Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Thomas and Judah Farrell DNA Project: The Connections Tree

See previous posts to find out about this project.

One thing you need when chasing the DNA rabbit down a hole is a tree that contacts can look at to see if you two match. If they don't have a tree (or a clue) at least you can send them on to your tree to window shop for a connection. Surnames and a surname list with locations and years is a good tool as well, but for my money, you can't beat a good tree. Give me a tree over a surname list any day.

I've been reading a couple of blog posts from wise writers that make the case for not posting a tree online in special or unusual situations and it opened my eyes. I now understand about the need to protect the innocent from prying eyes looking for character flaws, crimes, and the unspoken terrors of family life gone very wrong. I'm with them and to be candid there is one person, living, not on our tree because, well, of the mess. One has a moral responsibility to protect those who might be harmed from such messes made public. Doing genealogy in circumstances such as this makes the going dicey. For those of us who have garden variety family issues peppering our tree, most have a good-hearted desire to share the fun with others. After all we weren't there and we don't really know all the facts.

Mom, who you might know is 95 and been doing genealogy since the early 1970s, was reluctant to share her tree online. She'd happily send family group sheets and then GEDCOMs to anyone researching our ancestors, but putting her tree on Ancestry? She had to warm up to that. "I'm not done with it'" she said about her tree on more than one occasion. But as time went by we both came to see that even though every tree run by a living person is a work in progress, putting Mom's tree online was the best way to share her substantial work with the most people.

But not all searchers feel that way. I get it. How frustrating to see your work copied and recopied without a mention of where the document, photo or rare index came from. Recently, I had the pleasure (?) of finding a rare photo of a 2nd great grandparent I'd uploaded a while back and now on another tree without attribution. Someone had downloaded the picture and then uploaded it again and attached their name as the original submitting person. Is there a hidden tag on it stating who originally had the photo (Mom) and who cleaned it up (moi) in a photo editing program? Take a guess! But never mind about that. Back to The Farrell Project and cousin Rich's great idea.

So, cousin Rich and I had been sifting through some GEDmatch results and emailing back and forth about this and that, looking for people who matched Mom and Uncle Sonny. (See previous post or this will make no sense whatsoever!) We were working informally then, and each on his or her own avenues of pursuit when Rich emailed and said, in a nutshell, hey do you want to work together on this? You in, he asked? I immediately replied, YES!

Rich and I are trying to link as many of the descendants of Thomas and Judah Farrell by specific DNA segment and pedigree as we can. We know of a couple of hundred direct descendants, both living and dead, but just a handful of those have taken a DNA for genealogy test and are known to us. After a couple of goes at locating descendant's places on trees, both theirs and ours, Rich suggested that we needed a tree of only direct descendants - blood descendants - that could be available for prospective DNA match candidates to peruse.

Just to underline the problems faced without the Farrell Connections tree, here's what happened before we built it. If I sent GEDmatch matches to Mom's tree, they would have to either follow my very tedious instructions on how to locate the Farrell family group or try searching, or just start wading through over 60,000 individuals on Mom's tree. Either way, it's enough to send someone fleeing from the room, and not return emails.

Rich's personal tree focuses on only his wife's family in Cumberland, Allegany, Maryland. For example, Rich's tree only lists one child of Samuel Albert House (1832-1919) and Mary Elizabeth Farrell (1835-1919) whereas Mom's tree lists all 16 kids as well as each of their descendants and their kids. Yeah, we needed a new tree, a tree in common. Good idea, Rich!

As of right now there are a tidy 252 individuals on the Thomas & Judah Farrell Connections tree, all well researched, all blood descendants or spouses of blood descendants. Nice and tidy. Some descendants are sure to be missing but it's a work in progress, as are all trees. It's a fine tool to use when helping DNA cousins try to locate their ancestors within the Farrell big picture. Yeah, and it's Private. It's a research tool for us, not a tree for public consumption.

