Our American Family
Our American Family
Compiled by John Henry Johnson

Summer 2018!

I hope you enjoy learning about our ancestors’ histories as much as I have. The past takes on more significance when you realize that your flesh and blood participated in events which were critical to the America’s formation and growth.

A significant milestone, I now have 9,700 individual relatives listed here now!


How To Use This Website

On this Introduction page - To find a specific Person or Family:
Surnames” lists surnames, click one to see people of that name.
Index” click a letter shows surnames of that letter.
Sources” shows where I got the information in this website.
new Search” allows searching for an individual by name.
Home” shows the Johnson grandparents card.
Contents” will take you back to the Introduction page.

Only deceased individuals information is here, living individuals should have no information showing.

On each Family Card:
The four top boxes are names of the paternal and maternal parents.
At center, is the couple or the individual person.
Below is a list of their children, if any.

When you move your cursor around, names become underlined, click on it and it opens a person’s information page. Next to entries are source number(s), click a number to see where the information came from

If an area is empty, this is where my research has stopped or there is no one there.

The Person Sheet:
Shows all the information I have on that person, their spouse, their children. When you move your cursor around, names become underlined, click on it and it opens a person’s information page. Next to entries are source number(s), click a number to see where the information came from.

To See What Media I Have for a Person, on the Family Card page:

small camera icon near a name when clicked on shows what I have for that person.

small camera icon near a wedding date when clicked on shows that family’s media.

To See Family Trees:
A small tree icon near a name when clicked on shows the person’s family tree. Click on any of the underlined names in the tree and you will see their family tree.

If there are multiple Spouses:
See “Spouses: 1,2” below the center couple or person, click other numbers to see other spouses and families. Children for each couple are on the parents’ Family Card along with other spouses’ parents.

If You Get Lost:
Click browser back arrow (at upper left), or
Click the words on the bottom of the page takes you to the main website pages
Click on “Contents” to return to this Introductory page.

Feel free to email the website link "johnsonancestors.com" to others interested in family history so they can find this site and hopefully add to it.

If you see something that you would like a copy of, email me and I will email you a copy.


Recent information May 2018:

It is with a sad heart that we heard that !C1R Vivian (Root) Shaw died on Easter, April 1, 2018. Vivian and her daughter 2C Della (Root) Shaw have long had an interest in our family’s history and for years researched the rich stories of our ancestors. I owe a personal debt to Vivian and Della, for their excellent genealogy provided the seminal root for my own research and much of what you can enjoy and learn from on this website came from them. Thank you Vivian for what you discovered and preserved for our family.

As I mentioned the last time I updated, because of DNA I think I’ve finally been able to discover the next generation of the Johnson line beyond Great Grandfather James Albert Johnson (1863-1948). When I started to collect genealogy information from my mother and my paternal grandmother in 1989, I wanted to find out where the Johnsons came from. That line has been stuck with my Great Grandfather James Albert Johnson’s 1863 birth since that time. In December with the DNA I tested at Family Tree DNA and which I had previously ported to the free GEDmatch site, Karen Johnson, wife of 3C Gerald Johnson contacted me. At long last and only because of DNA, I found generations beyond James. After further research and getting additional DNA matches in April, I began adding in the many new Johnson cousins (mostly in Texas) and many new surnames (Stockdell, Cox, Adams, Cummins) ready for additional research along with a number of wonderful early photographs from the mid 1800’s. Now the Johnson line begins in 1812 with 3rd Great Grandfather Matthew Johnson (1812-1864) and his wife Mary Polly Cox (1809-?). Now I’m looking at a number of “new” Johnsons and other new ancestors possible participation in the Civil War.

Virgyln (Lessenden) Griswould sent me information on her parents Virgil Lessenden (1912-?) and Ida Pollreis (1914-?), her siblings, her children and grandchildren.

As I recently retired from teaching college (for the most part) and working on the side for Apple, I have been able to sort out two very complicated histories in the Johnson and Ryan lines.

Great Grandfather James Albert Johnson (1863-1948) had an older sister Mary Adeline Johnson (1861-1931) whose information was lost in ways similar to James as the family was broken up shortly after his birth and has not be located together. Also, because she was married twice and sometimes went by Adeline and sometimes as Mary, well I found her and her two husbands and her one child. As I have been trying to take the Johnson line back in time beyond James I thought knowing his siblings might help. That line ended with her son William Henry Hardesty (1882-1938) died ending that line, but at least they are back part of our history now.

Great Grandmother Nicie Ann Ryan (1871-1938) had a complicated life of five marriages, her first love dying early and lots of children to raise. I was able to discover information about all five husbands and much supporting documentation like marriage licenses and census. One name had been lost to history, but I was able to piece it together and recover it.

The most distant cousin I’ve had contact me, 9C Robert Mathis “Bob” Hurt Jr., sent me information on his siblings and their kids. Our MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor) common ancestors are 8G Grandfather John T. Hurt Sr. (1655-1723) and Sarah (or Webber) Yarborough (1658-1707). In fact, John T’s father William Hurt Sr. (1614-1701) immigrated from England to the America in the mid 1650’s!

5C Dollie (Hurt) Blazek sent me her line from 4G Grandparents Josiah Hurt (1771-1818) and Elizabeth Young (1780-1834) down to her. She also sent me a digital download of an out of print book on the Hurt line. Thank you.

Also, with the same couple, 5C Patsy (Lawrence) Phillips shared DNA information going back to our 4G Grandparents Josiah Hurt and Elizabeth Young.

