Heart of a Southern Woman

A snapshot of life one blog post at a time.

DNA for Genealogical Research Can Turn You Upside Down and Inside Out!


DNA saying re. stars by Carl Sagan, quotefancy.com

Source: Carl Sagan, quotefancy.com

As many of you, my readers, know, I’ve been doing genealogical research for about five years now. It has become not only  my hobby, but my passion!  I can’t explain why delving into decades and centuries of ancestors is so satisfying for me. It’s the detective work that keeps me involved I think, intellectually, and the family captures my emotions.

Genealogy Quotation-Lawrence-Dillard-friends-best-Meetville-Quotes-152308

That saying by Lawrence Dillard is so true! Through my genealogical research I have met so many new cousins and friends, I cannot even count that high!  Today I want to tell you about one of those special people. (The names of her and her family have been changed to protect their privacy.)

About a year or so ago, a person named Albany got in touch with me through ancestry.com with an amazing story. Just like me, she had her, and her sister’s dna tested for genealogical research purposes. Both of her parents were deceased. However, when Albany’s dna came back, it said she and her sister were only half sisters! Surprise and shock set in.  Very soon however, curiosity came to the fore. She decided to look into this situation more seriously, and see what she could discover. She started by turning to her beloved older sister Abigail of course. They were both having to deal with all the ramifications of this news. Albany’s father, whom she’d adored all of her life, was not really her biological father! Had they lied to her? Did he know? Did her mother even know?  Did her mother deceive her Dad all those years? Quickly she discarded that idea. Her mother was just not the type of person to do that, being honest had always meant the world to her mother. More than likely when Albany was born in the 1950’s, there was just no way to tell who the father was. Her parents had reunited as well, so more than likely, they both believed the long awaited second child was theirs.

This is just a bit of what Albany wrote in her journal at that time: “A year ago, just minding my business, working on my genealogical research,  I took a DNA test along with my sister. Then, BAM! I discover that I am not my daddy’s biological daughter.  I was 58 years old when I made this discovery. All those years a big secret was carefully hidden from me.” Of course, Albany knows that it may not have been “hidden” from her, but we can’t help but consider that when discovering such a monumental secret. She says her mother was overprotective. Her mother may have not wanted her to deal with all of that, or like we said, she might not have known.

Other journal notes: “In trying to unravel the mystery, I talked to my sister, asking about anything at all that she could remember. She told me, that my parents were legally separated for awhile when she was young. During the time when my parents were separated,  she remembered  a man who made a very brief appearance in my mother’s life.

One evening some neighbors invited my mother to the VFW, and mother took my sister along. It was there mama met this man, “Danny.” After the VFW, Danny brought mama and my sister home and came inside for a while. My sister recalled that he was tall, nice-looking, friendly, and very, very charming. She learned that his last name was Mansfield.  A bit later he got up to leave, and mama walked outside with him, apparently just saying goodbye. In a while, my sister realized that mama had not come back inside, so she looked out the window and saw that Danny’s car was gone, and so was mama. She can’t recall how long mama was gone…maybe an hour or so, but for her it seemed like a very long time. Mama was extremely overprotective, and it was highly unusual for her to leave her daughter alone, especially at night.

After that, my sister vaguely recalls that she heard Danny’s name mentioned, maybe once or twice, but nothing more about him. Perhaps a few months later mama and daddy got back together, and I was born in December of that year. “

Why had Albany never, ever heard this before?  Well, as we realized, Abigail was young , and her parents got back together, so “all’s well that ends well”. That charming man just wasn’t important to a child anymore and was quickly forgotten!  Fast forward fifty-eight years to a dna test!  Albany was so shocked, and so worried about her family relationships and just everything, that she and her sister agreed to seek professional counseling together.  The counselor gave them some very practical insights, helped them discuss the difficult issues, and gave them resources. Albany and Abigail say they are glad they took that opportunity.

