30 years ago, researching your family history was all about writing letters, reading how-to books, talking with other genealogists at group meetings, driving to the city 5 hours away to spend the weekend in the State Record Office and Library, reading more books and finding others with the same research interests. The mail man became your friend, you got to know him/her personally. When you sent off a letter to a possible “relative” because they were researching the same name, time-frame and area that you were interested, you would wait to hear the postie’s motorbike coming up the road, sometimes weeks and months later and run out to meet him/her, just in case that relative had responded.
They did and often. Piece by piece the jigsaw would be put together, proving each step as you go to make sure you had the correct branch of the tree. But, there was one branch that I just couldn’t fit onto the tree and it seemed to come to a dead end. That is until recently my brother and I had our DNA tested. Yes, genealogy has taken a huge leap forward. Not only do you research a genealogical tree, you now can research a genetic tree, by matching segments across our 23 chromosomes and suddenly you start to accumulate 100s of cousins, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and even 5th cousins.
And here I was, posting on my blog just before Christmas, that I was going to slow down the research process and start putting what I have accumulated over the years, into a format that the family might one day appreciate. Famous last words!!
My brother Peter decided he’d get his DNA tested through Ancestry DNA. I had mentioned it to him some time ago and it was wishful thinking on my part that he would oblige and really, at the end of the day, what was it going to prove? I was treading in unknown waters, even though my uncle tested at the same time as I did about 6 months prior, on Family Tree DNA, with mixed results. It has taken me a while to learn what it was I was looking at.
When the results came back a couple of weeks after Christmas, I spent all day and a few sleepless nights trying to figure out what it was I was doing. One thing for sure, we are definitely brother and sister. You should have seen all those pretty coloured graphs that showed up when I merged both our data into a free program called GedMatch! Then add our uncles data to the mix, we did make a lovely family portrait. (So to speak!)
Many matches didn’t have their genealogical tree online, or if they did, they were private trees, so I couldn’t figure out how I was going to tell where they fitted into our family. The two must really go together, genetics and good old fashioned paper trail to prove the ancestral line. So I sent off a couple of emails to a few who had really good number matches. You’ll understand what this means if you’ve had your DNA tested!
Then early one morning, yes, it was 2am, I couldn’t sleep, so I was on the computer looking at the DNA results. What else would you be doing at 2am, knitting, reading!!? Not me! hah! I decided to try to search on the surname field, so I typed in deLisser, when up popped this name with a shared match of 12cM across 2 segments. Now that’s not too bad, and it was a name that I was truly stuck on. For most of the 30 years of my research, I could not break down this brick wall. So I shot off a message through Ancestry messages and started to shut down the computer, when up popped a message. I had an almost instant reply. Love you Mr Postman, but this is even better. This message came all the way from Florida in the USofA. The fellow was able to tell me that he descended from a certain deLisser ancestor, who, in the past I had researched, but could not conclusively join him up to my deLisser. This tiny piece of DNA helped me prove, that we were definitely a match with this family. DNA does not lie. So, to cut a long story short, several messages later, we found that we were 5th cousins.
Since then, I’ve had access to another deLisser relative’s DNA and I can now say, that I have found the father of Alexander deLisser, my 3 times great grandfather who was born in 1796 in Jamaica, married in London, England in 1923 and died in Italy 1844. Yes, he did get around and had me on a merry chase. Through a will that was left by our DNA matches ancestor, I have now proven that Alexander’s father is Aaron deLisser, a watch and jewellery maker from Jamaica and Alexander had 9 other brother’s and sister’s. As they say, go forth and multiply. Well multiply they did and the family tree has grown exponentially.
Below is the 2nd match that I found, and this person is a 5th cousin once removed! That little blue line is just the minor detail, but oh boy, does it have a big result!! Thank you Peter your “spit was worth bottling!”
Please note, I am still in the process of fixing up the images and links on my blog after I merged several blogs into one.