Friday, June 29, 2012

Genes Day Friday - Everything I ever wanted and more

I got some great news this week - the results for my Joseph cousin's autosomal DNA test came in! This was kind of a moment of truth for me - it was the first time I'd asked a relative more distant than a grandparent to take a DNA test, and I was hoping to prove the relationship we'd already documented on paper - that this relative was, in fact, my paternal grandfather's 2nd cousin. According to CeCe Moore, 2nd cousins share roughly 3.125% of their DNA. This would be my biggest match yet - even the cousin that helped me find so much data on my paternal grandmother's Zitzmann line only shared 0.77% of my grandma's DNA over four segments. When I went online to check this cousin's results, the percentages weren't available yet. So I trucked on over to the Family Inheritance: Advanced tool, to get an idea of how much DNA was shared in terms of how many segments and how long they were in cMs. When I saw the results, I was so happy I literally started shouting - nine segments, with a total match of 256 cMs! I knew right then that I had found everything I had hoped to find in this test - great big stretches of Joseph family DNA!! One of the segments was over 68 cM! Two of the segments were less than 10 cM, but the rest were either in the teens, or 49 or higher. The really amazing thing is I can now place these segments of DNA not only in my grandpa's genome, but in the genomes of his mother (Augusta Joseph), her father (Samuel Joseph), and his parents (Ludwig Joseph and Justine Witt). Not only that, they are also found in my grandpa's cousin, her father, and her grandfather, who was one of Samuel's brothers. Six descendants of the same couple, all with the same DNA!

A couple days later, the full results were in, allowing me to see all of this cousin's Relative Finder matches, including my grandpa. According to the Relative Finder, my grandpa and his 2nd cousin share 3.41% of their DNA - in other words, just the right amount for 2nd cousins! I didn't doubt the paper trail that I'd put together with the help of Jim Joseph, Pegge Marjamaa, my parents, and others. But seeing the DNA test confirm what we'd found was just so satisfying, I can't put it in words.

One thing that I'm looking forward to doing now is finding matches that match both my grandpa and his 2nd cousin in those shared segments. From what I understand, that means they'd have to be relatives of either Ludwig Joseph or Justine Witt (I don't have a way of breaking out which one, until I find a documented cousin related to just one of them, who shares one or more of the segments). It would be amazing to find other branches of the family tree out there, other Joseph/Witt descendants, who are researching their tree as well.

On a related note, my maternal grandma's cousin has received, completed, and submitted her autosomal DNA test! I'm still waiting for word from 23andMe that they've received it, after which it'll be another 2-3 weeks before her results come in. I'm eagerly awaiting these results as well - I'm really hoping to find some Native American DNA, proving that our common ancestor, Lisette Rainier, actually was a Native American. This cousin is one generation further removed from Lisette than my grandma (Lisette is her great-great-grandmother), butt 23andMe says they can find Indian DNA going up to five generations back, and this cousin is only four generations removed. It'll be very interesting to see what story her DNA tells. Of course, if I could find a direct maternal descendant of Lisette's (daughter to daughter to daughter link) that would be willing, I'd like to have her take an mtDNA test, just to see where Lisette's mtDNA haplogroup is from. That would be pretty telling as well.

I've still got autosomal resutls for my mom and maternal grandma I need to do more with. But these breakthroughs on my paternal grandparents' sides are just phenomenal and I can't get myself to stop pulling at these threads until they dead end. Why just today, a contributor to the German-Bohemian mailing list I'm on (who has been kind enough to transcribe some of the birth and marriage records for my Zitzmann family I've been finding), emailed me with the birth records for my 3rd-great-grandparents, Johann Zitzmann and Theresia Dorfler! I'd seen their marriage record, but now I have their birth records as well! Not only that, he's offered repeatedly to help me read and understand the records, as he knows I'm at a severe disadvantage in just trying to make out the letters, let alone get them translated. I'm still amazed that one DNA test has led to all of this knowledge and documents about my family's history in Bohemia (a place I have decidedly more interest in now than ever before).

On top of that, I went back to the Family History Center last weekend to see if I could get some more Joseph records out of the microfilms I ordered. Sadly, the scanner was broken, but I did have my phone with me, and I got some pretty good digital images of some records I think may be of relatives of mine. One record was for a known relative - the birth record of Gottlieb Joseph, my great-great-grandfather Samuel Joseph's oldest brother. The records are in Polish, so the record gives his name as Bogumil Jozef. The name Bogumil threw me, and I wondered if this were the same person as my Gottlieb, even though the date (1862) and place (Kepa Kikolska) matched other documents I'd found of Gottlieb. I went to the SGGEE site for help in understand Polish names, and was surprised to see that Bogumil was the Polish equivalent of Theophilus. How could Bogumil, Theophilus, and Gottlieb all be the same name? Then it hit me - Theophilus is Greek for 'friend of God', from Theo - God, and philia - love (like brotherly love). Gottlieb means the same thing! Gott - God, and lieb - love. They literally translated his name from the Greek Theophilus, to German Gottlieb, to Polish Bogumil - Bóg - God, and miłość - love. (For the sake of honesty and full disclosure, I just now looked up the Polish words. But I did know the German and Greek!).

