Sunday, December 16, 2018

Autoclustering - Large Groups

In my previous post, I talked about the new tool, Autoclusting by Genetic-Affairs. I still believe this is the most powerful tool that's come out to help in analyzing your DNA results in long time. This makes it so much easier to see the in-common matches and figure out how they all might be connected. That first post was after I had generated my initial autoclusters but before I really looked into the results. My initial thought was that I inherited some DNA from an endogomous population that my paternal first cousin did not. Discussing it in various DNA discussion groups on Facebook, the question came up of a potential NPE ("non-paternal event" or "not parent expected"). If this was going to be the case, it would have had to have been an affair that would have come as a shock to many family members so I wanted to be 100% certain before speaking of it to anyone.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Auto-Clustering of DNA Matches

In the Facebook genetic DNA groups, I've seen one subject discussed pretty frequently over the past couple of weeks that I hadn't heard of before. That is auto-clustering of DNA matches. This looks like a spreadsheet of your DNA matches, color coded and clustered into common match groups. The way it works is that for any given colored cluster, each of them should be descended from one common ancestral couple. This seems like a way to better compare in-common matches. Here is how you do it.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Multi-Generational Portraits

I had this idea as a gift for my wife, step-daughter and mother-in-law for a few years. I got started on it right away but never managed to finish it because of availability of the individuals, a decent camera and the materials at the same time. Finally! It's done! My project is a portrait of the mitochondrial DNA line of my wife, or for someone not that interested in DNA or genealogy, a generational ladies' portrait.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Your Zig-Zag Ancestral Line - A Challenge

I need to keep up on reading the blogs of other genealogists. It seems I'm always busy and never get a chance to sit down and read. I recently started reading several of the blogs I follow. I always enjoy Linda Stufflebean's "Saturday Night Genealogy Fun". The one titled "Your Zig-Zag Ancestor Lines" provides a new way to look at your family tree. She asks you to follow your family lines, zig-zagging from your father, to his mother, to her father, to his mother, to her father, to his mother, to her father, etc as far back as you can go.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Tom Doran and Cale Hall of Junction, Texas

In the book, The Mason County "Hoo Doo" War, 1874-1902, author David D. Johnson quotes a letter from Mason County dated February 27, 1877 written by Private H. B. Waddell noting that Kimble County was "a theifs stronghold." He continued:

"Old man Dublins may well be called the theifs hous. Black Burt the head man of the thieves...
A heavy set dark comp. [man] wants to kill every stranger that comes into the neighborhood fearing that he is a detective. Rich Doublin, Dell Doublin, Black Burt, Thos. Doran, Frank Burk, John Burleson Cale Hall $400 reward for him, Bill Deal, McGrue Allison, John McKiever and numerous others that I could name are in the county, the sheriff of the Co. is in full concert with them..."

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Clarifying the Different Types of Sources of Information

I'd be willing to bet that a good number of beginner genealogist and probably a surprising number of more experienced genealogists don't have a good grasp of the different types of sources of information. I know I never really thought of it before and prior to really thinking about it, I'm pretty sure I had a couple of these types confused. There are six categories you can put sources of information into. These are three sets of opposites. Any given source can be classified as one of each of these pairs so each source is actually in three of these categories, all at once.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Ancestry Snapshot - 1818

I came up with an idea of what to use as a basis for a blog post. I'm not sure if anyone has done this before so if they have, I'm not stealing the idea. It just came to me. What I'm going to do when I'm searching for a blog post is to select a year and document where every branch of my family tree is and what they are doing. As much as I know anyway. I believe the toughest part of this is to choose a year. For my first Ancestry Snapshot year, I'm selecting 200 years ago, 1818. Also, if you have a better name for this challenge, let me know.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Lee County, Iowa Obituaries

When I was in southeast Iowa in June, I spent an entire day at the Fort Madison public library genealogy room. While there, I printed out over 100 obituaries. I've been able to connect all except a few to my family tree. Here are the ones I found most important to my genealogy.

