My German DNA Success Story [Continued]

In my last Blog, I wrote about finding a significant DNA match on my mother’s paternal side. This is my rarest grandparent as far as DNA matches. My mom’s dad was a German Rathfelder from Latvia who emigrated to the US in the early 1900’s. As a result, this side of the family appears to have few US relatives. When I left off, I was having trouble finding a common ancestor between the match and my mother due in part to there being more than one Wilhelmine Rathfelder in the mid-1800’s Hirschenhof, Latvia.

The Two Wilhelmine Rathfelders

To recap, my mother’s DNA match had as their ancestor Friedrich Bernhard Spengel. Fried’s birth record in 1859 listed his mother as Wilhelmine Rathfelder. When I looked up the birth record of Wilhelmine Rathfelder, I found that she was born in 1844. This would make her only 15 at the birth of her son. That same record stated that her godmother’s name was also Wilhelmine Rathfelder who was an unmarried woman at the time. For this reason and others, I decided that the 15 year old Wilhelmine Rathfelder was a poor choice to be Friedrich Spengel’s mother.

Since my last blog, I found an 1855 Spengel/Rathfelder marriage that had potential:

Spengel Rathfelder Marriage 1855

The next to the last entry appears to be a Joh. Peter(?) Spengel and Aldene Wilhelmine Rathfelder. One problem here is that Friedrich’s father was Johann George Ludwig Spengel and this groom appears to be Johann Peter Spengel.

I then found this birth record from 1838:

Adeline Wilhelmine Birth

Here is cousin Inge’s rendering:

born on Januar (January) 17. abends (in the evening)

baptized the 19th of January

No. 2 Adeline Wilhelmine Rathfelder

V (father) CW (which means Colonie Wirt = farmer) George Rathfelder;

M (mother) Cathar(ina) Elisabeth geb. Hofmann

Taufzeugen (godparents): Gottlieb Raschefsky und Frau (wife) Anna Charlotta geborene Erhard,

Adeline Wilhelmine geborene Schulz.

Note again the custom of naming the child for the godmother – in this case Adeline Wilhelmine Schulz.

Two Johann Georg Rathfelders

It appears that not only were there 2 Wilhelmine Rathfelders, but also two brothers with the same name of Johann Georg Rathfelder. Just to make it confusing they were both the sons of my ancestor Johann Georg Rathfelder aka Hans Jerg Rathfelder. Here is the genealogical reference with Inge’s note: “Hans Jerg”.

Hans Jerg

This means that Adeline Wilhelmine Rathfelder was the daughter of Johann Georg (but he apparently went by Georg) born 1792. Her uncle was Johann George (my ancestor) b. 1778 and her grandfather was also Johann Georg (aka Hans Jerg). That puts the common ancestor of my mom and her Spengel descendant DNA match back to Johann George (aka Hans Jerg) Rathfelder b. 1752 and his wife Juliane Bietenbinder. Hans is my mom’s 3rd great grandfather in the upper right box below.

Ancestry Alexander Rathfelder

This means that AncestryDNA was somehow right in assigning my mom’s Spengel/Rathfelder descendant 4th cousin status.

The Spengel/Rathfelder Story

I find that if I am able to put genealogy into a narrative and it makes sense, then there is a likelihood that the story may be true.

Hans Jerg Rathfelder and Juliane Bietenbinder had several children in the German Colony of Hirschenhof in Latvia. Two of their sons had the same name: Johann Georg Rathfelder. The older son went by Johann and the younger went by Georg. The elder son Johann was my ancestor. The younger, Georg, married Catherina Hofmann in 1813. 25 years later in 1838 they had a daughter named Adeline Wilhelmine Rathfelder. In 1838 Wilhelmine’s mother would have been about 42.  This daughter may have been a 6 year old godmother at the birth of another Wilhelmine Rathfelder in 1844. In 1855, as a young 17 old girl, Adeline Wilhelmine Rathfelder married Johann Peter Spengel. At about age 21 in 1859 the elder Wilhelmine had a son named Friedrich Bernhard Spengel. However, at this time, Friedrich’s father is called Johann Georg Ludwig Spengel.

