All things history and genealogy.

All things history and genealogy.

Tag: DNA

Irish Genetic Homeland Finder: Ancestry by DNA, place names, surnames.

The Irish Genetic Homeland Finder website is taking advantage of Ireland being the one country that preceded all others in using paternal surnames, by using the surnames as well as DNA and geographical place names in pinpointing direct male ancestry for approximately 1,000 years.
Irish Genetic Homeland Finder: Ancestry by DNA
Irish Genetic Homeland Finder traces Irish Ancestry using DNA, place names, and surnames.

This is an interactive site available to anyone who may be curious about their Irish surname, or those interested in more detailed research into Irish surnames that appear in their family tree.

Registration for this site is free and the first six queries are free, although there are fees applied on a pay as you go basis for additional queries.

All that is necessary is to input your surname(s) of interest to find locations where farmers with that surname cluster, in addition to place names and castles associated with the surname(s). Once the search button is pressed, it is possible to zoom within the interactive map to find known areas of concentrations of the names.

This works particularly well in Ireland because original farming families of a particular surname can still be found farming the lands of their ancestors. Those farmers also used their name in naming places they lived and castles they built, owned and passed on through their families.

If there is more than one Irish surname in one’s ancestry, it is possible to input all surnames and find locations where the highest concentration of each surname can be compared and finding likely places where both surnames coexisted.

Searches can be saved to avoid ever having to pay for the same search twice.

When examined in conjunction with an ancestral DNA test, it is possible to achieve a much more detailed and precise result. The DNA test can help to reveal surnames of ancestors and neighbors up to about 1,000 years ago.

I don’t have much Irish ancestry, but I’m sure this site could be hugely valuable to those whose Irish ancestry is more significant.

photo credit: George L Smyth via photopin cc

King Richard III’s genome to be sequenced by scientists.

Previous posts I’ve written described our fascination with King Richard III and the search for his grave, which ended successfully when his skeleton was unearthed in a Leicester parking lot in England.

Richard III, King of England

Now scientists have announced they will be sequencing Richard III’s DNA, which is of great interest to us and numerous other descendants of Richard III and his family.

He is an ancestor of Mark’s family and has been the subject of some research on my part. The resulting posts were:

Richard III's grave in Leicester parking lot.I’ve been toying with the idea of getting Mark’s and my DNA, and now that DNA profiles are more prevalent, it’s looking more and more like it would be a worthwhile endeavor.

Tombstone plaque for Richard III.Research can only be so accurate. Every family and generation has experienced their scandals and secrets that were never documented, and which may have affected the recorded ancestries, such as a child born from an illicit affair that was never disclosed. Even more questionable are the undocumented connections.

DNA might be helpful in solving some mysteries in more recent generations of branches of my family, as it is the one and only way we might have to prove blood connections to family and ancestors, either confirming or refuting the documentary evidence. It would be wonderful to have some of my questions answered and suspicions and theories confirmed.

photo credit: University of Leicester via photopin cc

photo credit: OZinOH via photopin cc

photo credit: lisby1 via photopin cc

DNA results: Leicester parking lot remains are those of Richard 3rd.

DNA lab testThe remains found under a parking lot in Leicester are indeed those of Richard III.

The identity was confirmed by tests conducted comparing DNA from the remains and those of Richard III’s nearest living relative, Michael Ibsen, a Canadian who descends directly from Richard III’s sister Anne.

Richard III is 1st cousin, 24 times removed to my children, who directly descend from Richard III’s uncle and brother to Richard III’s mother Cecily de Neville, Richard de Neville, Earl of Salisbury.

After Richard III died in a battle at Bosworth Field, Henry VII, the victor, put his body on display, afterward burying him in Grey Friars monastery. The monastery having later been destroyed, the location of Richard III’s burial remained a mystery thereafter – until now.

With the support of donations to the Richard III Society, research led to the parking lot in Leicester where the remains were discovered. The skeleton will be reburied at Leicester Cathedral and a tomb erected in his honor.

It’s amazing to realize how much DNA has opened up the world to us – both past and present. Through DNA, we can answer questions we once thought impossible to answer.

Now I’m seriously thinking of looking into DNA testing for myself and my husband to confirm relationships proven as much as possible through research alone. DNA could be the ultimate tool to resolve those brick walls where we believe in a relationship but can find no definitive proof.

Bones unearthed could be those of Richard III, King of England.

