Monday, October 31, 2011

Lackland Dynasty of US Presidents?

There is a fascinating YouTube post making the rounds. According to it a 12 year old girl has discovered that all US presidents other than Martin Van Buren, our 8th president, descend from one English king. That king was John Lackland, the King John of Robin Hood infamy.

It would take considerable time to verify all the lines that are claimed in "12 yr Girl Discovers ALL U.S. Presidents Except One Related to One British King". According to the video, BridgeAnne d' Avignon made this discovery as the outgrowth of a school project in 2009. More background on this Watsonville, CA girl's research with her grandfather can be found at the site of the local TV station originally which covered this story back in 2009. I wonder why it has not received more attention?

On the surface her claim seems plausible. Maybe I will investigate this in detail after I get settled in Nashville early in 2012. I am particularly drawn to this because John Lackland is my 22nd great-grandfather. Does anyone else know more about this claim? Maybe we need to try to tie in poor orphaned Martin Van Buren.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ancestry adds Vital Records Collections

Ancestry announces the addition of many new vital records collections: today announced it has added 53 new historical vital record collections to its nearly half billion U.S. vital records, the largest searchable online collection of its kind. The foundation of family history research, civil vital records – recordings of births, marriages and deaths – were typically created at or near the time of the event andserve as an essential resource for the millions of Americans who are beginning or continuing their family history research. The new additions encompass 23 states, include more than 50 million historical records dating from the 1600s (some of the oldest U.S. records available) through to 2010 and have been made available through partnerships with state and local archives, county offices and newspapers. Many notable Americans can be found in the collections, including John Wayne, Ernest Hemingway, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Judy Garland and many more.
Interesting facts presented by these records include John Wayne’s birth name as Marion Robert Morrison, changed to the legendary stage name when he began working in Hollywood. “Gone with the Wind” star Clark Gable hailed from the small village of Cadiz, Ohio according to the Ohio Births and Christening Index (1800-1962). The Minnesota Birth and Christening Records (1840-1980) show that “The Wizard of Oz” star Judy Garland’s given birth name was Frances Gumm. 
More information is available in this morning's press release.
Some of the new vital record collections now available on date well back into the 17th Century including:
  •     Connecticut, Deaths and Burials, 1650-1934:Town clerks began recording births, marriages and deaths by 1650. These records are derived from microfilmed records of deaths and burials. This collection includes legendary names such as P.T. Barnum of circus fame and dictionary pioneer Noah Webster.
  •     Maryland, Births and Christenings, 1662–1911: This collection is extracted from more than 200,000 Maryland birth, baptism, and christening records sourced from church, civil and family records. This collection includes the birth of John Hanson, President of early America’s Continental Congress.
  •     New Hampshire, Death and Burial Records, 1654–1949:New Hampshire’s earliest records were in the mid-1600s, though laws requiring a statewide compilation of records were not passed until 1866.
  •     New Hampshire, Marriage Records, 1637–1947:Records in this collection are derived from certificates of intention of marriage and certificates of marriage for more recent years.
  •     New Jersey, Births and Christenings, 1660–1931:This collection is comprised of more than 2.3 million birth, baptism, and christening records. Information found here may include name, gender, race and birthplace.

Happy researching!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

William John Christie, II (1918-2011)

Denise's father, William John Christie, II, died peacefully this morning at about 5:15 Pacific time. He was 93 and had enjoyed life--at least until the last several days. Due primarily to the efforts of his younger daughter, Michele, and his son, William John Christie, III, he had maintained a good quality of life at home until his recent hospitalization.

Bill was a loving father to his three children and husband to Audrey (Paepke) who predeceased him in 1995. After 50 years of marriage they both looked good (above). He left eight grandchildren. Until the last few days he enjoyed watching any of his nine great-grandchildren play even though he couldn't remember whose kids they were. They range in age from almost 17 years to one born the last week during his hospitalization.

He was a veteran of WWII and worked over 30 years for the Department of Defense Audit Agency in Germany and the US. His unit landed on the coast of France two days after D-Day. The next couple of days must have been horrific because he permanently erased them from his memory. Of the period he said, "All I know is that I must have done my job. I was 1st Sergeant of my unit when we landed and I was still 1st Sergeant two days latter. If I hadn't done my job, I wouldn't have still been 1st Sergeant." A celebration of his life will be scheduled in the coming weeks.

