Suppose those HILLENBRAND Families left any DNA in Markelsheim?


My grandfather was a German immigrant to America in 1885.
He was the only son of an only son.

OK, I can see some of you rolling your eyes and muttering,

“Oh brother, this ranks right up there with ‘Hey, let me show you a few pictures of my grandchildren’…”

Well I’m going to spare you all of the juicy details, and here is why I want to use this as an example.

I have been avoiding the issue of the use of DNA testing for normal genealogical research.

I was chatting with some well known professional genealogists one day recently and the subject came up. When asked for my thoughts on the use of DNA in genealogy, my comment was something like, ”Well I do not want to take all of this hard earned and documented research that I have been doing for forty years and mess it all up with the FACTS!”

Realizing the absurdity of that statement and also noticing that there is now a very large elephant in the living room, and it isn’t going to go away, I decided to look into it a little further.

All of this scientific mumbo jumbo makes my hair hurt, and so I’m going to try to make this easy on you readers. As I understand it there are only two methods commonly used to build a huge database of genetic relationships. The (Y-DNA) is usually the first one explored, and genealogists should be quite familiar with this form of lineage discovery. Y-DNA is used to show exact or very similar markers in paternal ancestry. That is, a male can prove his father, fathers father, grandfathers father, and on and on. This is for just the male direct line ancestry. In order for a female to check her Y-DNA ancestors, she would have to submit samples for testing from a brother, father or uncle, etc.

Now everyone, male or female, can test for the Mitochondrial (mtDNA) female ancestral line. This would be for their mother, her mother, her grandmother, her great grandmother, etc. That is of the maternal direct line only. Some genealogists refer to this as the “Umbilical Line.” So what about everyone in between? Either of these two types of DNA testing will NOT prove relationships to all of the aunts and uncles, cousins, etc, in between. Look at a normal pedigree chart that you are all familiar with. The father’s paternal line is on the top and the mother’s maternal line is on the bottom, well that is ALL that can be proven at this time through these standard genealogical DNA tests.

The tests would show that those relatives in between the two direct line ancestors might have similar markers showing people that MIGHT have some common ancestry somewhere in past history.

For what it is worth, science has now shown that all modern Europeans, descend from one of seven original females, sort of prehistoric clan mothers, and also that we ALL came from Africa originally. That seemed so hard for me to grasp until I look at the three doggies we have; a Shih Tzu, a Pomeranian mix, and an English Springer Spaniel, and science also tells us that every single dog and all breeds descend directly from WOLVES!

So what does this have to do with Gramp mentioned in the start of this rant? Seems he would be an excellent candidate to explore doesn’t it? Gramp was born in 1862 in the small village of Markelsheim in Southern Germany. His father died when he was but three years old and he was raised by his step-dad. Grampa Jacob was an only son, and his father Leonhard, born in 1825 was also an only son. It appears from the church records that I was able to locate at LDS in Salt Lake City on this family, that Leonhard’s father, Johann Georg Franz Anton HILLENBRAND (1798-1826,) did have two brothers.

So here is what I have always been satisfied with. I had NO other HILLENBRAND named direct relatives in America other than my Dad’s brothers and their male descendants. Well now maybe, and maybe not. With DNA we might be able to find out right?

These people stayed in one tiny little area of Wuerttemburg for a couple of hundred years. I have no idea at all if any of the descendants of my 2nd great grand uncles ever came to America or not, nor even if they had any male issue. I just have never worked on it.

There are plenty of other families that spell the name exactly the same as we do, and scads of variety spellings, such as HILDENBRAND, HILDENBRANDT, HILLABRAND, and on and on. For what it is worth every single church record that I was able to translate spelled the name EXACTLY as we do now, back to as far as Caspar HILLENBRAND, a baker of Markelsheim, born about 1760. There is another family of HILLENBRANDs in the Syracuse area that spell their name the same way, but they are from Baden, and I have never found any connection. There is a famous family spelled the same way in Indiana, that is well known in the business world, and you see their name on tractor trailer loads of Bates Caskets. I call these the ‘rich’ ones.

Gramp came to America alone at about age 21, on the ship, Rhaetia, through the Castle Garden immigration center in Battery Park, Manhattan, about the time that the Statue of Liberty would have been having her crown installed.