As the air around her cleared, Albany was determined to discover who her biological father was, and began to research vigorously. She enlisted help from other researchers as well, people skilled in dna, and people knowledgeable of the Johnson-Smith-Mansfield family. That’s how we connected! Albany belonged to ancestry.com and she found The Mansfield Family Tree I had researched for a cousin there! She wrote me a note asking if I might be interested in helping her search, and I readily volunteered, intrigued immediately. I was touched that this stranger would reach out to me, knowing that had to be difficult.

Albany had taken three different dna tests to aid us in this quest. She took one test from Family Tree DNA. She took another dna test from 23 and Me, and an autosomal dna test from ancestry.com. Each type of test gave her different types of results. If she’d had a brother it would have helped, y-dna from males usually traces the family line back efficiently. She would have had the information much more easily. As it turns out, she found cousins, lots of cousins!  The closest who weren’t identifiable as belonging to her mother’s family, were ones with names like Johnson and Smith. The closest being a second  cousin. We had that name Danny Mansfield as well. I could not readily identify a man with that name in my cousin’s family line, but I didn’t give up easily either.  I knew a woman who was collecting Mansfield family  information from all over the United States and beyond. I consulted her immediately and she gave me access to her huge  data base. We also started scouring newspapers from the time near her birth.

Albany turned to the others who were helping her as well. They gave her many hints, a sense of direction, and kept helping her narrow her search. This is one of many things she wrote in her journal: I had matched on Ancestry with a 2nd cousin. Sharing this with one of the people who helped me with my DNA search, I saw that Jennifer Smith might be my great grandmother. I mentioned this to a friend, who quickly wrote me sharing an old obituary of Mrs. Jennifer Smith Johnson wife of Chester Johnson, stating that Mrs Cynthia Mansfield  was her daughter. I later found that Cynthia Johnson Mansfield  was married to Bob Mansfield, they would be my grandparents! . Ancestry census records had their sons as  Robert and William Mansfield. It looked like one of these men should be my biological father, but there was no hint of a Danny! Then I found an obituary for William Danforth Mansfield, and it had in quotes “Danny” as his nickname. Voila!”  

DNA and family make up

He fit! He had the right line going through the great-grandparents we’d identified as probably belonging to Albany. Next we found his obituary, which was sad, but had a surprise gift. Albany had a brother, a half brother named William, called Bill,  who lived out of state.  Albany wrapped her courage around herself, and called him on the telephone!  Bill was also surprised,  but could not have been kinder or more receptive! He offered to take a dna test, and within a month, they knew it was true, he and Albany were sister and brother! Since then, they’ve talked almost everyday.  Learning about each other what most of us grow up knowing, all the ins and outs!  They’ve become friends on facebook, and the wonderful thing is that they have included me in that friendship! Albany and I have become very good friends who enjoy many things in common like genealogy and gardening. That circle of “family” grows, and our hearts grow along with it! Albany  can love her new half brother and still love her sister, mother, and the father who lovingly raised her.

I’d love to hear about your own adventures with meeting new family members through your dna or genealogical work. I have written about some of my own before, including the post just before this one on dna. Meanwhile, I hope things are going well for you, and am wishing you all the best, Helen

Genealogy poem

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DNA–An Integral Part of My Genealogical Research


This blog post was first published on “Worldwide Genealogy–A Genealogical Collaboration, July 27, 2015. I wanted to share it here with you as it connects to my next post as well. You can see the exciting Worldwide Blog at http://worldwidegenealogy.blogspot.com/2015/07/dna-integral-part-of-my-genealogical.html?showComment=1439293198648

It’s been almost two years since I tested my dna on ancestry.com. Since then, I have done four more tests for cousins there, and I have administered two tests on Family Tree DNA. I have downloaded raw data, and uploaded it to GEDMATCH and other sites. I am far from an expert in dna, in fact, I am quite the amateur, but I have been intrigued by what I have learned of it; it has affected the way I do my research; and it has introduced me to several hundred new cousins!  I thought you might be interested in this journey.

