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"The ancestor of every action is a thought." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Entries in my tree (39)


Genetic Ethnicity from my DNA Analysis

Wow, it's been awhile since my last post! April was a very busy and celebratory month filled with baby showers, bachelorette parties, birthdays, and bridal parties. With all the big changes quickly approaching (twin baby girls due late July) my posts will probably become a bit sporadic, but I will not give it up!

I first shared my interest in's new venture in DNA testing for genealogical research a few months ago, read my post and reader comments. At the end of November I swabbed my cheek and sent my DNA sample to Just 4 months later I was SUPER excited when I finally got the email notification that my test results were available. Since Ancestry DNA is still in it's Beta stage, there are disclaimers that results may not be as accurate as possible at first. They warn me that as more samples are processed and more samples are added to the database, results will become more accurate. This might be due to under or over representation of certain ethnicities.

How is ethnicity determined?


"Your genetic ethnicity is a prediction of your ethnic background. We take segments of your DNA and compare them to our ethnicity database, which contains one of the most comprehensive collections of DNA samples from people around the world. We group individuals with a well-established family history in a given place (British Isles for example) and then compare your DNA to each unique group in order to identify overlap. And as our database continues to grow, you could receive updates with new information.

DNA changes slightly with each generation, and over time any group of people that are relatively isolated (by geography or culture) develop unique genetic signatures that we can look for. It’s this aspect of DNA that makes our ethnicity predictions all possible.

We expect that over time, as the science continues to evolve, we'll be able to show more granular ethnic regions—even regions within a specific country."

I do wish they had the ability to break it down into specific country, but I understand how challenging that is with constantly changing borders! A big mystery I'm looking to solve in my family tree is the birth place of my great grandparents who are from Galicia, a region within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They might be from Poland, Hungry, or Austria.

Anyways, back to my results. They found my genetic ethnicity to be 44% Eastern European, 41% British Isles, and 15% Scandinavian (BIG surprise there). I expected the eastern european/british split (mother's side/father's side), but I have no idea where the Scandinavian comes from. I also expected some German in there, from census records I've found my ggg grandfather Jacob Grimm would have been born in Germany and so were both of his parents. TBD!

This is how my results are displayed:

Did you participate in's DNA project? Do you have an interest in DNA testing for genealogy? I'd love to hear from you! I am VERY novice when it comes to DNA and genealogy, but I want to learn more! 


Do Twins Run In The Family? 

Fraternal Twins Cottrell and Estill (Steve's grandfather) Twins are so unique and special. Back in the fall of 2011 when Steve and I found out I was pregnant, never EVER did it cross my mind that it could be twins. Welllllll at our first ultrasound at 6 weeks we had the surprise of a lifetime- 2 babies! It's twins! Shocked, excited, overwhelmed- it was a scenario we never expected!

As soon as we started telling friends and family, the first or second question would always be, do twins run in your family?? A perfect question for a gal who has extensively researched her family tree! No twins in my tree at all, not one set that I've found. However on Steve's side, his paternal grandfather was a twin, his paternal great great grandmother was a twin, and his aunt has 2 sets of twin grandchildren. But after some twins research, I've learned that this common understanding we have of twins being associated with family genetics is more of a myth than a fact and is dependant on the type of twins, fraternal or identical.

Fraternal twins occur when 2 eggs are released from the ovaries and are fertilized by 2 separate sperm. When multiple eggs are commonly released during a woman's cycle it's called hyper-ovulation. Hyper-ovulation can be passed down a maternal line, which means fraternal twins found in a woman's maternal line can indicate this trait and the higher possibility of her having fraternal twins. As much as a guy would looove to take credit for the twinning- it's all about the woman's side! Identical twins or "spontaneous" twins are exactly that, a spontaneous random splitting of a fertilized egg creating 2 identical babies. From what I've read, they don't know what causes spontaneous twins and there is no family or genetic relation.

I'm now 15 weeks pregnant and we know we are having identical twin girls. I'm over the moon excited and happy.

If you have any interest in reading more about twins, here is a really good article from the Jan 2012 issue of National Geographic, A Thing or Two About Twins. It discusses the similarities and differences found in identical twins as they try to identify the role of DNA vs environment in these developments. Very interesting! I can't wait to start this life journey with my girls!