6C1R Terry Allen Lytle with whom I share 6G Grandparents Erasmus Holtzapfel (1710-1793) and Christina Rusher (1718-1792) sent me their line down to her. Interestingly, though we share ancestors, we don’t share any DNA, odd I know but not that unusual because of what’s known as “recombination”. (See my DNA info at the bottom of this page and I’ll explain. You can have the same ancestors and not share any inherited DNA!) Christina Rusher, by the way, is the only known French immigrant ancestor that I have at this time.

1C Nina (Trabucco) Corscadden has kindly let her sister 1C Joann (Trabucco) Graham, a budding genealogist in her own right, photograph a large photograph of our maternal Great Grandparents Pietro Antonius Goiettina (1844-1898) and Maria Teresa Seren Piocca (1846-1908).
This addition is all the more significant as I now have an entire collection of the Great Grandparent photographs.

Now I am looking to complete my collection of the Great Great Grandparents’ photographs of the Civil War generation. I am missing only two images: Sarah Ann Stockdell (1837-1863) and Charles Henry Hurt (1840-1880). IF anyone has anything please let me know and you will be credited. I’m not sure there are any images of Sarah Ann, but a number of cousins have told me that there are images of Henry Hurt.

Carrie (Bauer) Kelso sent information on my brother in law’s Gizewski line including death certificates on her Grandparents Victor Joseph Gizewski (1890-1980) and Anna Gorniak (1898-1993) which I received in an email from Babe (Gizewski) Vandenberg’s collection. The Gizewskis are earlier ancestors of the Ponikvar relatives.

2C Della (Shaw) Bailey provided more on the Royal Marrit Root family, including: Royal Marrit Root (1842-1928) and Mary Ellen Horner’s ((1847-1932) marriage license and a family portrait on the Root Ryan Facebook page which I’ve included here.

My wife’s grandaunt Frances Mae (Soldano) Baity provided photographs and information on her parents Frank Soldano (1881-1959) and Pasquala Geanetta (1887-1960) and siblings which were presented in her book called “Sweet Memories” which she created with her late daughter Linda. Her interesting information on her parents’ early life is presented on her parents’ pages.

5C Ron Donaldson, again found through DNA, contacted me and verified our common ancestors who were 4G Grandparents Cary Tuck (1762-1836) and Nancy Stanley (1771-1855). These are both significant surnames names in early American history.

Now there is scientific proof of the accuracy of the research we have done over the decades.

In major steps forward, 1C Joann (Trabucco) Graham tested her DNA first with Ancestry and then she tested with FTDNA and now we can triangulate our results to discover which are our Trabucco relatives.

And 1C Felectia (Johnson) Lewis allowed me to test her DNA with FTDNA so we can also triangulate our results to discover which are our Johnson relatives.

Recently, I got substantial (12 generation) documentation from distant relative, Dr. Scott Swanson (a Butler University medieval history professor) through FTDNA on grandmother Nina Goettina (1892-1957). He translated the records of the little Northern Italian village where our common relatives lived for centuries. I had very little on her, but now I have most of her lines back to around 1700!

Through 1C Joann (Trabucco) Graham and her DNA research, I met 3rd cousin once removed (3C1R) retired University of Illinois administrator Jim Bono who provided grandfather John Trabucco (1886-1971) and his mother Great Grandmother Caterina Michela’s (1866-1945) birth certificates and added many generations on the Trabucco and Michela lines.

Another line which has been verified is back to 3G Grandparents Morgan Ryan (1817-1895) and Susan Jane Patton (1821-1883). Through FTDNA I contacted 4C Fred Staples and he sent me info from Morgan and Susan down to him.

3C Kate (Klamm) Clabough, who I found in FTDNA and GEDmatch, sent me information on her line which goes back to our MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor) 3G Grandparents Abner Ryan (1794-1865) and Rebecca Brown (1795-1855). Abner was a soldier in the War of 1812 and was killed in the “Kingsville Massacre” toward the end of the Civil War.


If you’re interested in DNA testing, I’ve lots of new info at the bottom of this page.

Ancestors You Know

If you have any of the following ancestors, your genealogy is here.

James Albert Johnson & Mary Ann Hurt; Hiram Monroe Ryan & Nancy Ann Ryan

Pietro Trabucco & Caterina Matilde Michela; Pietro Antonius Goiettina & Maria Teresa Seran Piocca

Milan Milosavich & Helen Fidel; Richard Gomey & Elizabeth Soldano

Henry Newton Therwhanger & Rubye Belle Hart; Charles Henry “Charlie” Conner & Annie Belle Hudspeth

Joseph Ponikvar & Francis ?; Victor Joseph Gizewski & Anna Gorniak.
Not sure what Francis’ maiden name was, could use some help on this one.


How you might be related to me

The lists below will help you determine how we are related.

If we have the same Grandparents, we are 1st cousins (1C) with approximately 25% of their DNA:
(NOTE: your 25% and my 25% probably are composed quite differently though)

Our Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) would be our Grandparents:

William Henry “Bill” Johnson & Roea Ann “Roy” Ryan
Giovanni Battista “John” Trabucco & Antonia Maria “Nina” Goettina

1st Cousins:

Alwina “Kay” BARNETT
Gloria Gayle BARNETT
William Arthur “Billy" BARNETT

Felectia Ann JOHNSON
James Doyle “Jim” JOHNSON
Linda Katherine JOHNSON
Madeline Carroll JOHNSON
Mark Andrew JOHNSON
Phillip Michael “Mike” JOHNSON
William Eugene “Bill" JOHNSON

Cynthia Ann “Cindy” SCHRANK Does anyone have Cindy or Pam’s contact info?
Pamela Grace “Pam" SCHRANK

Joann Marie TRABUCCO
Nina Lorene TRABUCCO

I know all of you very well and hope you like what I’ve done. When I started, no one had documented much of anything on the Johnsons and I felt our family should have a good genealogy, like other families did.

