Category Archives: DNA

Article about Copeland & Hood Families in Illinois

Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. of the popular television show Finding Your Roots has a column on the website The Root in which he answers readers’ questions about their ancestors of color. I recently wrote to him inquiring about my 3rd great-grandfather Obediah Copeland, who is listed as a “free person of color” on both the 1820 State Census and the 1830 US Federal Census for Gallatin County, Illinois. I was curious to know more about his ancestral origins, and also to learn why his ethnicity changed from “free colored” to “white” on subsequent records. He was not able to provide any new information about the origins of the Copeland or Hood families, but he did provide a wealth of new sources to consult, and some very interesting information about people of color who chose to “pass” as white in America during the antebellum years.

You can view / download a PDF of the article here: Who was my free-colored ancestor?

Thomas Copeland — DNA Update

As I mentioned on the Copeland Cousins Facebook Page, our cousin David Wollmershauser recently agreed to take a DNA test to help me learn more about our relationship to each other, and hopefully learn more about our shared ancestor Thomas Copeland (1876-1948). Based on the records available it appears that David and I are half-second cousins (Thomas is great-grandfather to both of us), and David and my father are half-first cousins, once removed. The results of the DNA test show a strong relationship between my dad and David, and a relationship that would be expected of half-second cousins for me and David, thus confirming the story as it appears on paper. David shares six segments of DNA with my dad, or about 1.5% of his total DNA. Because of the unique nature of our relationship, we know that all of these matching segments belong to our ancestor Thomas Copeland (and, of course, his ancestors). It is wonderful to have the confirmation of this relationship between David’s family and mine.

david vs brian

As is the nature of genealogy, at least in my experience, one never receives an answer without also receiving additional questions. David’s test definitively answered the question about whether the Thomas Copeland who married Clara Bunting was the same Thomas Copeland who married Myrtle Crider, but it also answered another question that I have had since taking my own test over a year ago: where did my non-European DNA come from? I have about 2% African and 0.5% Native American DNA, and my dad has over 3% and 0.7%, respectively. We know a lot about his mother’s ancestry, and there were no obvious non-Europeans anywhere on that branch of his family tree. I suspected that my non-European ancestry might have come from the Copeland side, but had no way of knowing…until David’s test results came back.

David, my dad, and I all match perfectly on one segment of our 4th Chromosome, and this segment just happens to have come from someone who was of mixed ancestry — African and Native American (my dad and David also match in several other places, which all appear to be European). Because all three of us have several segments of both African and Native American DNA, and one of them is a perfect match, I am prepared to say that I believe that Thomas Copeland was a tri-racial individual (European, African, and Native American). In the image below, the African ancestry is reddish-purple and the Native American is yellow.

Click on image to enlarge.

Kelli David Brian Comparison

Based on the percentages of non-European DNA that the three of us carry, the ancestor(s) who contributed it probably lived about 4-5 generations back from the present day, which would be about the level of Thomas’s grandparents or great-grandparents. It is possible that he inherited all of his non-European DNA from one individual, in which case it was most likely NOT from his father George Thomas Copeland. We know this because David carries some African DNA on his X-Chromosome, which has a very specific inheritance pattern that excludes Thomas’s paternal line (see image below, click to enlarge).

david x dna fan chart

Of course, it is possible that the African DNA on David’s X-Chromosome could be from an ancestor on another branch of his family tree, and not the Copeland line. It is also possible that Thomas inherited some of his non-European DNA from each of his parents, in which case George could still be eligible to have contributed it. Because we do not know who George’s parents were, and we do not know the maiden name of Thomas’s mother Sarah, this is as far as we can go at this point. I will certainly keep you all updated as my research continues.

Your cousin,
Kelli Signature

DNA | Crider & Thurmond Eurogenes K9 vs EU15 V2

I’m back with a bit more genetic information about our James A. Crider & Elvina Tennessee Thurmond. In my last post I shared some chromosome painting comparisons between myself and my genetic relative, Bev, who is also descended from James and Elvina. There were two matching segments that were fairly obvious to detect, and two that were much more complex. I decided to take the tricky ones and run them through a different utility to see if that would shed more light on the subject. Just as a point of reference, here is how Eurogenes EU15 V2 paints my entire genome:

Kelli Eurogenes EUtest V2 K15

Let’s start with our matching segment on Chromosome 2. Here is the Eurogenes K9 painting:

Kelli & Bev C2 181-211

And, here’s what Eurogenes EU15 V2 came up with:

Kelli & Bev C2 181-211 EU15

Okay! Now we’re getting somewhere. The Eurogenes EU15 V2 test is the most recent version of the Eurogenes utility and supercedes all previous versions. I still like K9 for its simplicity but, as you can see, the EU15 version gives us a lot more information and makes it easier to identify the places where we match (or don’t). For this particular segment I chose to mark the areas where we differ significantly, as that helps us to focus more closely on where we match.

