Using DNA to make family connections is really trendy in genealogy right now, and rightly so. Even though it's still somewhat in its infancy and many people (myself included) don't really understand how it works or what it really means, it does provide concrete connections to individuals who are related to us, possibly way way back on the ole' family tree and helps us to establish some kind of genealogical road map when the paper trail ends. A lot of my DNA connections (I took the autosomal test through AncestryDNA, though I also uploaded my results to FamilyTreeDNA) confirmed my descent from Jacob Raynor and Rebecca Raynor, which is both exciting and disappointing - exciting because it's always nice to confirm or reaffirm what we know or what we think we know, but disappointing because for me, that connection was never in doubt. I KNOW I am their descendant. The Raynors are no mystery to me - they are my most researched branch. I made a connection on my Berg branch, which was nice, but boring, because the person who I connected with genetically and I had already been in contact years ago and made the paper connection very easily. Another hit I had was on my Reinhardt line, which was a pleasant surprise. Though they've become well known to me and I knew OF the person I connected with, I don't know a whole lot about them or my cousins on that line. While I didn't much doubt that line, it was a nice confirmation of research I had done on my own, and that wasn't handed down to me by my grandmother.
I have had some really pleasant surprises, though, some who connected genetically to me and some who connected genetically to my dad (since my dad and I connect genetically, anyone who connects to him genetically is also a relative of mine, even though we might not have been a genetic match - god, genetics is confusing!). Today I want to mention one of my dad's connections, which is his seventh-great grandfather, Peter Lafrentz of Stinstedt, in Cuxhaven, Lower Saxony, Germany. I discovered Peter through my own original research with the help of a distant cousin who provided me with transcribed pages of a German church book and family book, which are transcriptions themselves of original church or family records - they don't go into much detail about each person but they trace many families back generations, all the way through the late 1500s sometimes, with parents, dates of birth, marriage and death, as well as places for each - it's all very well organized and another reason I really connect to my German side - if you have German roots, try to find one of these books for your family! They are invaluable! Anyway, to have Peter turn up as a DNA connection was a HUGE confirmation that the paper trail I had followed, even though it was a secondary source trail, was correct. I don't know anything about Peter. I know that the town he came from is on the north coast of German, about 40 km northeast of Bremerhaven, a huge immigration port. Peter was born there about 1703 when it was a part of the Duchy of Bremen, though it was also ruled by the Swedish and the Danish (it's located not far from the border of Denmark and is in a part of Germany that saw a lot of Scandinavian occupation) before falling under the rule of the Hanoverian Crown. So it was a time and place of transition of authority. It was also a place of transition of religion from Roman Catholicism to Lutheranism back to Catholicism then back again. Seeing this physical connection to such a distant ancestor (I have many distant ancestors on my American lines from this time period but for some reason, because Peter lived in Germany, it feels further back!) makes me want to know more about him - what did he do for a living? What was his life like? What was his world like? On that line, my family didn't immigrate until five generations later, when Meta Tiedemann Ricklefs came to New York from Mittelstenahe (the next town over to Stinstedt) in the 1880s.
What interesting discoveries or connections have you made through DNA genealogy?