Joseph H. Whetstone (1858-1939) and Katherine Elizabeth House (1865-1947).
Kate was just one of the 16 children of Mary Elizabeth Farrell (1835-1919) and Samuel Albert House (1832-1917). Mary Elizabeth was born in Ireland.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Thomas and Judah Farrell DNA Project: Now for the DNA part

If you're now jumping on board this fast moving train, you might want to go read the previous post and get caught up. It's about one of those family lines that you start thinking about and then they move right in and inhabit your entire brain to such an extent you feel genealogically possessed. Know what I mean? Yeah, you do, I can tell;)

So last year both Mom and I did the 23andMe DNA test in hopes of finding relatives. There was a learning curve but it really wasn't too painful at all. I had an easy time moving around the 23andMe web site and locating my connections and contacting them. Oh sure, some people didn't get back to me and one even declined my invitation to share. That was to be expected because at that time 23andMe was busy advertising their health results, which they no longer offer. But some good connections were made and one of them - that's Ed and his father Harold - lead right back to our ancestors Thomas and Judah Farrell. That was very exciting!

Funny thing about working with autosomal DNA results is that you don't pick the line you are going to be exploring. Instead, it sort of picks you. You hear from matches or reach out to them and it's simply the luck of the draw as to weather you'll make a good connection and which ancestral line you'll be digging around in. There's much that's not in your control, or at least that's how I feel.

Having a fully built out tree, to the best of your ability, and having it accessible online is very important in this work. A goodly number of those contacts we've made over the last year didn't know where to start, but that's changing rapidly as more people get tested and become knowledge about terms and tools and how to use them.

Now, let me introduce you to cousin Rich. His wife is a descendant of Thomas and Judah Farrell so he's technically not a blood relative but we like him anyway and are glad to call him cousin because he's passionate about genealogy and finding out about the ancestors, just as Mom and I are. Mom has been in touch with this couple for years, first emailing his wife and then when Rich took over the search emailing Rich. He even visited Mom last summer to get copies of her files in his seriously dogged search for one court document. He's a good solid researcher and very organized too. And he likes spread sheets. How cool is that?

Don't quite remember how it came about but Rich's wife, our blood cousin, had her elderly aunt and uncle tested. They are both in their 90s, and so is Mom. Now we had four individuals in our informal grouping who were tested and two well researched trees we knew to be accurate. When the results came back we could see a lot and it has to do with shared chromosomes. This looking for shared chromosomes is often referred to as chromosome matching.

What we're looking for in chromosome matching is segments of DNA that are greatly similar - so-called sticky chromosomes - because they are passed down through the generations relatively intact. And if you can identify folks with a specific known lineage descending down from one couple and no other connection, that share those sticky chromosomes, then you've really got something. And if you find even more people with those same chromosome segments as well as the same ancestors on their tree, and no other shared ancestor, then you're really cooking.

When Rich and I looked at the DNA test results, Mom and I having tested at 23andMe and both Uncle and Aunt having tested at AncestryDNA, we needed to meet in the middle so to speak so we uploaded our raw files to GEDmatch. At GEDmatch we could do some chromosome matching and then look for others who match both Mom and Uncle. Let me show you the results and you'll see what I mean. Here are Mom and Uncle's results. I used the One-to-one matching utility which is great as a way to see where a match exists.

As you can see, Mom and Uncle share a bunch of DNA on seven different chromosomes. I find this practically mind blowing when you consider the nearest common ancestor. Look at this, below, to find Thomas and Judah Farrell, back four generations.

There on the bottom row you'll find Mom and then just follow her female line back to Thomas and Judah Farrell. Uncle's Farrell ancestor was through the second born daughter of Thomas and Judah while Mom's was through the first daughter.

Another anomaly is that Uncle shares quite a lot of DNA with Mom but Aunt doesn't share quite so much. Just shows me how strange and mysterious are the ways of autosomal DNA.

The next thing we did is go see who matched both Mom and Uncle, and here's what that looked like.

Once we had that, and I've cropped out the email addresses there on the image above, off we went to contact them. As of right today we've heard back from all. That's right, ALL.

And so that's pretty much where we are at the moment. From the nine on the list three are our group, and one person has a parental mismatch and is playing a round of who-da-baby daddy so we'll find no answers there. Four don't yet show Thomas and Judah on their trees even though we all suspect that the connection traces back to Ireland. And that leaves one person we're still working with. He knows that his mother's people come from Paw Paw, West Virginia and that's the next town over from where Thomas and Judah lived in Magnolia. He can't email back fast enough for us!