First, and most important, is the obituary of my great-grandmother, Mary Ann Kelly Doran.
I find it amazing that I haven't had obituaries for close relatives of mine and I don't realize it until I find them!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Protecting Physical Items From Disaster

In this post from 2015, I discussed backing up your digital files. Whenever someone offers me actual physical documents related to my genealogy, I typically reply that I'd like to scan in the documents and give them back to the original owner. I'd prefer to NOT hold on to physical documents. Why? Because I can back up digital files so I should NEVER lose all of my data. That happened to me once about a year after I got my first modern computer. Yes, I lost data but really, it was nothing important. Now, if I lost all of my data, I would lose most of my years of genealogy work. That's why I'm so adamant about having at least two copies of my data in two different physical locations. Why two locations? Because no matter how careful you are, disaster can happen. Your home could flood, catch fire or get hit by a tornado or hurricane, or earthquake, or whatever natural disaster can occur where you are located. That's the same reason I don't like holding on to original documents. If disaster hits, you don't have two of those original documents.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Biography of Leo Henry Miller

I barely knew my grandfather, Leo Miller. He passed away when I was in my single digits in age. My family traveled to the area he lived about once per year. During those visits we spent most of our time with my mother's family since we had many cousins around our age on that side of the family and only a few on my father's side. Since starting my genealogy hobby, I've slowly learned more about him and now feel I know a lot about his life, although there are many details still missing, such as details about his military service and the interactions that had to be tense regarding the home he lived in much of his adult life. Here's what I know.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Descendants of Nancy Doran Dunnigan

I don't have any big genealogical projects going on. So what do you work on at a time like this? You look for a piece of your family tree that isn't complete that you haven't beat your head against for months on end. Find some part of your family tree that you can make some progress on. In my case, when I started thinking about who I might be able to have a DNA test on to find connections on my Doran family tree, I realized a few things. First, my first cousin on my dad's side of the family helps me see who I'm related to on either my dad's mom's or dad's branches. The problem is that it doesn't help me see which branch they are on.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Grandma Panther's Diaries

During my last trip to Iowa, I was able to scan in three more volumes of my grandmother's diaries that my aunt has. I posted the scans online privately for my cousins to browse. One cousin made a comment, at least half joking, that he couldn't believe he had to click a link for each and every page, asking what it would cost to have it on paper.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Passing of Oskar Oberle - Mösbach Historian

I checked out the Mösbach, Ortenaukreis, Baden, Germany web page for the first time in a long time and discovered that the village historian, Oskar Oberle passed away January 26, 2018 at the age of 85. This makes me very sad. I very much wanted to meet him whenever I finally got to the home village of my great-grandfather, Alois Panther. Sadly, this will no longer be possible. Here is a translation of the write-up on Baden Online.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

DNA and Ethnic Origins

Many people are taking genealogical DNA tests these days. While that sounds great, the sad part is that many, and I would say most, aren't interested in connecting with their distant cousins to help find their genealogical information. Instead, as a result of the advertising Ancestry DNA puts out, they are only interested in their ethnicity. In my opinion, this ethnicity estimate is about the least valuable piece of information you get from your DNA test. Here is a demonstration of this.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Born on the 4th of July

While browsing the Warsaw, Illinois newspaper archive, I found another version of obituary for Thomas Doran, my great-great-great-grandfather and the eldest of my known Doran family, who lived out the final years of his life and died in Carthage, Illinois. I had previously found an article from December 1, 1875, stating that he was in poor health and was said to be over 100 years old.

Monday, June 25, 2018

More Diaries Scanned

During my latest trip to Iowa, I was able to scan in every page of three of my grandmother, Elizabeth Menke Panther's diaries. This is my mother's mother. These were from the years 1968, 1973 and 1977. Now that I'm home, I working on getting the pdfs created with these scans turned into jpg files and cropping them down to the individual pages. While cropping them, I'm scanning them for important events. I know I'm not catching all of them this time through. I'll look through them more thoroughly once I get them organized. Still, a couple of very important events leaped out at me from 1968. Add in the fact that this was 50 years ago and these take on greater significance.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Iowa Family History Trip

