My Experience with DNA: Update
In 2019, for the week 15 prompt, I wrote about my experience with DNA testing and using the results for my genealogy research. I explained then that despite my high expectations the results have not been particularly useful.  I now have nearly 100,000 matches on Ancestry.com and 4000+ are considered 4th cousin, or closer. So far, I have broken down none of my brick walls. But, in the past year, I have had a couple of positive experiences with DNA connecting me with previously unknown cousins. And that has been fantastic.
In the Spring of 2020, MyHeritage.com sent an offer to upload my DNA data file to their site. I was not familiar with MyHeritage, but decided to give it a try in the hopes that someone’s family tree on the site might help me with my brick walls. I uploaded both mine and my mother’s DNA data files and very quickly I was contacted by two members. Both were very close matches and both were unexpected.
The first contact was from an individual who shares more than 350cM with me, but none with my mother. Match 1 told me they did not know their paternal ancestry, but knew from their results that was how we connected. From my experience, this amount of shared DNA suggests a 2nd cousin. Someone I share great grandparents with. But, once I found out Match 1 was half my age, I knew that was not a possibility. Instead, my paternal grandparents were Match 1’s great-great grandparents. Making Match 1 my first cousin, twice removed. Still, I was able to connect Match 1 to a long line of ancestors and many living relatives. A positive and unexpected connection thanks to DNA testing.
Although Match 2 shared just about 160cM with me, Match 2 shared nearly 550cM with my mother. Looking at the other shared matches, I knew Match 2 shared my mother’s paternal ancestry. Was this a half-first cousin perhaps? Again, once I discovered Match 2 was several years younger than me, I needed to re-access the possible relationship. Comparing notes we figured out Match 2 is the grandchild of a half-sibling of my mother’s. Making Match 2 my half-first cousin, once removed. My maternal grandfather had a child from an earlier marriage that we were unaware of and the same for Match 2. A surprise to all concerned. Sadly, my mother’s half-sibling passed away many years ago, but at least we have gotten to know their only grandchild, Match 2.
Neither Match 1 or Match 2 helped to resolve a genealogy brick wall, but I am very glad to have been discovered by both these cousins. And, this is a lesson to upload DNA files on multiple sites. You never know what you may discover, or who you may meet.
Ancestry DNA continues to modify their ethnicity calculator.  In 2016 I was 86% British Isles. Then, in 2019 I was 95% British Isles. Now, I’m 81% British Isles. This despite about half my immigrant ancestors coming from Germany. But, that’s how DNA works. What’s really odd, Ancestry now has me at 12% Norway. I’ve never found any immigrant ancestors from Norway. Could it be a clue to one of my brick walls?
FTDNA has also modified their ethnicity calculator.  In 2018 they had me as 54% west and central Europe and 33% British Isles. These results seemed somewhat consistent with my known ancestry. Now, FTDNA has me as 36% central Europe, 35% British Isles and 30% Scandinavian. Again, I have found no immigrant ancestors from Scandinavia.
The ethnicity analysis will probably continue to evolve. I doubt it will replace researching ancestors to discover documented origins. But, maybe I should look for possible ancestors from Scandinavia.
I have read about techniques I could use that may lead to breaking down my brick walls. However, it is still dependent on others having information about our common ancestor. One article suggests searching for matches who share the right amount of DNA to share the sought after common ancestor. Then, narrow the search by only considering matches who have the surname in their linked tree. I have not yet tried this technique, but plan to and will report back with any positive findings. In the meantime, I focus on matches with the most shared DNA and who have linked trees of more than 50 ancestors. If you tested with Ancestry, please link your tree and keep adding to it regularly! In the meantime, if I am one of your matches, I am happy to help break down your brick walls.
- Blog post, Family Finds: My Experience with DNA; https://barblafara.com/my-experience-with-dna/
- White paper: “Ethnicity Estimate 2020” by Catherine A Ball, et al.; publisher: Ancestry.com; https://www.ancestrycdn.com/dna/static/pdf/whitepapers/Ethnicity2020_white_paperV2.pdf
- Blog posts, Family Tree DNA: Multiple posts; Access online: https://learn.familytreedna.com/topics/family-finder-autosomal-testing/myorigins-family-finder-autosomal-testing/
Born Takeo Furukawa on 15 March 1883 in Tottori-Ken, Tokyo, Japan, little is documented of his early childhood. Family oral history stories say that the young Takeo experienced hunger, poverty and the loss of his family. Additionally, the stories tell of friendship, spiritual learning and scholarship.
My great grandfather, David Louis Osborne, lived at over 20 addresses around Indianapolis between 1876 and 1942. I thought it would be interesting to see all the old buildings and homes where he lived in my hometown of Indianapolis.
My great grandfather, David Louis Osborne (1848-1942), was a widower with two young sons in 1886 when he married Jennie Warbington (1857-1918) in Minneapolis on the 27th of May. I decided it was time to put sources to the story.
While working on a family photo project I decided it would be fun to compare side-by-side my father and his parents, at similar ages, to try and discover a family resemblance.
Jesse King was born in Ohio (probably in the vicinity of Chillicothe) in 1805, he was a son of Philip King and Mary Leah Wright, both of Pennsylvania. Philip King was a farmer, he married Leah Wright in 1801 in Somerset, PA, they had six children, of whom Jesse was the third.
A handwritten letter from Sarah Tucker Lafary to the then president of the United States, Grover Cleveland. It was her last appeal for a War of 1812 pension, sadly the pension was denied. The letter gives a glimpse of a woman who had no formal education, a poor farmers wife, then widow, mother of nine, she probably just wanted some independence through an income of her own.
52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 2: Challenge
So much about genealogy research is a challenge, perhaps the most common challenge is the ‘brick wall,’ meet Sarah Smith. 18?? – 1846
52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 3: Unusual Name
The surnames in my tree are typical of common western European names. However, the name that is unusual among these names is MY surname: LaFara.
52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 6: Surprise!
Just when you think you know everything about an ancestor, surprise! I thought I knew most everything about my paternal great grandfather David L. Osborne, 1848-1942.
For all of us who are procrastinating about labeling photos I have one thing to say, “Be considerate of the genealogist of the future!” My maternal grandmother was very good about labeling old family photos, and there is one, in particular, I found very informative.
52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 10: Bachelor Uncle
My uncles are the marrying kind, sometimes more than once!
I had to go back four generations for a bachelor uncle, my great-great-great uncle Conrad Rumple, 1833-1911.
Conrad was an older brother to my great-great grandfather on my matrilineal line, William Rumple, 1839-1912.
My great-great grandparents, George Lafary and Catherine Landon, had a relatively small family, three of their six children survived to adulthood. However, they both came from large families of nine siblings and nearly all survived to marry and have children.
52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 13: In The Paper
It’s fun to find articles in the paper mentioning one of my relatives. Mostly they are birth, marriage, divorce and death events. But, it’s the oddball articles in the papers I like the most.
52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 14: Brick Wall
We all have a brick wall, that one ancestor who defies all research. I decided I would work at my brick walls by generation, I broke through the last of my 3rd great grandparent brick walls, now I am working on 4th great grandparents.
I realized I did not have a date of death for my great, great grandmother, Catherine Landon Lafary. A fresh search uncovered the date and much more. Out of place, but once discovered, everything fell into place.
I have many favorite photos among my collection of family artifacts. Currently, my favorite photo is of two little children from 1916 who were a complete mystery to me until last spring.