When I first started researching my father-in-law's ancestry a couple of decades ago, his auditor's interest on correct detail came to the fore. He told me that if I found any CHRISTYs who spelled their name with a "y" I should ignore them because his family had always spelled the name CHRISTIE. A few weeks later I showed him a 1920 census record in which he debuted as 22 month old "William Cristy 1 10/12."  Bill looked at the record for a long minute. Then he looked at the record again and then looked at me and said, "I guess I should leave you alone because you obviously know more about what you are doing than I do." He kept to his word. He was always interested in my finds, but never again tried to direct my research efforts.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Genetics, Genealogy and Ethics

Tonight's episode of NCIS "Enemy on the Hill" raises some of the ethical questions that are beginning to become more common as adoptees increasingly use DNA testing to find their biological families. The interpretation that a complete mitochondrial match means that the criminalist in the NCIS lab, Abby Sciuto, had discovered a sibling may not be exactly correct. However, some to the emotional issues that were raised are very real.

In the show Abby discovered the match accidentally when she volunteered to donate a kidney. At the end of this week's episode, Abby has reached the conclusion that she is adopted and is struggling with the question as to why her parents had not told her she was not their biological child. She has yet to tell her newly discovered DNA match that she thinks she is his sibling even though she did visit the pet shop where he worked and had a conversation with him. I don't know if this theme will be continued in a future episode.

It is issues like this one that will be part of a chapter on ethical issues raised in DNA testing. This will be a book on genetic genealogy that I will be co-authoring with CeCe Moore who blogs as Your Genetic Genealogist. Our book should be out in 2012.

You can view the episode online and see Abby's quandary.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Genealogy Author David R. Dowell to Visit Chicago

This a very nice ego boost to stumble across on the WWW today. Of course I knew this was scheduled to happen but presentation is often as important as content! :-)

Genealogy Author David R. Dowell to Visit Chicago - Chicago Genealogy |

'via Blog this'

Monday, October 3, 2011

DNA Projects: It's NOT Just About Individual Results

I'm finally comprehending something that my writing partner, CeCe Moore, has understood for a long time. CeCe blogs as Your Genetic Genealogist. She has tested several family members. By comparing who (and how much) each known family member matches those whose relationship are unknown she can learn much more than she can when she just compares her own results with the match for whom she is trying to discover the actual relationship.

I have long understood this with Y-chromosome studies. I have been able to recreate the 111 markers that my 6th great-grandfather, Philip Dowell would have if we could find exactly where he is buried in that church yard is Southern Maryland, dig him up and test his DNA. Philip died in 1733. More details on the current status of the Dowell/Dewell Surname DNA Project is scheduled to be published in one of the next two issues of

My learning opportunity has come as I examine the autosomal DNA test results for my wife Denise and her sister Michele. As most of your know Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA often is passed down unchanged for many, many generations. Not so with autosomal DNA. It changes significantly with each inter-generational transfer. Most individuals share about 50% of their autosomal  DNA with their siblings. Denise and Michele share about 45%. Therefore the matches that they get on their autosomal tests at 23andMe are different. 

As of this morning, Denise had 707 matches and Michele had 797. They each have many matches not shared by the other. If you are familiar with 23andMe, you will understand that we will never learn the identity of a majority of these matches. Many of those tested there did it for the medical information and have no interest in genealogy or have privacy concerns that keep them from communicating with others with whom they have a match. 

So far we have only been able to find that Michele matches two of the ten individuals with whom Denise has the longest matching segments. 

From Denise’s list:
Potential Cousin #1
3 segments, 
0.77% shared
1 segment, 
0.22% shared
Potential Cousin #4
1 segment, 
0.34% shared
1 segment, 
0.19% shared

As we continue to contact those with whom the sisters share identifiable segments of autosomal DNA, we will probably fill in other shared connections. However, this preliminary comparison has been an eye opener for me. I knew autosomal DNA was fickle, but I am only beginning to understand how randomly it is distributed from one generation to the next. It takes the results from multiple family members who are known to be related to begin to piece together a coherent picture.