So, You Took a DNA Test?

Several of my friends and relatives have taken or are going to be taking a DNA test, either for the kicks of seeing their ethnicity results, or to track down long lost relatives. I am by zero means an expert of genetic genealogy or DNA testing, but I have learned a thing or two by being moderately obsessed with diligent about learning different tricks. I’d like to share a few suggestions for getting the most out of your test.

Remember, your ethnicity results are estimates. Depending on which company you tested with, the results might even change over time. Remember that DNA reaches betweeen 500-1000 years back in history. You’ll get info that describes regions, not political boundaries. You might think of those ancestors as sitting tight in one area. (Some did, like my maternal Grandmother’s family, and did nothing but intermarry with the neighbors for nine generations. That’s called endogamy.) But a lot of those people moved around a lot more than you might expect.

Don’t be alarmed if your ethnicity results are quite different from your siblings’. Imagine a bowl of marbles: your mom’s genes and your dad’s genes. For each child, half of the selection comes from mom’s, half from dad’s. But which pieces are chosen are very random. If Mom is 25% French, 25% Russian, 25% Nigerian and 25% Icelandic, you might get all her French, some Icelandic and Nigerian, and no Russian. If Dad is 50% French and 50% Norweigan, you could still end up with only 5% French, just by the luck of the draw, while your sib might have a completely different mix, and match to completely different relatives.

Be prepared for some surprises. These surprises can include learning at a late stage in life that you were adopted, that your father isn’t who you expect, or that you have siblings you didn’t know about. If you are a man, it could include finding a child you didn’t know existed. I belong to a great Facebook group called DNA Detectives, and I read stories every single day of this type of thing happening.

CREATE AND SHARE A BASIC TREE! Sorry for shouting that point, but it is really important to anyone who is searching for someone, and finds that they connect to you. Each of the companies gives you the ability to post a basic to a complex tree. I encourage you to post your direct line of ancestors as far back as you know. If you want me to, especially if we are related, send me a message and I’ll crank a GEDCOM out for you from my program. I find data entry relaxing, so I’m happy to build a tree for those who want something they can upload without typing much.

There are so many places to upload your results! I’d encourage you to try all of them! WHY? Well, if you are all about those ethnicity numbers, it is interesting to have a few second opinions to see what everyone agrees on. And, you might be a missing link that will solve another’s genealogy mystery, or help them get closer to a solution. You might also get back in touch with a relative you haven’t seen in ages.

Here are most of the better-known free sites: — More matches from other companies. Tools to get a second opinion about ethnicity admixtures. — Like the original GEDMATCH, but has a lot of 23&Me tests, since the original GEDMATCH can no longer support uploads from that company. — Help breast cancer research by uploading here and taking a few quick surveys. I really like the ethnicity tool here.

Geni — Specifically you can go here to upload your DNA to be matched with more people. You can add a tree on this site and search for your ancestors.

MyHeritage — You will probably find LOTS more matches at this site. I find quite a few non-Americans here, if you are looking for folks of that persuasion. I would take these ethnicity results with a small grain of salt, though.

Family Tree DNA — This is the company I tested with, but if you tested at Ancestry, you ca upload to this site for free, and I think it is another $20 to use the comparison tools (or, just use GEDMATCH).

WikiTree — A giant, collaborative tree on which you can control your own family data, and see if you can connect onto the larger tree. You can also upload DNA.

RootsfinderRootsfinder — I have just signed up for this and haven’t even used it yet.

There is also DNA Painter, which isn’t so much about uploading your info as it is about sorting out your matches, especially if you have a few cousins that you can indentify.


There are also lots of great tutorials on how to use some of the basics like GEDMATCH. Just Google “How to use GEDMATCH,” and you’ll have more info than you want 🙂

Feel free to ask anything you like. These sites do present a bit of a learning curve, and at first all the numbers and names are nothing but bewildering. With a bit of perseverence, it starts to make sense.

Published in: on March 21, 2018 at 10:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Danish Mystery, Solved

Happened to click on this blog and realized I didn’t finish the story I started.

So, apparently my great-grandmother was not adopted after all. That handwritten information I’d found (Caroline Petersen — Peter Rasmussen, Brunk, step-father), it turns out, actually was meaning to convey that Caroline’s father, Peder Rasmussen, was raised by a step-father, because his own father (Rasmus Rasmussen) died a few months before Peder was born. This step father (Peder Hendriksen) sometimes used the appended surname “Brunk” (or Brink, or Braun, as it has been variously passed down). Thus, “Brunk, step-father” did not refer to my great-grandmother’s step-father at all, because she never had one.

Lesson: never presume you understand what a written record supposedly clearly says.

Published in: on November 28, 2017 at 3:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Danish Puzzle Part Three: Marriage Record? What??

Ok, now I find this:

Rasmussen Hansen marriage

So… my great-grandmother’s supposed step-father was actually married to her mother?

Published in: on August 12, 2017 at 3:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

Danish Puzzle Part Two: Dorte Hansen

And then, my mysterious great-great grandmother has the decency to pop up right quick, with the correct birth date, parents’ names, and everything.