Anyways, things are going better than ever. I have more discoveries than I can shake a stick at, more geography and history and politics and religious jurisdictions to learn about, and more DNA results still to come - aside from the afore mentioned maternal grandma's cousin, I've got mtDNA results pending for my dad, paternal grandpa, and maternal grandma. My grandma and grandpa's results could be ready next week! My dad's probably won't come in until the end of July sometime. But that will give me time to (hopefully) digest some of all this crazy goodness I've found, and organize myself somehow so I can do more with the DNA results I've already got. I know, not likely to happen in just 3 weeks, but I'm sure gonna try!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Genes Day Friday - Swamped

Hard to believe it's already been a week since I was at Jamboree. Things haven't slowed down an inch since then, and have actually gotten crazier. I may not have time today for a full update on my genetic genealogy journey, but here are some quick highlights:

1. I got to attend a whole bunch of DNA-related classes at Jamboree, including Megan Smolenyak's forensic genealogy, Drew Smith's DNA 102, and my personal favorite, the ISOGG meeting. Megan didn't really touch on DNA a whole lot in her class, but in my mind it's so connected to working with the living that I just automatically assume it's part of the toolbox a forensic genealogist would use. Drew Smith's class was great because he actually showed us his Y-DNA test results, and how he used and interpreted them (which is something I'm still struggling with on my Y-DNA results). The ISOGG meeting was the best in my mind, because it was more like a forum - there were four panelists, CeCe Moore, Katherine Borges, Michael MacPherson, and Bennett Greenspan. All of them are experts in various parts of the DNA/genetic genealogy field, and it was a treat to be able to meet them and ask them questions. I realized that one of my goals in doing genetic genealogy is to take the data 23andMe and FTDNA give me, and to be able to assign specific DNA segments to my ancestors, from my parents on back as far as I can work it out. I'd like to be able to start this process with my maternal grandfather, who passed away before I was born. I've had my grandma and mom both take autosomal DNA tests, so by comparing their DNA, I should be able to work out which parts of mom's DNA came from her dad. Of course, I still need to test my aunt and uncle to get a truer picture of what his DNA looked like. I'd love to be able to upload a family tree and assign that data to him, and from there (as I find connections and cousins) to assign those segments to his ancestors. Maybe it's a pipe dream, but it's MY pipe dream, and I WILL get there!

2. While I was at Jamboree, I got to talk to CeCe Moore and a bunch of folks from 23andMe, including Michael MacPherson, who designed a lot of the web features 23andMe uses. It was great to just sit there and pick their brains and get answers to the questions I've had over the last couple months. CeCe was so nice, introducing me to everyone at the 23andMe booth, and making sure I signed up for 23andMe's beta test of their new website features.

3. That's the next cool thing - 23andMe is upgrading their website, adding some seriously awesome features. The Ancestry Painting is going to be more detailed, you can see a map of where your Relative Finder matches are located, and you'll be able to sort your Relative Finder matches by haplogroup, predicted relationship, and lots of other categories. Plus you'll be able to upload a gedcom file of your pedigree! I specifically asked Mike MacPherson about this in the ISOGG meeting, about whether we'll eventually be able to link specific DNA segments to people in our pedigree, and he said that's the direction it's moving. I'm sure there's tons of programming hurdles to overcome before we get to that point, but knowing that it's going to eventually be possible is awesome.

4. You may have noticed the 23andMe banner off to the right there. That's there because - I'm now a 23andMe affiliate! Having used their services for a few months, and especially after getting to meet some of their staff, I'm happy to encourage people to go to them for DNA testing. I'll get a small commission off every sale that's done through my link, so please - help support a poor wannabe genetic genealogist and buy from me! Guess I'll have to start paying attention to how bloggers have to make disclosures about stuff like that from now on. But affiliate status aside, I'm not a fan of hyping one DNA testing company over another. I've had tests done at FTDNA as well, and they've been super helpful in responding to my emails and answering questions. Plus it was great hearing from FTDNA's founder Bennett Greenspan himself about how and why he started FTDNA. Hearing about his passion for genealogy, I'm a bigger fan than ever of testing at more than one company. To me, it's like using and FamilySearch. They each have their own strengths, and resources that the other doesn't. Why would you choose to not use just because they aren't FamilySearch?