This history is yours! You, your children and grandchildren can add significantly to it.
If you are the child of my 1st cousin, you are my 1st cousin once removed (1C1R).
If you are the grandchild of my 1st cousin you are my 1st cousin twice removed (1C2R).


If we have the same Great Grandparents, we are 2nd cousins (2C) with approximately 12.5% of their DNA: (again, your 12.5% and my 12.5% are probably significantly different)

Our Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) would be our Great Grandparents:
James Albert Johnson & Mary Ann Hurt
Hiram Monroe Ryan & Nancy Ann “Nicie” Ryan
Pietro Trabucco & Caterina Matilde Michela
Pietro Antonius Goiettina & Maria Teresa Seran Piocca

2nd Cousins:

Edward Leon “Butch" AKERS
Geraldine Marie AKERS
Laura Pauline AKERS
Preston Clawvel AKERS

Randall Edwin AVARA

Gianfranco BALLESIO

Gerald Michael “Jerry” BATISTA
James Albert BATISTA
Janice Marie BATISTA
John Allen BATISTA


Charles James BESSO
James Kenneth BESSO
Mary Kay BESSO


Madeline “Nibbs” CORNELLA

Alfred Allen CORRELL
Linda Marie CORRELL

Alvis L. Jr. CRAIN
Deborah Lucille CRAIN

Joseph Claude “JC” DOUGLAS


Lois Burlene FRILEY

Jeanne Arlene FRULLO
John Leroy FRULLO

Frances GOGLIO
Frank Jr. GOGLIO
Jacob "Jack"GOGLIO
Joseph Robert GOGLIO
Katherine “Katsy” GOGLIO
Madeline GOGLIO
Mary Marguerite GOGLIO
Thomas Anthony GOGLIO

Derek Duran GRISWOLD
Harold “Hays" GRISWOLD
Sigrid Michelle GRISWOLD

Dreama Rayln GRISWOULD
Gregory Grant GRISWOULD
Rhonda Ranae GRISWOULD

Barbara Joan HINDMAN
Diane Lavon HINDMAN
James Markel HINDMAN
Nancy Kathleen HINDMAN

Colleen Faye HUGHES

Mary Ellen JOHNSON
Vickie Leon JOHNSON

Joseph George Jr. KNIGHT

Franca LEONE

Jacqueline Louise McINTOSH

Elaine Marie McKEE
James Henry III McKEE
Joseph Roger McKEE,

Christine Lee PIERCE
Lora Lorraine PIERCE

Annarita PISTONO
Giovanni PISTONO,

Clifford Eugene POWERS
Leesa Johnell POWERS
Rebecca Arlene POWERS

Aurelia JoAnn “Dutch" ROOT
Billi Jean ROOT
Charles Thomas “Chuck" ROOT
Edith Lavillian ROOT
Elizabeth Jo “Jody” ROOT
Emma Elmodene ROOT
Guelda Louise ROOT
Jimmy Wayne ROOT
Leona Marie “Onie" ROOT
Loretta Kay ROOT
Lula May “Corky" ROOT
Marvinia Margret ROOT
Renee Muriel ROOT
Robert Frank ROOT
Vivian Louise ROOT

April Lee ROSER
Cynthia L. ROSER
Denise Ann ROSER
Georgia Ellen ROSER
Kyle Micah ROSER
Vernon Clee ROSER



Charles Marvin SHAW
Christine Sue SHAW
Della Lula SHAW

Karen Juanita STEWARD
Sharon Anita STEWARD

Charlie Henderson STRONG
Harold Dean STRONG
Royal Grant STRONG
Westly Floyd STRONG
William Roy STRONG




Clarice Jean TURNER
Maureen TURNER


Edith Marie “Edie” WARREN
Gloria Jean WARREN
Jacolyn Faye “Jacci” WARREN
Patricia Ann WARREN
Robert Duane WARREN
Thomas Farrel WARREN

Gina Kay WATTS
John Lee WATTS
Neal Gene WATTS
Roy Lynn WATTS
Scott Alan WATTS

Connie Marlene WOODWORTH

Richard WYLIE
Robert “Bob” WYLIE

I don’t know most of you and we probably have never met, but I would love to hear from you.

The earlier history here is yours! You, your children and grandchildren can make important contributions to what is here.
If you are the child of my 2nd cousin, you are my 2nd cousin once removed (2C1R).
If you are the grandchild of my 2nd cousin you are my 2nd cousin twice removed (2C2R).


The Rich Spectrum of American History

Our family’s story, is a rich tale of coming to America, settling small towns and homesteading the Eastern wilderness or on Western prairies. One line might prove to have begun with the nation itself at Jamestown as we’re only one generation away. Yet to be proved.

Ancestors came from about every European country, either centuries ago or as recently as the early 1900s. Even getting here was an adventure. One group in the mid 1700s was adrift in the Atlantic for weeks until they took over the ship and finally made it to shore.


