Tuesday, May 26, 2015

DNA “Begging” Letter


Dear DNA Relative,

I am getting ready to beg, which is something I don’t do often. You are a DNA match to me, either in FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA), 23andMe, or AncestryDNA. Those are the three DNA tests I have taken. Guess what? There is a wonderful FREE online DNA tool called GEDmatch. You can access the site at www.GEDmatch.com. Did I mention that it is FREE! Although I have stressed its importance in other blog posts, this letter is to re-stress the importance of uploading your raw data file from any of the three aforementioned DNA companies to GEDmatch. Yes, this is indeed very very important. Therefore, please upload to GEDmatch. Pretty please!

First, I would like to briefly list a few reasons why uploading to GEDmatch is important. Secondly, I will provide some instructions on how to do so.

Reasons to Upload to GEDmatch

1.    To gain more DNA matches with others who have tested with a different company but uploaded to GEDmatch. You might even gain some high DNA matches. This is especially important for adoptees. A long lost sibling, parent, aunt or uncle may be in GEDmatch.

2.    To be able to compare your DNA to known family members in order to determine how you are related. This effective process is called triangulation. This can be performed in 23andMe and FTDNA but not in AncestryDNA. This is a good blog post that explains this process: http://blog.kittycooper.com/2015/02/triangulation-proving-a-common-ancestor/ Here’s a scenario: Let’s say that you match me in AncestryDNA. Once you upload to GEDmatch, I compare you to both of my parents and determine that you match my father. Not only that, I compare you to other known relatives and determine that you also match my father’s paternal second cousin in the same area on one of our 23 chromosomes. Then, I know that you are related to me via my paternal grandfather. We can then take a closer look at his family tree to try to determine exactly how we are related.

3.    If you have taken the AncestryDNA test, you do not even know exactly how much DNA you share with a DNA match. You only get a “confidence score,” which is not that useful, in my opinion. DNA is measured in units called centimorgans (cM). The more “cM” you share with someone, the closer the relationship, in most cases. In GEDmatch, you learn how much DNA you share with your DNA matches. You can also use ISOGG’s DNA statistics chart to determine a possible relationship. Those statistics can be seen here. (Note: Ancestry DNA now shows the amount of DNA shared with your match. Just click on their DNA profile by clicking "View Match," and click the "i" besides the confidence score.)

4.    You have a plethora of analysis tools in GEDmatch to learn more about your ancestry composition. You wanna see if you truly have some Native American ancestry? You can do so in GEDmatch.

5.    You can even determine if your parents are related to each other. Yes, for real. Many people did not know that they married their cousin.

6.    You can do X-chromosome comparisons in GEDmatch. You can’t do that in AncestryDNA. X-chromosome matches are revealing because X-DNA is passed down via certain lineages. This helps to determine the family connection. For further explanation, read this blog post.

These are just a few reasons why you should upload to GEDmatch. There are others, but I know that your time is very important. The reasons I just listed are the most important ones, in my opinion. Now, here’s how you can upload to GEDmatch:

Uploading your 23andMe Results to GEDmatch

1. In 23andMe, in the top right corner, click on your name and click on "Browse Raw Data."

2. Once that page opens, look underneath your name in the top right corner and click on "Download".

3. Re-enter your password and enter the answer to the secret question. Then, choose your profile. For “Data Set,” select ALL DNA.

4. Remember the spot where the raw data file is saved on your hard drive.

5. Go to www.GEDmatch.com. Register a new account. It will send a verification code to your e-mail address. 

6. Once in GEDmatch, under "Autosomal Raw Data," click on "23andMe."

7. Complete the fields. You will see an icon at the bottom where you are asked to upload your 23andMe raw data file.

8. Then, watch it do its work. Do not close your browser while it is processing.

9. Once it is done, you can do certain things in GEDmatch, like One-to-One Comparison, but not everything until batch processing is 100% complete. That may take several days.