5. A cousin of my maternal grandma has agreed to take a DNA test as well, to see if we can't find any American Indian DNA on her side of the family. I really appreciate her being willing to do that, and look forward to seeing what her test reveals about our common ancestry.

6. My Joseph cousin's test has been received at 23andMe and is in processing. Just a couple more weeks, and I'll (hopefully) have some big ole chunks of Joseph DNA identified!

7. I still need to buckle down and really go through the GedMatch results for the four tests I have so far. If I could only find that elusive 25th hour of the day...

I think that about sums up all the DNA news for the week. If I was only doing DNA, that'd be enough to keep me busy. But, of course, it's not all I'm doing. I'm still trying to slog my way through my old family files, download the church records for my Zitzmann ancestors in Rosshaupt and analyze and organize the details so I can show my grandma all about her grandma's family, get some records on my Joseph relatives transcribed and translated (just got these this week from some microfilms I ordered from the FHL, and they're in Polish), and find a useful place (hopefully NOT the garage) for all the genealogy-related books I bought at Jamboree, and maybe even finish reading DNA and Social Networking (only 25 pages to go!). WHEW! Now that's what I call a to-do list!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Mike Sitzman, the deer hunter

This is a photo of my 2nd-great-granduncle Sebastian "Mike" Sitzman/Zitzmann. He lived like a true woodsman - he had a log cabin in Divide, Montana, and was (apparently) a very successful hunter. He was born in Rosshaupt, Czech Republic, immigrated to the US in 1891, and died in Montana on 9 July 1945.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Genes Day Friday - A MAJOR and I mean MAJOR breakthrough!

When my great-great-grandmother Mary Sitzman emigrated from Europe, she told her daughters Mary and Rose to stop speaking German and learn English, and to say nothing about the old country. They were basically told to forget everything about where they had come from and never speak of it to anyone. Mary's blackout was so effective that my grandmother was literally told nothing of her mother and grandmother's old homeland. It was as if everything on the chalkboard was erased, the teacher was fired, and the school was closed.

Until this week.

I received an email this week from one of the matches to my grandmother's autosomal DNA test. This cousin said he had ancestry from Rosshaupt, the same tiny German village, now located in the Czech Republic, where Mary and her daughters hailed from. I told him what little I knew - that Mary and her siblings Barbara, Rose, Franz, Sebastian, and Josef had emigrated in waves from 1883 to 1906, that her marriage and death certificates said her parents' names were John Sitzman and Theresa Doffler, and that (according to the immigration records I'd found), the surname was originally spelled Zitzmann.
Using those few details, this cousin looked into the church records posted on, a site which has the church records of many cities surrounding and including Rosshaupt. I have never seen this site before (probably because it's all written in German and Czech, neither of which I know). He quickly found the marriage record for Johan Zitzmann and Theresia Doerfler in 1865, which is just about the time when their oldest known daughter Barbara was born! Not only that, he also found mention of Josef Zitzmann in a book written by an old resident of Rosshaupt, giving the house number he lived in, and stating that Josef had left for America in 1906, the same year my Josef Zitzmann landed at Ellis Island! The match of all these details in time and place seemed too exact to be coincidence - this was my family!

Marriage record for Johan Zitzmann and Theresia Dorfler

This generous cousin has continued to comb through the online records, and has turned up many more marriage and birth records, some apparently going back to the late 1700s! Not only that, he's been giving me details of the political and religious history of the area, and explaining the details of what exactly is recorded in the records. After downloading a few of the records myself, I asked for help from the German-Bohemian mailing list in transcribing them. A very helpful professor has voluntarily gone searching for MORE records, transcribing them, and translating them! All of this has brought many new family names to light - Meyer, Daglmann, Herrmann, Seitz, and others. I can hardly beleive all the information I'm being flooded with!

Back when I started researching my family history 12 years ago, I figured that Mary Sitzman's line would be the one brick wall we'd never be able to break through. How could we, when she committed all those who knew anything to complete silence for their entire lives? However, through miracle of DNA testing, the location of a few key records, and the assistance of some VERY generous and helpful people, that brick wall has not only cracked, in many places that wall is GONE. I'm sure I'll be stumped on a few people on the other side of the wall (I still haven't yet found anything on Mary's husband and father of her two girls yet, for example) but now I know that even seemingly unsolvable mysteries can be solved.

In short - school is back in session!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Genes Day Friday - What to do?