For this blog post, I am going to concentrate on the autosomal dna that I did through ancestry. Since I keep my family tree there, it is a great enrichment to my research and findings. I have about 4000 matches to my dna on ancestry! The matches are arranged by closeness of kinship, with parents, brothers  and sisters and 1st cousins listed before  2nd , 3rd, and 4th and more distant cousins/relatives. Most of those matches are attached to a family tree I can consult. You are also given dna circles, I have eleven of those which have shown me incredible things which I will explain below. You can also search your matches by surnames or by location, or by both. It is amazing to me!

Ancestor confirmed by autoaomal dna, Linda Geddes, ancestry.com.jpg

Ancestor confirmed by autosomal dna, by Linda Geddes on ancestry.com

First, let me tell you about the dna circles. I have eleven of these as I said,  I am including a detailed description of what ancestry’s dna circles are and how they are created from ancestry.com at the end of this post, hope it is helpful. But one of the most exciting things about these charts of your dna matches, is that it can give you new relatives, as it did me!  Ancestry explains it like this, Descendants of an ancestor often inherit pieces of DNA from that ancestor, and they may share those pieces with other descendants. If these descendants are in a DNA Circle for their ancestor, you can get a New Ancestor Discovery to a DNA Circle, even if you don’t have this ancestor in your tree.”

I was amazed by my circles. Let me give you just one example. I looked at my 11 circles on ancestry, and one was  titled the “Cuthbert Cheely DNA Circle”. That surprised me because I had no Cheelys in my tree at the time, and had never heard of this man, whom ancestry said was my 4th great grandfather! There are five “members” in this dna “circle”, I have some with ten members. When I looked at one of the matches, this is the chart I saw: My maiden name is Helen Spear Youngblood by the way, that’s me on the bottom left in this chart.

Cheely dna circle cropped

I was shocked, because my family did not know who the father of my great- grandfather was! My Great-Grandfather, Walter Thomas Houchins was born in 1854  of a single mother which we knew,and could clearly be seen in the censuses. William W. Stoops lived on the farm next door to my 2nd great-grandmother Nancy Houchins, and was actually her boss at work it appeared. On one census, when Walter Thomas was 16, he can be seen on the census living with his neighbor, we now know as his father! It looked like he was just working there. In 1880, after all of her seven children were born and mostly adults, Nancy and William W. Stoops married. Why then I wonder?  Elizabeth Cheely was William’s mother, and Cuthbert was her father–a family mystery solved, and new 3rd and 4th grandparents identified, all from a dna test! Previously, I had consulted a professional genealogist, a genealogical society in Walter Thomas Houchins area of birth, collected marriage, death, military and census records, none of which helped me identify his father! Now with no research on my part, my dna circle identifies him, wow!

I have discovered many new relatives through my dna!  One thing ancestry does is  list all of your dna matches with “shared ancestry hints” separately from all of your matches, even if they are not in a circle. I have 63 of them. When I look at this list exclusively, the first one was also my first match when exploring my Scottish Hogue family! Turns out she is my 3rd cousin, lives in Pennsylvania compared to my North Carolina, and we’ve become good friends on facebook. She is also experienced in  genealogy, so we have enjoyed searching for our Hogue family origins in Scotland together!  Actually, I formed a Hogue research group on facebook , almost totally made up of Hogue cousins I met through my dna on ancestry. There are two from California, two from Connecticut, one from New Jersey, Colorado, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Virginia, Florida, and my North Carolina of course! We even have a member from England and one from Scotland! We are stretched across the USA and the world, truly a genealogical collaboration! We were all already interested in genealogy and dna, now we are letting it guide us through our history.

