DNA Captures a Criminal

In case you haven’t heard, the investigators in the “Golden State Killer” case used DNA found at several murder scenes to capture the criminal. This person’s DNA was not already in the criminal justice system. Instead, the investigators utilized tools similar to those used by genetic genealogists to identify relatives and ultimately identify the murder suspect. Dick Eastman’s blog, “DNA that Cracked the ‘Golden State Killer’ Case came from Genealogy Websites” contains more information on the use of the DNA including links to two news articles on the topic. The Time Magazine article “How Did They Catch the Golden State Killer” also discusses the work of the investigators.

This use of genetic genealogy has been a hot topic on various Facebook groups. As with every issue in society today, there are multiple viewpoints on the issue. I have read many of these posts and comments and can understand the poster’s concern.

I haven’t formed a firm opinion either way, but I would like to share my thinking about the issue.

  • I spit into a test tube to have my DNA tested at Ancestry. This test is called an autosomal DNA test. These autosomal tests do not sequence the entire length of the DNA. Instead they test for an identified set of markers helpful for proving relationship. These are not the same set of markers that forensic scientists test for in criminal investigations. (See DNA Testing vs. Codis, Criminal Database by Emily Aulicino, Genetic Genealogy)
  • I have been researching my family history for forty years. I’m not sure exactly when I first started sharing my research online, but my original site was at Yahoo’s GeoCities: http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/3208/geneal.htm [My site is cited by Steve Shook in his site: Silvernale-Shook Genealogy.] Over the years, my data has been shared on a variety of sites: GeoCities, RootsWeb, Family History Hosting, and thru my RootsMagic site.
  • I have a public, searchable family tree on Ancestry called Heartland Genealogy. I’m not sure when I uploaded my first tree, but it was quite a few years ago. I have freely shared Gedcom files with other researchers and sites. My data was contributed to various projects included One World Tree and Ancestral file.
  • Ancestry privatizes information for living people in trees. In addition, I rarely add a living person to my online tree at Ancestry. Nor do I include living people in Gedcom files or in my RootsMagic upload. Since this is true of most genealogists, I’m fairly certain that the criminal investigators had to go to a lot of work to identify the suspect’s family. This work likely included digging thru newspaper articles and public records.
  • With my DNA I have LOTS of cousin matches (over 1200 pages worth). We all have a lot of relatives — and we are all related.
  • I recently made a connection with a granddaughter of a first cousin that was unknown to the family. Without DNA testing, we would not have found each other and I would have never been able to share my grandparents story with her!

We can’t put DNA technology back in the bottle and pretend we don’t have this ability. Thus, the discussions need to continue on how this technology can and will be utilized.


Protestor in the Family – E O Briles

40yrsagoThe Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) states that as a genealogist I should do reasonably exhaustive research. So, when my grandmother left me a group of ‘Years Ago’ clippings stating that my grandfather, E. O. Briles had been arrested, I did what I thought was reasonably exhaustive research.

First, I visited the Kansas State Historical Society to read the Emporia Gazette from the time period. I then obtained the police and district court case files. I have looked in the obvious places to find documentation of my grandfather’s protest movement.

About two weeks ago, I was handed another source – a clipping ‘from a recent shopper.’ I would never have thought of looking thru shoppers for information! (In Kansas – particularly in smaller communities – a shopper is a weekly publication full of advertising.) Evidently, the Flint Hills Shopper has a ‘History of Lyon County’ column provided by the Lyon County Historical Society titled True Tales from the Tallgrass.

The March 6, 2018 issue of the Flint Hills Shopper contained the story of my grandfather, E. O. Briles.


Lessons learned:

  • Research never ends
  • Look everywhere — including the local ‘shopper’

On a Map – Briles Homestead

The Alexander Briles homestead was located South of current highway 58 into Leroy, Kansas and East of Highway 75.


The homestead is over a mile East of Crandall Cemetery.


Alexander Briles is not buried in Crandall Cemetery. Instead, Alexander and most of his children are buried in Big Creek Cemetery.


Big Creek Cemetery is located on the West side of Highway 75 and North of Highway 58 going into Gridley.


DNA – Re-Trying NodeXL Graphing

Last summer, Shelley Crawford posted directions on how to use NodeXL and Microsoft Excel to create a cluster diagram for DNA matches in her Twigs of Yore blog. [Visualizing DNA Matches – Index]. When I tried this with my data, I had trouble getting past a ‘blob’. According to a Facebook post dated July 16, 2017, I was able to transform my black blob into some smaller clusters.

Not remembering exactly how this process worked, I decided to try again. I used the DNAGedcom client to download my match data from Ancestry. For this trial, I downloaded ALL of my matches. Following the directions, I loaded my matches and in common with files into the NodeXL Template. I also imported my ‘Additional Input’ file. In the ‘Additional Input’ file, I told the program to skip DNA data for my brothers and my mother. When I graphed this data, I got a blob.

The next step was to group. I tried grouping by ‘connected component’ and still had a black glob. Thus, I tried grouping by cluster instead. I picked the Clauset-Newman-Moore cluster algorithm. I also set the layout option to “lay out each of the graph’s groups in its own box.”

Now, I have several colored blobs of varying sizes. The grey background represents all of the lines connecting one ‘blob’ to another.

The above graph contains data for over 50,000 matches. It also does not skip my dad’s first cousin.