The Old World

Some ancestors arrived through Ellis Island or other ports early in the Twentieth Century. They suffered discrimination and lived hard lives as emigrants working as laborers, coal miners, mill workers or by farming with the added difficulty of learning English. Some were known to us in our own lives as loving, caring individuals who were living links to the Old World. Though often very stern and “European”, their kitchens are now very fondly remembered.

From the Old World are interesting stories of government officials, religious intolerance, of moving to America for economic or other reasons. I have many lines back ten, or more generations with no ship to America in sight. These lines are particularly intriguing considering what still might be discovered.


An “American Genealogy”

My goal has been to create an “American Genealogy” which traces all my lines back to the person who came to these shores, or conversely, to discover those who were always here. Our oral history has Native American ancestors in it, but this is still to be proved.

When you look up an ancestor here and see a foreign flag, this is one of our emigrant ancestors. Without their courage and belief that America would be a better place for themselves and their children, we would not be Americans today.


America at War

Many of our Great Grandfathers were in the conflicts of American History. Peter Brakebill (1760-1844) was with George Washington crossing the Delaware (as shown in the famous painting by Emanuel Leutze in the masthead above). Christopher Moyers, Jr. (1748-1815) was with Washington during that terribly cold winter at Valley Forge.

Eleven Grandfathers (at this point) fought in the Revolutionary War. One, David Shely (1750-1823) served with his father John Shock Shely (1723-1821) and his father-in-law Henry Hurst (1729-1801), all Virginia volunteers in the Revolution.

If I don’t have a photograph of an ancestor who was a soldier in a war, I have a soldier’s image of that war or if they were involved in an important event, I have an image of that along with information about who created it.

During the Civil War we possibly had participants on both sides. Union veteran GG Grandfather Wiley Jay Ryan (1840-1907) is one of those seen at the top of this page on the far right. Wiley fought in many battles and was wounded during the Battle of Franklin (Tennessee). His photograph was taken in 1904 and provided to me by a fifth? cousin Olen R. Gowens of Indiana.

Our ancestors were in about every conflict America has been involved in, many of which you’ve probably never heard much about: the War of 1812 Henry Fuller Ryan (1795-1860), while his son Morgan Ryan (1817-1895) was in the Second Seminole Indian War (Florida), others were in battles such as the Battle of King’s Mountain (South Carolina) John Blackburn (1740-1808) and The Old Northwest Indian Wars’ Battle of Fallen Timbers (Ohio) John Shock (1771-1854), and more recent conflicts such as World War II Nick Milosavich (1925- ).


America at Peace

Most of our ancestors though followed much more peaceful pursuits as farmers, railroaders or shop keepers, like Hiram Monroe Ryan (1868-1904) who probably built the first (and probably only) steam merry-go-round.

We have a few who possibly were on the wrong side of the law. One early Ryan cousin might have ridden with Jesse James’ gang, another oral history we are still trying to prove.

And we have relatives who were musicians, artists and writers. William Henry Johnson (1896-1980) was a shop keeper and salesman who wrote stories and poems his entire life or his son Buddy Johnson (1919-1986) who was on television and radio for almost a decade and had a Western swing band “The Colorado Rangers” for over 45 years.


Our Grandmothers

Our Great Grandmothers often had 8 to 10 children, one had 17, sometimes dying in the process or having to remarry after their first husbands died sometimes at the hands of Indians. They were spirited like Margaret Ann (Burke) Hurt (1840-1930) (she is shown above left center), who argued with Union soldiers when they tore off her porch to roast her cattle which they butchered in her yard. Her husband, Charles Henry Hurt (1840-1880) was possibly a Confederate sympathizer and possibly a Confederate bushwhacker (still to be verified).

Women’s lives were hard. At 16, Grandmother Nancy “Nicie” Ann Ryan (1871-1938) fell in love and eloped with the above mentioned Hiram Monroe Ryan. Wiley Jay Ryan, her father, followed them and found them stuck in a buggy in the middle of a river and forced them to marry at first light. Monroe died at 36 leaving Nicie with 7 children to raise. Over the years Nicie took an additional 4 husbands. Some were older and she took care of them and they helped her and her children survive. The third husband Isaac Willett (1837-1914) served with New York’s 9th cavalry in the Civil War at Gettysburg and many other battles, I have his medal. His Union Army discharge paper is seen above. Years later when Nicie died as an old woman, she was buried next to Hiram, her first love.

Grandmother Antonia Maria “Nina” (Goettina) Trabucco (1892-1957) came to America by herself when she was only 16 after her mother died. Leaving a sister behind in Italy, she traveled to join two older sisters who were already living in Southern Colorado where their husbands worked in the coal mines Florence, Colorado. Little did she know that her future husband Giovanni Battista “John” Trabucco (1886-1971)had sailed to America on the same ship she subsequently took on it’s previous voyage. Though they were from tiny villages not 50 miles apart in Northern Italy, it was only after they each traveled half way round the world that they met and married in 1911 in Cañon City, Colorado.


Only Deceased Ancestors Can Be Found Here

I have only included deceased ancestors’ information on this site, though I also collect information on our living family too.


Published Genealogies in which you may be included

I am a major contributor to two large printed genealogical volumes which list all living relatives known to me at the time of their publication.

5C1R Clovis Brakebill’s large book entitled The Descendants of Peter Brakebill 1760-1844 A soldier in the American Revolution from Pennsylvania and Maryland who settled in East Tennessee, Copyright 1999.

My contribution to Clovis’ book was the information on the descendants of Henry Fuller Ryan and Nancy Brakebill including all those descendants who were known to me in 1999.

