Tracing Your DNA – Comparing DNA Sites

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I recently got my DNA tested for genealogical purposes, and thought I’d do a little write-up on what you actually get for your money, and the difference between some sites. Keep in mind, as a girl I can’t get as detailed results, and this doesn’t compare all available tests, just what you can do on different sites through uploading results from one of them.

Note: I am not being paid to do any of this, it’s just my own experience and opinions. I do plan on taking tests through other sites, and getting other family members to take them as well, it’s just a matter of saving up! Also, there are privacy concerns that come from these, especially in certain parts of the world; I’m not getting into those. I decided it was fine for me, and you should do the same for yourself.

Ancestry

I got my test from Ancestry.ca as I already had built an extensive family tree, and knew that I could upload my Ancestry results to a lot of other sites, but not vice versa.

I got my results much quicker than the estimated 6-8 weeks (I think it was about 1 week after mailing them in that we heard back), and here is what I saw;

Ethnicity Estimate:

Given that I had done a lot of genealogical research, I wasn’t surprised by this initial breakdown. I was a little disappointed to see that I wasn’t part of any Genetic Communities yet, but they do update their results, and they keep your sample so it can be tested again, so hopefully I’ll see a change to that at some point.

 

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There’s a map that shows where you come from as well, which would be a bit more interesting if you were more spread out than I am. Nice visual I guess, either way.

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When I went into the more detailed breakdown, I was more surprised. Not by the groups that were there, but by their order; I knew I had a lot of German ancestors, and would have expected Europe West to be higher up, same goes for Scandinavia, as I know I had some Swedish relatives. I guess that means that, while I had family living there, they weren’t necessarily ethnically from that region, which is interesting. Will have to look at some migration patterns and see if there’s likely causes for that.

I also didn’t know of any Italian/Greek ancestry, though of course that’s listed as a very small amount, and the Iberian Peninsula (Spain, Portugal), seems very out of place to me.

Under “low confidence regions” it suggests there may be some Polynesian ancestry as well, but that seems unlikely given the research I’ve done. We’ll see if that changes as they update things.

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DNA Matches – Family Members

Finally, through Ancestry, you get to see if you have any distant relatives on the site. As I am mostly interested in genealogy, this is the main thing for me, and I’ll be working my way through. A lot were obvious connections from the start, but despite having traced most lines back 6-10 generations, there are still relatives that pop up that I can’t find a connection to through surnames, so that should be fun. It hasn’t yet helped me get through any of the “brick walls” I’m hoping it will, but I’ve just started, so I’ll update if it does.

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Family Tree DNA

The site familytreedna.com allows you to upload the txt. file of your DNA results from Ancestry or 23andMe and has some options available to view for free. You can upload the info for an Autosomal Transfer for free, which will give you access to Family Finder. I did find some different people on this site then on Ancestry, so if you’re really set on connecting with as many people as possible, I think it’s important to try multiple sites.

For an additional fee, you can have access to things like the Chromosome Browser, My Origins and Ancient Origins; I got access to all of those for $19.00.

You can learn about all their available tests here.

Chromosome Browser:

You need to have some what of an understanding of chromosomes for this to be of interest, and as I have very little, I haven’t played around with it much yet.

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Basically, you can choose to filter through all of your matches (by things like “close relative” – of which I have none on the site, “confirmed relatives”, “close surname”, “x matches” etc.), or look go through all of them, and click on one to see what parts of your DNA you share. You’ll see it come up like this;

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Hover over the coloured bit and you’ll see the detail, eg. Jane Doe matches you on chromosome 15 from position ___ to ___ for a total of ___cm. You can look at up to 5 matches at once.

I’m aware that where your DNA matches means something, but it’s not clear to the layman what that is. Again, I’ll look into this more and update.

You can choose to see this data in a table, and there it will tell you the relation to the person (I’m not using the name in this example, but it would say at the top of the following image, “Jane Doe – 3rd Cousin”, or whatever the match may be).

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This is likely an easier way to do further research, and you can export and download to Excel, but I’ll still have to get back to you on what exactly this all means.

