Voices from down the Brandenburg line.

I have received a couple letters from Lara Day of Wisconsin, a vet and a genetic genealogy fan. I have an autosomal connection to her of 33 centimorgans, and using that and our public tree, found that we are related through the Brandenburgs. Elias Tidwell Myers, son of Charles Myers (1789-1857), married Nancy Ann Brandenburg on the 28th of November, 1839, in Lafayette Missouri.

I tend to think that the payoff for doing this kind of genealogy are the stories you receive, and in this case, Lara has a great one.

I didn’t know about Nancy Ann Brandenburg until I saw her on your tree and looked to see if others had her in the extensive Brandenburg line. I have matched other distant Brandenburg cousins, so we either have sticky segments that get passed down intact through the generations or we have a genetic disposition for genealogy research (or all both). The Brandenburg family has a lot of interesting history, some fact and some fiction. As a child, I remember my Grandmother telling me we were German royalty. As I got older, I found out we were supposedly descended from the Hohenzollern line (Frederick I and Frederick II “The Great”). During the late 1800s, a large number of the Brandenburg family met to plan on how to get their part of the estate in Germany. There are letters upon letters how money was collected for the supposed legal fees to get part of the estate supposedly worth $10,000,000. Sounds like the old fashioned version of the email scams we get in Spam. The scam was restarted in the 1900s, so more people gave money hoping for riches. Who knows how this rumor of Royalty got started, but it isn’t true, but the belief persists today. The truth is Matthias came over from The Palatinate sometime before 1764 when he married Hester Wolgamot (differing spellings) in then Frederick Co Maryland. They proceeded to have a large family and moved to VA then KY. Matthias was not a soldier in the Revolutionary War, but did supply leather goods to the Continental Army, so many have used this in their applications to DAR. Your ancestor, Samuel Brandenburg, was Matthias and Hester’s 6th child, born in VA and followed the rest of the family to KY. A younger brother, Solomon, started a ferry service in KY to cross the Ohio River. This ferry service prospered and a town was formed which became the Meade County seat. Matthias had died after a fall from a horse, and his widow Hester, moved with her son Solomon. She is buried on a hillside overlooking the Ohio river and her tombstone is in remarkably good condition.

Charles Myers 1789-1857. Is his mother a Girdner?

My original source for the Conrad Girdner obit was an email from Rayedene Graves. Later I found a link on Ancestry and there is also this little bit of info from RootsWeb. The story goes as follows (emphasis mine):

OBITUARY of Conrad Girdner
Died, at his residence in the 9th district of Greene County, Tennessee, of old age and a consuming sore, on the 12th day of May, 1882, Conrad Girdner, aged 95 years, 2 months and 22 days.
The subject of this sketch was born in Hedrick Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania, on the 20th day of February, 1787. He was of German extract. His father’s name was Michael. He was born in Northampton County. His father married Huldah Beach, and they had nine children, whose names were: David, Conrad, Joseph, Christena, Michael, Charlotte, Geroge, Mary and Naney.