Also, I contributed to EDWARD TUCK c. 1730-1781 of Halifax Co VA and some of his Descendants 1750-2004, Volume 1: Cary Tuck” by Kathleen Guest Wilson, Copyright 2004.

In Kathleen’s book, I contributed the supplement entitled “Descendants of Hiram Monroe Ryan” which contains all of Hiram Monroe Ryan and Nicie Ann “Nicie” Ryan’s descendants who were known to me in 2004.


How You Fit into This Story

I would love to see anything you have on our history for this is how I’ve gathered what you see here. If possible send information in digital form, with your sources, then I can just copy and paste it where it needs to go.

I always return originals. I just want the information and don’t need to keep the original.


Sources are Critical in Genealogy

My documentation is listed under “Sources” so you can verify what I have concluded. Don’t trust sites which do NOT have numerous sources. IF you do use such information then you need to verify the sources yourself, otherwise you can’t really trust it. In genealogical research it is very easy to get misled and be researching someone else’s family.


Thank You to all of you who have helped me gather what is here!

Of particular note I want thank my friend Michael Martinez (now deceased) who really showed me how to do genealogy.

Also, I cannot thank my cousin Della (Shaw) Bailey and her mother Vivian (Root) Reeves enough as they provided me with the core research on my RYAN ancestors. They have been extremely knowledgeable in all things dealing with genealogy research and have been working these fields far longer than I have.

There are others have made major contributions, such as: Gene BRAKEBILL, Jackie Governale (RYAN), Helen Mills (RYAN), Marge Braswell (PATTON), Georgia TUCK, Ruby (HURT) Coale, Geneva SHOCK, Becky Latt (HURST), Dollie (HURT) Blazek, Bev Allen (TUCK) and Miriam BLACKBURN all of whom have generously provided valuable information which is contained here.

And many others with whom I have communicated over the years have their names and contributions here and can be found in “Sources”.


This information is for you to enjoy and for those who follow us.

When you read our ancestor’s interesting stories, it makes you realize how easy our lives are today. When you consider what they had to overcome, our daily troubles are pretty insignificant. Genealogy helps us understand the debt we owe to those who came before us.

Since 1993, I’ve gathered what you can find here.

I thought about putting this into book form and may still do so at some point, but I decided that rather than just having my research sit on my Mac, I would put it on the web for others to enjoy.

So hopefully this website is a growing, improving source of information, rather than static like a book.

Relatives can use it and add to it which will provide a more accurate picture of our family’s history for our descendants in the future.


John Henry Johnson


My experiences with Genetic Genealogy DNA Testing as of May 2018.

It is amazing that genealogy which once was a hobby of looking in the oldest, dustiest, mostly forgotten books, now because of DNA, has become a hobby which is on the newest, most cutting edge of science and computers!

In 2014, through the generous support of a relative, I did a DNA test with a cheek swab through FamilyTree DNA (FTDNA), the pioneer in the field which was founded in 2000. It is the only DNA company created and run by genetic genealogists for genealogists. Periodically since then I have had FTDNA run additional tests on my sample to further enhance results and verify my traditional paper research.

Many people are interested in genetic genealogy testing because of all the advertising. So here’s what I’ve learned about this incredible new technology.

Genetic genealogy will NOT provide you with your family tree - a family tree only exists when someone has researched it, documented it and put it out there for others to see! If no one has done the work and put it on one of these sites, testing services won’t have anything for you.

Also, a major thing to consider BEFORE you run any test is that you never know what you’ll find. You have to be open to whatever it finds, otherwise I don’t recommend anyone do DNA genetic testing. In many instances, results have radically revised what individuals thought about their heritage, their family and themselves.

Finally, I hope that the recent news about law enforcement using genealogy DNA testing sites to track down serious criminals doesn’t stop anyone who wants to find out about their heritage. Government agencies will always be able to access information IF the need is serious enough. The vast benefits for someone wanting to discover their family’s history far outweighs this concern. There are lots of cousins out there looking for the same ancestors you’re looking for and this is really the only way you’ll ever find them.


How it works

Everyone has twenty two sets of chromosomes and a twenty third chromosome set which determines sex and finally in the outer area of each cell are countless small rings of Mitochondrial DNA.

Testing determines what a person’s nuclear genome is composed of from 3 billion base pairs of nucleotides, the exceptionally small parts of which are measured in centiMorgans (cM). So the lengths of inherited material is important, as is where the DNA strands match between two individuals.

Genetic genealogy adds to traditional genealogy, but it does NOT replacement it.

Different types of DNA tests provide different types of information. For instance, traditional genetic genealogy testing does NOT provide health or medical information. FTDNA believes in an individual’s privacy about health information and scrubs the results of this information so only the genealogical information remains. Nor does genealogical DNA testing provide legal proof of relationship or paternity because the results are NOT handled through a formal "chain of custody”.

How does it work? Simply put, the closer two people are related the more these tiny DNA segments match in size and position.

Testing tells you how much you match another person and therefore how likely that you both inherited DNA from a common ancestor. The more matching segments, the longer these segments are and their similar location in the DNA strand, the closer you may be related.

A parent gives you approximately 50% of your DNA.
A grandparent gives you approximately 25% of your DNA.
A great-grandparent gives you approximately 12.5% of your DNA.

Interestingly though, siblings will NOT necessarily receive the same 50% of the genes from their parents, as every individual has unique DNA combinations. Only identical twins have a complete DNA match with each other.