, 1st cousin 24 times removed to my children, was King of England from 1483 to 1485, yet is most widely known in our time as the scandalous title character of the play ‘Richard III’ by William Shakespeare. His reign ended upon his death in the Battle of Bosworth Field.

Richard’s checkered past before becoming King included becoming Duke of Gloucester on November 1, 1461. He was then appointed Admiral of England, Ireland and Aquitaine on October 12, 1462 and made Constable of England October 17, 1469. Besides suspicion over the disappearance of the princes, his reputation as a scoundrel was cemented by suspicion of his participation in the murder of Edward Prince of Wales, whose widow he married, as well as becoming Great Chamberlain of England in succession to his brother George, Duke of Clarence on February 21, 1478, the same day he was murdered.

Upon the death of Richard’s brother Edward, Richard became Lord Protector of the Realm for the heir apparent, Edward’s 12 year old son King Edward V. Richard escorted Edward V to the Tower of London, where he was placed, to be joined later by his brother Richard. Before young King Edward was crowned, Edward IV’s marriage to the boys’ mother Elizabeth Woodville was declared invalid, illegitimizing the children, negating their claim to the throne and making Richard III the heir to the throne. Princes Edward and Richard disappeared and accusations soon arose that Richard had the boys killed.

Richard married (Westminster Abbey 12 Jul 1472) as her second husband, Anne Neville, widow of Edward, Prince of Wales, and daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and Anne Beauchamp.

Accounts of the time describe Richard as having a condition of the spine causing his right shoulder to be considerably higher than his left. This condition is now widely believed to have been scoliosis, an exaggerated curvature of the spine that can be severe and debilitating.

Based on the accounts of Richard’s physical disability and the fatal injuries he sustained in the battle now lead archaelogists to believe they have unearthed the grave of Richard III.

This grave existed under a parking lot on the grounds originally belonging to Greyfriars Abbey in Leicester, the church where Richard was supposedly buried. The bones show evidence of similar wounds and a spinal condition similar to what has been described. As optimistic as archaelogists are, they are seeking to prove his identity by performing a DNA test on a living, direct ancestor to Richard’s sister.

I’m hoping there will be some way the DNA information from this testing will be made available for others like my husband and children to compare to in an effort to prove our own connection.


  1. Foundation for Medieval Genealogy;,%20Kings%201066-1603.htm#_Toc321390527
  3. Kings and Queens of England – The Plantagenets, The Royal Family online;
  4. Kings and Queens of England – The Yorkists, The Royal Family online;



DNA Solved Mystery for the Child of the Last US Soldier Killed in Vietnam

On Friday, the family of John O’Neal Rucker gathered with Tia McConnell and her husband Allan and their two boys Matthew and Quentin at the Veterans’ Memorial at Linden’s courthouse to honor her newly discovered father.

Tia had been an orphan in Da Nang, and was adopted by Karen and Jack Whittier of Colorado after being evacuated from Vietnam. After a lengthy and problematic search for her birth family, Tia discovered that John Rucker was her father.

She honored her father with placement of a flag at the monument that recognized him as the last American soldier to die in Vietnam. Rucker had been a member of 366 Combat Support Group, 366th Tactical Fighter Wing during the Vietnam War, and was the last American soldier to die in Vietnam, having been killed by a rocket attack on January 27, 1973. Sadly, this attack and John’s subsequent death occurred only hours before the Paris Peace Accords were signed, ending the Vietnam War.

Mae Rucker, John’s mother, had met Tia and her family the day before, after Tia’s search led to John and DNA testing proved the connection. Despite a negative first test in comparison to John’s mother, they persevered and had another test done to confirm the result. This time her DNA was compared with John’s two sisters and the tests were positive, indicating a 91 percent match, which is impossible unless the parties are closely related.

This story has finally convinced Mark and I to get our DNA tested. It’s something I’ve been considering for quite a while now, but I’ve been hesitant because I wasn’t sure I trusted the process enough yet.

Mark and I want to test our DNA rather than our children’s because we feel it would allow us to maintain separation of the data from our two different branches. I’m curious to find if my suspicions are correct and there are commonalities between the two branches.

I’ll post later about the process and results.

Unknown Soldiers: DNA technology makes it possible for their remains to be identified.

Unknown soldiers can be identified!


More than 83,000 US service members lost since the start of WWII are still missing, according to a representative of the Department of Defence. Several lie in forgotten graves on the battlefield and below memorials offering no clue to their identities.

New techniques in DNA technology may mean we have seen the last burial of an unknown soldier. In offices and laboratories across the country and archaeological sites scattered across continents, groups of investigators and scientists comb the remains of the past for lost defenders.