Ok, now I'm starting to feel way over my head. My mom's results came in this past Tuesday (yay!!) and when the Relative Finder results came back, her matches totalled - 15. Not 1500, just 15. Needless to say, I was quite disappointed. Her mother's test yielded over 600 matches. How could most of those not match her daughter? Did the DNA get chopped up that badly in transmission? I reached out to most of the contacts, asking to compare notes, and moved on to other things (like uploading the data to Gedmatch, and looking over the ancestry painting and ancestry finding features). One thing immediately stood out - mom had no identifiable Native American DNA either. Makes me wonder if Lisette Rainier (the Indian ancestor) really was Indian after all. I mean, we know so little about her background - she somehow had a French name, and she had some connection with two younger boys, Joseph and Charles Rainier, who were possibly younger brothers or sons. There's a family story that she lived in Utah for a time, and even lived in the home of one of the Mormon pioneers. Is it possible she wasn't Native American at all? She was considered NA, and treated NA, but doesn't mean that she was genetically  NA. This is just speculation on my part, no proof of anything yet. But it does make me wonder.
One thing that wasn't much of a surprise, but still very gratifying to see, was mom's number one country match in Ancestry Finder - Norway. I've known for a long time mom has a lot of Norwegian ancestry, and it's great to see that DNA confirms it. I've been contacted by some of the Norwegian connections, though we have yet to compare family trees or anything yet. Things are looking up though!
I also spent some time this week looking at my grandfather's Y-DNA results. I was pretty surprised that FTDNA didn't email me when the results were ready for viewing (and they still haven't emailed; looks like they're not going to). I quickly looked to see if I had any close matches at FTDNA - nope. Ok, I thought, I'll try Y Search. Close matches there - none. Hrmm...I read that Y-base had been acquired by FTDNA, so their results were likely already incorporated in my first search there. I next tried SMGF, hoping that I would have at least one perfect match there, since I had donated my own DNA via a blood sample over 10 years ago when I was in college. When I hit search, I found my match! Except that it was one value off. I was a 26/27 match for my grandfather. Did that mean my dad or I had introduced a mutation into the Gibson Y-DNA? Wanting to confirm this, I went over to GeneTree (since they have all of SMGF's data and some of their own) and uploaded my grandpa's data there. I found my data there as well, but this time it was a perfect match, 33/33. What was going on? How could I be a 26/27 and  a 33/33 for the same person in the same database? I sent an email to the DNA Newbie list, and Dr. Ann Turner found the solution - I had used the wrong lab standard (NIST, instead of FTDNA). Once I fixed that, I redid the search and saw that I was indeed a perfect match for my grandpa. Guess I'm not a mutant after all (on that line, at least).

Sadly, I remain the only match I've found so far for my grandpa's Y-DNA. I'm still waiting for my results to appear in the Gibson surname project at FTDNA I joined before ordering the test. Maybe I'll have a close match there.

My Joseph cousin got his aunt (his dad's sister, so my grandpa's 2nd cousin) to take my last autosomal DNA test this week, and he graciously paid for the extra shipping from Canada. I'm excited to see what that test tells me about her connection to my grandpa. I am hoping to identify some Joseph DNA from this match, which will help in identifying any other cousins who share the same segments. That's probably going to be about a month before those results come in though, so I've got some time.
Which is good, because I'm kind of starting to feel swamped. I've got four atDNA profiles to manage; four sets of Gedmatch results to sort through, find close connections with, and reach out to; one Y-DNA test to search for data on (probably need to order a deep clade test to see what subclade my Gibson line belongs to); and results pending for 3 mtDNA and an additional atDNA test. Yikes!! What have I gotten myself into? I'm not complaining by any means - I love this stuff, and I'm entertained, enthralled, and entranced by all that I'm learning. I think I've just bitten off more than I can chew very easily. Do I pick one person and focus my DNA research on them? Or do I try to wade a little bit into each person's data? I'm tempted to do the latter, but don't want to confuse the contacts I'm making with each DNA test group. If anyone has a suggestion on how I should proceed, please share it!

In the meantime, I'm working on compiling lists of all the matches for each test, then sorting by who is apparently the closest match. I'll start contacting those at the top and work my way down, maybe 5 at a time for each test or something. I've reached out to a couple of my grandpa's matches, and already have 3 people responding. MUCH better results than 23andMe, where I sent out literally hundreds of contact requests and got maybe a dozen responses. I think it's because the two sites have different audiences - Gedmatch seems geared towards those really interested in researching their family history, while 23andMe also includes those who have an interest in disease history, medical research, etc. So while I will still try working the genealogy side of 23andMe, it looks like spending more of my efforts at Gedmatch will pay dividends quicker.

One more thing DNA-related - I'm going to Jamboree next week! There's going to be all kinds of classes on DNA, including some taught by Steve Morse, and even Bennett Greenspan, the president of 23andMe! I also bet that 23andMe will have a booth at the exhibit hall, and plan on spending some time there picking their brains. If only I can think up some intelligent-sounding questions...

Well, that's where things stand for now. Just need to take some time, wrap my brain around the results I've got, and set about finding some relatives that I actually have a connection I can prove on paper. Once I work out how that process works, I'll at least have a model to work from in repeating the process.