Sifting Through AncestryDNA Matches Webinar and a Repeat

Response to the AncestryDNA webinars has been overwhelming. As a result, we are:

  • offering another live session of “Beginning Working with Your AncestryDNA Matches” on 24 September.
  • adding a new session “Sifting Through Your AncestryDNA Matches” on 1 October 2017.

Details are on our AncestryDNA webinar page.

Thanks for your support of our offerings.


Ancestral Clues and Connections: John DeMoss

John DeMoss was born in Baltimore County, Maryland, in the 1710s and died in Harford County, Maryland, around 1806. Things I’ve learned from researching John DeMoss:

  • some families are small–there is no evidence thus far that John DeMoss had any children other than his son, John DeMoss.
  • marks can be unique–John signed his “mark” on several documents. He never made a simple “x.” It was always a symbol looking something like an uppercase “I” with a circle in the middle of the stem.
  • some landowners avoid probate–John has no estate settlement and extant land records suggest that he deeded his real property to his son before his death.

We Were Close In Age, So We Quibbled

Lillie’s tombstone in the New Loraine Cemetery, Loraine, Adams County, Illinois, indicates that she was born on 13 December 1909. That date is consistent with the story told by her younger sister (my grandmother) involving their dates of birth. Grandma said that the reason she and Lillie did not always see eye-to-eye on things is because they were so close in age.

That closeness always seemed a little suspect as Grandma was born in 1910–September of 1910. Great-grandma having Aunt Lillie in December of 1909 and my Grandma in September of 1910 (on September 1 no less) seemed a little snug for a time frame.

But one didn’t really argue with Grandma.

Grandma’s date of birth is clearly documented on 1 September 1910 on her birth certificate and on her 1915 baptismal record. Aunt Lillie was baptized on the same day. Her baptismal entry indicated she was born in 1908.

The census records that have currently been released suggest the 1908 date as well.

Census Enumerations:

  • 1910 Census–Wythe Township, Hancock County, Illinois. Enumerated as Lily Marie Trautvetter aged 1 year 4/12 months in household of George Trautvetter.
  • 1920 Census–Walker Township, Hancock County, Illinois. Enumerated as Lillie M. Trautvetter, aged 11 years in household of George Trautvetter
  • 1930 Census–Houston Township, Adams County, Illinois. Enumerated as Lillian M. Short, aged 21 years in household of Gay Short (her husband).
  • 1940 Census–Loraine Village, Adams County, Illinois. Enumerated as Lillian M. Short, aged 21 years in household of Gay Short (her husband).

Based upon the census date and the enumeration being accurate:

  • 1910 census (15 April 1910): Born approximately December 1908.
  • 1920 census (1 January 1920): Would have turned 11 in 1919, making her born in 1908.
  • 1930 census (1 April 1930): Would have turned 21 between April of 1929 and March of 1930, making her born between April of 1908 and March of 1909.
  • 1940 census (1 April 1940): Would have turned 21 between April of 1939 and March of 1940, making her born between April of 1908 and March of 1909.

Lillie’s census enumerations (1910-1940) are all consistent with a date of birth in December of 1908. Aunt Lillie’s Social Security Death Index entry (at indicated a birth date of 1908 as well. That’s the least contemporary of the records I have located (except for the tombstone).

I’m betting (but not certain) that Aunt Lillie’s obituary indicated she was born in 1909 as well. Grandma always insisted she and her younger sister born really close together.

All documents used in this example were transcribed as they were written of as they were inscribed. But my conclusion of when Lillie was born is 1908–based on the relatively contemporary baptismal record and the consistency of the census records.

I’m still searching for the birth record. That’s the most contemporary record of this event and I should document how I have searched for it and that I have not found it. It could easily contain a different date and that might alter my conclusion.

But until then, based upon the records I have, I’m going with a birth date of 13 December 1908.




Bubba, Tommy, and Me

Shared DNA matches can be confusing if one does not stop and think.

Another descendant of my Samuel and Anne (Murphy) Neill, referred to in this post as Bubba, also performed a DNA test at AncestryDNA. That’s helpful to me because then I can see with whom we share matches.

Most of the shared matches with Bubba are other known descendants of Samuel and Anne (Murphy) Neill–except for one I’ll refer to as Tommy. Bubba’s other matches tend to share those same Neill descendants in common with me. That makes sense.