My Origins

Like with Ancestry, FTDNA gives you a breakdown of your ethnic makeup, and allows you to see it displayed on a map. I had slightly different results here than on Ancestry (the Polynesian is gone, you’ll note), but basically the same deal.

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You can see your family matches on the map as well.

Ancient Origins

If you’re interested in archeology and ancient origins, this part is fun. Using DNA from dig sites around the world, they give you a rough idea of what your ancestors likely did to survive; mine were mostly farmers, which fits with my known long history of family farming, and of some surname searches that also indicated we were mostly farmers. I haven’t spent the time to look through all the specific dig sites and details yet, but I will. One thing I wish it did was to show on the map not just the ones that you are connected to, but all of them, as I see some patterns but wonder if that’s just from the areas where more research was done, as opposed to saying anything about my ancient history.

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Family Finder

Finally, you can use all this to find matches on the site, and to see your connections. You can view them through this;

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to search via DNA connections, or upload a family tree and see them through that.

DNA Land

This site is cool because of the philosophy behind it; you have the ability to participate in studies that could help cure diseases, find new ancestral discoveries – it’s a non-profit and, I think, a very cool concept. Upload your Ancestry DNA report and you see this:

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I did this about 24 hours ago and am still waiting on my Trait Prediction Report (will add when I get it), but have access to the following;

Find Relatives

DNA Land has, I suspect, a smaller database, which is why it didn’t show me any relationship matches,

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Disappointing. But the only way to improve that is for more people to join, so I’m still glad I did.

Find Relatives of Relatives

Same deal;

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Ancestry Report

This, thankfully, did come with results.

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A very general breakdown first, in the form of a pie chart. The details are viewed like this;

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I did find it helpful seeing what exactly was included in each category, I though this was slightly better done here than on other sites. They have a map as well, though not as pretty as on the other ones, still gets the same info across;

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There’s many more sites out there, and I’ll update as I go through others, but first I want to see all these have to offer.

Hope that helps narrow down the search! Got some recommendations? Leave them in the comments.

All for now,
E.

The Photo History Sleuth: My Part-Time Obsession – Part 1

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As anyone who knows me already is well aware, I am a huge fan of antiques and genealogy. Recently, I’ve decided to try and put those passions to use by opening Tucked Away Antiques, an Etsy shop where I can sell some of my finds in hopes of funding more treasure hunting.

Recently I acquired a lot of vintage cabinet cards from an auction, with the only information being that they came from the estate of the late “Clarence B. Kilmer, Saratoga Springs NY”. While I purchased these in hopes of making a profit, my curiosity got the better of me, and I’ve gotten to try to trace down information about the people in the photos. I always feel a pang of sadness when I’m rooting through a box of old photos and find some with labels that I don’t have the funds to buy; I always want to reunite interested family members with their lost photos, as I hold out hope that someone may do that for me some day. I’m still on the hunt for missing leaves of my tree.

So rather than just doing all this for interest, I thought I’d walk you through the process I use to identify people in photos. It can be a lengthy one, and of course, it’s not an exact science, but if you go through things logically and systematically, it really can be like a mystery, and I think every mystery is solvable. So first things first, who was Clarence B. Kilmer?

Estate Finds: Researching the Head of the Estate

The internet make this very simple for modern day sleuthers – chances are, you can google the name of the estate and come up with enough for a starting place. If you’re really stuck, things like Ancestry.com, or your local library (yes, they still exist) can be very helpful. Census records, newspapers, land records and more can tell you a surprising amount about a person, but to start off, let’s try with google.

The first thing that pops up when searching for Mr. Kilmer, is an article on a realty site about the Saratoga Centennial. A neat little history of this gorgeous house, once belong to Kilmer, is given.

Here’s what’s relative to us:

In 1904, the property was purchased by Clarence B. Kilmer, a trial lawyer who served as President of the Saratoga County Bar Association for 19 years. He was honored in 1947 for being a 50 year member, and also served as counsel to the Saratoga Racing Association.

A civic leader, Kilmer was Director of the Chamber of Commerce, and Chairman of the City Planning Commission’s subcommittee on taxation and finance.

