Sifting Through Your AncestryDNA Matches Webinar Released

This session assumes listeners/attendees have a basic understanding of what AncestryDNA offers, how to navigate their AncestryDNA matches, how to track working with their matches, what shared matches are and are not, and have already done some work with with their AncestryDNA matches–at least having worked through their first/second cousins matches at least once to determine connections where possible. If you have not yet played with your matches, this session is not for you. The basics of the system are not covered in this session. This is a session focused on research methodology and more advanced working through the matches.

In this session we will work through several extended examples based on Michael’s own research. This will include a relatively straightforward example,  families that have multiple relationships, and families from areas where “they’ve lived there for hundreds of years” and the shared relationships are distant and unknown. The importance of sifting out (where possible) and tracking will be emphasized. Our focus is on process and analysis–not in making you a geneticist. 

Order on our order page. Download immediate. This presentation is not streamed.


My Blogs and Subscribing and Unsubscribing

I maintain the following genealogy blogs:

  • Rootdig.comMichael’s thoughts, research problems, suggestions, and whatever else crosses his desk
  • Genealogy Tip of the Dayone genealogy research tip every day–short and to the point
  • Genealogy Search Tipwebsites I’ve discovered and the occasional online research tip–short and to the point?

Subscription/Unsubscription links are on the top of each page. Unsubscription links are also in each email sent.

Ancestral Clues and Connections: Christianna (DeMoss) Rampley

Christianna (DeMoss) Rampley was born in the later 1770s, probably in what is now Harford County, Maryland. She married Thomas Johnson Rampley in 1800 and died after 1830, probably in Coshocton County, Ohio. Some things I’ve learned from researching Christianna:

  • the importance of somewhat unusual names. While Christianna is not the most unusual name, it was also noticed in a family whose last name was the same as one of Christianna’s grandmothers. Further research into this family resulted in a possible connection to Christianna herself.
  • sometimes widows have to buy their deceased husband’s property from the estate. Christianna purchased some of her family’s household goods at auction from her husband’s estate.
  • sometimes you will not find a death date. Based upon census records, Christianna probably died in the 1830s. Given the time period, the location, her relative financial condition, and all the materials that have been referenced, it is unlikely that a death date will be discovered for her (unless a diary, Bible, or family letters turn up). Sometimes precise dates cannot be determined.

Slight Revisions to My DNA “Match” Letter

I’ve made some slight revisions to the email I sent to my DNA matches on  AncestryDNA.

Fortunately the majority of the matches have responded. One respondent only knew his grandfather’s name. Based on his shared matches, the name of his grandfather (not all that common), and where his grandfather was from, I was able to determine the tester’s connection. I gave him very broad information our two most recent shared ancestors, but did not want to overwhelm.

Another respondent did not have any actual information, but directed me to her father. We’ve communicated once and I was able to precisely determine the relationship.

Because of  AncestryDNA‘s marketing campaigns, the number of testers who are not obsessed genealogists is small large.* I was not expecting any of my matches to be fanatical about their genealogy. I was just hoping to confirm the relationships so that I could more effectively sort more of my matches. There may matches related further back who are actively pursuing their family history, but it seems more effective to sort out as many of the “closer matches” as I can first for two reasons:

  • it’s easier
  • it helps me sort out the more distant relatives

Each letter I sent will contain a brief comment about how I connect to the family. Emphasis on the word brief. That helps give people a point of reference, but should be short enough that it does not overwhelm.

*-this was corrected to say “large” thanks to an astute reader.

Join me for one of my AncestryDNA webinars or order a downloadable recording. Details are on our AncestryDNA webinar page.


A Prairie Farmer Directory is Coming My Way

Those of us with rural ancestors don’t have regular, annual directories like those often used by urban researchers. Generally speaking that was because “everyone knew where everyone lived anyway” and the publication of such directories in rural areas was not worth the expense. Most of the time we are lucky if there are a directories for a handful of years. That’s why directories like this one from Hancock County, Illinois, are so important. Printed in 1918 by Prairie Farmer magazine, it gives more than just names and addresses. It lists other members in the household, whether the farm was owned or rented (including landlord), and the size of the property.

The image used to illustrate this post is for a copy of the 1918 Prairie Farmer’s “Reliable Directory of Farmers and Breeders: Hancock County, Illinois,” which I recently purchased on on Ebay. Other than Adams County, Illinois, it is the only county where I have any ancestors living in 1918. As a quick exercise, I made a list of who should be listed in the directory:

  • Charlie and Fannie Neill (including son Cecil)–farming in St. Alban’s Township
  • George and Ida Trautvetter (including daughter Ida)–farming in Walker Township or that general area
  • Fred and Tena Ufkes (including son John)–farming in Bear Creek Township
  • John H. Ufkes–farming in Bear Creek Township
  • Mimka and Tjode Habben–farming in Prairie Township
  • John and Anna Habben–technically retired and living in Elvaston and may not be listed
  • John Johnson–farming in Bear Creek Township

I’ve listed the husband and wife (where both were alive) along with the child who is my connection to them (my grandparents were all “at home” in 1918, except for my maternal grandmother who was not born until 1924). Just thinking about where each living relative was in 1918 was a good exercise. The only one I’m not certain about is George Trautvetter. The remaining families or individuals were landowners (or renting from their parents) whose residence was fairly stable.