I took a drive to southeast Iowa this week to scan in few photos and see what else I could find. To say this trip was a success would be an understatement.
In this post, I showed a poor photocopy of an old German military photo that was handed down in a family of "in-laws" to the Panther family. I sat down with owner of this photo, my second cousin who is also a family genealogist, and two descendants of the Clementine Panther / Joseph Eibes line. The distant cousin whose house we met at is a sweet 85 year old woman who obviously has been having some worsening Alzheimer-like symptoms in the past couple of months. While she had to introduce me to her brother sitting at the table a half dozen times and ask my name another half dozen times, her enthusiasm was infectious.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Security Breach at MyHeritage

MyHeritage is alerting people in this blog post, to a security breach that occurred on their servers. They've tracked the date of the breach to October 26, 2017. If you opened an account since that date, there should not be a problem. If you opened an account on MyHeritage prior to this date, your email address and a hash of your password was found posted on a site not controlled by the company.

What does this mean? It means that someone got into MyHeritage's systems. How far they got is not clear. What they know is that the perpetrator got a hold of email addresses and hashes of passwords. A hash is a one-way encryption that is used to verify someone's credentials when they log onto a system. It is, theoretically, not possible to reverse this hash so the hacker would not have access to your plain text password.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018


A couple of months ago, I decided to start an account on Instagram for my genealogy blog @mattsgenealogyblog. For now, I'm just participating in the #genealogyphotoaday challenge. I don't think I could ever do away with this blog and go just with Instagram for a couple of reasons. First, I enjoy being able to write out everything I have to say on a subject, looking at it from a couple of different angles. Instagram is meant for a single or a couple of pictures with not a lot of explanation. Second, coming up with something to post every day is near impossible for me. Even if it's just a photo and a sentence or two. So, don't worry. I plan on being here on this blog for the foreseeable future.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Dorans and O'Haras from Kilkenny?

I got a new, relatively close DNA match for myself and my cousin on my father's side. It appears all of the ancestry for this match is in Ireland, so I sent an email to them with a listing of my Irish ancestry. They responded, saying that they manage this person's kit but they don't have all of the information on the ancestry of this person. They only know about the tester's father's side and this side didn't contain any names similar to my surnames. However, she said, the tester's ancestry is all in the area of Kilkenny, Ireland and they know that the names Doran and O'Hara are well represented in and around Kilkenny.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Nebraska State Genealogical Society 2018 Spring Conference - My Takeaways

The Nebraska State Genealogical Society 2018 Spring Conference was Friday, April 27 and Saturday, April 28. Since it was held in the town I was born and raised in, and on the weekend of my mother's birthday and my niece's high school graduation party, you know I wouldn't miss it. Two of my mother's sisters had planned on being there but their stopover on their long drive was the daughter of one of them and their family had the flu. Because my aunts are elderly, they didn't want to risk getting sick and add on the five and a half hour drive, they decided it wasn't worth the risk. I was able to visit the graves of my mother and father and also visit with family and friends at the graduation party. But you don't want to hear about that. You want to hear about the genealogy conference, so here you go!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Miller Family History Book Published

I've just released my book containing my Miller family research. It's called "Johan Christian Müller, and the Liebrich Sisters - Their Descendants and Ancestors". I've made it available in both hardcover and paperback. While working on getting this book ready, I've also made my Panther family history book, "Moriz Panther and Elizabeth Birk - Their Descendants and Ancestors", available in paperback.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Family Tree Display

My seven year old grandson gave me an early Father's Day gift and it's pretty cool. His parents have allowed him to pick out his own gifts for his family and friends for a few years now. They have no input. It's completely up to him what he's going to buy. In this case, he scored a home run.

It is a copper wire on wood family tree display. It's made by Tapestree and comes in three different sizes:

Small - 19 frames for $34.95
Medium - 38 frames for $49.95
Large - 57 frames for $64.95

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Deceiving DNA Test Results

A new DNA match appeared for me the other day. I recognized the name as someone I already had in my database. He is my fourth cousin on my mother's side. He's also descended from my great-great-great-grandparents, Johan Herm Theodore Menke and Maria Catharina Schirren, from Schwagstorf, Osnabrück, Lower Saxony, Germany. Family Tree DNA estimated him to be my 2nd to 4th cousin, so the estimate lines up. I started looking at some of our common matches and since he's more closely related to my mother, I brought up their common matches. That's when I noticed. Family Tree DNA estimates that my mother and this fourth cousin of mine are 5th to distant cousins. How can this be? Unless he's related to me on my father's side, which would be a complete surprise, this doesn't make any sense.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Old German Military Portrait - An Amazing Identification

My cousin called me a couple of weeks ago saying he was in contact with someone descended from Ferdinand Panther and Amelia Traub. He said this man had some old photos I might be interested in getting a scan of. He texted me photos he took of a few of them with his phone.

