Thursday, 20 July 2017

Learning more about German genealogical research

My mother, born in Berlin, now an Australian, still has a few German family documents, and for me these have been a valuable source of information about my German forebears, her side of the our family. However, most of what I know about about my German ancestors I learned directly from my German grandfather, who was happy to answer my family history questions. When I started researching this branch of the family I also found some good leads in the International Genealogical Index (I.G.I.) microform indexes prepared by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Researching German sources from Australia is difficult, of course, and there is much more information online about our British forebears. So I look forward to attending a day's session in August about German genealogical resources and methods for Australian researchers, hosted by Unlock the Past. The main speaker will be Dirk Weissleder, a genealogy consultant, who is national chairman of the Deutsche Arbeitsgemeinschaft genealogischer Verbände e.V. (D.A.G.V.) (at, the umbrella organisation of the genealogical and heraldic associations in Germany. He is President of the Federation of Family Associations (Bund der Familienverbände, BdF). Herr Wiessleder has written extensively about genealogical research in Germany. See, for example,

In Melbourne Herr Wiessleder will be speaking about primary and secondary resources on genealogy in German and about European research generally. He will also be talking about the International German Genealogical Partnership,, and on archives, libraries and institutions for genealogical researchers in Germany.

Herr Weissleder will speak in Melbourne on Saturday 19 August.

The Roadshow costs $57 for a single day if the ticket is purchasedahead of time, or $60 on the day. On Friday 18 August, a Scottish researcher, Chris Paton,  will be speaking on British Isles research. A combined ticket for the two days is $90. Herr Wiessleder will also be visiting Brisbane, Auckland, Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth.

Disclosure: I have accepted the opportunity to participate in the Unlock the Past Researching Abroad Roadshow 2017 as a Roadshow Ambassadress and agreed to promote the Roadshow in return for free entry. I will write again after the session on what I have learned.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Discovering a DNA cousin through Wikitree and confirming with GedMatch

In the year since we received our autosomal DNA results I have explored various tools to help me keep track of the results: to help me find new cousins with whom we share DNA and to show how our document-based trees connect.

One of the tools I have used is Wikitree is a single tree grown using traditional genealogical sources and DNA. It currently has more than 14.6 million profiles added by more than 430,000 genealogists. Wikitree has some useful DNA tools to help make sense of your DNA results.

screenshot of the front page of

I have added information about our direct forebears to Wikitree. I added each forebear manually, and this meant revisiting the facts and checking that I had reliable sources for dates, places and relationships. I did not merely upload a GEDCOM file. I wanted to review relationships and I did not want to create duplicates. Wikitree has a single profile for each person. It is important to remember that none of us own our ancestors and we need to work with others on the information we attach to each profile. In fact we benefit from working with other descendants.

In addition to adding your forebears to Wikitree, you can add details of the DNA tests you have taken. Wikitree adds the information that you have taken the test to all blood relatives within eight degrees of separation — up to sixth great-grandparents and out to third cousins. You don’t upload the contents of the DNA results, just the fact that you have taken the DNA test and information that will help potential matches find you in each testing company’s database.

Recently I was contacted by Simon Bass, a distant cousin, who has also been adding his forebears to Wikitree. (Note Simon reviewed this post as a draft and following publication and is happy for me to blog about this case study.)  Simon has found that he seems to have a DNA connection to my husband’s family. Both my husband Greg and Greg’s brother Dennis have had their DNA tested and added their information to Wikitree. Simon is descended from Elizabeth Gilbart née Huthnance (abt 1774-1847) and her husband John Gilbart (abt 1761-1837). When adding their daughter Catherine’s details to the tree, linking Catherine to Elizabeth and John who were already on the tree, Simon noticed that Wikitree had a section on DNA connections on the right hand side of the screen.

Wikitree profile of John Gilbert (abt 1761-1837) retrieved from on 15 July 2017. (click to enlarge)

Simon wrote to me and, despite testing with different companies, we were able to compare our kits on . Our biological cousinship was confirmed. provides DNA analysis tools for genealogists including tools for comparing your own DNA test results with those of other people in the GedMatch public database. To use these tools you must first upload your DNA test results to GedMatch. GedMatch accepts results from, Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage, 23 and Me, and WeGene.

GedMatch one to one comparison of DNA shared by Simon Bass and Dennis Young. Simon and Dennis share DNA on two chromosomes. Based on the size of the match it is estimated that there are six generations to their most recent common ancestor. Their relationship based on our document-based family tree is 5th cousins which is six generations to the most common recent ancestor, the prediction based on shared DNA is in line with our genealogy.