Uploading your AncestryDNA Results to GEDmatch

Why reinvent the wheel? This site here explains it in clear, step-by-step directions: https://stonefamilytree.wordpress.com/2014/08/03/how-to-upload-your-ancestry-dna-test-results-to-GEDmatch/

Uploading your FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA) Results to GEDmatch

Why reinvent the wheel? This site here explains it in clear, step-by-step directions: http://yourdnaguide.com/uploading-to-GEDmatch-from-ftdna/

Also, check out my blog post called “20 Do's and Don'ts of DNA” at http://rootsrevealed.blogspot.com/2015/01/20-dos-and-donts-of-dna.html

See…it’s that simple! Please please please allocate some time to upload to GEDmatch. Yes, I am begging. Another world of DNA matches and exciting information awaits you! Why not take advantage of it? Thank you!


Your Hopeful DNA Relative

Monday, May 18, 2015

African Autosomal DNA Matching: A Feeling I Can’t Describe


Autosomal DNA tests (like 23andMe, FamilyTree DNA, etc.) are allowing many people of African descent to gain insight about some of their African roots in a very profound manner – by connecting them to African distant cousins. I get chills when a new African match appears among my DNA relatives or that of my parents, my maternal aunt, and my maternal uncle, all of whom I have tested with 23andMe. I am not alone in my reaction. Many people are jumping for joy when they get a new African DNA match. They eagerly post about it in Facebook groups like DNA Tested African Descendants and others. I feel and understand their joy. It is indeed a feeling that’s indescribable!

To date, my family has at least four valid DNA matches to African cousins. I say “valid” because the African DNA cousins also match other known family members on the same spot on the same chromosome. These matches are likely to be “Identity by Descent” (IBD). According to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG), IBD is when a matching segment of DNA, shared by two or more people, has been inherited from a recent common ancestor without any intervening recombination.[1] To learn more about the threshold for matches from various DNA companies, see this link. There are other matches that I am not sure about, so I will leave them out of this post for now.

Three of my family’s four valid DNA matches to date have shared no greater than 8 cM but matching multiple family members. The other match, who is from Madagascar, shares 10 cM with my father, as shown below. According to geneticist Tim Janzen, many matches under 15 cMs will, in any case, share ancestry more than ten generations ago and will be mostly beyond the reach of genealogical records[2] For many African Americans, the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade here in America was at least 8 generations ago. I plausibly asserted that after nine generations back, I hit the time frames in my own family tree when many of my African ancestors were living in Africa. Many in that 9th generation endured the horrific Middle Passage, while few in that 9th generation were probably among the first to be born on American soil to African parents. This is my best guess based on genealogical findings to date.

The 9th generation would be my 7th-great-grandparents. Everyone have a total of 512 7th-great-grandparents, and a majority of mine were undoubtedly Africans. Although nine or more generations back is beyond my genealogical scope thus far, these African DNA matches are definitive links to the Motherland. These African DNA matches are clear indications that family members were left behind when our enslaved African ancestors were: (1) captured and marched to the Atlantic shores of Africa from their villages in the interior; (2) chained to the belly of slave ships; (3) survived the gruesome Middle Passage; (4) auctioned in slave markets in South Carolina, Virginia, the Caribbean, and other places; and (5) birthed my American-born ancestors.

Like most descendants of enslaved Africans in America, I am an admixture of many African ethnic groups. I estimate that I had hundreds of ancestors who endured the horrific Middle Passage, and they came from areas throughout West Africa and West-Central Africa. A few may have even hailed from Mozambique and Madagascar, based on transatlantic slave trade statistics. All of them make up the 89.8% Sub-Saharan African ancestry that 23andMe proclaims is part of my ancestry composition. Therefore, I hope to add to my present list of four as more Africans take the autosomal DNA tests (23andMe, FamilyTree DNA, etc.). To increase discoveries like these, 23andMe had been offering free kits to people with four grandparents from one of the sub-Saharan African countries — Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo , Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. Enrollment in this project is now closed. More info about that project can be read here.