My next step was to change the visibility for my dad’s first cousin to ‘skip’. Unfortunately, all of the globs are still globs. So, I went back to DNAGedcom to re-download data. This time, I checked ‘Skip Distant Cousin Matches’.

I started the entire process over with these new files. This time I had almost 1800 matches. I still had a ‘blob’ but much less dense.

The next step was to group the results. Knowing that grouping by connected compenent didn’t work before, I again grouped by the cluster. After changing the layout options to ‘layout each of the graph’s groups in its own box’, I now had a graph with the dots arranged by colors.

Curious as to whether the various colors could be associated with a specific surname, I used the notes field on the spreadsheet to locate specific dots. When I clicked on a line in the spreadsheet, the graph would show that line as the center of lines connecting it to other dots (the shared matches).

The first dot I tried was a match with my mother and a likely MENTZER relative.

That dot started from the red area and branched out. Thinking that the orange area below the red area corresponded to my CRAWFORD line, I clicked on the match directly above that previous match — only to discover that it also originates from the red area.

Both a MENTZER match (my mom’s line) and a CRAWFORD match (my dad’s line) have dots in the red area and not in separate areas. Thus, my theory about the colored areas matching surnames doesn’t stand up to this simple test. I also can’t use geography to explain this. My Mentzer line was in Massachusetts, Illinois and southeast Kansas. My Crawford line was in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and southwestern Kansas.

Thus, I need to learn more about how to interpret this data!

W – War Bonds GenealogyPhotoADay


This unlabeled picture was among the photos my grandmother gave me. My grandfather is the person standing on the far left (in overalls).

The flag is the “Minutemen Flag”. It was awarded to groups that met or exceeded U.S. Bond sales during World War II. (Savings Bond Flags)

At first the clothing puzzled me. Why would people in suits be pictured with people in overalls. Since my grandfather worked for the Santa Fe Railroad in Dodge City, I believe this picture may be the Santa Fe employees who had funds taken out of their pay checks to purchase war bonds.

So far, I haven’t identified the location of the picture. The windows in the background are similar to those in the railroad depot. However, I haven’t found a picture of the depot with trees anywhere near it.

Who’s Coming to Dinner?

This weeks #52Ancestors prompt is “Who would I most like to invite to dinner?”

WINLEON2My immediate thought was my grandmother, Winnie Letha Currey Crawford. I really miss our conversations and the family stories she would tell. Each summer from the late 1970s until the 1990s, I would spend a few days in Dodge City with her.

It was during one of these trips that grandma got me started researching the family history. Since her mother died when she was 10, she didn’t know much about her mother’s family. Grandma asked me to help her learn about her grandmother, Julia Harding. She especially wanted to know where Julia was buried.

Grandma and I even spent a couple of days in the Kansas City area visiting cemeteries and one of her distant cousins to see what we could find. Unfortunately, my grandmother died before learning where her grandmother, Julia,¬† was buried. Laura, one of grandma’s great-nieces has found evidence that Julia Harding Hutchinson was buried in Elwood, Kansas. Unfortunately, Elwood has been affected by river flooding over the years. It is possible that this river flooding is preventing us from finding the gravesite.

I’d love the opportunity to share what I’ve found over the years and to learn more from her.




Narrative Report Success

Thanks to the help of users on the RootsMagic Discussion Forum, I have figured out some of my issues with my narrative report and learned a formatting trick.

One of my issues was with the first letter of a few sentences not being capitalized. When I looked at the sentence structure for these facts, I discovered that the ‘person’ field wasn’t capitalized in the template:

[person] lived< [PlaceDetails:Plain]>< [Place]>< [Date]>.

When I capitalized the ‘Person’ field, then the sentence began with a capital letter in the narrative report.

According to the forum discussion, the capitalization of the ‘person’ field should not affect the sentences. Thus, I didn’t go thru my various fact types and change all of the [person] fields to [Person]. I’m guessing that I did something to the sentence structure for these few sentences that kept them from formatting correctly. Since my ‘work-around’ (capitalizing the ‘person’ field in the template) is working, I’m not going to worry about the ‘why’ for now.

Another of my issues was spacing between sentences. In most cases, the report was putting one space between the superscripted footnote number and the start of the next sentence. However, in some cases, it was putting two spaces. I verified this inconsistency by opening the report in Word and using the OPTION to DISPLAY the formatting marks (spaces, paragraph returns, etc.). Once I verified the existence of the extra space, I was able to look at the sentence structure for that particular fact. I discovered that in the process of customizing the sentence structure, I had inadvertantly put in a blank space at the beginning of the sentence.

The formatting trick that I learned involved the creation of paragraphs. I played around with adding carriage returns to the beginning of a sentence where I wanted a new paragraph. This method worked but when there are a lot of facts, it would be difficult to figure out where these returns were without studying a narrative report.

Thus, I decided to try using the Paragraph fact type. I created a new fact type called Paragraph. For now, I have only selected to use this fact in Gedcom and Narrative Reports.

Once I had the fact type created, I just had to create Paragraph facts with sort dates to place the paragraph return where desired in the list of facts.

For me, the addition of blank space in my list of facts is a visual reminder of where the paragraphs are breaking. After inserting the paragraph facts, I was able to print a narrative report, save it as an RTF file, open in Word, copy and paste into my Family Tales Blog.

Eugene David Crawford