Year: 2013

Up until now, I really only had photos and documents from my paternal side of the family, not including documents found online, etc. Recently, I’ve finally been given a collection of those things from my maternal side and it’s pretty awesome.

As always, a lot of the photographs are unlabeled, but I can tell who a few of the people probably are. Plus, I am fortunate that my maternal grandparents are still with us and hopefully we can find some time to sit down with them to discuss some of items.

I am currently in the process of scanning them, so you can probably expect an increase of “Way Back Wednesday” posts.

Here is one nice photo from the dozens I have scanned.

Thielke Family
circa 1919-1920. Click for larger. Much, much larger.

I’m almost positive that the couple on the left side of the photo are my great-grandparents, Arthur & Madora (Last) Thielke. Most of the photos are not labeled, but based on other photos and face recognition, I’m pretty certain it’s them. I will confirm with my grandfather at some point. My guess is this is either their wedding (since it’s dated around 1920) or another important event. I have no clue who the other couple is, but it’s safe to say that they are probably a relation to Arthur and/or Madora.

rootstechAfter watching some of stuff from RootsTech 2012 last year, I told myself I was going to go to RootsTech 2013. Both of my passions, genealogy and technology, are joined together from March 21-23 in Salt Lake City, Utah. They even have a “Developer Day” there now.

I knew that If I put aside some money throughout the year I’d easily be able to take myself there. I even talked it over with my wife and she said it’d be fine. Well, things don’t always go to plan, do they?

The first big wrench that was thrown into the gears was the birth of my son. I love him to bits, but his timing was just a bit off. I didn’t want to leave my wife with two kids under 3 for a few days, eight hours is probably enough during work days. The other wrench was that my wife will actually be out of town during those days, too and I need to watch my daughter. So, my plan is to hopefully hit up RootsTech 2014 next March or April. (Right, honey?)

Fortunately, in this digital age, RootsTech is streaming many of their presentations online and if it’s anything like last year they will be available on-demand after that. You can still access the videos from RootsTech 2012 which are still extremely interesting. (Warning: auto-playing video)

For all of you that are going to RootsTech 2013, have a great time and I hope to see you next year!

A couple of weeks ago I finally got a bunch of photos from my maternal side of the family. I really had next to nothing when it came to photos for that side of the family compared to the amount from my paternal side. Among the awesome pics of my grandparents and their families when they were younger, there are some photos of my grandfather during World War II. You may have remembered that there is almost nothing known about his time in WWII. It’s not something he talked about with most people and he’s considered too “young” to show up in a lot of the available public military records. I have yet to go to the state military archives, since there may be some stuff there, too.

One amazing photo was of him and a group of other men from November 1945 in Mannheim, Germany. The building behind the group has the words “504 QM BN Headquarters” on it. I quickly translated that to the “504th Quartermasters Battalion.” As much searching as I did, I could not find any info on that specific battalion. I posted a query over on /r/Military on reddit and got some help, but nothing solid. Fortunately, on the back of the photo were the names of all of the men. I searched for all of them and didn’t find much besides some generic obituaries, but again, no solid info.

Thielke 1945
Click for larger. My grandfather is 2nd from the left in the 2nd row.

My mom brought over another photo album and some newspaper clippings. One of the clippings was from a local paper in 1944 talking about my grandfather, a local man, and his service information. This clipping lists him as being part of the “748th F. A. Bn. Hq. Btry.” out of Camp Shelby, Mississippi which I assume is the “748th Field Artillery Battalion Headquarters Battery.” Again, no solid leads on that information, but it is another avenue of research.

The research trail continues. I may have some time to sit down with my grandparents, though they are slowing down in their old age, and maybe ask him about his service. Rumor has it that he was working on getting all of his military info in one place before he needed heart surgery a few years ago. Maybe he’s waiting for someone to ask him now.

FamilySearch has a boatload of church records scanned and available online for Germany, Prussia, and Pomerania from 1544-1945, though I would estimate that most of them are in the middle of that range. Currently they’re not available for searching, but I did see them in the indexing software, so maybe they will be available for that soon. That means you must look through them by hand, like the good ol’ days.