Rich did a work sheet with each of the players, their GEDmatch kit number and which chromosomes they matched each other on. For some reason that I don't yet totally understand, Mom, Uncle, and Harold and Ed all matched heavily on chromosome 13, and the rest only matched on chromosome 9. Fascinating.

My exercise now is to go through each of these matches and do a one-to-one comparison with Mom and Uncle looking for shared chromosomes and then see if that tells us anything at all. Maybe I'll write about that soon. But first, and next time, let's look at Rich's Great Idea: the Thomas & Judah Farrell Connections tree on Ancestry.

And this is funny: not one of my matches so far from either 23andMe or GEDmatch is from Dad's side. What is that about?! It's all Mom's people.

Along the old road to Magnolia, Morgan County, West Virginia, now gone but not forgotten by her descendants. This is in the general vicinity where Thomas and Judah Farrell had their farm and raised their family. The town is gone, most of the homes are also gone, but their memory lives on in us.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Thomas and Judah Farrell DNA Project: ask me, I'm excited!

Do you ever get so wrapped up in a family group on your tree that it's almost as though they're haunting you? No peace day or night because there they are in your mind taking up all available space. Well it's been like that for Mom at times and now it's like that for me. (Mom, as you might remember is 95 and still working on genealogy. It keeps her young but it's about to wear on my brother's last nerve because Mom wants her computer moved so she can work more. You go Mom!)

Let me tell you a bit about the Farrells and then I'll fill you in on this DNA project. It might take a couple of posts to cover all the ground but it should be worth it in the end. I have a partner in this work and that's a first for me... well, besides Mom. And neither of us are experts in DNA stuff so we're learning as we go. And we're not doing a big surname DNA study either because of the problem of not having all the Y-DNA. We are using chromosome matching and find it fascinating as a way to proceed. OK, so that's where we're going, and now let's go!

First about the Farrels.
Thomas was born in 1797 in Ireland and he married Judah (or in the common version of that name at the time, Judy) who was born in 1815 also in Ireland. Honestly we haven't even scratched the surface of finding this happy couple in Ireland yet, but you can read about what Mom remembers that her mother told her about them here.

The sons, it seems, reverted to the traditional version of the surname and used O'Farrell. I've been told that dropping or keeping the O' was a choice that came and went on the tides of fashion and political sentiment, and that keeping the O' was a nod to Irish tradition.

Thomas and Judah married in Ireland and had two girls there, my second great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Farrell in 1835, and then her sister Catherine in 1837. I often wonder if they followed the naming traditions of naming the oldest girls after the father's and the mother's mothers. That might be a clue in locating them in Ireland... or not.

All four, Thomas, Judah, Mary Elizabeth, and Catherine came to the USA from Ireland about 1840 or 1841. Thomas applied for naturalization in Cumberland, Allegany, Maryland in 1841. Now, exactly why he came her is a mystery to us because they came before the Great Famine years. We imagine that times were getting hard. Were they forced off the land and into a poorhouse as so many others of their generation? Perhaps. But they were part of a great exodus west then, out of Ireland and on to America.

Once on US soil they lived over in West Virginia in Morgan County in a little town that's not there anymore called Magnolia. He farmed. (You can read about Magnolia here.)

Once settled in Magnolia, Thomas leased a piece of land called the Widmeyer Tract, and you can see part of that indenture between Thomas and Mr. Aaron Harlan, dated 22 February, 1845, below. I'm transcribing it now because we are searching for any and all details  about this family, no matter how small.

Once in magnolia, they had these children: James born 1842, Thomas born 1843, and then the four youngest girls, Ann born 1845, Ellen born 1846, Bridget born 1849, and little Sarah born 1851. Am wondering if the boys were named after Thomas and Judah's fathers?

So there the family is, happily working the land and making a go of it, filling out the family with strong sons and beautiful girls, one hopes;) Then somehow, it all turns sad. Thomas the father died in 1851. Judah died in 1857.