Ane Dorthe Hansen birth

And on these two pages, there is an Ane Dorthe Hansen in the 1860 census, servant on a large farm. There just so happens to be a Peter Rasmussen of the correct age working on the same farm. Hmmm.

Ane Dorthe Hansen 1860 census page one.png

Ane Dorthe Hansen 1860 census page two

(I cut out a few of the workers that I couldn’t fit between the two pages.)

It also appears, from the records, that Ane Dorthe had a sister named Sidsel Marie Hansen who was baptized on the same day as she. Were they twins? When I go to the filmed records in the Danish Archives, neither one is shown in the Vestenskov records. I am suspicious, though, because it appears that every child baptized in that parish for at least 18 months was a boy. Are there separate registries for boys and girls? Am I missing something in the translation?

Published in: on August 9, 2017 at 4:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Danish Puzzle – Part One: Peter Rasmussen

These are notes as I try to work out the actual parentage of my great-grandmother.

Handwritten notes passed down to me note this:
Moa: Karoline Petersen Hansen (June 7, 1870 – July 28, 1946)

Father: Peter Rasmussen (Brunk) (StepFather) born 2/13/1836, died 2/24/1900

Mother: Dorte Hansen, born 6/16/1839, Died 8/31/1909.

An IGI Individual Record I printed from on 4/21/2004 gives this information: Peder Rasmussen Brink, birth: about 1836, Vestenskov, Maribo, Denmark. Death: 24 Dec., 1900. Father: Rasmus Rasmussen; Mother: Margrethe Pedersen.

This is a marriage record of a Peder Rasmussen, born Feb. 14, 1836 and Pouline Larsen, b. 15 Sept. 1840:

Peder Rasmussen marriage record 1865

This is the record I have thought was my great-grandmother’s adoptive family in the 1880 census, but her age is not exact and Peter Rasmussen’s age is not exact. Neither is she Karoline Petersen:
1880 census with Caroline Rasmussen

The Peder Rasmussen and Hanne Christine Mortensen of this census record were married in Hunseby, Maribo on June 8, 1856, according to records. So it appears clear that these are two seperate Peder Rasmussens.

The second entry here is a baptismal record for Karoline Kirsten Rasmussen. (Her middle initial in her obit was C., but her name was also written Caroline. On more than one handwritten sheet of family records, “Caroline” was crossed out and replaced with “Karoline.”) The dates do not match her reported birth date.
Karoline Kirsten Rasmussen baptismal record.png


For the moment I am going to leave this as a pile of thoughts. Whoever this Peter Rasmussen may be, it seems agreed by all sources that he is NOT the birth father of Karoline Petersen.



Published in: on August 9, 2017 at 1:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Remote Verveelen History

These are links to interesting European research into Verveelen ancestry by John Blythe Dobson:

The ver Veelen Family in Cologne and Amsterdam

The Eelhout Family

This article on the Verveelens incorporates the information gleaned from the marriage bans that I helped Peter Vanvalen of Australia uncover in 2002! (See post on Marriage Banns)

The Chatfield family

Published in: on May 16, 2017 at 10:07 am  Leave a Comment  

My Posts on Ancestry/Rootsweb have become useless!

If anyone is searching for on Ancestry or Rootsweb, that’s me. That was my old email address from 15 years ago, and I have not discovered a good way to transfer all my posts to my new, working email. I’m hoping this post will help the desperate researcher.

I am not an Ancestry member, so searching that way won’t help. But many years ago I posted a bajillion things on Rootsweb, questions as well as resource offers. I don’t spend much time on genealogy any more, but I’d hate for someone with a vital connection to be stuck with no way to contact me.

You can leave comments here, or email me at mom22miracles at gmail dot com.

Published in: on April 30, 2014 at 7:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Some Military Registration forms — Van Valins

Henry Albert and Paul Oliver are brothers, sons of Clarence and Anna Van Valin. George Oliver is their consin, son of Floriman and Elizabeth Van Valin.

Published in: on September 11, 2011 at 7:56 pm  Comments (1)  

Article from Reminisce Magazine featuring 1909 Van Valin photo

This article features my step-great-great grandmother, Emma Theodora Leonard Van Valin and her children, Merle, Jim, Florence, Harriett and Margie. These were step-siblings of my great-grandmother Carrie Van Valin Brown. The children of Emma (third wife of Wally Van Valin, who died in 1900) did not grow up with the children of Sally Adell Ellis, my great-great grandmother.

Published in: on September 3, 2011 at 7:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

World War I Military Registration Card

This belongs to Turner B. Hollenbeck (1875-1932), son of Emma Turner (1850-1933) and Frank Hollenbeck (1847-1912). His maternal grandparents are Levinah Van Valin (1820-?) (sister of my ancestor Oliver Van Valin) and Anson Turner (abt. 1815-?).

Published in: on September 3, 2011 at 3:43 pm  Leave a Comment