It seems that a lot of families from this area of Wisconsin immigrated from that area, which is now mostly in Poland, so I’m in luck. I used this collection to find a few records so far. I found my 3rd-great-grandparent’s marriage record and my 3rd-great-grandfather’s baptism record (I’m pretty sure.) Keep in mind that the towns and parishes are not named the same as they were in the 1800s, so you can’t just go to Google Maps. Don’t worry, I’ve done some of the hard work for you and will show you how to find the records you need. Though, this won’t do all of the browsing record by record and trying to determine what someone wrote in German on old, ripped paper from 1840 for you, but maybe for a few bucks I can do that for you, too.

Some of the Pommern church records available.

The key in all of this is an amazing site called Kartenmeister. They describe themselves:

Welcome to the most comprehensive database of its kind in the world. It contains 93537 locations with over 38.691 name changes once, and 5,500 twice and more.  Included in this database are the following provinces: Eastprussia, including Memel, Westprussia, Brandenburg, Posen, Pomerania, and Silesia. It currently list most towns or points, points being: Mills, some bridges, battlefields, named trees, cenotaphs etc.


Google PlusIf you’re a visitor to social networks of any kind, you’ve probably already heard about Google+ (or Google Plus.) Though, maybe as I have noticed, you seem to hear mostly negative things about it, usually on Facebook. I’ve read posts about how it’s a wasteland or “none of my friends are on it.” I’d like to say now that at least one of those is completely false. Your friends probably aren’t on it.

The problem there is that people are comparing it to Twitter and Facebook when it’s like comparing apples to kiwis . To paraphrase something I read, Facebook is for your existing friends (close friends, grandma, etc), Twitter is for sharing information on current events, and Google+ is for your passions. That’s the key.

I, like almost everyone else, signed into Google+ when it first appeared and found it boring and quiet. I admit that this was before they added a lot of the features that make it what it is today. It’s actually pretty true that not many of my friends are on it, but the ones that are on it aren’t the reason I enjoy it. I find it much more useful for interacting with like-minded people. I’ve collaborated and chatted more about my passions on Google+ in the last few months than on Facebook and Twitter combined over their lifetimes.

So far, the key for me has been the Google+ communities. Browse around and find one that interests you. I’ve joined unrelated communities from Genetic Genealogy to Doctor Who to jQuery to SimCity. I even set up a community myself for the purpose of Milwaukee, Wisconsin Genealogy (self promo!) and it’s already creating some good discussion and contacts.

So, my point is, don’t believe random Facebook commentors (trust them as much as YouTube commentors) and look around Google+ for your passions and start interacting. You’ll be surprised.

While you’re there, look me up.

This is Part 4 in a series of post dedicated to finding out more information about your DNA test results from 23andMe or Family Tree DNA. If you haven’t read it, yet, view Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Today we’re going to look into the last set of DNA that you can use in your research, Autosomal DNA. This is DNA which is inherited from the autosomal chromosomes. Humans have 22 pairs of autosomes and one pair of sex chromosomes (the X chromosome and the Y chromosome). Each pair of autosomes is inherited the same way.

For each pair of autosomes, you received one from your mother and one from your father. Before the autosomes were sent to you, they were randomly jumbled in a process called recombination. Your parents also received their autosomes from their parents who also recombined them. So, your autosomes are random mixtures of all of your ancestors autosomes. All branches of your ancestry contribute to your Autosomal DNA. Obviously, the more distant the ancestor is, the less you share with them. Closer relatives will share larger fragments with you compared to distant relatives.

For example, this chart below shows, on average, how much autosomal DNA you share with specific relatives:

Public domain Image from Wikimedia Commons. Click for larger.
Public domain Image from Wikimedia Commons. Click for larger.

This is the DNA that most places use to match you up with potential cousins using Relative Finder from 23andMe or Family Finder from Family Tree DNA. If you have shared genomes with people on 23andMe, you can go to “Ancestry Labs” on the menu and choose “Family Inheritance: Advanced” to see which parts of your autosomal DNA you share, if any. can also compare your Autosomal DNA and show you, in great detail, where you match with other individuals.