In the US, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), based in Honolulu, Hawaii, and also the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), based in Arlington, Virginia keep case files on each missing sailor, soldier, Marine and airman.

Researchers at JPAC and DPMO establish possible sites of remains. A team of archaelogists visited North Korea in 2004 and located skeletal remains of thirty individuals tossed haphazardly into a mass grave close to Chosin Reservoir. They shipped the bones to JPAC in Honolulu, where the bones were used to find gender, age, ancestry, and distinguishing marks. The process can take anywhere from two weeks to one year, depending on the existing backlog. Frustratingly, the original sample may not be enough and in that case, they must restart from the beginning.

For the remains whose DNA is successfully processed, the researchers will try and match them with DNA samples taken from thousands of possible family members.

Two of my great uncles, Private Joseph Philias Albert Emery and Private Joseph Turmaine, were reported missing in action in WWI and I would be thrilled to have their remains recovered.

British Ancestry: a mixture of genetic DNA from other populations.

Genetic signatures have been found among Britons that strongly illustrate their historical roots from various locations of the UK, resulting in a highly detailed and descriptive map of genetic variations. The analysis shows clusters of genetic variation within the late 1800s, when the population was less migratory, and reflects historical waves of migration by a variety of groups of people into the island.


According to Peter Donnelly, the Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in Oxford, England, “The patterns we see are extraordinary. “The genetic effects we’re looking at are the result of, probably, thousands of years of history.”

DNA Map of UK migration.
Each symbol represents an individual at the center of their grandparents’ birthplaces. The tree (top right) DNA map of UK migration shows how the clusters are related. Photo credit: University of Oxford

Today, few Britons have ancestors from only one region of the United Kingdom. Therefore, it’s difficult to find patterns of genetic variation originating from a specific place.

However, the team found Britons that lived in rural areas and knew that their grandparents were all born within less than eighty kilometers. Since the DNA of these people was a blend of their grandparents’ DNA, it was expected that their genetic variations would be from within the geographic regions of their grandparents.

Participants were lumped into groups based specifically on their genetic DNA, and the geography of these groups matched significantly. Those from across central and southern Britain were in the most important cluster. Several groupings within this main group were much more isolated.

Those whose ancestry can be traced back to the archipelago, off the northeast coast of Scotland, fell into three distinct classes. This isolation most likely was a result of the islands creating difficulties in movement among various populations.

As well as the influence of geographic barriers, the overall picture resulted from migrations into and around the UK.

Genomes of people from continental Europe were analysed to gain insight into the scope of their ancestors’ contributions to Britons’ genetic ancestry. The flow of Anglo-Saxons from contemporary Germany into the UK after the departure of the Romans in 410 AD was indicated. Rather than displacing the resident population, they interbred.

Surprisingly, the Vikings, who occupied the UK during the four centuries from 700 AD to 1100 AD, had very little influence on the genetic makeup of Britons.

Britons or those with British heritage may conceivably use their DNA to trace the homelands of their ancestors.



Callaway, Ewan; UK Mapped out by genetic ancestry;

Prince William’s mitochondrial line is of Indian ancestry?


My children’s ancestry branches backward into history, through Welsh Quakers immigrants in Pennsylvania, to Welsh royalty and then to British royalty, including Prince William. It was surprising to learn Prince William’s mitochondrial line is of Indian ancestry?


Prince William's mitochondrial line is of Indian ancestry?
Prince William’s mitochondrial line is of Indian ancestry?

The result of these connections is that my husband and children are distantly related (20th cousins 4 times removed from Princes William and Harry, the sons of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, and the grandsons of the current Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II.

It is interesting to note that, not only are the young royals connected through German, Spanish, French and numerous other lineages, but DNA tests conducted by BritainsDNA have proven Indian ancestry through their mother Princess Diana.

Although its is believed that Eliza Kewar, their fifth great grandmother was Armenian,  DNA shows a direct maternal Indian descent. Eliza was housekeeper to and in a relationship with Theodore Forbes. Forbes was from Scotland and worked for the East India Company in Surat, India.

The mitochondrial DNA, which is passed on through the women only, descended through Eliza and Theodore’s daughter Katherine and her female descendants to Frances Roche, who married Earl Spencer and had a daughter, Lady Diana Spencer – William and Harry’s mother.

photo credit: Steve Rhodes via photopin cc

DNA, archaeology, anthropology and genealogy open eyes to the past.