I called the man, who lives in Mediapolis, Iowa, which is near Sperry and Dodgeville, where my Panther ancestors settled when they came to America. My cousin gave him a copy of my Panther family history book. Chatting with him, it ends up he is not blood-related to us. He is a descendant of the brother of the husband of a daughter of Ferdinand Panther.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Newly Discovered Granduncle

A distant cousin sent me the death announcement (found on Warsaw, Illinois newspapers online) for a granduncle I didn't know existed. He was the brother of my grandmother, Julia Doran Miller. Previously, I had found an indexed record, not an image, of the birth of a child of Thomas and Mary Ann Kelly Doran. In this indexed record found on Family Search, it didn't contain an exact birth date, a name, or even a gender for the baby. This baby was born in Bloomfield, Davis County, Iowa, in 1884.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Distant DNA Matches

I explained in a previous post that it's actually pretty unlikely that your DNA results will show a match with a given relative as close as fourth cousins. On the other end of the spectrum is that even though it's unlikely, you could match a small number of very distant relations. Here's an example I've come across recently.

I was looking for my recent DNA matches and I found someone that Family Tree DNA suggested was a fourth to distant cousin. This means we match a very small amount of DNA. Looking at his list of surnames, I saw a few that looked very familiar to me. They were surnames found among my great-grandfather, Aloys Panther's ancestors in and around Moesbach, Ortenaukreis, Baden, Germany.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Nebraska State Genealogy Society 2018 Spring Conference

The Nebraska State Genealogy Society 2018 Spring Conference will be taking place April 27 & 28, 2018 in Columbus, Platte County, Nebraska. You can register online here. The non-member cost is $109 for both days, including lunch or $60 for one day. Members get a $10 discount. If you become a member with your registration, the discount you get pays for half of your annual membership fee. You can count on me being there. I've already registered. Columbus is where I was born and raised and where my parents lived out the majority of their lives. In addition, it takes place the weekend of my mother's birthday. I'm sure it will be emotional for me, but you can bet I won't miss it.

The featured speaker is Judy G. Russell, "The Legal Genealogist".

Thursday, January 25, 2018

My 10 Favorite Blog Posts

In the five years since I started my genealogy blog, there have been more than 50,000 visitors to it. While I'm happy with this number, I hope people continue to find it and find it interesting and inspiring.

Some of my personal favorite blog posts are already included in the list of top ten visited posts. I'm not going to repeat those. I'm including only those of my favorites that do not appear in that list.

1. The Tom Doran Story - A Wild Character in the Wild West - My favorite blog post is the biography of Tom Doran, the outlaw of Junction, Texas. It is my firm belief that his story would make a great movie. It is my hope that I can make this happen some day.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Top 10 Blog Posts

In the five years I've had my genealogy blog, I've had over 50,000 visitors. While I'd love to be a super-popular writer, I'm pretty satisfied with how popular the blog has become. So, what posts are the most popular with my readers? Here they are.

1. German Church Record Basics - Part 1 - German Records - Coming in first place is my post about how to read German church records. It contains images of common words found in German church books and what they mean. I'm very happy that this has become the most popular post. This means that my blog is making a difference and really helping out people that need assistance.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Warsaw, Illinois Newspapers Online

I found a site,, that has many Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois newspapers online to browse and search. You might already know that I love old newspapers. Having the ability to browse and search the old newspapers of a small town my ancestors were from is a fantastic opportunity.

I hoped to find a large amount of information about the Hugh Kelly family, which is the only family of mine that actually lived in Warsaw but I found just a few mentions of him. What I found more of is news about that darn Doran family in neighboring Carthage. As is typical, you don't find much in the newspapers about modest, law-abiding people but you find much more about the trouble-makers.