Posts Tagged ‘Y-DNA’

Genealogy and DNA Hand in Hand

There is an enormous amount of discussion on the internet about using DNA testing to “prove” one’s genealogy.  Well certainly genealogy and DNA go hand in hand however there are certain limits as to what may be proven.

DNA Hand-in-Hand

DNA Hand-in-Hand

DNA absolutely may be used to authenticate the parents of an individual.  We all inherit absolutely unique codes of information from our parents.  50% of the code in our genomic makeup comes from our father and is known Y-DNA, and 50% comes from our mother which is called Mitochondrial DNA.  As long as you are able to collect a sufficient number of cells from all three individuals, you will have absolute proof that the two parents are indeed the ones that created the child.

There are various ways to collect the sufficient number of cells, such as through blood test comparisons, hair follicle strands, saliva, cigarette butts, a soda pop can and all of the various methods you will see on your favorite mystery or crime television program.  Most of those tests are indeed the figment of a TV writer’s imagination.  They might be able to be done but they very difficult to test and could be very costly.

One thing that is absolutely provable is that a blood spatter at a crime scene compared to a blood sample from a suspect unconditionally can prove or disprove that the blood came from the same individual.  The DNA sample can not lie.  Only certain people can lie in court and get away with it.  OJ did it.

For genealogy and DNA testing there is an easier way.  There are now many companies that offer DNA kits to gather the samples with.  This is a pain free, no blood method that is actually kind of fun to use.  A typical DNA collection kit will contain some sterile envelopes and perhaps some solution to swish around in your mouth for a specified period of time and then spit out into a container.

Another method is to use a simple little scraper which kind of works like a tongue depressor only it is shaped somewhat like a stumpy tooth brush with no bristles.  All you do is scrape it up and down inside the cheek of your mouth for a specified period and then this device is sealed and mailed in to the DNA testing center of your choice.

For my own Y-DNA testing I will be looking for my father’s and paternal grandfather’s bloodline male ancestors.  Well all of these males are deceased, so what to do?  Now we enter into sibling and male cousin relative comparisons to be able to show markers that will compare to the first common ancestor.  This should be fairly easy to affirm, as my brother and I will compare to our dad, and then we have three male first cousins that though all three are deceased, they each had male issue and those first cousins once removed will no doubt all compare to my paternal grandfather.

Now after that it will become a little more problematic.  My grandfather Jacob HILLENBRAND (1862-1941) was the only son of an only son.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Grandfather Jacob came to America in 1885 and settled in Upstate New York in Syracuse.  I have been contacted many times through my years of genealogy publishing on the internet by other people with the HILLENBRAND (or variant spelling) surname to see if we could be related.  My answer at first is a simple “No”.  However I mean it in the aspect of related as in modern times.  It just can not be so.

We would have to go back in time through three generations to find any of the males that had sons.  Gramp’s father died fairly young (1825-1866) and his father also died fairly young (1798-1826).  Neither of these two early ancestors had any other male issue, than my direct line.

The earliest ancestor of this surname that I have been able to locate is Caspar HILLENBRAND who was born circa 1760 somewhere in what is now Germany and is first located in church records in Markelsheim, Wurttemberg in the late 1700’s as the father of three sons of which the only one I know anything about is my own direct line ancestor.

So that does leave two possible males that ‘might’ have produced male issue but it would take me a lot of time and money to attempt to track this possibility down to modern times.

However there is a possibility that we ‘might’ be able to perform Genealogy DNA tests on other males anywhere with this surname and if we were able to show that we indeed did have a common ancestor then it might help us to shortcut the amount of genealogical research that we would have to do to show the connection.

I think it will be fun to do and will firm up the many thousands of hours that I have invested this past 40 or so years of intense genealogical research in, and I will write about this later as we gather more information.

If you have your own genealogy and DNA story to tell please leave a comment here on the Upstate New York Genealogy Blog.

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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