It seems that every time I turn on my computer to view the internet, I find new articles and posts about discoveries made in DNA, archaeology, genealogy and even science, that shed new light on our search into the origins of our own family and heritage, and the origins of our ethnic groups.

Today I stumbled upon the article “Discovered 2.3 k-yr-old human skeleton throws light on our ancestry,” on the ANINews website.

According to this article, “DNA from the complete 1.5 metre tall skeleton is one of the ‘earliest diverged,’ oldest in genetic terms, found to-date in a region where modern humans are believed to have originated roughly 200,000 years ago.”

The DNA evidence pointed to this man being from a branch that is the most closely related to ‘Mitochondrial Eve’ and now presumed to be extinct.

Reading about these new discoveries points out something very intriguing to me. In the past, the discoveries were made based on exploration, experimentation, and finding something new, affecting and changing the future.

Today, the discoveries one hears of most are those delving into the past, using all disciplines of social studies including genealogy, anthropology and archaeology; and the sciences including DNA and chemical analysis.

Today’s most well known and talked about discoveries are looking to the past and where we came from; individually, as a family, and as part of a broader ethnic group.

This suits me fine as this is my area of interest and fascination. I can’t help but feel excitement with each new discovery in my own genealogy, as well as reading and hearing about the discoveries made with a much broader, more global impact.

It all matters and sheds light on who we are and where we came from.

I learn my husband may be descended from the first documented slave in America, John Punch…

African slave in America, John Punch.
Barack Obama is descended from the first documented African slave in America, John Punch.
A while ago I learned from news headlines that President Barack Obama is descended via marriage from John Punch, the first documented African slave in America. He was an indentured servant declared a slave for life in punishment for attempting an escape in 1640. has been researching Barack Obama’s ancestry for several years and has declared that Barack Obama is the eleventh great grandson of the first documented African slave in American history, John Punch and eighth cousin to my husband, Mark.

If this is true, then by virtue of the connection of my husband Mark and Barck Obama through Ulrich Stehle (1720-1773), who was sixth great grandfather to Mark and seventh great grandfather to Barack Obama, Mark and Barack are eighth cousins.

In the words of Joseph Shumway, genealogist with , “Two of the most historically significant African Americans in the history of our country are amazingly directly related.” What is wholly surprising is that the connection exists through his Caucasian mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, and not his Kenyan father.

John Punch, an indentured servant in Colonial Virginia, was declared a slave for life in punishment for trying to escape in 1640. states further that they used DNA analysis to learn that Stanley Ann Dunham’s ancestors were white landowners in Colonial Virginia, who were actually descendants of one African man, John Punch.

President Obama is traditionally viewed as an African-American because of his father’s heritage in Kenya. However, while researching his Caucasian mother, Stanley Ann Dunham’s lineage, genealogists found her to have African heritage as well, which piqued the researchers’ interest and inspired further digging into Obama’s African-American roots. With the support of existing documents and DNA, it is believed that John Punch had children with a Caucasian woman, and her free status was subsequently passed on to their children. Her descendants continued to be free land owners in Virginia.

The findings were further reviewed and verified by Elizabeth Shown Mills, past president of the Board of Certification of Genealogists and a Southern research expert. She states, “In reviewing ‘s conclusions, I weighed not only the actual findings but also Virginia’s laws and social attitudes when John Punch was living,” said Mills. She further states, “A careful consideration of the evidence convinces me that the Y-DNA evidence of African origin is indisputable, and the surviving paper trail points solely to John Punch as the logical candidate.


  1. ” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”> Press Release.

Erik IX, King of Sweden

Saint Erik IX, King of SwedenErik IX, King of Sweden, is 26th great grandfather of my children on their father’s side.

The odd thing about this ancestry is that it is not through my husband’s mother’s Swedish ancestry, but through his father’s Welsh, and Royal ancestors.

Saint Erik "the Saint, den Helige" Jedvardsson IX, King of SwedenKeeping in mind the quality of sources going back that far, I have sourced this line through the best, highly regarded sites available to researchers, such as Foundation for Medieval Genealogy and the Directory of Royal Genealogy of Hull University, among others.

Today, I read a USAToday story about scientists opening the coffin of Erik IX, King of Sweden, who was murdered near Uppsala, Sweden in 1160. The identity of the murderer of Erik is speculation, one possibility being Emund Olvbane, an assassin, and another being Magnus Henriksson, who some say succeeded Erik IX briefly. Erik was made a saint later in his life.