I’ve seen the book before (so I know what to expect), but we’ll post some images for specific people when it arrives. These Prairie Farmer directories from the 1917-1918 era are a wonderful source.

Clark Sargent’s Double Birth Record Was Not Unusual in His Family

Clark Sargent (born 1806 in Vermont to Samuel and Sarah (Gibson) Sargent) was not the only one in his family whose birth was apparently recorded twice. An admittedly quick search of “Vermont Births, Marriages and Deaths to 2008” at (Vermont Births, Marriages and Deaths to 2008. (From microfilmed records. Online database:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2013.)) resulted in locating several children of Samuel and Sarah whose births were recorded twice:

  • Lucina–born 7 August 1808. Recorded in Addison [no record date] and recorded in Leicester on 22 March 1810.
  • Lucinda–born 1 July 1807. Recorded in Addison [no record date] and recorded in Leicester on 11 March 1809.
  • Amos–born 16 August 1803. Recorded in Addison [no record date] and recorded in Leicester on 11 August 1809.
  • Sarah–born 28 January 1802. Recorded in Addison [no record date] and recorded in Leicester on 11 August 1809.
  • John–born 18 September 1800. Recorded in Addison [no record date] and recorded in [no town listed] by John Shaw [note: the clerks are listed on all the records, and I need to go back and extract that information for the rest of the cards].
  • Clark– born 23 April 1806. Recorded in Addison [no record date] and recorded in Leicester on 11 August 1809.

Lucinda (1807) was recorded in Leicester on 11 March 1809. The births of Clark (1806), Amos (1803), Sarah (1802) were all recorded in Leicester on 11 August 1809. Lucena (1808) was recorded in Leicester on 22 March 1810. John (1800) was recorded in Leicester as well with no date of recording listed.

The double recording for Clark was not unusual at all. The dates may suggest that the family moved between Lucina’s 7 August 1808 birth in Addison and the first recording of a birth in Leicester on 11 March 1809. The whole set of birth dates and recording dates should be put in a chronology to help with the analysis.

It still may be helpful to view the actual records. It also would be helpful to determine if there are any records documenting the family’s possible move in the 1808-1809 time frame. If the family owned property, land or tax records may assist in confirming the move–or at least providing information consistent with that hypothesis. There may also be “warning out records” if the family moved into Leicester and it was thought by the town fathers that they might not be able to support themselves.

While not discussed in this post, the cards gave several different places of birth for the mother, Sarah (Gibson) Sargent. Those varying places of birth could be good clues in locating further information on her. That’s another reason to look at records for the entire family. But seeing more records of birth for the children of Samuel and Sarah helped put the duplicate entries for Clark in perspective.

It wasn’t just about him. Within his family the duplicate recordings were not all that special. One does not know if something is unique if one only looks at one record.



Finding the Prairie in 1849

The location of places whose names may be less than official can sometimes be difficult.

In “Newspaper May Give What the Marriage Record May Not,” a place name of Prairie Precinct was given as the location for the 1849 marriage of Asa Landon and Mary Sargent in Winnebago County, Illinois. Marriage licenses in Illinois were county-specific in 1849, so the reference to Prairie Precinct should be to a location in Winnebago County.

At this point, I’m not certain if the reference to Prairie Precinct is to an actual location with clearly defined boundaries or to a general area without boundaries that was referred to as “Prairie Precinct” by the locals. What I need is a directory of place names for Illinois on my reference shelf (either Place Names of Illinois [University of Illinois Press] or Illinois Place Names [Illinois State Historical Society]). The problem is that some “places” are informal ones that are not easily located in any printed reference. That may or may not be the case with Prairie Precinct. It could be that it is a governmental unit that existed in 1849 but does not exist any longer. It may or may not be easy to find on a printed map. It could also be a mailing address of sorts and records of post offices from the National Archives may help.

As an exercise, I searched for “Prairie Precinct” in newspapers at  GenealogyBank to determine if I could find any other reference to the location in newspapers from Rockford, Illinois, around the time that Asa Landon and Mary Sargent were married.  There were several.

One was for a stray cow that had been lost by a Jonathan Page whose is styled as a “subscriber in Prairie Precinct.” His ad appeared in the Rockford Forum on 7 November 1849.

Asa Landon, Hiram Lake (who married Landon) and Jonathan Page are all enumerated in Owen Township in the 1850 census for Winnebago County, Illinois.  Lake and Landon are on the same census page and Page is listed a handful of households later. I still don’t have a precise location of where Prairie Precinct is, but it would be reasonable to conclude that it includes all or part of Owen Township.



I still have work to do and would like to locate a map, but the newspapers combined with the census has given me a good start.

The place name books referenced above may end up being helpful and I still need to look for a contemporary map. The problem is that often maps for this era can be difficult to find and, as mentioned earlier, it’s possible that the “Precinct” was really an area with fluid boundaries known only to locals.