I hope you learned something. Remember, DNA testing is much more useful with an already sourced genealogy paper trail. Otherwise it will be very difficult to see how you relate to your DNA matches.

This is Part 3 in a series of post dedicated to finding out more information about your DNA test results from 23andMe or Family Tree DNA. If you haven’t read it, yet, view Part 1 or Part 2.

I had the YDNA and mtDNA down pretty good in my head. One is paternal, one is maternal, and so on. Then after I submitted my info to GEDMatch,  I saw the “Compare your X-chromosome FTDNA or 23andMe result with one other result in our database” option. Ok, so what exactly does the X Chromosome tell me and how do I inherit it?

The X Chromosome is passed down by both parents, though only daughters get it from their father as the father sends over the Y Chromosome to their son instead. This makes for a weird line of inheritance through your ancestry. A good way to figure this out is to use a fan chart. I was able to find a chart on this helpful post over at The Genetic Genealogist about the X Chromosome. Here is my chart, filled in with my ancestors, telling me where I could have inherited my X Chromosome:

Click for larger
Click for larger

The charts can be found over at The Genetic Genealogist, though I had to increase the image size a bit to make it easier to work with. There is also a chart showing the estimated percentage of the X Chromosome that you get from each ancestor.

I obviously don’t have all of the boxes filled in as I don’t have those ancestors figured out, yet. On my research over at GEDMatch, I see that I match a few people on my X Chromosome. So, in theory, these people would be related to me through those ancestors in the chart above (or beyond, in the same sequence.) My French-Canadian ancestry is included in the chart above, so I undoubtedly will have a lot of connections through there as I always do. It’s not a silver bullet by any means, but it does help you narrow down your search if you find a connection, especially along with other matches in other DNA areas or common surnames.

Again, there is another very quick and helpful video on the X Chromosome over at the University of Utah’s Molecular Genealogy page. I would definitely watch it.

Next time we will talk about the other 22 Chromosomes or the Autosomal DNA.


This is Part 2 in a series of post dedicated to finding out more information about your DNA test results from 23andMe or Family Tree DNA. If you haven’t read it, yet, view Part 1.

There are four main types of DNA that can be used for genealogy purposes: Autosomal, X Chromosome, Y Chromosome, and Mitochondrial DNA. Each type of DNA is passed down from parents to children in different ways, allowing different patterns or different signs to help in your research. Here is a quick video that I found very useful explaining the four types:

My DNA lines
My DNA lines. Click for larger version.

Most people that have taken DNA tests are somewhat familiar with what seem to be the “big two”: Y Chromosome (YDNA) and Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). These are the two types of DNA that literally shoot out in opposite directions from you through your ancestry, though females can only trace mtDNA. They also give you the Haplogroups that you may have seen, one Maternal and one Paternal. Mine are H11a and R1a1a, respectively. They use this to determine where your deep ancestry hails from.

YDNA is passed down from from fathers to sons. The father is the one that determines the sex of a child by either giving an X Chromosome, for female, or a Y Chromosome, for male, which is why only males can use the YDNA information. The YDNA information traces your patrilineal line (or your surname line) back thousands of years since the Y Chromosome does not change very often as it is passed down.

mtDNA is passed down only from mother to all of her children. It works in a similar way to YDNA in that you can use it to trace your matrilineal line back thousands of years (your mother’s mother’s mother and so on.)

Here is another quick video explaining mtDNA. To view a similar video on YDNA, visit the Molecular Genealogy site at the University of Utah as I can’t find a version that I can embed.

View Part 3 for an overview of the X Chromosome and how to determine which ancestors you may get it from.

DNA KitsIn the last week or so I’ve dug deeper into my DNA testing results mainly from my 23andMe test. I hope to have this be my first post in a “series” of posts about DNA for genealogy since I’ve done a lot of other research about different types of information found in your DNA.

Another genealogist on Twitter pointed me to a genetic genealogy matching site called The site allows you to upload a copy of your raw DNA data from 23andMe or Family Tree DNA and then let you do all sorts of matching and comparing with it. The site’s user interface could use a bit of work, but we’re pretty used to that in genealogy (I’m looking at you Find-A-Grave and almost every USGenWeb site.) But underneath the hood of the site, it’s very powerful once you figure out how to use it correctly.

