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Posts Tagged ‘DNA’

My maternal grandmother’s mother’s family emigrated from somewhere in Prussia. Ancestry has further refined some of the ethnicity findings, and now they are showing me with 6.1% Eastern European (this has been there in varying amounts both here and on 23andme from the beginning). What is different is that Ancestry now believes that this small portion of my ancestors came specificially from an area right around and including Krakow. Their prediction is considered “strong.”

None of my ancestors were supposedly Polish, but approximately 12.5% were Prussians living in an area that is now considered Poland. They spoke German. The descendants of ancestors who stayed behind in Europe were probably relocated after WWII when the Poles expelled the Prussians. Some Prussians also fled the area on their own. I find this an interesting fact of history. I studied history throughout college and even did some graduate work in history, yet I never learned this information until I was researching my own family history. Have we swept the ethnic cleansing of ethnic Germans under the carpet because it came during the complete revelation of the extent of Nazi atrocities? Was it “payback” for what the Nazis did?

What might this Krakow DNA result mean?

I don’t know!

I started to go through the calculations and comparisons with my mother’s DNA again, but that really leads nowhere as they still have not refined things enough. For example, they haven’t found Krakow in my mother’s results. I checked my father’s just to see, and he has zero Eastern European DNA, so all this EE I have comes from Mom’s family. Interestingly, both my parents have DNA from Norway and Sweden, and mine shows up as all Swedish, but we know that means very little. What all this can mean is that Krakow is probably a clue to the Prussians.

More importantly, can this DNA result help me find my Prussians back in the days when they lived in Prussia?

I had it figured out that my Prussians might have come from Schwetzkow, Pommern (Pomerania), Prussia, based upon one record that I found that might apply to one of my Noffke relatives.

Where is Krakow in relationship to Schwetzkow? Krakow is at the south end of Poland, very near the border with the Czech Republic. It’s about 432 miles south of Schwetzkow (which was in Sweden at one point, although it’s on the continent).  I guess Krakow is just another clue I have to stick in the back of my mind for possible later use, I guess.

Or maybe Ancestry will take away Krakow when they update their results next time. Who knows.

Here is what I would like to learn: what does Prussian DNA tend to look like? Does it look German? Because German DNA according to Ancestry is spread out in rings around what we think of as Germany today. This includes a large portion of Poland. Does it look Scandinavian? Some of Prussia was, in fact, in Sweden, as I mention above. Does it look Polish, since so much of it was on the land that later became Poland? I have not really gotten a straight answer about this from anybody. Maybe they don’t really know yet!

In the meantime, I think DNA is not going to help me find my Prussian ancestors. I need RECORDS for that. Something I still do not have.

Back to the drawing board.

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On another note, I often write about my Dutch ancestors. Here is an interesting article that relates to the first wave of Dutch immigrants to the United States. It’s about a church building in Brooklyn that is over 200 years old–the church itself, a Reformed Church, was first founded in 1677. Can a Church Founded in 1677 Survive the 21st Century?

 

 

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Can we talk DNA for a minute today? As you may or may not know, Ancestry has updated their DNA Story. They have revised their ethnicity estimates based upon a larger pool of test results than was used in their prior estimates. That sounds good, right?

So why does it seem not any more accurate? I’ll qualify that by saying that is no way to be “accurate” with this stuff as it’s just a hint. Since my ancestors were all European, and there was so much movement in Europe over time, my DNA result should look like a bit of a blended cocktail–and it does.

I might share DNA with this woman, but I don’t know her name

Great hat though!

One of the biggest problems with my own DNA is the Dutch portion. If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I have a lot of Dutch ancestors. But Ancestry doesn’t locate “Dutch DNA.” I don’t think any of the DNA companies do. It might show up as British and/or Scandinavian, for instance. It’s pretty annoying. Then there’s that Prussian thread. They probably lived close to Sweden, in what is now Poland. Is that Polish, German, Swedish DNA? Finally, the Alsatian portion of my DNA. What is that? Is it French or German? Well, it’s a little difficult either way because Alsace is currently in France and, in general, French people don’t get their DNA tested! That came as a shock to me, but it is illegal to do DNA testing in France where it is possible for paternity to be established. (I hope that sentence makes sense!) So there isn’t a big enough database of French and Alsatian people to help with ethnicity estimates.