We know what happened to the four oldest children but not the 4 youngest girls. Last we see these little ones is in the 1860 census and they all are working as servants, as follows:
* Sarah is but 9 years old and serving in her sister Catherine Farrell Boxwell's house in the Magnolia area. We guess she married someone close by and find a Sally (common for Sarah) Farrell marrying in 1860 in Berkeley County, West Virginia to a man named John W. Wageley, working as a railroader, whose parents were William and Susan Wageley. Then we lose her.
* Ellen is 12 and serving in the household of John Coulhan (?), a merchant, and living in Cumberland, Allegany, Maryland. He too was born in Ireland. Then we lose her.
* Bridget is 13 and serving in the household of Patrick Connor in Clarysville, Allegany, Maryland. He was born in Ireland and is working in the coal mines near there. And then we lose her.
* Ann is 16 and serving in the household of a Mr. Cosgrove in Morgan County, West Virginia, who is a railroad watchman and was born in Ireland. Then we lose her.

It strikes me that this is a good Catholic family and they placed the girls in Irish households to be with other Irish Catholic families. Maybe the girls all married in the locations where they worked. So where can we look for the girls marriage records? Ellen in Cumberland which is St Patrick's Parish. But Bridget in Clarysville? What parish is that? Can it be our own St. Michael's in Frostburg where Mom was born and still lives?

Well that should set it up for you. Mom and I are all excited about this project, as is Cousin Rich, and I didn't even start telling you how he comes into this. Let's save that for tomorrow because it's all about DNA and then collaboration.

My second great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth (Farrell) House (1835-1917)
Born in Ireland, died in Western Maryland.
Had 16 children.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

My prayer to St. Patrick

Dear St. Patrick, great holy man of Ireland.

Gee, it's been a while, and I'm hoping that you haven't forgotten me. I'm Pat and Virginia's oldest kid. I'm the great great granddaughter of  John Kelly, born in Shannonbridge in Clonmacnoise Parrish, County Offley on June 22 1829. What moved him to come to America I'll likely never know for sure but he passed in Western Maryland in the small coal mining community of Eckhart on June 28, 1891. It was a pure stroke of luck and our good fortune that my mother, Virginia, spotted the information on his tomb stone in the soft fall afternoon light and read his place and date of birth. He must have been so very proud of his own home place in Ireland to have it put on his stone.

And I'm so very thankful that I got to see his town and visit the Clonmacnoise historical site and see Temple Kelly there. Are we descended from the devout worshipers there? More likely our ancestors were humble farm workers.


St. Patrick, as you know John is buried with his beloved wife, the lovely Bridget Corcoran (1830 - 1 May 1912). We just found this out quite recently through the generosity of those who watch out for Catholics of the Allegany County Maryland area. What a blessing to know when and where they were married. And to finally know with certainty that Bridget rests here with John, although her grave is not marked. We would really and truly like to know where she came from, which could be anywhere in Ireland. They met and married in Cumberland near by where they lived in Eckhart. A hint would be lovely.

But it's not so much Bridget that concerns us most days. It's Mom's Farrell/ O'Farrell people. Mom's own dearly loved and missed mother, Emma, told her that her own blessed grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Farrell (who married Samuel Albert House and was born in Ireland on 22 November 1835 and died 28 March 1919) had told Emma that they came from the place in Ireland where you drove the snakes out. Forgive me for not listening the first time Mom told me that story. It just seemed too fantastic. What is that you saying, Oh ye of little genealogy faith? So true.

So I'm sending this little devotion off to you on your day, the day you passed from this earth, in hopes that you will send us in the right direction. Did they come from County Mayo as the legend says?

Well, have a nice feast day, St. Patrick. Perhaps you'll like knowing that to this day there are still numerous Patrick Kellys out and about.

Clonmacnoise Historical Site, Ireland, on the Shannon River.


Temple Kelly there in the background at Clonmacnoise.

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Friday, March 14, 2014

It was a small project, at the start, or so I thought

I've posted before about how it came to be that I got all wrapped up in getting Mom's stories put up in book form and you can read about that here. Last October I finally had a rough draft which I showed to Mom when we all met up in Cleveland. Since then I've been fine tuning and adding more photos and refining the layout. Now, it's finished and off I go to the corner copy place to get a bunch done and bound.  Whew, that's a load off:)

But wait! I sent it by email in PDF form to my good friend and artist, Kathy. I asked her to look at it for it's graphic qualities and give a critique. Her reaction was interesting. Here's a link to Kathy's artwork online. Go ahead and take a look and you'll see why I asked her to look at the book. Kathy has a major eye for the old and precious and story-telling! Here's one of Kathy's works just so you can see.
Kathy Miller
Atlas of TimeEncaustic and mixed media
35 x 221/4 x 91/4 inches, 2007

So the thing is that Kathy liked it and just enjoyed reading Mom's stories even though she'd never been to Frostburg, Maryland, and never met Mom. Fascinating. For the first time, after talking to Kathy, I came to think that there might be a wider audience for Mom's stories than just the family. With that in mind I went off to think about this project and widen my vision.