The first step in getting your data to GEDMatch is to get it from your original testing site. I went with 23andMe, but it seems Family Tree DNA is just as simple. Sadly, does not yet allow you to download your raw data from their site, but hopefully they will add this in the future. It literally is your data.

The steps to getting this file from 23andMe is pretty easy. Even if you don’t plan on uploading it anywhere else, it’s always nice to have a copy locally as a backup.

  1. Log into your 23andMe account.
  2. At the top-right of the site, mouse over the “Account” option and select “Browse Raw Data.”
  3. On the next page, near the top, there should be a “download raw data” link. Click it.
  4. This will bring you to the download screen. Fill in the information and make sure to select “All Data.”
  5. It should then ask you to download a compressed ZIP file. This is your raw data.
  6. Feel free to do this with every account you manage, if you have more than one.

Once you have that information on your computer, browse over to GEDMatch.

  1. You’ll need to scroll down a bit to the “Upload Your Data Files” section and click on “Upload your 23andMe DNA raw data file”
  2. They have another list of steps to take to get your raw data, feel free to look it over again.
  3. Fill out the form as they tell you and upload your raw data.

Now, it will take about 24 hours for them to process your data, so check back. Come back here in the next day or so for the next in the series tentatively titled, “Now What? Can They Clone Me?” Visit Part 2 here to learn about the YDNA and mtDNA lines.

Image from nosha@flickr

I received an email the other day from 23andMe letting me know about their new “Ancestry Composition” tool. I let it go to the back-burner since I didn’t have a chance to visit it the other day.

Today visited the link and was quite impressed. This is how it works, according to their site:

Ancestry Composition tells you what percent of your DNA comes from each of 22 populations worldwide. The analysis includes DNA you received from all of your ancestors, on both sides of your family. The results reflect where your ancestors lived 500 years ago, before ocean-crossing ships and airplanes came on the scene.

Mine wasn’t really that surprising, as usual. Mostly Northern European with most of that going to German/French and small chunks going to the British Isles and Scandinavia, just like my test. Here is a capture of my data. That 0.2% Unassigned? That’s probably troll or goblin or alien or something. Nothing to worry about.

Click for larger version
Click for larger version

Though, what was slightly surprising is when I loaded up my wife’s Ancestry Composition. I would’ve guessed she is mostly Northern European like me, with most of it going to the British Isles. It turns out she also has some Scandinavian. There was one surprising result on the list. Can you spot it?

Darcy 23andMe

That’s right. 0.2% East Asian & Native American, estimated to be about 0.1% Native American. That’s news to us. I have yet to find any connection to that, though I know this test is for way, way back. I’d be interested to see which side of her genes this came from, paternal or maternal. I’m pretty sure her dad would be interested in getting a test. He’s always interested in stuff like this. Maybe next time we visit, I can ask.

If you took a DNA test, was there anything really interesting or surprising in your results?

TypewriterAccording to my list of posts, seven years ago today is the day I started blogging on this site. Some would call it my “blogiversary.” My first post wasn’t very exciting as it looks to just be a copy of a story about Irish genealogy. Though, I quickly found my way and started to write better, more interesting posts. It’s also neat as my birthday is on the 18th.

My site dashboard says I have 432 posts as of today (including this one) and it’s been 2557 days since my first post. Doing some quick math that would make it a post every 6 days or so. That’s not really a bad average taking into consideration some of the longer breaks I took.

It’s been seven years since the first post on this site, but I know for a fact that I blogged more about genealogy before this specific site came about. I was blogging in general back in about 2000-2001, back when Blogger was still owned by Pyra Labs, its creator.

I hope to go seven more years. I’ve done a lot in those seven years. Made lots of new connections, broke down a few brick walls, and found a nice community. Here’s to the future!

Here are some of the more interesting posts I’ve done in that time:

You can always find some of the best posts by visiting my “Featured Posts” section.

Photo: gecko4wd@flickr