to confirm the relationship between Gerald and others who are descended from Thomas Wesley Day and Amy Alice Champlin. The amount of shared DNA among the subjects should be indicative of their relationships. In addition, the percentage of shared DNA should fall within ±1 standard deviation of the statistical mean for that relationship.

Although I do not have contact with any known descendants of Lydia, we do have DNA results from seven descendants of Lora and two descendants of Susie. For the purpose of this analysis, we will consider the five closest matches. If Ruth were the child of Susie or Lora, then the relationship between Gerald and the appropriate subject would be that of a half cousin, once removed.

The amount of DNA shared by half cousins, once removed would average at 3.13%. The range within ±1 standard deviation would be 2.06% to 4.20 %. Extending that range to ±2 standard deviations would increase the range from 1.63% to 4.62%. Theoretically, 95.4% of all matches within this close relationship should fall within this range. Even at ±3 standard deviations, the percentage shared ranges expand to 1.57% to 4.69%. Nearly all matches (99.7%) would fall within ±3 standard deviations.

If Ruth were descended from Lydia, Gerald’s relationship with the others would be diminished to that of a second cousin, once removed. The amount shared for this relationship averages at 1.56%. The ranges for this relationship would be 1.03% to 2.10% ±1 standard deviation and a range of 0.82% to 2.30% with ±2 standard deviations.

Subject Grandmother  Amount of 
 Shared DNA 
 Jim Lora1.47%
 Chuck Lora1.29%
 Suzanne Susie1.17%
 George Lora1.15%
 John Lora0.92%

Although more samples from Susie’s line at the grandchild level and samples from Lydia’s known descendants (if any exist) would have been optimum in confirming Ruth Day’s maternal ancestry; however, by combining the information we currently know with the amounts of shared DNA, we may be able to infer that Ruth’s mother was Lydia.

Four of the five subjects are grandchildren from Lora and three of these subjects' results fall within ±1 standard deviation. A fourth, John, falls within ±2 standard deviations. There are enough samples here to confirm that Ruth Day was not the daughter of Lora Gardner Day and that her own daughter Ruth E. Dalton was probably named for this cousin.

As for Susie’s descendants, we only have one sample from a grandchild; however, since that number falls within ±1 standard deviation for a second cousin, once removed; it is likely that the suspected relationship is accurate. Suzanne falls completely outside of the realm of a half-cousin, once removed even with ±3 standard deviations from the mean for the higher relationship. Even if she were an outlier, it would be expected that that the numbers would be higher for a supposed closer relationship. Two of Lora's grandchildren have higher results.

As mentioned earlier, there are four other individuals that have been tested at 23andMe from this family: three great-grandchildren of Lora and a second great-grandson of Susie. The descendents of Lora should be related to Gerald as third cousins and Susie’s great-great-grandson, Craig, should have a relationship as a third cousin, once removed.

 Subject  Ancestor  Amount of
 Shared DNA 
 Kristen Lora0.63%

As more distance is placed within a specific relationship, it is my experience is that it becomes more difficult to predict the suspected relationship. The average estimated DNA shared at the third cousin level is 0.78% while a third cousin, once removed would be 0.39%. It is also estimated that only 90% of third cousins will have shared DNA. That percentage drops to 0.45% at the fourth cousin level.

In the case of these family members, Michael shared no DNA with his suspected third cousin – but among the previous generation, Michael’s father had the least amount of DNA shared with Gerald. Lora and Kristen both fell within a ±1 standard deviation; however, Craig shared nearly twice as much for a third cousin, once removed. His results appear to be like that of a third cousin. He also has five shared segments.


Although Craig’s unusually large match might implicate Susie as Ruth Day’s mother, other factors include the amount of DNA shared between Suzanne and Gerald and Susie’s pregnancy with Myrtle that overlaps the birth of Ruth.  This evidence appears to eliminate the slightest possibility that Susie was Ruth’s mother.

With four grandchildren of Lora sharing with Gerald at a relationship consistent with second cousins, once removed, she is eliminated by virtue of the lower numbers. The fact she also had named her daughter Ruth in 1904 adds weight to this argument.

Although samples from Lydia’s line and additional samples from Susie’s grandchildren would provide further data and make the case stronger, I believe by combining the circumstantial evidence with the amount of DNA shared suggests that Lydia was Ruth Day’s mother. I have always assumed this, but had an inability to confirm my hypothesis.

DNA analysis in this regard helped break down a brick wall in our family tree; however, enough other data was present to lead to this confirmation. Some close DNA matches, however, may not be able to suggest a relationship without the presence of other data. A suggested relationship by the numbers, however, may provide an impetus to look for the relationship in the correct direction; and thus, shared DNA can add to the body of genealogical evidence in determining one’s relationship with another individual.