Back to Ancestry’s update. I’m only going to discuss some minor findings in my new estimates as a way to show how screwed up they are. Previously, Ancestry predicted that I had 10% Eastern European DNA. I thought that must be the Prussians making a strange appearance (after all, these were Germans who lived in Poland). Now Ancestry has reduced the Eastern Eurpean DNA (nevermind that 23andme shows me with an actual specific gene that is considered Polish) to 2%.

Now my “Scandinavian” genes are no longer 6%, but I have 11% Swedish. This makes sense to me because the Prussians lived so close to Sweden that I figure there was a lot of mixing in. But then this could be Dutch DNA since that often shows up as Scandinavian. Wherever it came from, I thought it explained why my grandfather had a congenital illness that can be traced to Swedish or Italian heritage: Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency.

For kicks, I looked at my parents’ ethnicity estimates for the Swedish components. Well, gee whiz.  Mom only has 2% Swedish! I wondered if and how I could get the rest of the Swedish from my dad, but while I was checking out Mom’s I saw that she has  15% Eastern European now! and 7% Norwegian! and 3% Baltic states! She’s the Dutch and the Prussian connection, by the way. But see how different her results are from mine.

Let’s look at Dad’s. He’s got 3% Norwegian and 2% Swedish! Even if I add up both their Swedish, it only comes to 4%, and I have 10%. And wouldn’t the average be that I would get 1% from each, totalling 2%? (hahaha)

I’m going to let it lie there because I think the Swedish part alone shows that Ancestry has a LONG way to go.

So I went over to my 23andme results. 3.6% Polish. Hah. 3.1% Scandinavian! That’s a far cry from 11% Swedish. And, weirdly, 1% Balkan. I will note that Ancestry did show me with some southern European and even Iberian DNA before, but they have taken that off the table now.

It makes me mad when I hear stuff like how My Heritage tells almost everybody they have Nigerian DNA. Oh yeah? Hah, I highly doubt it. (Mine shows .9% Nigerian). It’s because the company is new, and a lot of work needs to be done before the results of our tests really should be analyzed. I think I’ll ignore the fact that they believe I have 26.5% Balkan ancestry. Geesh.

Maybe the DNA companies should explain that these estimates are just for FUN and you shouldn’t put much stock in them.

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First things first:  Happy Birthday, Mom!!! xoxo

Some time ago I wrote about Mom’s grandmother, Clara Waldeck Mulder, and her family in “I Uncovered a Stunning Clue in My Search.” I explained that I had had difficulty discovering any information about Clara’s mother. Her name was Alvena, and I had a photo with her in it, but her last name seemed to lead to a dead-end–as they say in specific genealogy jargon, I’d hit a brick wall.  Heh.

My mitochondrial DNA comes to me from her: Alvena to Clara to my grandmother Edna to my mother (who turns XX years old today) to me.

Alvena married Gottfried (Godfrey) Waldeck, and they had perhaps ten children. Clara was the youngest. Eventually I found that Alvena’s maiden name was Noffke, and I discovered on Ancestry that there are lots of descendents of Alvena and Godfrey throughout southern Michigan.

I have made contact with two people who share this ancestry. The female relative and I have DNA hits on both Ancestry and 23andme. She is from this Waldeck/Noffke branch. I also “met” a man with the last name Noffke and we are actually related in the same way, except that his dad was adopted so when he takes the DNA test, his results won’t help us narrow in on anything.

When I found the female relative, she gave me a copy of the minutes from years of family reunions. This report documents births, deaths, etc. I felt at that time that I was closer to finding out more about the Noffkes and to discovering where the Waldecks and the Noffkes came from.