The composition of the DNA from ancestors will be unique to each individual because of a process called recombination. When sperm and egg combine their DNA recombine with some ancestor DNA included and some lost. This process happens over and over again down through the generations over time.

Because of recombination, beyond the great-grandparent level (3rd cousins), the amount of matching DNA becomes so random that there may or may not be a significant match and that’s where traditional genealogy research comes in and that is to help make a connection.

Also, because of recombination, over a number of generations, an individual will NOT inherit DNA from ALL of their ancestors. Interestingly, because there are so many ancestors’ DNA recombining over each generation, a person is actually NOT genetically related to all of their ancestors. Thus even siblings probably inherit their parents (and other ancestors) DNA in different combinations than others in their own family.

That’s why when a match is discovered it is often of significance.


Two family trees

An important element to understanding all this is that everyone has TWO family trees:
a Genealogical Family Tree which contains ALL your ancestors, and
a Genetic Family Tree which is composed of a smaller group of ancestors from whom you actually inherited your personal DNA.

DNA testing deals with your Genetic Family Tree and gives you your haplogroup. A haplogroup (pronounced “Hap-Low-Group”) is a branch of humankind’s development which shows changes in human DNA over vast amounts of time.

Just like a copy machine makes mistakes in copies of previous copies (think of the old mimeograph machines and how if you made enough copies of copies it would change letters, like e’s became o’s and t’s became i’s), specific DNA changes are known to have occurred in certain places at certain times in the distant past. This tells us much about our ancient ancestor’s early migrations and provides a way to verify connection of an individual to a larger group.

In a haplogroup there are “subclades” which are smaller subgroups of the haplogroup. Subclades provide for more precise relationship comparisons from individual to individual. It is the mutations in these branches which give a clearer picture of your genetic heritage. The point of all this is to find the Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) you share, which in turn allows for exchanging information which often is very difficult to find through traditional methods.


If you want to compare your DNA with mine which would be GREAT! For we both will gain information in such an exchange.

We can compare DNA in three possible ways:

1. If you’ve already done AncestryDNA or 23andMe (version 3 only) testing, you can port your RAW results to Family Tree DNA (where I test) and access its collection of results and matching me is possible in a number of ways.

2. You can run tests at FTDNA and have total access to all their extensive tools and resources.

3. If you’ve tested with another company, you can port RAW results to GEDmatch.
GEDmatch is a free third-party site which lets people who have tested with different companies to compare their results. I use GEDmatch and LOVE it! It helps you find cousins from MOST DNA testing companies who have submitted their data. Also, for a small fee, it provides other tools (known as Tier 1) which helps take your research even further.

As important as DNA genealogy tests are, so is the database to which you can compare results with. As of March 2018 the FTDNA database has almost 1 million records, it’s the most comprehensive variety of genealogical DNA tests, a database: over 9,946 group projects with 559,130 unique surnames to research surnames, along with geographical projects to research ancestors in specific areas, heritage projects for cultural group research and finally haplogroup projects if your research moves along a more scientific route.

Most of my time on FTDNA and GEDmatch these days are used discovering distant cousins who are helping me verify my traditional research. It is good to know that so far, distant cousins have proven that my previous paper research is correct.


The Tests

There are three basic genealogical tests (at this point in time):
1. Autosomal DNA (atDNA)
which includes X-chromosomal (X-DNA),
2. Y-chromosomal DNA (Y-DNA),
and 3. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA).

Each test reveals different things about ones’ genetic ancestors. Think of each as a specific tool. As science progresses, there probably will be more, different tests in the future, for there is lots of DNA for which no known uses are understood at this time, but the field is evolving quickly.


1. “Family Finder” Autosomal Test (atDNA)
can be done by men and women.

I did the “Family Finder” (Autosomal), “Y-DNA”, and “mtDNA Full Sequence” tests.

The Family Finder test has been the most useful so far.

The Family Finder (Autosomal) test provides genetic information on all male and female ancestors back about five generations based on the twenty two sets of regular chromosomes. It shows relationships between two people reliably to about third cousins. It costs about $79 though there are lower prices during certain times of the year (a recent sale had it for $49). Autosomal tests also provide information on all ancestral lines, the X chromosome, your ethnic origins and close family relationships.

To give you an idea of what amount of new contacts you’ll gain, I currently have 2,701 cousins showing in my Family Finder all of which have at least a 15 cM match which is the minimum amount considered to be proof of an actual match. Just going through the first of the 91 pages will keep me busy for years. Also, as new people with a significant amount of matched DNA to yours pop up, the order reshuffles so I see the BIG matches, in descending order, in the first few pages.

A caution about one of the main reasons people initially do DNA testing and that is, to discover their ethnic makeup or “admixture”. It is merely an estimate.

At this time, it cannot truly specify a country. It is done by comparing your results to the testing company’s database, that is, others who have previously tested that come from specific regions around the world. It CAN provide general regions like continents or areas with possibly more detail in the future as the science evolves.

The ethnic percentages you get from testing are for you and you alone.

Except for identical twins, even siblings will show different percentages and possibly slightly different ethnic results because of the results of recombination.

Among siblings - though you both inherent 50% of your DNA from each parent, that 50% might be composed quite differently for you than for your sibling. Their 50% might reveal an ancestral heritage which is somewhat different from what you got and visa versa. So take current ethnic results with a large grain of salt.