What I knew right away that this was a project with the end product as a real book that you can hold in your hand. It was not an online project. And it was apparent to me that we needed a way to have the book printed without me having to run to the printers all the time. It should be automatic and on demand. And I sure didn't want to be shipping them either. We also needed to charge something for them and it should be enough to cover printing costs, at least. Maybe the project could generate some small change for one of Mom's favorite charities. That would be nice.

Then I remembered about CreateSpace by Amazon. And off I went to check it out. Signed up for an account and then jumped in. Made a cover first so that the project was easier to visualize. That exercise showed me that we needed some synopsis text for the back cover, and here's what that looked like.

It’s small town America of the 1920s and 1930s and The Great Depression is causing hardships for just about everyone in the Western Maryland mountain coal mining area. WWI has ended and with it the demand for coal just about vanished. Miners are out of work, unions try to organize with limited success, but it’s all background to a little girl and her family and friends. The joys of the seasons, the sheer pleasure in getting lost in a book by the light of a streetlamp, and gentle grandparents are what matters.
"We didn't know we were poor," Virginia W. Kelly says of childhood, "because everyone was poor. We had what everyone had. And somehow we were all very happy too."

What to do about the cover design? There were of course choices. I downloaded the cover design template in which you can build all the elements of your cover by hand and might go back to that later, but set it aside for now because it looked time consuming and maybe even challenging. Then found Cover Creator and the ready-to-go cover designs. That took just a few moments to work out and it was easy and fun. Just select the design you want to play with, plug in title, sub-title, authors name and photo, and synopsis text. I'd like at this point to show you what the cover looks like but somehow it doesn't allow a "copy" or a screen shot. Too bad.

Next I got assigned an ISBN number for the book. Wow! It's own ISBN number! Am remembering a time when just one ISBN number for a self-publishing project would cost about $100. But this is free.

Next was the interior layout. Had already chosen the size as 6 inches by 9 inches because it is the most popular paperback size. Now I had two choices: copy and paste or upload from Word and work online, or use the template offline. Maybe working offline would be better.  I downloaded the template for the interior of a 6 x 9 book. When it's finished all that would be left is to upload the full template.

In the meantime I was anxious to see how much of problem this was going to be, converting the 8.5 x 11 inch original size to 6 x 9, so in Word just changed the page size to 6 by 9 inches with narrow margins and saved that copy with a notation about the new size. Then I took a look. Yikes, there are a lot of adjustments to be made! Page breaks sometimes made no sense, photos were probably too large for the smaller page, and the like. And, the photos couldn't be too small because, well, people really like looking at the photos and the audience will probably be older folks and we like larger print and larger images.

So that's where I am at the moment, and working on the interior text, making it fit, adding yet more pictures, and still adjusting the contrast on all of them. I think I know how it goes on these print projects because I've seen others. Photos go dark and lose contrast. I hate that.

This is gonna take a while!

Grandpa Williams, Mom's dad, with a fish.
Cambria Williams (1807 - 1960.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Trying to be organized: That National Pike Album

Got an email last week from a librarian in charge of digitizing documents and such inquiring about Mom's photo album of the National Pike. (You can see the images in the album on a tab at the top.) They would like loan of it and want to scan the images and put them on their web site, WHILBR, the Western Maryland Historical Library. Their holdings cover Garrett, Allegany, and Washington Counties in Western Maryland. WHILBR is a project of the Western Maryland Regional Library, and a very good one for anyone researching in any of those three counties. I've spent countless hours on the WHILBR web site looking at maps, reading up on slaves and free blacks in Western Maryland, and looking at historical photos and documents about the C&O Canal, one of the major transportation routes in this neck of the woods. So why wouldn't I want to help them?