We’ve always been told they were from Germany, although some documents I’ve read online say “Prussia.”

Germany at the time that Alvena's parents were born

Germany at the time that Alvena’s parents were born

But what now?

The concept of “Germany” could mean different things to different people in the 19th century, when the family emigrated. My 23andme report shows that I have at least one Polish gene. Could it be from that branch of the family?

How can I locate the area of Europe, even the town or village, that my ancestors came from?

I do have the names of Alvena’s parents. They are Ludwig (Louis) and Dora Couch. Couch doesn’t sound like a German name to me. It seems to be an English name. But where could that come from?

Brick walls are crazy-making.

Any ideas on where to go from here?

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Update:

On the Ancestry Facebook page, somebody posted this information about using your raw data from Ancestry to compare outside their site:

On your DNA page top right is an option to download your raw data. You need to select and then they will email a link with the address on file. Once you have that, you can go to GEDmatch and follow the instructions to upload. Unfortunately, they are not accepting new data until on or about August 15th. FamilyTreeDNA also has the transfer function. Go to their page and scroll down to almost the bottom. FTDNA charges, GEDmatch is free.

Click this link to get to my DNA post.

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Before I took a DNA test, I didn’t know anything about DNA. Now that I’ve taken two DNA tests, maybe I know even less than nothing.

First I took 23andme, as it had been recommended to me. When I got the results, I was tickled to get some health information, but I didn’t take it too seriously. After all, it was fairly general, and it wouldn’t catch any of the thousands of rare diseases lurking out there in some of our genes. It certainly didn’t predict that rare tumor discovered in my foot eight years ago. Nor did it foretell the hereditary lymphedema I have (thanks, Grandma). Then I also found out that even if you have a particular gene, it often takes a certain “something” to happen to trigger an illness.

So I turned the virtual page on the health information and looked at the information which shows what areas of the world my genes come from. A few genes were identified as coming from particular places, such as one gene that 23andme insists is a Polish gene. I also learned that a lot of my genes are “unidentified Northern European.”

They identified my Haplogroup, which is the mitochondrial DNA I inherited through the maternal line, meaning from my mother and her mother and my grandmother’s mother, all the way back. Interesting, but what do I do with that info? The exact classification they gave me I can’t even find online.  Am I the only person with this mitochondrial DNA–well, are my mother and I the only people with it?

Should I order this from 23andme?

Should I order this from 23andme?

Remember how we thought Neanderthal were a totally unrelated species that died out? Apparently they didn’t really die out. I was told that I am 2.6% Neanderthal. The average European is 2.7%. Kind of hard to put your mind around that. I don’t have a lot of Neanderthal traits, having a high, rather than low, forehead, a narrow frame, and am not particularly strong. I’m sure my husband has some joke in this somewhere. But he doesn’t have the guts to take the test himself.

After I got the results of this test, I realized that it wouldn’t “mesh” with the Ancestry.com test results other people have taken. I didn’t know why they couldn’t be meshed, but I accepted that as fact. It seems that it’s because different companies test for different things. I decided to take the Ancestry test as well because I wanted it as part of my family tree on Ancestry in case I had any DNA matches with people whose trees could provide me with leads.

When I got the results of the Ancestry test I was really disappointed. It doesn’t provide anything except general regions your ancestors came from. Not even any specific countries. No medical information.

And the areas my genes come from are quite different according these two different tests. Ancestry claims a large percentage of my genes are from eastern Europe and about a quarter from Britain. Um, no. Their explanation is that this analysis might represent the location of my ancestors thousands of years ago. So what good is that then?

The one good thing that came from my very overpriced Ancestry test was finding an actual Waldeck relative through our matching DNA. Pretty cool, yes? And the fact that we both have a big chunk of eastern European DNA coming up on the Ancestry test points us in the direction of Prussia, so that was helpful. Unless I spend too much time looking back at my 23andme test, which shows a tiny percentage from eastern Europe. Confusing?