Fixing the Year On a 1805 Vermont Birth Brought Three Questions

I suppose admitting mistakes is bad genealogical form for someone who writes and speaks on genealogy, but we are going to go ahead and do it anyway.

I realized I had a typographical error in my ancestor table and decided to fix it. I had the wrong year of birth for Clark Sargent in Vermont and it probably stemmed from how I compiled the copy of my ancestor table which I’ve posted on my blog for some time. To make certain I had the correct date, I decided to so a little searching for the record of Clark’s birth

It was then that I realized that Clark Sargent’s 1806 birth in Vermont is recorded in two “towns:” Addison and Leicester. That’s what it says on the bottom of both cards from “Vermont Births, Marriages and Deaths to 2008,”  which appears on the AmericanAncestors website: towns.


The towns of Addison and Leicester are approximately twenty-five miles apart. That seems a little suspect for a duplicate registration and then I realized that Addison was also a county in Vermont as well. It could be that the card listing Addison as the “town” of birth was actually a reference to the county of Addison. Leicester is in Addison County. That would make the geographical references make a little more sense.

Of course, I need to determine if that’s actually the case. Just because my conjecture seems reasonable does not mean that it is correct. I also need to find out how common it was to have duplicate entries in the records of birth for this era.

At least the date of birth and names of parents are the same on both entries. Pittsford, Vermont is referred to as the mother’s residence on the Leicester card and it is on the line for “Mother’s Birthplace” (with “Mother’s” crossed out) on the Addison card.  At least the location is consistent. This indicates to me that I need to see the actual card.


  • I need to find out just what “Addison” is referring to on the bottom of the first card.
  • I need to see how common this type of duplicate entry is.
  • I need to see the actual cards to figure out Pittsford.

And all because I discovered a typographical error.



Ancestral Clues and Lessons: George A. Trautvetter

George Adolph Trautvetter was born in 1869 in Walker Township, Hancock County, Illinois, and died in Jacksonville, Morgan, County, Illinois, in 1934. Some things I’ve learned about research from George:

  • the importance of keeping people with the same name straight. George had a paternal uncle George and paternal first cousins named George. Since they all had the same last name it was imperative that they be kept straight.
  • people might not really have died where you are told they died. George’s obituary and family tradition indicated he died at home in Loraine, Adams County, Illinois. He actually died at a hospital in Jacksonville, Illinois.
  • some people move–a lot. Until approximately 1920, George and his family moved frequently from one rented farm to another. They never left the general area, but their residence varied from one census to another and their children were born in several different locations.

George is my great-grandfather.

While I’m Waiting for the DNA Test Results on Two Siblings

DNA test kits for on AncestryDNA have been mailed off for two of my in-laws. The tests are for two siblings. Three of their grandparents are well-documented. While there are gaps in their ancestry, the test was not really taken to answer any immediate questions on those three grandparents.

It is their mother’s father who is the genealogical problem. While there is some debate as to who the mother’s father is, all extant records suggest he was a man born in Chicago in the late 1880s who was adopted as a young child. The first adoptive couple died within a few years of his birth and he was adopted by another couple by 1900. He remained with this second set of adoptive parents until he married in 1909. The second set of adoptive parents adopted another child as well. Nothing is known about the origins of the second adopted child. The adopted boys could have been biological brothers, adoptive siblings from the first couple, or adoptive siblings from the second couple.

The grandfather was married to the grandmother until around 1919 when he left the family and was never heard from again. It is not known if he had any other children.

Consequently there are many new relatives that could show up as a result of the DNA test. To facilitate my work with those results, I’m organizing what I currently have on the two siblings who tested so that I can make the best use of the results when they arrive. I’m reviewing their known paper pedigree to make it easier to analyze the results. Nothing is known about the grandfather’s past other than his birth in Chicago.

But the other grandparents have origins that are hopefully distinct enough from his to make the analysis either. Of the other grandparents:

  • the paternal grandparents were Missouri natives with ancestral origins in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and South Carolina.
  • the maternal grandmother was a native of upstate New York and was entirely of French-Canadian heritage.

I’m working on creating a streamlined version of their tree (removing any questionable information) that I can then tie to their results. Having the tree online will make it easier for me to sift out the results and hopefully determine which DNA matches are connected to the maternal grandfather. The maternal grandfather could easily have siblings and children of whom I know nothing. In addition to more distant relatives, the two testers could have:

  • half first cousins (from siblings their mother had of which they were unaware)
  • half second cousins (from siblings their grandfather had of which they were unaware)

I’ll be taking a look at the update to the “Shared CM Project” to help in analyzing the matches. AncestryDNA does some predicting of relationships, but this will give me some additional insight. Preparing as much as possible to analyze the matches is advised because I may be overwhelmed with the amount of new information in front of me and it’s times like that when one can become more confused than usual.

There’s still probably two months before the results are back…so I’ve got time.

But the more I analyze my own results,the more I realize that it is important to review what you know before delving into DNA test results.