There are so many stories I could tell, and so many experiences I’d like  to share, but it is not possible in this one blog post. However, I feel I’d be remiss not to tell you how incredibly the dna dovetails with my normal research. I was helping my cousin’s fiance research his family tree as a gift for them, when several things happened. One, I got to a brick wall in one of his lines. I had learned to check my dna matches for everything, so in this case, I did exactly that, and bingo, discovered I was related to this young man via this line, and that my dna took the line further by connecting me to a researcher with thousands of people in his tree and this line! I even saw that his line connected to some Mayflower relatives that I already had in my tree, and was easily able to share this exciting news with him.

Here is another example of using my dna for research– say I am looking for information about my great-great grandfather James Steptoe Langhorne. I could search all the family trees on ancestry for clues, or I can search my dna for the surname Langhorne, and search my matching dna trees/people for information. If I am searching a family tree that I know already matches my dna, well then, anything I learn will surely match me, and that is a step forward in my research!

What can I say–dna has changed and enriched my life and my research! It has added hundreds of friendly new cousins, many of them now facebook and ancestry friends! We have learned to research together, and my research alone is more efficient.  It is so exciting and interesting to me..  If you have questions, I will try to answer them, or find someone who can. Thanks for reading and please share your thoughts with me. Helen

Ancestry explains dna circles this way: (http://help.ancestry.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/9120/kw/dna%20circles)

A DNA Circle is a group of individuals who all have the same ancestor in their family trees and where each member shares DNA with at least one other individual in the circle. These circles are created directly from your DNA and your family tree in a five-step process.

1. Find DNA matches

We compare your DNA to the DNA of every AncestryDNA member. When we find enough shared DNA to suggest that you and another member have inherited that DNA from the same recent ancestor, we consider you a “DNA match.” Based on the amount of DNA you share, we then estimate your relationship (for example you may be 5th or 6th cousins).

2. Search trees for shared ancestors

Once we’ve found a DNA match, we carefully search both of your family trees looking for ancestors who appear to be the same person. We consider facts like name, birthdate, birthplace, parents, and spouse (going back nine generations).

3. Calculate a shared ancestor hint confidence score

We consider a variety of factors to determine how likely it is that you and your match share DNA from this same ancestor (as opposed to sharing DNA common to a region, or sharing DNA from a different ancestral line).

4. Add more people to the DNA Circle

Now, we repeat the process and look for other pairs of individuals who have the same shared ancestor in their trees and who share DNA with one or more of existing circle members (each circle has at least three members). Some of these new members may not share DNA with you, but each member of the circle has DNA evidence supporting their relationship to the share ancestor, and therefore to you.

  1. Calculate connection levels

Last, we figure out a connection level for every member of the circle based on the number of people they match in the circle and the strength of their connections. It’s a simple way to show how likely it is that each member is a descendant of the shared ancestor. Levels go from Strong to Good, Weak, or Emerging.

DNA Circles will change over time

You’ll notice that DNA Circles are constantly evolving. A circle could grow, shrink, or even disappear. And new circles will be created too. This all happens for a couple reasons. First, AncestryDNA members are constantly growing and improving their family trees. Second, as new people take tests and join AncestryDNA, we have even more information to analyze and use to improve our circles and help you fill in even more pieces of your family history puzzle.

Note: What if you aren’t a member of a DNA Circle for one of your ancestors? One possibility is that you descended from the ancestor, but you didn’t inherit DNA from them. Another explanation is that more descendants need to take the AncestryDNA test before there’s enough evidence to create a circle.”

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Hi friends and family, hope your summer has been going well. I did not mean to take a summer break from writing, but as it turns out, I did so! We have been busier than ever.  Doesn’t it always seem that everyone is so busy these days? My husband and I are both retired, but we stay crazy moving. This summer we have had the joy of seeing a fair number of guests, for short visits many, and for a bit longer others. How much that adds to our quality of life doesn’t it!

Max has been woodworking and gardening with me. I’ve been gardening and playing with family, friends and grandkids!  We’ve had some health issues to deal with. Mostly we’ve had joy and love, and a life worth living. Here are just a few photos of our activities this summer!

