Wednesday, April 27, 2016

23andMe Non Update

To celebrate DNA Day, FamilyTreeDNA and AncestryDNA had brief sales on their kits.  Their autosomal DNA testing kits regularly cost $100 as of this writing.

23andMe moved in the opposite direction and doubled its price in October of 2015 to $199.  The price was reduced temporarily by $50 a few times since then.  To celebrate Mother's Day, the $50 price drop is available to some customers through May 8, 2016.  (If you are not in the United States, you see a different version of 23andMe with different pricing structures.)

What bothered me was the rest of this email, in which I was again promised the "migration to the new 23andMe experience."  I have been waiting since November, when anonymous DNA matches were supposedly being phased out.  My ancestors took less time to migrate across the Atlantic Ocean in dinky ships.

I can see new matches.  Am I not seeing all of them?  Did an unknown close relative test but is blocked from view?  Some matches have full names while others have initials or partial names.  These profiles I can contact to request to "share genomes," which simply means we will both be able to view the shared segments of DNA to possibly assign to a common ancestral branch.  But I still have many anonymous matches, people with no identifying information and no way of being reached.  As of November 11th [2015], some aspects of DNA Relatives have been modified in preparation for the transition to the new 23andMe experience.  Pending introductions have been canceled.  Anonymous participants will only be able to receive messages from users that have been transitioned to the new experience. . .

Based on the amount of shared DNA, these genetic cousins are likely not closer than third cousins.

With the "old" site, I could request sharing of any match, though most did not respond.  Responses were often bizarre and irrelevant.  Maybe one day I will feature the most notable in a blog post.

Buy more kits from a site that has been stuck for almost six months?  No thank you.  My latest autosomal tests have been at FamilyTreeDNA and uploaded to GedMatch.

Book Review: The Rosie Project

"The Rosie Project" by Graeme Simsion is a funny book about a man's quest to find a compatible woman to marry.

The relationship of Don and Rosie is intensified by their joint project to uncover the identify of Rosie's biological father, an endeavor in line with Don's technical skills as a professor of genetics.  Their pool of candidates are the male students who graduated medical school with Rosie's mother.  Their collection methods are underhanded and mostly done without the knowledge of the people whose DNA is captured.

In the end, the biological father was identified when the obvious was not overlooked anymore.  The man who raised Rosie was her biological father, as determined by a blood drawn in a fight.

Those of us without such nerve and access to DNA labs can use commercial companies such as Family Tree DNA and 23andMe to find biological relatives.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Five-Generation Places of Birth Family Tree

Thanks to J Paul Hawthorne at Geneaspy for this idea of a family tree focused on places of birth.

At a glance, you can visualize by color the locations where your ancestors were born.  This reveals migratory patterns and where records can be found.

My father's tree has one outlier:  my paternal grandfather, Clifford Lutter (1915-1980), was born in Pennsylvania.  This was because his father, Howard Lutter (1889-1959), a musician, was performing in Philadelphia at this time.  Their usual residence was Newark, Essex County, New Jersey.

My mother's tree is more challenging.  By the time we go five generations back, we are not in the United States.  I listed her paternal grandparents as born in Slovakia.  The area of origin is within the current borders of the country of Slovakia.  They were from central Europe where governmental control and political borders changed often.  They spoke German.

Previous ideas for focused family trees were:

Causes of Death


You can use this type of family tree format for any feature you would like to showcase, such as number of children or place of death.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Family Tree Repair: Hyser and Preston

While working on a branch of my Hyser family, I noticed that online family trees had a different year and place of death for Adelaide Hyser, wife of Sherwood Preston.  Adelaide was a sister of my father's 3rd great grandfather, Louman Hyser (1826-1895).

In the 1855 New York State census, Adelaide and husband lived in Catskill, Greene County, with two children.  In the 1860 federal census, Adelaide was living with her father and three children, minus the husband, in Catskill.  Adelaide relocated to Jersey City after the 1870 census.

My source for Adelaide's death was from a compiled genealogy of the Rockefeller family.  In this work, Adelaide died in Jersey City, [Hudson County], New Jersey on February 6, 1907.

Online trees had the year of death as 1908.  Places included Jersey City, Union Hill in Morris County, and Union Hill in Hudson County.

The source for this date and these places of death was from an application by Irving Sherwood Preston (a great grandson of Adelaide) to join the Sons of the American Revolution under the patriot Simon Rockefeller.  In viewing the actual application [database at], you can see that the date given for Adelaide's death was February 6, 1908, but no place of death was given.

The compiled genealogy and the SAR application are both derivative sources with questionable reliability.  I needed the actual death certificate.  Fortunately, I copied many years of Preston deaths because I am a Preston descendant on my mother's side of the family.  The last Preston in my line was Anna Preston (1890-1921).  I have not found a relation between my great grandmother Anna Preston and Adelaide Hyser's husband Sherwood Preston.

According to the death certificate, Adelaide M Preston, daughter of Peter Hyzer and Ella [Fritz], died in Jersey City on February 6, 1908.

Her obituary appeared in the newspaper Jersey Journal, viewable at (pay site).  A textual search for "Preston" did not yield this result.  I searched by date.

Burial was in Catskill.  Adelaide's father, brother, and other family members were buried at Catskill Village Cemetery.  I don't see a grave listing for Adelaide online.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Winter in New Jersey

This winter was mild in New Jersey.  Temperatures above freezing and little snow enabled me to visit cemeteries more this winter than in the past.  (Plus a physical issue prevents me from working out for hours like I used to, so I spend more time on genealogy.)

My contributions to Find A Grave reflect this wonderful winter weather.  During a time of year usually reserved to indoor pursuits, I added over 800 new graves and about 2500 photos.

Find A Grave is a free resource to locate final resting places.  The site is now under the umbrella.  Memorials and pictures are added by anyone who wishes to participate.  The Find A Grave mobile app enables quick creations of memorials.

To find a name at Find A Grave, you need an exact spelling. offers a search engine that permits fuzzy searching but is not updated instantly.