My African DNA matches from 23andMe include the following:


Family Link:                
Posted Surnames:       
IBD Validity:

Ethnic groups/tribes:

Paternal grandfather, Hulen Kennedy
Fru, Nchoungong
Matches my father, his paternal 2nd cousin, & me on the same spot on chromosome 3
5.3 to 6.1 cM
Bamileke - his mother is from the Bambili tribe and his father is from the Nkwen tribe


Family Link:
Posted Surnames:       
IBD Validity:

Ethnic groups/tribes:
Maternal grandfather, Simpson Reed
Dodoo, Wunu, Bansah
Matches my mother, her sister & brother, their 1st cousin 3X removed, and me on the same spot on chromosome 2
5.1 to 5.9 cM
Ashanti and Ewe peoples


Family Link:
Posted Surnames:       
IBD Validity:

Ethnic groups/tribes:
Maternal great-grandmother, Mary Danner Davis
Not Available
Not Available
Matches my mother, her brother, their two maternal 2nd cousins, and me on the same spot on chromosome 5
7.2 to 7.7 cM
Not shown (probably Basotho people)


Family Link:
Posted Surnames:       
IBD Validity:
Ethnic groups/tribes:
Paternal grandfather, Hulen Kennedy
Ramalanjaona, Rajoelinjaka
Matches my father and his paternal first cousin twice removed
10 cM
Malagasy people

I must say, a match to someone from Lesotho is a big surprise! I am still researching the possibilities of that valid match. Nonetheless, to underscore the importance of these matches, genetics expert Shannon Christmas, who is a 23andMe Ancestry Ambassador and co-administrator of The Hemings-Jefferson-Wayles-Eppes Autosomal DNA Project, conveys that autosomal DNA matches with native Africans are the best indicators of one's ancestral origins in Africa. He further asserts that these African DNA connections are the types of discoveries that people of African descent should embrace and encourage because they teach us far more than haplogroup predictions and autosomal biogeographical analysis. I have communicated with two of these African DNA cousins via social media and inbox messages, and I look forward to the day when I meet them in person. Undoubtedly, tears will fall from my eyes.

Note: I will update this post as I get more African DNA matches in the future.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother’s Day Story: When Giving a Child Up is the Best


My sister and I are blessed to have such a loving, nurturing mother. We have always had a close relationship with our Mom, who loved being a Mom. That’s why I couldn’t understand how a woman, who gives birth to a child, opt out of being a mother to that child. However, as I got older, I began to understand why. With some women, the greatest love that she can give to her child is giving that child up. What do I mean?

This weekend, I have been thinking a lot about the late Mrs. Gertrude “Gert” Estelle Belton Brown. She was my father’s birth mother. I remember her well. She lived in Harvey, Illinois. We visited her every summer up until her demise in 1983. I can still picture the inside of her house she shared with her husband, David Brown. When my family and I traveled to Chicago, we would spend at least one or two nights with her and/or my Aunt Geraldine before spending the remaining time in Chicago with my mother’s sister and her family.

Gertrude Belton Brown (1908-1983) with her daughter, Aunt Geraldine

Growing up, I was always told that she was my grandmother too, and for that I had great love for her. However, I used to wonder why she chose to give my father up to his biological father. Shortly after my father was born in Leake County (Lena), Mississippi, Grandma Gert left with her infant boy and moved to Clarksdale, Mississippi, where she resided with relatives. She had been living in Leake County for a short while with her uncle and aunt, Arthur & Mattie Belton Jones. Well, a tall and reserved man named Hulen “Newt” Kennedy wasn’t having it. He was Dad’s biological father. He did not want any child of his being raised in the neo-slavery Mississippi Delta. So he traveled to Clarksdale to get him, and he brought him back to Leake County. Making no fuss, Grandma Gert allowed him to take my father. She didn’t see him again until 16 years later.