Something interesting about both DNA tests: the results continue to change as the companies get more and more information. They collect knowledge from people. This seems pretty hit or miss to me. But it’s kind of cool to watch things change every so often.

Finally, both test results netted me hits from 4-6th cousins, and most of them have absolutely no surnames in common on their family trees. So how is it possible that they are 4th-6th cousins?

Hmm, this science is still in its infancy, methinks.

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Update:

On the Ancestry Facebook page, somebody posted this information about using your raw data from Ancestry to compare outside their site:

On your DNA page top right is an option to download your raw data. You need to select and then they will email a link with the address on file. Once you have that, you can go to GEDmatch and follow the instructions to upload. Unfortunately, they are not accepting new data until on or about August 15th. FamilyTreeDNA also has the transfer function. Go to their page and scroll down to almost the bottom. FTDNA charges, GEDmatch is free.

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I wrote about my great-grandmother Clara Waldeck Mulder in The Lost Bracelet. At the time I posted about her, I didn’t really have a lot of facts about her, other than that I lost her bracelet because the clasp didn’t hold while I was at work.  Ironically, I was selling costume jewelry at Jacobson’s, in downtown Kalamazoo.

Since then my mother gave me some notes about her grandma:

  • She regularly did heavy farm chores, especially after her children were old enough to stay in the house alone. She was a big strong woman.
  • She cooked without recipes, but the food tasted very good.
  • In the evening she served us homemade ice cream that she and Grandpa made.
  • She cared for the chickens, including slaughtering them to cook and eat.
  • Along with family help, she kept a large vegetable garden.
  • She let us go wildflower picking in the “woods” across the road from their farmhouse and barn.
  • She let us play the player piano as much as we wanted. It used the perforated paper rolls.
  • Her family, both sides, seemed to carry a glaucoma gene; many experienced at least some loss of vision.
  • Some of her relatives were farmers.
  • Her family met for a family reunion with extended family every summer–it went on for many years.
  • When she got sick in her sixties and died, I felt a great loss.

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Although I never got to meet my great-grandmother Clara, I did visit her farm and even stayed there for a week once with my great-grandfather and his second wife Margaret.  I remember my grandmother, Clara’s daughter, taking me wildflower picking in the woods across the street from the farmhouse.

By this time you might wonder what the clue could be about the Waldecks.  Well, the information I had been given was that Clara’s father was Godfrey (probably Gottfried) Waldeck and her mother’s maiden name was Alvena Neffka.

I had met a brick wall trying to trace these people back to Germany. I even talked to a German genealogist who has helped me in the past. He said Neffka couldn’t be a German name.  He questioned if that was really the name.

The only clue I’d found was on Alvena’s death certificate which indicated that her father was Louis Koffler and her mother Dora Couch.

So I started picking and probing at the name Neffka (on Ancestry), trying to figure out what else it could be.  That’s when names like Gniffke, Koffler, Knoffka started showing up all over the place.

Then suddenly I started getting hits on Noffke right and left, especially in Caledonia, Michigan, where my great-grandmother was from.  I changed the name to Noffke on my tree and I was showered with little green leaf hints from Ancestry.

For the first time, I found tons of Noffke relatives right in southwestern Michigan, where they ought to be.  I am still going through this treasury of information.

I’m a little closer to breaking through that brick wall.

Also, I had a DNA match at Ancestry with a verifiable relative—we are both 2nd great-granddaughters of Godfrey and Alvena.  She and I inexplicably showed up with eastern European DNA.  That, and some documents which say “Prussia,” seem to indicate that my grandmother’s Noffke family—and probably the Waldecks as well—are actually from Prussia, not Germany proper.

Onward in my search.  Polishing up my Nancy Drew microscope for the Noffke leaves.

Leaving you with a photo of old Caledonia, Michigan:

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