So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I’m betting that Johann [somebody] Spengel married a Wilhelmine Rathfelder in 1855 and that they were the same couple that had a Friedrich Bernhard Spengel in 1859. I do note that the Spengels were also related to the Gangnus family in Hirschenhof. Gangnus is the name of my Rathfelder grandfather’s mother. So that may explain my mom’s larger than average match with her 4th cousin.

Let’s Map Mom

Now that I have a reasonable common ancestor for my mom and her new Spengel/Rathfelder match, I can update my mom’s Chromosome Map using the Kitty Munson tool:

Mom's Chromosome Map Aug 2016

This fills out her paternal side a little more and also gets her first 1700’s chromosome mapping. All the others were “only” in the middle third of the 1800’s! Hans Jerg Rathfelder and his wife Juliane Bietenbinder are now shown in light blue.

My Chromosome Map

It turns out that even though my mom had a large DNA match as well as my 2 sisters, my gedmatch one to one match wasn’t that large. This is one of those rare cases where Ancestry gives me a larger match than Gedmatch. Here is how my match with the same Spengel/Rathfelder descendant show up at AncestryDNA:

Joel Ancestry match

Here is my one to many match at gedmatch:

gedmatch one to many

Gedmatch warns me to do a one to one match which brings my total cM match down from 25.1 to 18.9.

Joel Hilweg one to one

I just found out that the gedmatch SNP threshold went from 700 to 500, so a few days ago, my match would have been only 8.3 cM total. I may have other matches also as my sisters and mother match this same person in areas where I am below this threshold.

Here is my updated Chromosome Map:

Joel Chromosome Map Aug 2016

It seems like my maternal and paternal mapping is evening out. I didn’t think that this would ever happen.

Comparing my mom’s map and mine, I got most of Hans’ and Juliane’s DNA from my mom on my Chromosome 6 and 9, but I didn’t get any of the large amounts of DNA from my mom’s Chromosomes 17 and 18.

More Mapping

While I’m at it, I’ll see what else I can do.

Chromosome 1

Here is how the Spengel descendant matches with my mother, me and one sister on Chromosome 1:

Chr 1 Rathfelder

This is probably one of those segment matches that AncestryDNA had but was below the gedmatch threshold. The first match is my sister Sharon, then my mom, then me. Here is how I had it mapped out (with Kathy Johnston’s help):

Chr 1

The area of interest is from 62 to 68. Kathy has it correctly mapped out that Sharon and I have Rathfelder in there in blue and my other sister Heidi has the other maternal grandparent (Lentz) from 62 to 68.

Chromosome 6 Revised

Here is how the Spengel/Rathfelder descendant matches my mom and all three of her DNA tested children on Chromosome 6:

Chr 6

Note all the matches are between 155 and about 161. Here is my Chromosome 6 map:

Chr 6 map

When I was working on this map, I had noted an inconsistency in my paternal side on the right hand side and hadn’t yet resolved that problem. This proves I was wrong on my maternal side also after 155. Instead of 3 blue maternal Lentz segments after 155, there should be three orange ones as proven by the Spengel/Rathfelder match. I’ll just do a quick fix. There appears to be a double crossover for my 2 sisters where I previously had one for me at 155. I’ll add Sharon and Heidi’s crossover at position 155 and take out mine:

Chr 6 map rev

Perhaps this is not a perfect Chromosome 6 map, but it is much better than it was.

Chromosomes 17, 18 and 19

I covered Chromosome 17 in my previous blog.

Spengel/Rathfelder only matches my mom on Chromosome 18:

Chr 18 mom

Perhaps that DNA went to one of my other three siblings that haven’t tested for DNA yet.

Lastly, here is how mom, sister Heidi and I match Spengel/Rathfelder on Chromosome 19:

Chr 19

The matches are from 56 to 59, so the scale in the image isn’t perfect. Let’s see how my mapping looks.