Upon returning back to Lena, Grandpa Newt asked his childless double first cousin, Willie Ealy Collier, and her husband, George Collier, to raise him. George & Willie Collier were esteemed educators, so Grandpa Newt knew that they could give my father a great upbringing. And that, they did! They legally adopted my father. They were also wonderful grandparents to me and my sisters. We were very close to them, and I thank God, as well as Grandma Gert and Grandpa Newt, for giving me the best grandparents in the world. When Grandma Willie would say to me, “Buster, you have plenty of my blood in you,” I knew what she meant because my father’s true parentage was not a secret. Being double first cousins, she and Grandpa Newt Kennedy shared the same four grandparents. Read “Grandma Was Right” for DNA evidence.

Grandma Gert later expressed to my Mom that she had no regrets giving my father up. She knew that he would have a much better life back in Leake County and that the Colliers would be great parents to her son. Still, I didn’t understand things until I started researching her family. As I connected the dots, everything began to make sense. Genealogy gives you more than just your family tree; it helps to put things into perspective.

You see, Grandma Gert’s life was filled with instability since she was a young girl. She was born in 1908 in Warren County, Mississippi near the Bovina community, to Peter Belton Jr. & Angeline Bass Belton. However, in the 1910 census, Grandma Angeline Belton was reported as the head of household and was reported as being a widow. Grandma Gert and her older brother, Jake Belton, were in the household. Peter Belton was nowhere to be found in 1910, so I assume that he had died near the time Grandma Gert was born.  Therefore, she didn’t have a father.

 1910 U.S. Federal Census – Warren County, Mississippi

Then by 1920, within that 10-year span, her mother Angeline had another daughter in 1912 (my great-aunt Pearlie), remarried, and moved to Sharkey County, Mississippi, in the neo-slavery Mississippi Delta. In the 1920 census, Grandma Angeline’s second husband, Henry Dennis, was the head of household. The only child in the household was my grandmother’s older brother, Jake Belton. See below. Aunt Pearlie was left back in Warren County, being raised by her father, William Weekley, and his new wife.

1920 U.S. Federal Census – Sharkey County, Mississippi (Where was my grandmother?)

I still have yet to figure out why Grandma Gert wasn’t in the household and with whom she was living. Based on Aunt Pearlie’s memory, Angeline had died around 1920, probably shortly after the 1920 census was taken. Therefore, not only did Grandma Gert not have a father, but she lost her mother when she was around 12 years old. I don’t know with whom she resided after her mother died. To add salt to her wound, her only brother, Jake Belton, died five years later in 1925. Life had dealt her a bad deck of cards. Her immediate family – her parents and her brother – were gone forever. And she was a teenager when she reconnected with her baby sister, Aunt Pearlie Mae Weekley Spicer (1912-2008).

At age 18, she gave birth to her first child, my aunt Geraldine Rayford Parham. Similar to my father, Aunt Geraldine was raised by her father’s family. She would reunite with Grandma Gert years later, and they remained close. I loved visiting Aunt Geraldine and Uncle Fred Parham, who lived just a few blocks away from Grandma Gert in Harvey, Illinois. Aunt Geraldine showered us with lots of love. She will always have a special place in my heart.

Aunt Geraldine Parham (1926-1991)

Sadly, I have only been able to find Grandma Gert in the 1910 census. I can’t find her in 1920, 1930, nor in 1940. From what I understand, she had lived in a number of locations – Nitta Yuma, Mississippi; Kosciusko, Mississippi; Earle, Arkansas; Memphis, Tennessee; Lena, Mississippi; Clarksdale, Mississippi, and lastly, Harvey, Illinois. Unfortunately, instability was part of her life and would not have been conducive to the upbringing of a child. I am sure that she cried many tears after releasing her infant boy to his father. Genealogy enabled me to see clearly why she did what she did. She wanted for him what she didn’t have – a great, stable childhood. Giving him up was the “greatest love of all” that she could give to her child. Happy Mother’s Day, Grandma Gert! You will never be forgotten. R.I.P.