Clarence Kilmer was an avid sports fan. He built the Geyser Road baseball park, and was instrumental in having the Brooklyn Dodgers come to Saratoga for an exhibition game. He was President of McGregor Links Golf Club, and an officer of the Saratoga Golf Club, where he once played 81 rounds in a single day.

Kilmer resided at 722 North Broadway until his death on August 29, 1961.

This is kind of a home run. Off the bat, we know he was a lawyer for 19 years by 1904 (gives us an idea of birth date), that he lived at 722 North Broadway (can compare this to census records and get a list of family members), and that he died August 29, 1961 (can search for obituaries or death certificates, again may help with family members). As well, being such a prominent member of the community means he was almost certainly photographed for books or newspaper articles, so if we have a photo we suspect is him, we can compare it to that. Step 1 is complete! Now let’s look a little closer at the photos to see if we can spot him.

Identifying Photos: Pictures With Names

You may think that a photo with a name written on it is a home run – surely you can identify anything labeled! Well, not always. In my own history hunting I’ve come across confusing photos that use nicknames instead of a given name, which can be misleading, especially if there are multiple people in the family with the same name. For example, a man might be named John, but be called “Jack” by his friends. He may also have a cousin, Jack, who has that as a given name. Differentiating may be difficult. In my case, I have a Great Great Grandmother name Phelma who I have seen referred to (on official documents like census records and birth or marriage certificates) as Phelma, Phelina, Lena, Charlotte and Lottie. She also had a daughter named Charlotte who occassionally went by Lottie. So, while these things can be slowly sorted out when you have dates and other info to compare it to, a simple photo with a first name is not so easy. But let’s look at what we have here.

A quick glance at the photos, and style of dress shown in them, lets me know that there are several generations present (I’ll go into more detail about style of dress and how to use that to date photos in a bit). From my initial google search, I also spotted an obituary for a Clarence B. Kilmer III, so I know not to assume anyone named Clarence here is the head of the household; we’ll need to date these photos to figure that out.

I followed the obit to CBK III and learned quickly that he was the son of Clarence B. Kilmer, Jr. and Agatha Quintana Kilmer, and that he was born November 9, 1937. That date means that he won’t be featured in any of these photos, as they are mostly late Victorian, with a few that may be closer to WWI, so I can cross him out. It does let me know that his father was likely born in the early 1900s, and that could help identify him in photos. His mother’s maiden name may also be useful in identifying pictures that seem to not fit the rest.

The obit let me know his birthdate, which gives me an idea of his father’s birthdate. His mother’s maiden name may also be helpful. Older obituaries can be especially helpful as they tended to list a lot of the family, and can help link married women to their maiden names. Newer obits may prove less helpful because of today’s privacy concerns.

Now I come to a photo that I’ve found that is labeled C.B Kilmer. To determine which one he is, we need to try and date this:

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Labeled “C.B. Kilmer”

We’ll start with the other labels on it.

The photographer mark reads;

BAKER & RECORD
PHOTOGRAPHERS,
Ground Floor Gallery
448 BROADWAY
Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

So, back to google!

Google Books lead me to a copy of the Photographic Times, Vl 11, which praises the studio and mentions how they have taken the likeness of many prominent residents. This volume was published in January 1881. Further searching brought me to volume 13 of the same publication, published in January of 1883, where it is reported that the studio has dissolved. So, this photo can’t be from any date more recent than the end of 1882. We know that C.B.K. Jr. had a son in 1937, and so this is clearly too old to be him; looks like we’ve got our patriarch, Clarence B. Kilmer.

A recent obit gives the birthdate of C.B.K. III, which helps us guess the approximate birthdate of his father, C.B.K. Jr., and a quick search of the photography studio that took the photo labeled Clarence B. Kilmer has confirmed the photo can’t be more recent than 1883.

A little over-complicated? Maybe. Frankly, one look at it and I was pretty certain this was our man, but these same methods can be used to identify more complex mysteries, and I suspect we’ll come back to them.

I’ll use this photo to compare to unidentified men, and see if we can’t find more of them. But for now, let’s stick with the labeled pictures, and move on to his wife.

