MyHeritageDNA Helps Adoptees Connect


A few weeks ago, MyHeritageDNA launched DNA Quest, a new pro bono initiative to help adoptees and their birth families reunite through genetic testing. The initiative was launched initially only in the USA.

Now, MyHeritageDNA is going global with the program. The company just announced:

More than 10,000 applications were submitted so far to receive free DNA kits, from the quota of 15,000 free DNA kits pledged by MyHeritage, worth more than one million dollars.

Being that the deadline for submissions is the end of April 2018 and there are still about 3 more weeks to go, and in light of the many requests we received from the community to expand DNA Quest worldwide, we decided to increase the scope of the project, from USA-only to global. This means that people are now eligible to participate in DNA Quest regardless of their place of residence and regardless of where the adoption took place.

In the most recent announcement, the company stated: “Please help us spread the word on social media, especially with the news about DNA Quest going global, and include a link to the website to make this dream a reality for families around the world.”

You can click on the link just above and read more here.

Back to School: Understanding DNA for Genealogy


In a couple days I plan to attend the Ohio Genealogical Society’s 2018 Conference in Columbus, Ohio. I’m particularly looking forward to a number of conference sessions on using DNA for genealogical research.

In the process of reviewing the background information I have on hand, I learned about several webinars created and broadcast by MyHeritageDNA that give a lot of information about DNA, particularly with MyHeritageDNA test results.

I have spent just over an hour watching the webinar “Understanding DNA Matching Technology.” I feel that I have a much better understanding of what is possible with DNA matching and how to work with matches.

Go here for to view this webinar:

As Cursive Writing Becomes a Lost Art, What About Reading Cursive?


I was spurred into writing this post by a post on “Rootdig,” the genealogy website of Michael John Neill, posted on 

It was titled “Scripting An Answer–Palmer and Spencerian Handwriting” and was intended to give information on the timing of the two main handwriting systems that have been used in America until recently when grade-school teachers stopped drilling students on how to write in cursive.

In the coming decades, these students without instruction in cursive writing will be hard-pressed to read handwritten documents that pertain to their ancestors, such as personal letters, wills, and even census enumerations.

I remember sitting in several grade-school classes in Andover, Ohio, practicing cursive writing. This was after being drilled in writing the alphabet in the form of block letters in the first and second grades. Interestingly, when I got to Case Institute of Technology in 1960, I got another dose of writing instruction and practice, but this was to make sure that I could write clearly any labels and call-outs required on engineering drawings.

When I was “playing at” high school sports (I spent a lot of time sitting on the bench), our basketball, baseball, and track teams competed against Spencer High School. We visited that school in Geneva, Ohio, for away games.

The full name of the school was Platt R. Spencer High School, named after the developer and promoter of Spencerian Script, a handwriting system that was widely accepted in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Spencer was born in Geneva Township and is touted today as a famous native.

The Spencerian system was eventually replaced by the Palmer Method of cursive writing and that probably was what I learned in grade school.

John Neil posted several websites for further reading by genealogists. They were:

Just between you and me, I have developed a modified system of cursive writing that I find is easy to use, yet very readable. I use whenever I am keeping handwritten notes at genealogical conferences and other meetings.

New App for Storing Genealogy Documents: Tropy


I am gearing up to digitize my family history archival materials, including scans of documents, as well as scans of photo prints, digital photos, and even videos. I have acquired a copy of Denise May Levernick’s book, How to Archive Family Photos: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize and Share Your Photos Digitally. I purchased my copy from, but you can also order it from the publisher Family Tree Magazine at

She makes the case that each type of digitized image mentioned above should have its own filing system suited to the particulars of the medium and file naming.

For documents, I will be considering a new FREE application announced today by Dick Eastman in his Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter under the heading: “Tropy: A New App that Helps Create Order out of Research Disorder.” This application is designed to organize scans of documents in jpeg, png, and SVG formats. While Levernick states it is preferable to scan historic photos in the TIF format to prevent losses during editing, she maintains jpeg is adequate for capturing and retaining documents in digital form. Even when you edit document jpegs, there typically isn’t enough loss to degrade the images.

Note: I haven’t worked with SVG files. In fact, I had to research this format. If you want to learn more, go here to read about “Scalable Vector Graphics” in also has an article about Tropy at

The following is copied from the Tropy website at

What is Tropy?
Tropy is free, open-source software that allows you to organize and describe photographs of research material. Once you have imported your photos into Tropy, you can combine photos into items (e.g., photos of the three pages of a letter into a single item), and group photos into lists. You can also describe the content of a photograph. Tropy uses customizable metadata templates with multiple fields for different properties of the content of your photo, for example, title, date, author, box, folder, collection, archive. You can enter information in the template for an individual photo or select multiple photos and add or edit information to them in bulk. Tropy also lets you tag photos. You can also add one or more notes to a photo; a note could be a transcription of a document. A search function lets you find material in your photos, using metadata, tags, and notes.