I called Mom and told her about the project and what they want to do and she liked it. So I emailed the librarian and Mom went off to look for the album. Now as you might know, Mom is 95 and has at her disposal about 40 years or more of genealogy files, book collected, and family photos. And one beautiful old album of photos of the National Road taken about 1906. The photos are certainly out of copyright and in the Public Domain so we are free to share them in any way whatsoever. The project is a go.

Yes, and Mom went to look for the album. At 95 she's slowed down a tad but off she went with enthusiasm and excited about the project too! But as of now, she hasn't found the album. She did get sidetracked because in reorganizing her files and books (as long as she was sifting through everything) she found other stuff that tickled her fancy, so she had to go and take a moment and look at those items. Now I'm guessing here but knowing Mom I bet that once she did get sidetracked she took time to enjoy whatever she was looking at!

The point is that Mom has such a wonderful treasure trove of materials of all sorts and... that she still loves it all!

We younger folk can only hope for such a payoff to our endeavors: reaching 95 and loving our collection and delighting in every item as enthusiastically as we did when we first acquired it.

Has she found the National Pike Album yet? No, but soon.

Mom with her new camera on her birthday, 1942.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

DNA Monday: The beauty part more relatives getting tested

Now I get it: it's way better when more relatives get DNA tested.

At first it instinctively made sense, but now that Mom's 4th cousin has been tested and her uncle and aunt also tested, along with my brother and Mom, well, it's a DNA party over here. Her husband is managing her project and I manage Mom and brother's accounts so he and I have been working together. Let's just call him "Rich" because he's rich in genealogy stuff. This guy knows how to research like a blood hound!

Rich's wife is the direct descendant of the sister of Mom's 2nd great grandmother... or the direct descendant of my 3rd great grandparents. (I had to use the Steve Morse One-Step Relationship Calculator to be sure. ) OK, now I'm real willing to admit that the cousins and their removal is like jello in my mind! I think I have it nailed down and then, poof, it's gone. My Family Tree Maker says one thing and Steve Morse's One-Step calculator says something else so it's operator error for sure. (I have a self-inflicted headache now.) The point being that Rich's wife and Mom and I are blood relatives. Whew.

Rich's people tested with Ancestry DNA and Mom and all of us tested with 23andMe. We met in the middle and uploaded raw files to GEDmatch. It's so lovely that there's a place to upload your raw files and compare across DNA platforms.

Rich and I are new to this, although in full disclosure I have been working with my DNA results almost a year now, stumbling as I go and learning by trial and error. But DNA for genealogy got so complex so fast that I always feel as though I've just scratched the surface! He and I spent an hour or so chatting by phone and while our conversation happily rambled here and there, we did talk about the connections that our DNA results show.

Recently I've read about "sticky" chromosome segments, ones that are passed down through multiple generations. I think I read it on Roberta Estes blog, DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy. Here's the recent article in which she mentions "sticky" segments. This blog post is really good at explaining a phenomenon I've seen in the results for the known relatives who have tested. By identifying known relatives and our shared segments, especially when three or more are tested, I can go look for others in the GEDmatch database who match on those chromosomes looking for the segment match.

In the case of Rich and his wife's relatives, we are looking at sticky segments for Mom and Uncle. Here's what we see on GEDmatch.

Minimum threshold size to be included in total = 500 SNPs
Mismatch-bunching Limit = 250 SNPs
Noise Reduction Threshold = 0.85
Minimum segment cM to be included in total = 5.0 cM

Chr Start LocationEnd LocationCentimorgans (cM)SNPs

Largest segment = 28.5 cM
Total of segments > 5 cM = 112.2 cM
Estimated number of generations to MRCA = 3.5

And we can go looking for matches on that loaded chromosome 13. And here's what that looked like.

Comparing Kit M120110 (Mom)   
Kit NumName
Chr Start LocationEnd LocationCentimorgans (cM)SNPs

As you can see Uncle and Mom show up as we would expect. And two other people also show up but they don't match on the same locations on chromosome 13. Too bad but we'll keep looking.

I find it astounding that those segments on CH 13 have been handed down through two descendant's lines intact! Talk about sticky!

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