Since this first exchange of information Simon has shared photos with me of his trip back to St Erth in Cornwall, where the Gilbart and Huthnance families came from. We have also exchanged notes on the emigration of various members of the Gilbart family to Australia.

Wikitree made it easy for us to see that our document-based trees connected and showed that we had taken DNA tests. Having uploaded our test results to, we could compare test results and see if there was a likely biological connection.

If there had been no shared DNA it would not have disproved that there was a relationship. It just meant that the same segments of DNA had not been inherited by Simon and his cousins Greg and Dennis.

Simon, Greg and Dennis are 5th cousins since they share 4th great grandparents. There is a nearly 70% chance that any two fifth cousins will not share a detectable level of DNA. ( ) In fact Greg’s brother Dennis shares DNA with Simon but Greg does not.

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Thursday, 13 July 2017

DNA testing results one year on

To see what DNA testing might show about our family history, in June last year my husband Greg and I submitted samples of our DNA to for autosomal DNA analysis. Greg also took a Y-DNA test through the Family Tree DNA company.

What did I hope to learn?

I had no particular questions about my side of the tree that I thought DNA tests might answer, though I did hope that I might find some of my relatives on my mother’s side who, I had been told, had emigrated from Germany to the USA.

My mother was born in Berlin. After WWII when there wasn't enough to eat, food parcels addressed to her family began to arrive from the United States, sent---she was told---by her American cousins.  When I talked to her about my DNA testing she was a little sceptical but she thought it would be interesting to trace her American relations.

On Greg’s side of the tree there were some dead ends that I hoped DNA analysis might provide a way around. In May 2016 I blogged about these in a post [Poor little chap], with a hypothesis about the parents of Greg’s great grandfather Henry Sullivan (1862-1943).

When our test results came back I quickly found some meaningful matches on Greg’s tree. Some of his cousins had tested too, and we were able to make links between our pre-DNA trees and the DNA information.

I started a spreadsheet to record these matches and, to confirm the links I had found, I sent messages through AncestryDNA's system to people who appeared to have matching results.

My spreadsheet has these fields:

  • Who took the test - me, my husband, a cousin
  • Match name and/ or Nickname (for Ancestry, GEDmatch, My Heritage, 23andMe alternate names)
  • Company or companies testing
  • point of contact – sometimes the kit is managed by someone other than the person who provided the sample
  • Email address for match or contact
  • Received – when I receive a message or email to help me remember and track messages
  • Notes – always a handy field
  • Line, if known, or grouping of tests- family line, sometimes I know the line from shared matches or other clues, otherwise I can group tests which share matches
  • MRCA (Most Recent Common Ancestor) – I enter the 2 surnames of the couple I also use Ahnentafel numbers at the beginning of the field which are handy for sorting generations
  • Cousin (cousinship) – eg: 3C or 4C-1R
  • estimated relationship
  • shared surnames
  • linked tests (shared matches)
  • Tree – copy in the URL of any tree or site for the match’s tree
  • GEDmatch ID number of match
  • Chromosome summary
  • GedMatch Autosomal Comparison - copy and paste from the Gedmatch comparison (this can get a bit lengthy and detailed so I don't always include it)

A screenshot of the first 11 rows of my spreadsheet where I track matches. I sort the spreadsheet on most recent common ancestor and since the Ahnenetafel number is used to begin the field, the spreadsheet is sorted with more recent ancestors first. (click on image to enlarge)

I also used the 'Notes' field on AncestryDNA when I had contacted the match and added a star to matches so that I could see at a glance who I had contacted, when I contacted them, and the likely match.

A screenshot of an AncestryDNA match where our trees correspond and the most common recent ancestors are identified. There is a yellow star on the top left hand side of the screen which can be used to identify matches of interest. The notes field in the middle of the screen can be used to summarise contact, GedMatch numbers and likely shared ancestry.
A screenshot of a DNA match where our trees on ancestry do not intersect. In fact I have identified the most common recent ancestors through correspondence with another cousin and shared DNA. Although I messaged using the green "Send Message" button in the top right hand corner, the cousin did not reply. I also unsuccessfully used the brown "Contact" button on the top right of the screen for the Ancestry Profile - see screenshot below.

Initially my DNA matches meant nothing to me. There seemed to be little connection between my DNA matches and my document-based tree.