  • Tropy is not photo editing software (e.g., Photoshop). It offers only basic editing functions (rotate, crop, zoom) sufficient to allow you to make the content of a photo legible.
  • Tropy is not a citation manager (e.g., Zotero). It does not capture metadata from online catalogs or finding aids. It does not generate citations for use in word-processing software.
  • Tropy is not a platform for writing up your research (e.g., DEVONthink). While it does allow you to take notes attached to photos, you cannot use it to create any other kind of document.
  • Tropy is not a platform for presenting your research online (e.g., Omeka). It operates on your personal computer, not on a server. You can export your projects to JSON-LD.

Preparing to use Tropy
Where are your photos?
To organize and describe your photos, you need to import them into Tropy. The first step in using Tropy is to identify where on your computer those photos are stored—identify the folder and how to get to it from your desktop.

Are your photos in the format required by Tropy?
Tropy currently works with these file formats:

It does not work with image files such as .tiff or .gif. You may need to convert your photos to JPG in order to use Tropy.

Tropy also does not work with any non-image format files such as PDF. There are many online conversion tools to create JPGs from your PDFs or other image files.

Download Tropy.
To use Tropy, you need to download a copy of the software from the Download page at Tropy is free software; there is no cost to download or use it. Tropy is available for macOS, Windows, and Linux. Choose the version for your operating system; once Tropy has downloaded, open it and follow the prompts to install it on your computer.

Watch this quick overview of Tropy’s functions.

I think that Tropy might be just what I need to assemble my genealogy documents and source material in one place for relatively easy retrieval.

Success Story: Converting a 79-year-old 8-mm Movie to Digital


Last Saturday (17 Mar 2018), I attended an indoctrination session for the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Memory Lab at the South Euclid/Lyndhurst branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library. The objective: learn how to convert old home movies to digital files. The Memory Lab has a Wolverine Film2Digital MovieMaker unit that library subscribers can use for free.

Today (22 May 2018), I did a test run of the process by converting a 50-ft reel of 8mm film to a digital file in the MP4 format. The label on the film said that it was made in 1939, making it 79 years old. The subjects were my late wife, MJ, and her brother, Sid, also now deceased. The cameraman no doubt was my father-in-law Clyde Van Court.

The result is a black-and-white “movie” that runs for 2 min 19 sec at 30 frames a minute. The action is speeded up but it still is wonderful to see MJ and Sid as little kids. I had never seen this before because it was in 8mm and apparently the Van Court 8mm projector stopped working decades ago and it was tossed out.

After doing some research on the Internet, I learned that I can “slow down” the film so the action appears more normal through manipulation with an application. It sounds simple, but I haven’t tried it yet.

In any case, I consider the trial a success and I am going to work on converting other old films, including some Super 8 films that we made when our kids were growing up. The Wolverine unit is designed to handle Super 8 as well as 8 mm.

The main task will be to organize the many film reels to prioritize the time I spend at the Memory Lab. A 50-ft reel of film takes about 30 min to convert. But the price is right: FREE.

If you are interested in reading more about how the Wolverine unit works, go here to download a user guide. It is easy to read and understand. Also, there are several YouTube videos available.

The Memory Lab has several other audio-visual conversion systems available for use by library patrons.


What Are Double Cousins? Wikipedia to the Rescue


I just ran across a reference to double cousins and didn’t know what the reference meant. To find out, I went to Wikipedia, my go-to source of information when I have access to a computer or other digital device. I wasn’t sure what I would find or how detailed the explanation would be. But wow, Wikipedia came through with explanations of all types of cousin relationships on the page devoted to Cousin

The Wikipedia article covered other cousin relationships that I didn’t know existed in addition to double cousins. I’ll provide more about the scope of the Wikipedia article in a moment. First, I want to provide an example of double cousins involving my wife’s paternal grandparents, Mary (born Heinselman) and James S Van Court.

Mary Margaret Catherine was the oldest daughter of Christian Heinselman Jr. Her brother Thomas Jacob Elwood was the seventh child of Christian with his wife Rachel Kemp.

At the time of her wedding, Mary was age 32 and the widow of Albert Butcher. She married James S Van Court, age 22, on 10 Oct 1894 in Ritchie County, West Virginia, USA. It was a double wedding because Mary’s brother Thomas Jacob Elwood Heinselman, age 17, married Anna Belle Van Court, age 17. James and Anna Belle were children of Truman Daniel and Mary Ellen (born Kirby) Van Court.