Chr 19 Map

It looks like I had some trouble on my family’s Chromosome 19. I couldn’t figure out a section and couldn’t map my maternal side to a specific grandparent. Well, now, thanks to our Spengel/Rathfelder descendant match, things will be clearer. Heidi and Joel match a Rathfelder and Sharon doesn’t from location 56 to 59. That means that I can map the orange to my Rathfelder grandfather’s DNA. That leaves my maternal grandmother Lentz who will be in the green areas.

Chr 19 map rev

So here we have identified Maternal grandparents 1 and 2. This information should be useful. For example, if my sister Sharon in the top bar has a Chromosome 19 DNA match on the maternal side, I will know not to look for any Hirschenhof ancestors.

Summary and Conclusions

I believe that this is how it is supposed to work. The DNA helps target the genealogy and the genealogy identifies the DNA. One side leverages the other and back and forth we go between DNA and genealogy. Hence the term genetic genealogy.

My German DNA Success Story

I recently had a breakthrough on my mother’s side with an autosomal DNA match. It was on her Rathfelder side which is the rarest as far as DNA matches go. Apparently there aren’t many Rathfelders around and very few that have taken DNA tests.

Here is the summary of my success:

  1. My mom’s Rathfelder ancestors lived in Riga, Latvia. Based on this I did a search under my mom’s results at AncestryDNA for matches from Riga, Latvia.
  2. I was fortunate to find someone with a large match.
  3. I got in touch with the match and asked the administrator to put the results on
  4. The administrator of the match put the results up on This is the step that happens rarely – to me at least.
  5. I checked the results against a Rathfelder 2nd cousin’s DNA I had tested and there was a good match there also.
  6. I did some genealogy and found where the match likely was.

The Ancestry DNA Riga Search

When I put in Riga, Latvia, under the AncestryDNA search criteria for my mom’s kit, I found the match. It was the largest Riga match she had after my my 2 sisters and myself. Here is a screen shot of the match with cM’s shared and my note that the match was in Riga.

Match in Riga

I was a little surprised that AncestryDNA had the relationship at 4th cousin, based on the 6 segments shared. I would think that it would be closer than that.

The Match in Gedmatch

Here is the same match at gedmatch:


Note that Gedmatch shows fewer segments (4) but a higher total cMs. Gedmatch estimates 3.8 generations to a common ancestor. That sounds like a 3rd cousin to me.

All Roads Lead to Hirschenhof

My mom’s match had as the most distant Riga ancestor someone by the name of Spengel. I knew that all my mom’s ancestors lived in Hirschenhof, Latvia, prior to moving to Riga. That meant that the match was likely in Hirschenhof. I did a quick Google search for Spengel and Hirschenhof and came up with some results. I tried the match’s other ancestors with Hirchenhof and found no results. Here are my mom’s Hirschenhof 1st and 2nd great grandparents. They would represent 2nd and 3rd cousin matches:

Hirschenhof Ancestors

Time for Some Hirschenhof Genealogy

Here is the Linden Evangelical Lutheran Church outside Hirschenhof where my mom’s ancestors got baptized, confirmed, married and had their funerals.

Linden Church

I like the photo because it appears to show people sledding down the hill by the Church. Also because it looks like this picture could have been taken in New England where I live as well as Hirschenhof, Latvia.

Raduraksti is the website I like to use for Latvian genealogy. That is where I was able to find the Linden Church records. They are listed under Draudzes, Liepkalnes. I had to look up draudzes. It means congregations. Liepkalnes is apparently the Latvian name for Linden. My mom’s match’s grandfather was Friedrich Spengel. I was able to find his birth and baptismal record here:

Friedrich Spengel Birth

I could tell that Friedrich, Bernhard was born in 1859 based on the index and note at the top of the page. I could tell that his dad was Johanne Georg [something] Spengel married to a Rathfelder. However, I had no idea what the first name of Friedrich’s Rathfelder mother. I wrote to a Rathfelder relative in Germany named Inge for help. In the meantime, I discovered that there was a Wilhelmine Rathfelder in the index to the church records. Here is her birth record in 1844.