Kelli & Bev C2 181-211 EU15 differences

For example, on the bottom left of my segment you can see an area with Oceanian, blending into a section of Southeast Asian/Siberian/a little strip of Red Sea (Middle East), followed by a spike of South Asian. In the same place on Bev’s chromosome we find West Asian mixed with Western Mediterranean, followed by some South Asian mixed with Oceananian. In the middle of my chromosome we see West Asian mixed with North African, whereas Bev has South Asian and a little Siberian. At the right side of my chromosome we find Southeast Asian mixed with Red Sea, and Bev has Oceanian.

So, what does that leave us with? Based on our knowledge of where we differ (and it is pretty significant in those locations), I feel pretty comfortable saying that we match in all of the red, orange, brown, and yellow areas (and maybe, but less likely, the sort of olive green areas). In other words, the ancestor who gave this DNA to Bev and I was a mix of North Sea, Atlantic, Baltic, and Eastern European (with possibly some Western Mediterranean). In other words, this little section is a nice combination Western European and Eastern European. Given what we know about the Crider family from the paper trails we’ve followed, we know that they were originally from Germany (which is situated right in the middle of Western and Eastern Europe). Combined with the chromosome painting information, I’ll just take a guess and say that this segment belongs to James Crider.

And, now, Chromosome 19. Here’s what Eurogenes K9 gave us. Yikes!

Kelli & Bev C19 2-12

And, here is what happens when we use Eurogenes U15.

Kelli & Bev C19 2-12 EU15

Oh, dear. This might have made things even more confusing. But, let’s give it a try. Whereas at first glance it appears that we match pretty much everywhere, there is something that gives us a clue. Bev’s segment has a rather thick stripe of West Asian running right through the middle of it. Mine does not. When looking at these segments it is helpful to remember that, given the genetic distance between me and Bev, we are actually looking at two very different lineages, with only a few bits that came from the same person. In people with predominantly European DNA, one would expect to see patterns repeat themselves without necessarily indicating a close relationship. So, whereas the top portion of our segments match, that is not entirely surprising given that we are both fairly Western European (red and orange). What I suspect is that we actually match on the bottom portion of the segment, and we can use Bev’s West Asian DNA as a dividing line (including it with her European DNA at the top), since I don’t have that. We are left with a mix of green (Eastern Mediterranean) light blue (Red Sea), a spike of pink (Oceanian), and some little bits of dark purple (Siberian) and light purple (Amerindian).

Again, I wonder if this might be Elvina. It could also be the someone who lived a long, long time ago, maybe even thousands of years ago. A child gets 50% of his DNA from his mother, and 50% from his father. Anything farther back than that isn’t guaranteed to follow the same formula (meaning the child might not get 25% from each grandparent, 12.5% from each great-grandparent, etc) — it’s not a mathematically perfect transmission. What’s really interesting is that, while there is a 50% chance that a segment of DNA will be passed on, if it is passed on, there is a 90% chance that it will stay largely intact (see Sources at bottom of page). So, it’s possible for relatively large segments of DNA to be passed from generation to generation for hundreds, maybe even thousands, of years without diluting down to nothing.

The developer of the EU15 (and also the K9) utility suggests that we ignore anything that comprises less than 1% of our DNA. By that token, these little bits of Bev’s and my DNA would be irrelevant. But, are they, really? It’s clear that Bev and I share these segments, as elucidated above, so am I supposed to believe that these seemingly anomalous bits of DNA are, in fact, nothing? Isn’t it also possible that they could be the genetic signature of an ancestor that lived so long ago that we’ll never be able to identify him or her? Because of the way Bev’s and my DNA is nestled together, we can imagine those stripes and spikes of color as a way of looking back through time: the green (Eastern Mediterranean) is most recent, then father back is the light blue (Red Sea), and then all the way back in the beginning is the pink (Oceanian). This person’s ancestors migrated from somewhere in the Polynesia area, to the Middle East, and then settled somewhere along the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean. And, that, cousins, was undoubtedly a long, long time ago. At some point, the descendant of this ancient lineage encountered an individual who was carrying Native American DNA, as well (which we can see, in a very small amount, in the parts we share).

Do some geneticists (or software developers — let’s make sure we’re not pointing fingers in the wrong direction here) want us to deny the existence of these ancestors just because their appearance in our DNA is unexpected (or because the traditional types of genealogical evidence cannot “prove” that they belong in our family tree)? Even though I am just dipping my toes in the water of genetic genealogy I have the sense that, in the future, we will be rethinking our assumptions about minority admixture. I wonder if it’s possible that some of the pieces of DNA that we see in our genome today are very, very old, and that the DNA from some of our more recent ancestors never made it into our genome at all. Dismissing small pieces of anomalous DNA as “noise” is a denial of what our genes are trying to tell us — the mysteries of the past persist.