The writer was at Mr. Girdner’s residence the very last days that his memory was anywise good and was able to snatch from the mind of one who, only a few weeks before possessed a most retentive memory of past events which had come to his knowledge the past ninety years and I will give what follows in quotations in his own words:
“I was five years old when my parents, with the oldest and two younger than I, left Pennsylvania for the wilds of Tennessee with two horses and a wagon. They were accompanied by two brothers-in-laws one named Myers and the other Cook, and their families.
“I walked all the way from our old home to Flag Branch, in Greene County, where my father settled on one hundred acres of land. He afterwards added to it by purchase. The distance we traveled was seven hundred miles, and I now well remember every step of the journey. We left in February, 1792, and were fully seven weeks on the way. —
When we arrived there was just a little cabin on the purchase, which property is now owned and occupied by the widow Perman. When we came the Indians were still in possession of portions of East Tennessee, and continued to annoy the white settlers til 1805, when a treaty impelled them to go elsewhere, and leave the white men in full possession of this portion of our wide domain.
“During one of the Indian wars Charles O’Neal, an Irishmen, taught school in our neighborhood, and I attended three months. He said he had taught thirteen hundred different schollars and that I was one of the very quickest to learn. But our facilities for schooling were very limited. I learned to read, write some and could cast accounts sufficently for my purpose through life. The elder children had to get up before daylight and break flax and perform other labor before school, in order to enable my mother to spin and weave cloth with which to clothe us.
I lived with my father til 1807, when I married Elizabeth George, daughter of Yost George, who came from Germany when he wwas but four years of age. I was twenty years old when I married. A portion of father’s land was set off to me and I settled down for life. My wife and I had eleven children-six daughters and five sons-viz: William, Catherine, John, Delilah, Luther, Eliza, Mary Jane, Stephen, Alexander, Nancy and Sally.
“Years after my father came out grandfather, David Girdner came to Greene County {c1798) with a span of horses and a wagon. Grandmother drove the team and grandfather sat by her side. He died on the estate I now occupy, on Richland Creek.
“I was engaged in the war of 1812 under Gen. Andrew Jackson. And so was my father, though he was a man well stricken in years. He died in 1814, aged sixty years. After his death my mother married Lewis Ball.”
During the recital of the above his mind several times wandered, and I had to give him rest. The next day he was incompetent to tell anything, and rapidly grew worse, til soon his mind gave way entirely.
I had intended to have drawn out of him and rescued from oblivion many facts in his knowledge which have gone out with his mind.
Mr. Girdner came to town for the last time in September last to prepare his pension papers. His mind was vigorous til about February, when it began to weaken, as well as his body. On his 95th birthday, February 20th, he gave a dinner party, which was attended by his son, Dr. William Girdner, his wife and some others. he had been very feelbe previous to that occasion, but seemed quite cheerful and much better on that day. He commenced growing worse till at last the once brilliant mind flickered out and he was totally ignorant of everything going on around him.

About fifteen years ago he was afflicted with a cancerous sore on his nose between his eyes, which he was admonished was dangerous unless he would submit to an operation, but he would not, and the sore continued to eat into his flesh till it consumed his nose and caused blindness, and ultimately spread through his whole system, till death came to his relief at the time above stated.

So, just for yucks I got onto Ancestry and looked for matches to folks who had the name ‘Girdner’ in their family trees. I had six matches. Of these, three were related to David Girdner and three to women in eastern TN, in places like Moore County, that easily could have descended from these folks.

These results need to be confirmed. They are not close but distant matches, and only one rated as ‘Good’ by Ancestry. Understand, we’re getting to the point DNA information gets lost, and just by matching, I can’t eliminate an accidental match. I can’t even check to see if the match is paternal, by myself.

On the other hand, my autosomal data does not preclude the possibility that Charles Myers’s father is the Myers spoken about in the Girdner obit, and his mother is an unknown Girdner female.

Update: A really good Girdner link.

Phasing DNA. Pros and Cons.

I had my dad get an Autosomal test at ftDNA (whatever their merits or demerits, Family Tree DNA keeps your DNA sample for 25 years, so you can update testing anytime you want), and I have transferred that test to Gedmatch. His kit number is posted on Wikitree ( which is another genealogical resource you might find useful). But to repeat them here, Ysearch kit is MMB63. His autosomal kit on gedmatch is T141705. Anyone who has a gedmatch login can do ‘one to many’ comparisons with his gedmatch kit.

That said, with my Dad’s kit there, I can phase my own DNA kits, splitting them into a maternal and paternal side. Using these, I can now tell whether a DNA match is matching from the maternal side or paternal side. So, when trying to dig up dimly understood ancestors, this is quite valuable.

On the other hand, the admixture of my maternal side is a bit fanciful..


And the answer is, no I don’t believe it. The sanest of the admixtures so far seems to be 50% Scots/Irish/British, 30% Scandinavian, and 20% Southern Europe. That’s what I tend to believe, as of the moment.

And yes, they do warn you that phased data and admixture are not the best of ideas. Compare with my admixtures in previous posts.

gedmatch admixture testing.

Gedmatch allows you to test autosomal data against a variety of autosomal testing tools. The value of this is to see how different reference populations , and different DNA tools, affect the outcome. Some sets of reference populations give very different results when tested.

This is a result using the Eurogenes program and their most popular population model.


This is the result when I use the Harappa World model. This is a population set that favors people of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian ancestry.


Note that if my father were Lebanese and my mother came from the Sudan, this would have been a far better model to pick. I’ve noted in my reading that Americans of African descent often prefer the Harappa World model to the others in the gedmatch set.

The point is, depending on where you come from, the commercial admixtures may or may not best represent what your genetics are. In particular, we’ve already noted there are marked differences in how someone with Micronesian bloodlines is handled by the major commercial services versus Nat Geo’s Genographic Project.