In the next few posts I want to share with you some adventures in dna, genealogical research, and where those exciting connections can lead!  Hope you’ll join me if you can.  Wishing you all the best, always, Helen

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Family Feuds Or The Spice Of Genealogy, by Charles Moore, Jr. reblogged by Helen Y. Holshouser

Originally posted on Moore Genealogy:

From left to right. Back Row; Pauline Bonnett, Florence Bonnett and Claude Bonnett.  Front Row Harry Bonnett, Bessie Barney Bonnett, Verna Bonnett, and Mary Guyette Barney Douglas. Picture taken about 1913. From left to right. Back Row; Pauline Bonnett, Florence Bonnett and Claude Bonnett. Front Row Harry Bonnett, Bessie Barney Bonnett, Verna Bonnett, and Mary Guyette Barney Douglas. Picture taken about 1913.

The pictures in this post were an incredible find. I obtained them by contacting a person who had a family tree listed in ancestry.com. While it was not very complete, it held some information that caught my interest. I sent a request to the tree owner asking if we could exchange information. I believe this is something we all should do as it helps us all in our genealogy research. I cannot understand why some of us are so reluctant to share our information. This time however I hit the genealogy jackpot. I was soon put in touch with Julia, who was the keeper of the family records. She was to send me old family letters, pictures, property transfer…

View original 891 more words

Life and Joy


blog post on loving life media

Helen with grandchildren Liam 7, and Katy 3, being silly.

I love life! I am at such an interesting stage in my life right now, (retired, disabled, too dependant for my liking) that it’s fun to stand back and analyze a bit. As a teen and young adult college student I was busy achieving and playing…like most of us at that age. Fun was my middle name.

Then I married and became a responsible adult with children of my own and a profession. I taught community seminars on parenting for heaven’s sake, who does that who actually has children! LOL I lived in fear of my children throwing a temper tantrum at the grocery store! LOL  Not my kids, they were perfect! LOL My husband and I were active in church, PTA, Band Boosters…Scouts…you name it, we did it! LOL We lived through, and lived with dying parents, such a sad time for all of us.

Then we lived through Max and I turning 50 and falling apart, so young! His open heart surgery was a fix and he has remained the rock and engine of our family with his mechanical heart valve!  Mine however, was experimental because I couldn’t be fixed, and yet, although predicted to die in five years, here I am 17 years later–looking forward to more! Everyday, I am thankful that I married Max who cares for me and opens my world. Our kids are grown and add joy to our lives in different ways.

Cakes by Annie, EasterAnnie learned well from her Dad all about baking…but she went further as kids are wont to do…and is an amateur pastry chef now.

Ali, our musician, is a mother of three kids from 17 months to 7! Can you say BUSY?!  Ali at 40th birthday party with Welcome to the Zoo sign!

Balloon fest 2015, Ali, Liam , Katy, and Evie, with friend Michael enjoy experience of being in the basketAli and family with Pooh at Disney Wd may 2015, cropped

Still, with life and sickness…comes hobbies and interests that make our lives thrive. Max’s woodworking, my Red Hatters, genealogy and our gardening more often fill our days. Blog post loving life

But then there are the surprises…

Six weeks or so ago a good friend and I piled into her car and joined my sister on a garden tour in Virginia!  On this tour, I got to see the church my grandparents met in just after the Civil War! Can you believe it! Wheelchair dependant, there I was, having a fancy lunch at the premier Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia with my sister, friend, and reuniting with old highschool friends, an unexpected blessing. SAM_0464

Last week we were in the midst of a hot-air balloon festival! So beautiful, so majestic, so peaceful!Balloon Fest 2015, glow Balloon fest 2015, flag balloon in flight Balloon fest 2015, Katy in red hat and dress