Your cousin,
Kelli Signature


Estes, Roberta. “Why Are My Predicted Cousin Relationships Wrong?” DNAeXplained, October 21, 2013,

DNA | James A. Crider & Elvina Tennessee Thurmond

Hello Cousins! This morning it is snowing in New Hampshire!

I wanted to share with you some information I have learned about my ancestry using non-traditional means. Genealogists living in the 21st Century have it easy! All of the US Federal Census records have been indexed and digitized, and many state and county records have been, as well. Plus, we have genetic evidence, which is rarely wrong. I took a DNA test from 23andMe back in the spring, and I learned a lot from the results that the company gave me. But, over time, I have learned so much more by using my raw data and various utilities available on the web. Today I’m going to share with you what I have learned about two of our ancestors using the software from GedMatch.

Using the “One-to-Many” kit matching utility, I was able to find a very close genetic relative. We’ll call her “Bev.” Brief discussions showed us that our most recent common ancestors were Myrtle Crider’s grandparents, James A. Crider (1834-1875) and his wife, Elvina Tennessee Thurmond (also spelled Thurman) (1836-1915). Using our kit numbers, I did a “One-to-One” scan to show me where Bev and I matched. It turns out we matched in several places:

Chr Start Location End Location Centimorgans (cM) SNPs
2 181,970,114 211,277,824 21.4 5,129
4 182,391,572 189,141,229 21.9 2,089
7 155,789,841 158,811,958 5.3 687
19 2,463,876 12,878,876 27.4 2,616
21 39,268,390 45,067,747 16.8 2,114

Now comes the fun part! (You can click on any of the images to see a larger version).

Kelli & Bev C2 181-211

I decided to concentrate on the largest matching segments, and so I started with Chromosome 2 (above). I used the Admixture utility — Eurogenes K9 edition — to create a “chromosome painting” for both of us (which gives us a color-coded map of our genetic admixture on each chromosome), and then I compared the segments where we matched. We all get half of each chromosome from our father and the other half from our mother. I’m not sure what to think about this one. My first inclination is to say that the top portion of our chromosomes is too mismatched to be the same (even taking into account the fact that we don’t all inherit the same amount of everything). I’m leaning towards a match in the blue area, which is strictly Northern European.

Kelli & Bev 184-189

Next up: Chromosome 4. This one is easy! Using the admixture key, we can see that the only areas that Bev and I share are the blue ones — Northern European. So, I know that I got this blue segment of my DNA from my father, who got it from his father (Bill Copeland), who got it from his mother (Myrtle Crider), who got it from her father, (Hub Crider), who got it from his father or mother (James Crider or Elvina Thurmond). This makes sense, given that we know that the Criders were originally Kreiders and came from Germany. Elvina’s ancestry is more opaque, but we might still learn something about her in this exercise.

Kelli & Bev C19 2-12

Moving on to Chromosome 19. Whoa! What a mess! I’m still trying to figure this one out. It seems to me that our matching segment is the top portion of each of our chromosomes (despite the fact that it is not a perfect match). You can see that we both have a combination of Caucasus, Southwest Asian, and Mediterranean, with a few scraps of yellow, which is North Amerindian (Native American), and a tiny strip of South Asian (the red) right at the very top. Native American DNA typically includes Asian markers because that is where their ancestors originated. It’s called “genetic drift” and Roberta Estes, author of the blog, DNAeXplained (which is fantastic), gives a good summary of how it works. She writes,

There is no line in the sand very often between populations. There are generally only degrees of difference. So in the case of Native American, which is yellow on this chart, we also expect to see it “drift back in time” by being found in conjunction with Siberian (putty), South Asian (red) and East Asian (emerald green). Native Americans were not dropped from alien spaceships, they evolved over time from these other Asian populations, so we would expect to see some of their genetics in Native American people.

So, we can see that Bev got more of everything than I did on Chromosome 19, but it seems unlikely that we would both have this admixture in the same place without it being a match. We can say with some certainty that, whoever this individual was, he or she had a very interesting combination of ancestors with both Native American and Mediterranean roots. Could this be Elvina? We will definitely need more information (and more genetic cousins) to make a firm judgment about that.

Kelli & Bev C21 39-45

The last sample I chose was on Chromosome 21. Well, this one is pretty obvious, isn’t it? Besides a few tiny flecks of color at the top of my chromosome, I am pretty much entirely Northern European on this segment. My genetic cousin, Bev, however, has an interesting mix of Caucasus, East Asian, and North Amerindian. So, we can definitively say that the matching portion of this segment is European, though we don’t know for sure whether it was James Crider or Elvina Thurmond who gave it to us.

I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit more about your ancestors. Genetics is opening up entirely new avenues of research for genealogists, and we are discovering new and exciting ways to use our DNA every day. I like to think that each of these little bits of color are like portraits of our ancestors, carried in a secret code that is passed from parent to child, making each one of us a living gallery. Our ancestors are not only names and dates, they are part of the blueprint that makes us who we are — for better or for worse!

Your cousin,
Kelli Signature