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Labeled “Bessie Kilmer”

I have 3 photos labeled “Mrs. C.B.K.” and one that reads “Bessie Kilmer”. The one labeled Bessie has a date printed on it, 1890. I found this a little odd as the woman in this photo is older than in the other ones, and yet she is not described as “Mrs. C.B.K.”. It is common to find records, be it photos or otherwise, of married women that disregard not only their maiden name, but their first name as well; one of my distant relatives was recorded on her death certificate as “Mrs. Dix”! This leads me to suspect one of the following;

  1. Bessie Kilmer is the woman’s maiden name. Given the date of the photo this would likely mean she is the sister of C.B.K., though she could also be a cousin (less likely, I’ve already come across some labeled “Aunt So-and-so”, I would expect “cousin” to be added here).
  2. This is Mrs. C.B.K., but the photo was taken after the death of her husband, and so whoever labeled it found it more appropriate to record her actual name.
  3. This is Mrs. C.B.K., but the photo belonged to a more distant relative, who wanted the actual name recorded.

Personally, I’m strongly leaning towards option 1, but for the sake of exploration, let’s dig a little deeper.

mrscbk

Labeled “Mrs. C.B.K.”

One of the Mrs. C.B.K. photos is taken by the same company, Baker & Record, listed previously; it can’t be more recent than 1882. The woman in the photo looks quite young, and while I’d advise against guessing ages to identify pictures (they dressed and aged very differently back then, it can be misleading), I’m confident in saying she is under 40, could easily be anywhere from age 20-35. This would mean she was born sometime after 1847, likely closer to 1860.

Now here is where it’s important to go back to records, and not rely on a photo for information like marriage dates; you may want to assume that this photo was taken when she was already Mrs. C.B.K., but it could just as easily have been labeled after her marriage, but taken before then. Comparing the Mr. & Mrs. C.B.K. photos by the same photography company, it’s not difficult to see that the lady looks considerably younger than the gentleman; she could have married a much older man, or, this may have been taken early in the company’s existence. So let’s go back to google to try and identify when the company was first started.

After about half an hour of searching I was unable to find a date of incorporation (this is certainly something that could be located with more effort, but it’s not a necessity, so I’m going to leave it for now). I did, however, find many things dated to 1871, and nothing attributed to them from an earlier date. So, let’s estimate that the company existed from 1871-1882, not an unreasonable guess since other searching has confirmed that the men had other studios and other partners.

Ok, so this is a lot. I know. And again, most of this, in this particular case, could be guessed by anyone with some experience with old photos and fashion, but I want to use this as a sort of “case study” for how to start going about a process like this. So, let’s recap what we’ve learned:

  • We started with a lot of photos that were said to be from the estate of “Clarence B. Kilmer, Saratoga Springs NY”
  • A Google search of the name lead me to a Saratoga Realty site that featured the late man’s residence, and told me that he was a lawyer residing at 722 North Broadway, Saratoga N.Y., and that he died in August of 1961
  • Further searching found an obituary that confirmed that there was also a C.B.K. Jr., and that he was born in 1937 and died in 2008; this means he won’t be in any of the pictures. From the obit I also learned that “he was the son of the late Clarence B. Kilmer, Jr. and Agatha Quintana Kilmer.” Sounds like that was the C.B.K. who died in 1961 – need to find his year of birth.
  • Google yields yet another obit, for the above mentioned C.B.K. Jr. It confirms that he was born March 5, 1875 and died August 29, 1961. It also tells us that he was the son of “the late Clarence B. and Bessie Kilmer”.
  • I have a photo labeled Clarence B. Kilmer, and after researching the photography studio know that it must have been taken prior to 1882; since the photo is of an adult, we know that it cannot be C.B.K. Jr, and so can assume it is his father.
  • The photo I have from 1890, labeled “Bessie Kilmer”, I originally thought could be a sister. However, after finding C.B.K. Jr.’s obit, I now believe it to be his mother, the wife of the original C.B.K.

Other photos of Mrs. C.B.K. remain, and of course the question is which one is she? In my next blog post, I’ll discuss identifying the dates of photos by the photographic method, as well as the fashion; that should help us to confirm who exactly the woman is. Once we have a few people absolutely identified, we can start the more complex process of comparing unlabeled photos for further identification.

Hope that rather lengthy post proves helpful! More to come.

-E.