Last night, I was at Falls Lake State Park here in Raleigh, NC with all of our immediate family and extended family from South Carolina. My grandkids, ages 7, 3, and 17 months, provide unbounded joy in their enthusiastic enjoyment of the moment!  Sticks become swords or magic wands, sand and water become a huge playground of exuberance! Showers of sand, splashes of water, running, jumping, tumbling…oh to be a child with this kind of freedom on a summer evening again!  Fireflies…lightening bugs…oh my gracious..they are magical for a child and adults!  Campfires, hamburgers and hot dogs, roasting marshmallows! We met other campers also, hiking/rolling trails, and just enjoying the weather….campers are generally friendly, helpful people with interesting lives of their own of course. How much fun to meet strangers who are living next door or across the way in that tent or RV.

Last week, my last beautiful Iris bloomed, this week the daylilies are opening their cheerful colors to our days! The morning glories are singing, and yesterday, my first magnolia blossom opened! Tonight it looks like I’ll get to watch the first moonflower of this season quiver its way open and perfume the night!

Life….it is….enjoy!  Thank you God.

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“Z” is for Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah with Grandchildren

As a child, and as an adult I’ve always loved this song! When you’re happy, nothing else expresses the mood quite so well in my book! You can whistle it, and you can sing it as if no one is watching or listening! LOL That’s what I do..or perhaps, I should say, that is what my grandchildren and I do, and have done over the years!  

Helen with Liam and Katy, Zip a Dee Doo Dah

Helen with grandchildren Liam and Katy

My oldest grandchild, Liam is  7 now, but when he was three, as his sister Katy is now, he would sit on the arm of my power wheelchair (can’t walk far due to severe heart disease) and we would ride all over the neighborhood! He loved it, and wanted to ride and ride! So, we’d talk, we’d notice things, and we’d sing! My favorite song to sing with him was Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, I bet you couldn’t have guessed that huh?  Can you imagine the sight we made, riding around on my wheelchair, grandma and grandchild, singing at the top of our lungs! I know that some of our good friends/neighbors used to tease and also let us know they loved it! I often wondered if others who didn’t know us wondered about that old lady wandering the neighborhood in her wheelchair, singing with abandon with that little boy! LOL However, the men in white coats, nor the police ever showed! My sidekick and I had a ball, and I’ll never forget it for sure! 

“Y” could only be for Youngblood!


Afterall, that was my maiden name, Youngblood, I always thought it was an interesting name.  Just in case you never heard it–I just had to include the old song–“Youngblood” by the Coasters, recorded in 1957, when I was eight years old! However, my sister was 14, and just entering high school! Oh my gracious did she get teased about it all through high school!  Guys would sing it to her, tell her they couldn’t get her out of their minds, If she wore a yellow ribbon in her hair–well, she just couldn’t! LOL  Wow, how pop music can affect teens especially!

I was named for my paternal grandparents, shown above, Helen Spear Youngblood.  As a child, I was sure that Youngblood was an Indian name. Youngblood, and my middle name is Spear!  What’s a child to think? We lived in Richmond, Virginia amid the tales of Indian massacres at Jamestown, and right beside Cherokee Road and Comanche Drive! But the name Youngblood is actually German, originally Jungblut.  Who would have guessed?  As a college student, my name was easily remembered apparently, and I’d hear all the way across campus, “Youngblood! Hey, Youngblood, what ya doing?”

Now that I’m grown, and have been a Holshouser longer than a Youngblood, the meaning of family and heritage is more important to me.  Four years ago I started a family tree which now has almost 25,000 family members in it!  My brother and I have both done dna for genealogy studies, and we’ve learned that there are five distinct lines of Youngbloods in the US!

You can look in my blog catergories and see that I have written several stories about my ancestors, the Youngbloods of New Jersey and the carpetbagger great-great-grandfather who moved to Petersburg, Virginia just after the Civil War. Just last week I got to see and tour the church he belonged to after he moved South, I am looking forward to writing in more depth about that in a future blog post.

Today is meant to be a lighthearted and fun post, hope the song brought back memories, or was just fun for you to hear!

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