According to the Wikipedia article, my wife’s father Clyde Van Court would be a double cousin of Mary Jane Borquin (born Heinselman). Clyde was the son of James and Mary while Mary Jane was the daughter of Thomas and Anna Belle (see test above and chart below). She became the wife of Elmer Edward Borquin. Here is a chart illustrating the double cousin relationship between Clyde Van Court and Mary Jane Borquin (born Heinselman).

The Wikipedia article provides this starting point for understanding cousin relationships:

People are related with a type of cousin relationship if they share a common ancestor and the most recent common ancestor is two or more generations away from both people. This means neither person is an ancestor of the other, they do not share a parent (siblings), and neither is a sibling of a common ancestor (aunts/uncles and nieces/nephews).[3]

The cousin relationship is further detailed by degree and removal. For example the second cousin once removed relationship is a second-degree cousin with one removal.

The removal of the cousin relationship is the number of generations the cousins are apart.

Many other cousin relationships are defined in this Wikipedia article, including first cousin once removed, half-cousin, stepcousin, and cousin-in-law.

The article also includes several charts that illustrate the various cousin relationships.


Walfrid Huskonen’s Dream: Andover Pattern Co.


My mother, Mary Jane Huskonen (born Dingman), passed along to us the promise that my father, Walfrid Herbert Huskonen, made to himself to be in business for himself by age 45. He achieved that goal when he quit working as a patternmaker at Glauber Brass in Kinsman, Trumbull, Ohio, and founded Andover Pattern Co. in 1952.

The first years of the company were in the garage and basement of our house at 496 South Main St. in Andover. Eventually, he was able to build a stand-alone building — the “shop” — for the company on his property behind the house (and behind the cottage had built for his parents, but that’s another story).

Yesterday, I found among the various items of memorabilia a newspaper clipping from the 4 Mar 1992 issue of the Pymatuning Area News. It was saved originally by my brother or sister and passed along to me a few years ago.

For the record, here is my transcription of that clipping:

Andover Pattern an area fixture for 40 years

By James Roethler, Area News Editor

Andover Pattern may not maintain as high of a profile as other industries in the village, but they have been a staple of the area economy for 40 years.

Located at the end of Propsect Street Extension, the company was founded in 1952 by Wally Huskonen [that’s my dad] and Roland Totten. The pair had been working together at Glauber brass Company in Kinsman when they decided to open their own shop on South Main Steet in Andover.

At first the entire company consisted of Huskonen and Totten, but it has now grown to eight full-time and two part-time employees. After Huskonen died in 1966 [actually 2 Sep 1965], Totten purchased the other half of the company [from my mother]. Today it is operated by his son, Tom Totten.

In 1983, the company expanded and relocated to their present location.

The company produces cast iron molds that are used by a variety of manufacturers. They do tooling for retred tires for Goodyear, make the molds for lamp bases, make molds for bed frames, and they produce a variety of molds that they don not know the final function of.

Tom Totten said, “We don’t know what most of the things we make are used for. We make a mold according to blue prints sent to us.” Totten did say most of the patterns they produce are valves of a variety of sizes. “The valuves range in size from an eight inch sink fixture to a 40 pound back flow preventer for sewage.”

To get a finished pattern, a piece must move through three departments — pattern, molding, and the foundry.

In the pattern department one of three pattern makers emplyed by the company will use blue prints to produce a wood pattern. Using plaster, rubber or plastic, the pattern maker will then use the wood pattern to create [a] master pattern.

The master pattern is sent to the molding department where a molder will create a same mold of the object before sending it to the foundry.

Once in the foundry, molten pig iron is poured into the mold. After given time to cool down, the cast-iron mold is near completion. The casting is sand blasted before final machining.

No finished produces are actually produced at Andover Pattern. After the casting is complete, it is sent throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico to the manufacturer who will use it to mass produce the finished piece[s].

Totten said it requires 6 to 8 weeks to take a molding from a blue print to a completed casting.

The Tottens are long-time residents of the Kinsman area. Tom lives in Fowler and his father in Kinsman. Everyone they employ is also from the immediate area. Employees come from Andover Village, Andover Township, Williamsfield, Wayne, and Kinsman.

Andover Pattern will be upgrading their iron furnaces this summer. The present gas furnaces that produce a half-a-ton of iron each hour will be replaced by an induction melting furnace that will double their capacity.

It would be a mistake to confuse quietness with inactivity at Andover Pattern.

My grandson, Korey, wrote about his great-grandfather, Walfrid, in a family history writing competition sponsored by the Western Reserve Historical Society. I posted on this blog about it under the title “My Grandson Wins Family History Writing Competition” on February 4, 2013. I invite you to go to that post and read some more about Walfrid and Andover Pattern Company.

I plan to post more about my dad and Andover Pattern Company in the future.

Making Sense of My DNA Test Results


I have tested with AncestryDNA, MyHeritageDNA, and FamilyTreeDNA, so I have a lot of results to study and work with.