Currently, in my case, I’m 93% European (49% West and Central Europe, 22% Iberia, 19% British Isles, 3% Scandinavia), plus 6% Middle Eastern (6% Asia Minor), plus Trace Results <2% East Middle East.

Like other DNA results, these probably will change over time as the science becomes more sophisticated and the databases grow larger. Determining generally where you came from is fun, but wears thin quickly as your desire to really learn about your actual ancestors and your family tree.

Also as IF in my case, if there was supposed to be an Indian ancestor, there still might be one, but it’s just that I might not have inherited any of that ancestor’s DNA, because of recombination. Then it wouldn’t show up in the general ethnic results which most people are initially drawn to.


1a. X-Chromosomal test (X-DNA) part of atDNA can be done by men and women.

The X-Chromosomal test is part of the FTDNA “Family Finder” Autosomal DNA test (atDNA). Everyone has 22 sets of regular chromosomes and one set of sex chromosomes (X or Y), it is this 23rd set which X-DNA deals with.

Women get two X chromosomes (XX) one each from their father and mother, while men get only one X chromosome from their mother and they get a Y chromosome from their father (XY).

The X-Chromosomal test reveals a smaller subset of ancestors who could have transmitted X-DNA to you.


2. Y Chromosomal Test (Y-DNA Test)
can only be done by men.

The Y-DNA test is for your father’s, father’s, father’s line and provides genetic matches for your male line. Y-DNA tests are listed by how many markers are measured such as: Y-DNA37 (provides information as recent as 7 generations back), Y-DNA67 (gives information as recent as 6 generations) and Y-DNA111 (reveals information back as recent as 4 generations). Y-DNA111 is probably the most useful, as many people don’t even have 4 generations of traditional genealogical research done on their families to tie into.

The ultimate Y-DNA test is called “the Big Y” and is only available through FTDNA. It is somewhat expensive, but documents a man’s 10 million base pairs, more than any other Y-DNA test on the market. It places you among the nearly 25,000 SNP’s and helps you discover over 500 STR values. All this helps one explore their deep paternal ancestry through a vast amount of time far beyond the genealogical time frame and actually contributes knowledge to DNA genealogical research.

Only men inherit a Y chromosome.

The more points you test, the closer to our own time and traditional genealogical research verification is possible.

My Y-DNA67 test showed my male line is of the R-M269 Y-DNA Haplogroup. The R group is mainly from Western Europe which is what I expected.

So my Y-DNA haplogroup is R-M269 subgroup R1b - Family ZS (White Mulberry).

Once the haplogroup is identified and a subgroup is identified (which on FTDNA is noted as a type of tree), it helps you narrow down who you are closely related to. So then you contact other genealogists and begin comparing notes, which is when the fun begins! You discover unknown cousins who might have information you probably don’t!

This family group identification and branch will probably change over time as more people are added to FTDNA’s database as the whole field is continuously evolving and expanding.

In my case, any male in my subgroup (White Mulberry) is relatively speaking, an actual closer Johnson relative with a common male ancestor, though it might be back centuries or hopefully more recent and not too far back in time!

Ideally testing results fall within the range of the traditional genealogical timeframe which is the last one to six generations, roughly 25 to 150 years. That’s usually the time period during which most people can fairly easily research their family’s history.

FTDNA notifies you by email whenever a relative shows up, which they do with surprising regularity. If you have significant matches with 67 or 111 markers the MRCA might be much closer to our own time.

The more markers that you test that match another test taker, the closer the relationship. The results will gradually improve over time as more people are added to the database, the more relationships will clarify.

Y-DNA remains constant down through the generations so a distant male ancestor and his male descendants will have very similar DNA, but with numerous small changes over time. A mutation in Y-DNA occurs roughly every 144 years. As the locations where these changes occurred are known, Y-DNA can reveal where male line ancestors were at different times in history.

But, Y-DNA changes far more frequently than the female Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA).


3. Mitochondrial DNA test (mtDNA) can be done by men and women.

The mtDNA Full Sequence test is for your mother’s, mother’s, mother’s line. The “mt" stands for “mitochondrial” DNA which is passed from a mother to both of her male and female children. mtDNA stops with the sons, but is passed down from mother to daughter, to daughter, etc.. Men get mtDNA from their mothers, but don’t pass it down. The Full Sequence mtDNA test provides matches within the past 16 generations (400 to 500 years).

Mitochondrial DNA gradually accumulates mutations at a roughly regular but extremely slow rate, ticking like a molecular clock. There are a large number of mittochondiral surrounding the cell nucleus with each looking like a tiny ring.

For my mother’s maternal line, it turns out I’m in the European U3a1 haplogroup, which I expected as I knew that my maternal grandparents both came from Northern Italy and U3a1 is a major European haplogroup.

mtDNA is much more constant without changing over vast amounts of time (centuries?) than Y-DNA and therefore is the genetic material used to discover identities of war or disaster casualties.

It was mtDNA in 1994 which proved that bones discovered in rural Russia were those of Tzar Nicholas II and his family who were killed during the Russian revolution in 1918! Also, that King Richard III (1312-1377), the same figure featured in Shakespeare’s play by the same name, was actually buried under a parking lot in Leicester, England.

These were the amazing results that gave rise to Genetic Genealogy!


The “big three” genetic genealogy DNA testing companies are: 23andMe, AncestryDNA and Family Tree DNA. Recently a number new comers have entered the field. But before using any of them, please check any company for it’s ability to port your results, their compatibility with the main three and most importantly, with the GEDmatch comparison site.