Except for Tommy.

The matches that Tommy and I share contain none of the matches that Bubba and I share. Not one.

I looked at Tommy’s scant pedigree chart.

I looked at Bubba’s scant pedigree chart.

There were no names that I could see in common to both of them. There were no names of relatives of mine at all in Tommy’s tree. But all three of us have roots in the same part of rural Hancock County, Illinois.

Bubba and Tommy must share some biological relationship that has absolutely nothing to do with me. They have roots in the same general place and it would not be unexpected for them to have a connection.

And Tommy and I must share some relationship as well–and based on the surnames in his tree and his shared matches with me, it most likely is through my great-grandfather Trautvetter.

Bubba and I share matches with other Neills.

Tommy and I share matches with other Trautvetters.

Bubba and Tommy must share some connection with each other.

But all three of us are not all related to each other.

That’s not the way it works.

My Email to DNA Matches of Samuel and Ann

I’m contacting my AncestryDNA matches Here’s what I ended up saying:

You and I are DNA matches here on AncestryDNA. I’m trying to determine if possible how we are related and I am wondering if you could help me.

Based on our shared matches, I think you and I are connected through Samuel and Anne (Murphy) Neill. They were born in Ireland and lived most of their life in Illinois on a farm near West Point—in Hancock County. Anne died in the 1890s and Samuel died in 1912. They are buried in the West Point Cemetery—which is where most of their children are also buried. They are my great-great-grandparents and had eight children. Their son, Charlie was my great-grandpa. My grandpa was Cecil Neill who grew up near Stillwell, but lived most of his life on a farm north of Carthage—also in Hancock County.

I’m trying to find more about them in Ireland and was hoping we could figure out how we connect.


In a later post we’ll discuss how I searched these matches out.  Keeping track of when I made contact and with whom is important. AncestryDNA keeps the messages, but I really need a spreadsheet so that I know who I contacted and when without looking at each match individually.

Hopefully I will have some responses to write about. Stay tuned.

Ancestral Clues and Lessons: Hinrich Jacobs Fecht

Hinrich was born in Wiesens, Ostfriesland, Germany, in 1823. He died in Elvaston, Hancock County, Illinois, in 1912. Some things about research that I have learned from Hinrich:

  • those who are poor leave fewer records. Hinrich never purchased real property, does not appear on any tax lists, and has no probate record.
  • immigrants get their names mixed up. Hinrich is enumerated in the 1870 census as Henry Jacobs instead of Henry/Hinrich Fecht.
  • widowers sometimes marry a sister-in-law. Hinrich’s first and second wives, Trientje and Marie Bruns, were sisters. He married Marie after his first wife Trientje died.

Hinrich is my 3rd great-grandfather.

Contacting the DNA Matches to My Irish Forebears

I originally had the AncestryDNA test performed in an attempt to learn something about my Irish immigrant ancestors, Samuel and Ann (Murphy) Neill. The Neills were my great-great-grandparents–not all that far removed from me. They were born in Ireland in the 1830s/1840s, probably in different locations as they married (and apparently met) in New Brunswick in 1864. Samuel was from the NewtownLimavady area in County Derry and is known to have had one brother. Ann’s birth place is only known as specifically as Ireland. Other things have distracted me from actually working the matchesof my only Irish immigrants. In an attempt to actually complete something I start, I’ve decided to focus the matches that have a connection to this couple.

Fortunately there are two other AncestryDNA submitters who descend from this couple that are not related to me in any other way. This is a concern as three of Samuel and Ann’s children married into the same family (including my great-grandfather).  I descend from one of the Neill-Rampley marriages. The two other AncestryDNA submitters who are descendants of Samuel and Ann are not Rampley descendants–that’s fortunate.

For purposes of discussion, I’ll refer to those submitters as SonofSamuel and DaughterofSamuel to denote their gender and the fact that they both descend from Samuel and Ann’s son Samuel.

The matches I share with SonofSamuel and DaughterofSamuel should also have a connection to either Samuel Neill or Ann Murphy. This is something of a shot in the dark, but we will see how it goes. I’m crafting the email I’m going to send to these matches in hopes of getting a response.