New Year, New Goals

Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a happy and healthy holiday season. We're now in a tough time of year, the holidays are over and we are all feeling bloated and tired from all the fun we had. The pressure is on to start this new year with resolutions.  I usually love morning talk shows like The Today Show and The View, but these past 2 days I've been hit over the head with resolutions for health, exercise, and organization inspiration. They really know how to make you feel bad about your eating and exercise habits. I don't usually make new years resolutions, do you?

This year I've decided to make a list of goals for my genealogy pursuits of 2012. Staying organized and on top of all the different aspects of tracing my family tree is a challenge. Some of the most interesting and exciting parts of the pursuit can be pushed aside and forgotten with every new lead or uncovered story. So hopefully as the year goes on you'll find follow ups and items being checked off this list. Not to mention many intriguing stories, new friends, and revelations along the way!

- Continue the Daughters of the American Revolution application process, I'm still on the very first step. (2 months and still no response...)

- Take a trip to Greenwood (Knights of Pythias Cemetery) in Philadelphia, PA to visit the Wright plot and have a grave marker added.

- Research the family table that was passed down to me and get it checked out by an expert to authenticate the family history timeline started by my gg grandmother.

- Organize my grandfather's papers and medals from WWII.

- Unfortunately I won't be able to make the reunion of the 324th Infantry in September, so I hope to schedule a time to skype with the group to hear their stories and share my grandfathers pictures.

- Take a trip the Pennsylvania Archives in Philadelphia to get birth/marriage/death certificates for Grimm, Nolen, Snyder, and Wright families.

- Preserve my Franks family daguerreotypes. 

- Take a trip to Bordentown, NJ to meet my long time pen pal and fellow Wright researcher Sue. We share a very elusive ancestor, Joel Wright (b.1782 d. 1854), and he has been driving us crazy for years. I hope 2012 is the year we will break through this brickwall. 

Well there you have it, I'd LOVE to check all of these off by the end of 2012.

Thank you to everyone who read and supported my blog in 2011! I am so thankful for all of you who commented, got in touch, and shared stories to help me conquer my pursuits. A major goal of this blog is to chart my course through genealogy, history, and it's impact on my life. But hearing from YOU has been, by far, the most rewarding part of it all. Thank you and cheers to a fantastic 2012!


Tombstone Tuesday: The Shaw Plot in Castlewellan, County Down, Ireland

The Shaw branch of my family tree was one of my strongest limbs to hang on when I first started my genealogy journey. My great grandmother Edith Shaw Middleton passed tons of their pictures and documents down to my grandmother and luckily they found their way to me. Edith's parents, Samuel Shaw and Ann Robinson, were both born in Ireland. I have a lot of information on their family, Samuel and Ann had 10 children, but only a little information about their family in Ireland. 

After some research, I learned that my ggg grandparents (Samuel's parents) Samuel Shaw (1818-1906) and Agnes Wallace (1819-1892) are buried in St. Paul's Church Cemetery in Castlewellan, County Down, Ireland. One of the researchers I connected with through was from New Zealand! What a small world! She sent me Samuel Shaw Sr.'s will, found through the searchable Will Calendar database from the Public Records of Northern Ireland (PRONI). In his will, Samuel asks that his children take care of his and their mothers grave. After reading that I knew I had a definite responsibility to get eyes on that grave!

I was so excited when I learned my mother and father in law, Carol and Rob, were planning a trip to Northern Ireland. It was Carol who first inspired my passion for genealogy and family history. She has done extensive research for her and Rob's family. Her stories and excitement were contagious. So having this shared passion, I hoped she wouldn't mind taking a trip through Castlewellan to do some investigating for me. They found St. Paul's Church Cemetery and their grave! (pictured left)

Carol and Rob called me while they were standing at the Shaw grave, it was such an amazing moment! I wonder if my ggg grandparents ever thought their ggg granddaughter from America would ask her in laws to take a picture of their grave 106 years after they were laid to rest?! Hopefully someday I will be able to personally visit and share this special place with my children and grandchildren and great grandchildren...

St. Pauls Church Cemetery                                                    Shaw Plot - My GGG Grandparents

Thank you so much Carol and Rob for these wonderful pictures!!