There is excitement surrounding the ability to study King Erik’s bones because there is so little known about him. They will be using DNA and x-rays to examine and investigate, hoping to learn details about his ancestry, health, diet and residence locations. There has been disagreement over his place of origin, some believing he was from Uppsala, and some believing he was from the west coast.

Uppsala CathedralEvidence of a sword strike has been noted and may have contributed to his death. Some believe he died from a blow to the head, while others  believe he was captured and later beheaded. Either of these theories is plausible because of the mark on the collar bone from a sword. Hopefully, these studies will provide answers.

Among artifacts to be studied is the gilded copper crown adorned with semi-precious stones, worn by Erik and being the oldest existing medieval royal crown in existence.

The crown of Erik IX, King of Sweden, will go on exhibit at the Uppsala Cathedral in June, along with several artifacts from other churches. Uppsala Cathedral is believed to have been built to house the remains of King Erik IX.

Do you have Neanderthal DNA? You may well ask if you are hairy, have tough skin, nails and thick hair.

A while ago, I happened upon an extremely interesting news story on, “Are You A Hairy Diabetic Smoker Who Suffers Stomach Cramps? Blame Your Neanderthal Ancestor“, in which they describe the links between remnants of Neanderthal DNA and several modern health problems.

Do you have Type 2 diabetes, lupus, Crohn’s disease and biliary cirrhosis? These are some of the illnesses and conditions linked to Neanderthal DNA.

The Neanderthal DNA has also been linked to inherited traits such as tough skin, nails, and thick hair.

People of sub-Saharan Africa who did not migrate out and breed with Neanderthals, have very little or no Neanderthal DNA.

As genealogists, we do understood that traditional genealogy research techniques and tools can only take us back as far as a couple of centuries with any certainty.

DNA testing, however, opens up a whole new wealth of information about our ancestries that can be valuable in genealogy, but especially in determining, predicting and managing certain health conditions and traits.

The article explains the connections in greater detail.

photo credit: wallyg via photopin cc

Study reveals common ancestry for all Native Americans.

The indigenous people of North and South America are collectively known as Native Americans. Despite the European invasion occurring several centuries ago, Native Americans are still subjugated and are yet to find a voice of their own.

One of the reasons for that is a lack of scientific evidence that manages to bring forth their cultural heritage and upbringing in front of the world. While previous anthropologic studies have focused on the timing and number of initial migrations, the subsequent spread of people within the two continents have garnered lesser attention.

As scientists could only describe the peopling of the Americas in broad strokes, plenty of mysteries regarding when and how they spread across still remains a mystery – and is critical to understand their historical lineage.

Two independent studies, one being published in the journal Science and the other in Cell, have sequenced 15 and 49 ancient human genomes, dating back around 10,000 years. Prior to these studies, only six genomes older than 6000 years from the Americas had been sequenced, leading to oversimplification of genetic models that were used to explain the peopling of the Americas.

The genomes of the current study spanned from Alaska in North America to Patagonia in South America. The teams worked with government agencies and indigenous people to identify the samples, extract powder from skeletal material, and extract the DNA necessary to create double-stranded DNA libraries.

The results from the genome sequencing have spawned some very interesting results. The study published in Science, called “Early Humans dispersals within the Americas”, provides evidence of rapid dispersal and early diversification as people moved south, as early as 13,000 years ago. The study sequenced an “Ancient Beringian,” a 9000-year-old remains from Alaska’s Seward peninsula to come to the conclusion that first migrants that entered the Americas from the Bearing strait split into two groups – “Southern Native Americans” and “Northern Native Americans” (also sometimes called Ancestral A and B lineages), who went on to populate the continents . . .

Read on . . .

Source: Study Reveals Common Ancestry for all Native Americans

Related Posts:

DNA map of of Britain and Ireland reveals Viking genes | Daily Mail Online

The Irish are much more genetically diverse than previously believed and have Viking and Norman ancestry – just like the English, according to new research.

A comprehensive DNA map of the people of the Emerald Isle has for the first time revealed lasting contributions from British, Scandinavian and French invasions.

Researchers have discovered 23 genetic ‘groups’ in Ireland and 27 groups in England, Scotland and Wales.

The findings are significant because they could be used in future studies to identify the genetics underlying various traits and diseases in specific regions.

An estimated 80 million people worldwide claim Irish descent – almost half of them Americans who regard it as their main ethnicity.

It has long been assumed this means the blood in their veins is Celtic – but geneticists now say the truth is much more complicated.

Read on . . .

Source: DNA map of of Britain and Ireland reveals Viking genes | Daily Mail Online