I have heard one of the authors, of “Trace Your Roots with DNA,” Megan Smolenyak, speak a couple of times, and she has a way to make it all sound a little easier to understand. Megan is now the Chief Genealogist at Ancestry and a constant lecturer on this subject. If you are interested you can purchase her book by clicking on the banner at the bottom of this Blog, or if you want to look into this DNA testing program yourself you can check it out by also clicking the banner below. Megan explains that this type of testing is painless and is not the type that you might have seen on “CSI” or “Cold Case Files.” You will not have to give blood, or pull out your hair, or have a tooth extracted to get at the juicy pulp. Megan also says that these tests will not be used for criminal investigation, and they do not code for genetic traits.

The testing kit will arrive and all you do is swab the inside of your cheek with a sort of Q-tip gadget, seal it in the container provided and mail it in to Ancestry. You will be notified in a couple or few weeks of the results, and then the fun begins to compare it to others in the database. The more testing that gets done, the better the database results will be, for ever more.

Ancestry will guard your privacy and allow persons that match to correspond anonymously until such time that both parties are comfortable and elect to share names, addresses, emails, etc.

So we will probably pursue this further and get tested, at least through the Y-DNA method for now, and see if we can come up with any matches. There are plenty of other companies that do this same type of testing but we have settled on Ancestry.

Why not look into it and see if it is something that you would be interested in? I suspect that this is going to revolutionize the world of genealogical research, and if not be proof positive, will certainly pull you off routes of investigation that are totally wrong.

Sounds like fun.

Dick Hillenbrand – Upstate New York Genealogy –

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5 Responses to “Suppose those HILLENBRAND Families left any DNA in Markelsheim?”


    Dick Hillenbrand
    I enjoyed your article on DNA; I’ve been a member of the Family Tree DNA program for a few years. I have yet to make an exact match on 37 markers. Your observation, “The more testing that gets done, the better the database results will be, for ever more” presents a question that has come to mind many times. With more than one company offering the genealogy DNA service, how does one know if a match may have been taken with another company?

    Best Regards,
    Richard Mitchell


    Hi Richard,
    Thanks so much for the contact. I do not know the answer to your question, but will try to find out and let you know.
    My hunch is that it would sort of be like Ford and Chevy sharing their customer base. I doubt it.
    Maybe someday in the future.
    I’ll see what I can find out for you.
    May I have your permission to post your comments on the Blog message? That way perhaps someone that knows a lot more about it than I do will give us an answer.
    Best regards.
    Dick Hillenbrand

    Hi Dick,
    Thanks for the reply, no problem, you have my permission, I’m sure the responses will be very interesting.
    My thought is, there should be some sort of regulation that all genealogy DNA has to be shared in a common data bank.



    Let the buyer beware. Doing DNA testing for geneaology purposes is
    about the same as purchasing a family coat of arms.
    Thanks very much for the comment. Well said and point taken.
    May I have your permission to put your comment on the Blog message?
    Feel free to post my comment.
    Happy Holidays. Bob Peters

  • TheGeneticGenealogist:

    Mr. Hillenbrand – I’ve been a reader of the blog for some time now, and let me say that I’ve greatly enjoyed it.

    I am the author of The Genetic Genealogist (, and I thought I would address Mr. Mitchell’s question. There are freely available Y-DNA databases available online. Many people who are tested by different companies enter their information into these databases in hopes of finding matches. The two most common databases are Ysearch and Ybase. I would recommend adding your results to these databases to increase your chances of finding a match (but only if you don’t mind your own results being public).

    To the “let the buyer beware” comment, I would add that although there can be drawbacks to genetic genealogy (and the buyer should ALWAYS educate themselves first), these tests are based on published, peer-reviewed science that was originally developed and used by anthropologists.

  • Carol Hubbell Boggs:

    Mr. Hillenbrand,

    Thank you for doing such a consistently good job with your work in the interest of genealogy and genealogists. We may be silent sometimes, but we appreciate it.

    Carol Hubbell Boggs

  • Locate Ancestral Town Using World War I Draft Registration Cards | UNYG Blog:

    [...] find for 2011. My father’s family of HILLENBRANDs in Syracuse started with grandfather Jacob HILLENBRAND coming from Markelsheim, Wuerttemburg in 1885. I have mentioned this before on this blog, and his photo can be seen on my main website at [...]

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