Today, I discovered two YouTube videos by Crista Cowen at In them she explains two key aspects of my DNA test results:

1.You Received Your Results. Now What? (Part One) | AncestryDNA

2.You Received Your Results. Now What? (Part Two) | AncestryDNA

Now these videos have been available for awhile — they were published in Sep and Oct of 2016. The information Crista provides is basic and but still current. And her explanations are very understandable.

For example, she gives some insight into why ethnicity results may not be quite what I (or you) expect. About 50% of my DNA is identified by AncestryDNA as coming from Finland/Northwest Russia. That’s what I expected. And the results are similar in my tests with  MyHeritageDNA and FamilyTreeDNA. But the reason that this ethnicity estimate is what I expected is that AncestryDNA was able to create a test panel of native Finns whose ancestors had lived in Finland for many generations. It is what is called deep ancestry. The same is true with MyHeritageDNA and FamilyTreeDNA.

Other parts of my ethnicity are more ambiguous because it has been difficult for Ancestry and the others to create test panels with the necessary deep ancestry. A good example of this is Germany. On my mother’s side, I have several lines going back to Germany. But there is no ethnicity identified as “German.” Again, this is because it is difficult for the AncestryDNA and the other testing companies to settle on valid test panels with deep ancestry in only what today is called Germany. I don’t like this outcome, but I have to accept it and work with it.

Crista also talks about differences that show up among siblings and cousins. This makes it easier for me to accept my own DNA results — and still explore and work with them with confidence.

Here are the links to Crista Cowen’s two helpful videos:

  1. —
  2. You Received Your Results. Now What? (Part Two) | AncestryDNA —



DNA Testing FAILS at Living DNA — Three Times


Today I received an email from Living DNA stating that my THIRD attempt at testing with Living DNA had failed. Here is the text of the email:

Following on from the testing of your third sample, we are very sorry to have to tell you that this third attempt has also generated a LOW CALL RATE. What this means is that it has not been possible for us to identify up to 1% or approximately 6,800 marker locations within your DNA on that sample.

We do know that some people will struggle to swab enough DNA to test. This is because they naturally do not shed enough cells when compared to others which makes it harder to extract enough DNA for testing.

This is not a medical condition and unfortunately as a individual, you cannot increase your shed rate.

Because we have worked with you to collect three samples and reduce errors in the collection method, we believe that a low shed rate may be the reason that there has not been enough DNA in your samples.

Sadly, this means it is likely that we would not be able to get results for you with further testing and we have to say that we have reached the end of your journey with us.

We understand that this is very disappointing news and that you have paid to receive your results, which will not be supplied.

Because this is such a very rare occurrence we would like to offer you a refund for the cost of your testing.

I’m thankful that Living DNA will refund my purchase price.

I have tested successfully with AncestryDNA (spit), MyHeritageDNA (swab) and FamilyTreeDNA (swab), but the Living DNA test (swab) was unsuccessful in three separate tries. I was very careful to follow all the directions, including swabbing counterclockwise for the recommended time, cautions about eating before the test, etc.

Go figure.

A Sneak Peek into the MyHeritage DNA Lab


Today I received an email from MyHeritageDNA reporting that a test kit for a relative is being processed. Here is the text of the email (I have blocked the test subject’s name for privacy).

Hi Wallace,‎

__________’s DNA sample is currently being processed in our CLIA-certified DNA lab.

Status: DNA extraction in progress

We wanted to take this opportunity to let you know how the DNA gets processed at our lab.

Here is the process, step-by-step:

Our technicians inspect the sample and make sure it’s intact.

The DNA is extracted from the cells in the vial and amplified. In other words, we make copies of the DNA in order to make sure we have enough of it to analyze.

The DNA is placed on a custom-made DNA genotyping chip and heated to a high temperature so the DNA can attach itself to the chip (hybridization).

A computer reads the hybridized chips, producing the DNA data.

The DNA data goes through a rigorous review to ensure it meets our high quality standards.

The DNA data is uploaded to the MyHeritage website, where it is analyzed and matched, and the results are served to you!

Best regards,
The MyHeritage team

The email includes the URL for a video showing how MyHeritageDNA conducts its testing. Go here to see the sophisticated equipment and procedures used for MyHeritageDNA testing.

The subject of this test is a nephew of my late wife, M.J., and it will be interesting to see how his test results compare not only with hers but also those of an aunt, a first cousin, and a first cousin once removed, all on his father’s side.

What I am really hoping for is a match to a distant cousin who might be related to his four-great grandfather so that we might be able to figure out who the four-great grandfather’s parents were. The four-great grandfather’s birth year and birthplace have been widely reported (though not documented by primary sources), but no one has connected him to parents and earlier generations.

FYI, MyHeritageDNA is offering test kits for only $69, plus shipping. Click here if you want to order a test.