However, over the last year I have received replies from people we share DNA with, and have been able to compare our family trees and determine where they intersect. For many of these matches, I have been able to draw some conclusions as to our likely most recent common ancestors, particularly when several of us share the same DNA and have intersecting document-based trees. So far we have more than 30 matches where we can identify the most recent ancestors we share.

DNA has added to the evidence I have used to build and document my family tree. To date I have not found any DNA-based evidence which suggests my document-based tree is inaccurate. Unfortunately I have yet to find any cousins sharing DNA on my mother's side of the family.

Our family tree showing points on the tree where we have common ancestors with  cousins who  share DNA. (You can click to enlarge, but the tree has been reduced in size and individual forebears are not legible)

Related posts
The Legal Genealogist observes in her post of July 2 2017 That YDNA lament "you can't be matched to somebody who hasn't tested" and that there are good reasons for the lack of German DNA matches to date.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Trove Tuesday: Flying the Kangaroo route in 1949

Qantas Kangaroo Route Advertisement 1948 retrieved from Pinterest

Most migrants to Australia, including immigrants in my family, came here by sea. My grandfather is an exception. He arrived by air.

Hans Boltz was born on 4 July 1910 in Berlin, where he trained at the State Institute for map drawing as a cartographer. From 1930 to the beginning of World War II he worked for the Prussian Geological State Institute (Geological Survey of Prussia or Preußischen Geologischen Landesanstalt). After the war, when he found his way back to Berlin, he discovered that this building, in Invalidenstraße 44, was situated in the Russian zone. Hans lived in the American zone and, reluctant to travel every day into the Russian-occupied part of the city or move there, he resigned. In 1948 he applied for work with the Australian government, which at the time was recruiting Germans with qualifications and skills in short supply in Australia. He got a job as a cartographer with the Australian Bureau of Mineral Resources.

Berlin, Mitte, Invalidenstraße 44, Bundesministerium für Verkehr, Bau und Stadtentwicklung
Invalidenstraße 44 in Berlin-Mitte, the building of the former Geological Survey of Prussia. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Hans Boltz's file created by the Department of Post War Reconstruction includes the dates of his journey from Berlin to Canberra:
  • Wednesday 13 July 1949 left Germany for London
  • Sunday 7 August 1949 left London
  • Thursday 11 August 1949 arrived Canberra via Sydney
  • Friday 12 August 1949 commenced working for the Bureau of Mineral Resources.

NAA: MT105/8, 1/6/4531 Page 2 of 143 (click to enlarge image)

In the late 1980s with the help of my grandfather Hans I spent some time compiling my family tree on my mother's side. I had bought a book in 1978 called The History of our Family, published by Poplar Books of New Jersey. This had a series of templates for recording family history. One of these was for immigration.

Decades afterwards, my grandfather remembered very clearly his trip from Berlin and his arrival, on 11 August 1949.

I summarised my grandfather's recollections as follows:
Hans Fritz Boltz emigrated from Berlin to Canberra 11 . 8 . 1949
Aeroplane - Berlin - Hamburg - London 4 weeks London
museums / concerts ... wandering around sightseeing
London - Cairo - Karachi - Singapore - Darwin - Sydney -
Helopolis Hotel Cairo  Raffles Hotel Singapore  Qantas flight
In London my grandfather was given English lessons. He was not just a tourist.

Qantas Sydney-London Constellation route map retrieved from Pinterest

On Trove I have found an advertisement for the route in August 1949.

AUSTRALIA-ENGLAND CONSTELLATION SERVICE (1949, August 4). Daily Commercial News and Shipping List (Sydney, NSW : 1891 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved July 4, 2017, from

A Qantas Empire Airways Constellation airliner, photographed by Frank Hurley retrieved from

In 2007 Qantas celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Kangaroo route. This video includes footage of the journey on the Lockheed Constellation aeroplanes. The first flight on the route had departed 1 December 1947.

The journey took four days, 55 hours of flying time. There were two overnight stops, one in Cairo and the other in Singapore. In Cairo my grandfather stayed at the Heliopolis Palace Hotel. In Singapore at the Raffles. There were 29 passengers and 11 crew.

Poster for the Heliopolis Palace Hotel retrieved from Palace intrigue: Egypt in the Golden Age of Travel

COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Entree van het Raffles Hotel Singapore TMnr 60018239
Raffles Hotel in 1932. Image from Wikimedia Commons

The airfare in 1949 was £260 sterling. By way of comparison my grandfather's salary on starting with the Australian Public Service as an experienced cartographer was £222 a year and the average earnings for men in Australia was about £220 a year. The Australian government paid my grandfather's fare.

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