1. 23andMe formed in 2007 is a private company associated with Google founder’s wife. From 2013-2015 it was prevented by the FDA from selling DNA analysis because of irregularities in their health testing, but have since been allowed to do testing again. 23andMe limits matches to 1,000 results though there are often more. Contacting matches with their messaging system is oddly difficult because it has a default privacy barrier. If you can’t easily communicate with related researchers much of the value of testing is lost. 23andMe’s strength is its health information.

Results can be ported to GEDmatch.

2. Ancestry, often thought to be part of the Mormon church is actually another private for profit company. The Mormon church provides a great deal of information for free, that’s NOT Ancestry which is an annual fee service associated with Microsoft’s Paul Allen. Ancestry has long been involved in traditional genealogical research and I considered using them. The AncestryDNA part of the company is relatively new and was founded in 2012. AncestryDNA doesn’t readily show how much DNA is shared or where that DNA is located. It has NO Chromosome Browser to compare your results!

Ancestry strength mainly comes from its size and for comparing family trees, which if your match doesn’t have a family tree there or doesn’t allow others to see it, then you are at a dead end. IF you want to compare actual DNA for matches, you have to export your results to yet another program like GEDmatch.com which shows matches. Ancestry has about 9 million users so it is by far the biggest number of people because of their incessant advertising, but to really do multiple tests and such, many Ancestry users end up porting their results to FTDNA.

Results can be ported to GEDmatch.

Remember, the main purpose of genetic genealogy is finding people with whom you share ancestors and with whom you can share research with. Ancestry’s strength is its collection of family trees and large document wealth, but it is an annual fee service. Ancestry documents can be accessed for free if you have a library card.

Both 23andMe and AncestryDNA have aggressively advertised. I don’t know, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Family Tree DNA ad, it has built its company on word of mouth recommendations and people who have tested elsewhere wanting to take their genealogy DNA research further.

3. Family Tree DNA. I chose the third private company, Family Tree DNA (FTDNA), which is also the only company created with genealogy in mind. I liked that its quality is confirmed by the fact that it is the tester for National Geographic’s Genographic Project which is revealing how early humans migrated through pre-history around the planet. Considered the gold standard.

Results can be ported to GEDmatch.

Some of the reasons I chose FTDNA:
1. It stores your sample for future testing for 25 years free (as you go further into this, other tests are helpful) and they offer inheritance of your information, which belongs to your NOT them.
2. The only company which processes tests in its own state-of-the-art DNA lab, others farm out testing to outside labs.
3. All information is presented in charts, maps, etc. providing lots of information.
4. It has the largest male Y-STR database in the world.
5. They have the greatest range of genealogical tests (even down to the tiny SNP level) useful in discovering precise information on specific relationships.
6. It has “projects” which help you find others looking for the same information you are.
7. It provides very easy communication with people who are related.
8. FTDNA’s “Big Y” test actually expands the knowledge of human genetics by taking one’s Y lineage back to the beginning, revealing “new branches” of the human tree.
9. And finally, numerous free services: new match email notification, total control over your account and data, unique common ancestor calculator, etc., lots of things genealogists need and find useful and NO annual subscription fee.

Note: the FTDNA site is scientifically oriented and a bit less user friendly than some others, but its information is excellent once you learn how to read it. There are video tutorials, glossaries and user forums to help you gain an understanding of this new and exciting, but complex field.

Any DNA testing is helpful IF you have done a significant amount of traditional genealogy research first. This is where the misleading advertising comes in - that all you do is click and your heritage will be revealed. It only exists IF someone has already put in the work to research the genealogy and put it out there in the first place.

Possibly, by testing at all the companies, you would have the widest net out there in order to find any DNA relatives, but that would be pretty expensive.

Also, any DNA testing is better than none and will give you lots of research options that just wouldn’t be available any other way.
IF you are serious about genealogy (and you must be IF you’ve read this far) DO IT.

DNA testing combined with traditional genealogy research today provides an ability to travel backwards in time like never before!


After you have run your tests and are pretty comfortable with DNA there is an amazing piece of free software which helps you keep track of all your DNA research and the many contacts you’ll find called Genome Mate Pro (GMP). The software’s creator tells you it is complex software to handle the complex information you’ll encounter in your DNA genealogical research and she means it. A somewhat difficult learning curve, but just like DNA itself, it’s well worth the effort.

Once information is entered into GMP, it actually allows you to see segments of your DNA chromosomes that you have inherited from individual ancestors! Incredible!

A suggestion, IF you are just starting out in genealogy or in DNA genealogy research, I would wait a bit before taking on GMP as it can be daunting software to understand and use.


FamilyTree DNA is a partner with the National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project in which samples from individuals around the world are helping to discover the ancient migration patterns of humans around the world.


There is an excellent book The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blaine T. Bettinger. Bettinger is a genealogist who also has a Ph.D. in biochemistry.

Before reading this book the information from my tests was bewildering to me, but it presents the science in an easy to read style. Bettinger even surmises that in the future, through as yet undiscovered tests, DNA alone might be able to recreate what our distant ancestors looked like and even possibly what types of lives they lived. Wow!

Bettiner also has a great FaceBook user group “Genetic Genealogy Tips & Techniques” which is excellent. And he and Leah LaPerle Larkin (Ph.D in biology) have put together a 17 part tutorial on using Ged Mate Pro software which is really helpful.

Feel free to email me IF you have any questions and I’ll try to help.

1 (719) 564-7924
3730 Canterbury Lane
Pueblo, Colorado 81005