We’ll have an update with the email that I end up sending and, hopefully, information about connections as well.

While the hope is that these matches are related to me via an ancestor of Samuel and Ann, it is possible that they are all also descendants of Samuel and Ann.

[suggestions are welcome in the comments area].

Working With AncestryDNA Matches Webinar Released

My triple cousin doesn’t match with me as much as I thought she would….see why.

We have released the recording of my latest webinar: “Working with Your AncestryDNA Matches.”

We focused on the matches–analyzing, understanding, and organizing. I even made some headway on a few of mine while creating the PowerPoint slides for the presentation.

Our presentation is laid back. There’s not a lot of chit-chat and we focus on being practical and being as technical as necessary without making attendees feel like this was a biology lecture or a math class.

More details are on our announcement page. If you registered for the live session, please email me at the address in your registration receipt for fastest response. Thanks!

We’re looking forward to continuing more presentations in this series.

Ancestral Clues and Lessons: Ida (Trautvetter) Neill

Ida (Trautvetter) Neill was born in Wythe Township, Hancock County, Illinois, in 1910 and died near Carthage, Hancock County, Illinois, in 1994. Some things I’ve learned about research from her:

  • people give the information they believe to be accurate. Grandma thought she was born in Tioga, Illinois, and put that on every record throughout her life.
  • people might not tell you everything. If Grandma knew more than her grandfather Sargent besides he had red hair and came down to Warsaw, Illinois, in a canoe, she wasn’t telling.
  • people might know more than you think–and you may not ask the right questions. As a child I went to a rural cemetery looking for Ida’s step-grandmother’s stone. She found out I went and was very interested in who was buried at that cemetery. I didn’t tell her for whom I was looking (see next item).
  • it’s not necessarily worth ruining relationships over family history details. I didn’t press her on her Grandpa Sargent and I didn’t press her about her correct place of birth.

Ida was my Grandma Neill. May she rest in peace.


Followup to Details the Estate Settlement Does Not Care About

In “Details the Estate Settlement Does Not Care About,” we saw an 1871 era estate document from Illinois that seemed to suggest that an Ernestine (Trautvetter) Hess had three children: Valentine Hess, William Hess, and Wilhelmina (married to an unnamed man with the last name Rothweiler).  All that is said about Ernestine is that she was a sister of the deceased  Hancock County, Illinois, resident Michael Trautvetter and that she had “intermarried” with Hess. Based on Michael’s approximate age, Ernestine would have been born roughly between 1790 and 1810 in Germany.

I had used the statements in the estate document for Michael in an attempt to locate information on the three children of Ernestine. The estate records indicated Wihelmina was in St. Louis when she received her money from the estate in the 1870s. Valentine had lived in Cincinnati but could not be located by the estate administrator. William received his money and no notation was made as to his residence.  Based upon the information in the file, I concluded that all three children of Ernestine had immigrated to the United States. I could make no such conclusion about Ernestine.

Wilhelmina married in St. Louis as Wilhelmina Trautvetter. That seemed odd. The probate document clearly styled her as the daughter of Ernestine (Trautvetter) Hess.

There was a reason she married as Wilhelmina Trautvetter.

The church records in Wohlmuthausen, Thuringia, Germany, indicate that Ernestine was not married to Kasper/Caspar Hess–the man with whom she had three children, including Valentine (born in 1827) and Wilhelmine (born in 1828). Ernestine’s son George Valentine Hess was born in 1831 and died in 1932. Ernestine had two additional children in Wohlmuthausen whose fathers are not named: Wilhelm in 1834 and Ernestine (born in 1837 and died in 1839).

The church records explain Ernestine’s three children who were listed in the estate settlement as being her only heirs-at-law. Her marital status and the fact they had different fathers was immaterial to the estate of Michael Trautvetter: they were her children.  Listing them all as Hesses may simply have been easier to the person providing information to the court.

Even though Wilhelmina’s father is listed in the church record of her 1828 birth in Wohlmuthausen, their marital status may explain why she married as a Trautvetter–that was her mother’s last name when Wilhelmina was born.

And the two sons of Ernestine that I cannot find? They may not be listed as William and Valentine Hess in United States records.

They may have gone by the last name of Trautvetter as well.