Wilhelmine birth

Now that I know it says Wilhelmine, I can read it. Before that, the ‘W’ looked like a ‘Dr’ or ‘Lr’ to me! Here I recognized Wilhelmine’s parents as my mother’s great grandparents: Johann Rathfelder and Rosine Schwechheimer. Here from my web page is the family:

Johannes family

This shows that in my research, I was missing Wilhelmine. However, there was plenty of time for her to be born between February 1843 and 1844. It seemed clear that my mom and her match had as their common ancestors Johannes Rathfelder and Rosine Schwechheimer. However there were a few problems.

the problems with WILHELMIne
  1. There were 2 Wilhelmine Rathfelders
  2. With the above scenario, my mom and her match would be 2nd cousins. Ancestry showed them as 4th cousins and gedmatch seemed to indicate that they would be closer to 3rd cousins, but not 2nd cousins.
  3. If Friedrich Spengel’s father married this Wilhemine, then this Wilhelmine would have been 15 when Friedrich was born.
Two Wilhelmine Rathfelders

I’ve heard it said that you learn something new every day. In looking up information on Lutheran Church records, I discovered that it would be normal for a child to be named after the godparent. This was certainly true here. Friedrich Spengel was named for his godfather Friedrich Niclas.

Here is what Inge tells me concerning her reading of Wilhelmine’s baptismal record:

You found out yourself, that no. 58 of the Linden churchbook is an entry like follows

I am sure, you still are knowing:

Wilhelmine Rathfelder,(born July, 2nd, baptized July, third (dritten)

Vater Tischler Joh(ann) Rathfelder, M(utter) Rosina geb. Schwechheimer

Taufzeugen Jungfer Wilhelmine Rathfelder, Tischler Heinr(ich) Lütken und Fr(au) Philippine geborene Rathfelder

A Jungfer is an unmarried female.

So what I get out of this is that Wilhelmine Rathfelder had an unmarried godparent with the same first and last names that she had.

So Who was Friedrich Spengel’s Mother?

Prior to writing this blog, I was leaning toward the younger Wilhelmine as being Friedrich’s mother. Now I am leaning toward the older godmother. This is based partly on the DNA results. I am guessing that the godmother could have been Wilhelmine’s Aunt. Here is what I have for Johannes’ family. I think that he actually had other siblings that I don’t yet know about. Perhaps he had a sister named Wilhemine.

Johannes' Parents

That’s as far as I got on the genealogy. There is more work to do.

The Spengel Match Helps With My Chromosome Mapping

I have mapped most of my chromosomes and my 2 sisters’ chromosomes to my 4 grandparents. This shows for each chromosome the portion of DNA my sisters and I received from each grandparent represented in 4 different colors. I used a method developed by Kathy Johnston. For example, here is how I had mapped out Chromosome 17:

Chromosome 17

My sisters are S and H. I am J. Note on my mother’s side (on the top of each bar) I have maternal grandparent 1 and 2 because I could not tell who was who. Now with the known Spengel descendant match, I can tell which is Rathfelder (my mother’s father’s line) and which is Lentz (my mother’s mother’s line). Here is how gedmatch shows the Spengel match. Remember that Spengel had a Rathfelder mother, so will indicate the Rathfelder line.

Chr 17 Gedmatch

Above, #1 corresponds to my sister Heidi (H) and #2 corresponds to my sister Sharon (S). My mom is #3. Note that The green matches for daughters #1 and #2 shouldn’t be larger than the mother #3, but they are. I show no match to my mother’s match on this Chromosome. Due to the the location of the Spengel matches above, this tells me that MG2 above has to be Rathfelder. That leaves MG1 as Lentz. Now I can add the real names of the grandparents that my sisters and I got our maternal DNA from on Chromosome 17.

Chr 17 Rev

That means if my 2 sisters have a maternal match with anyone after 9 or 11 on their Chromosome 17, it would be with someone who is a Rathfelder or Rathfelder ancestor. If I have a maternal match with anyone in that area, it would be with a Lentz or Lentz ancestor. This is quite helpful to know.

My mom’s Spengel descendant match will also help in updating my family’s Kitty Munson Chromosome Map. However, before I do that, I will want to confirm which Rathfelder is the common ancestor between my mom and her new match.

Summary and Conclusions

  • I’m grateful that this Rathfelder match showed up as one of AncestryDNA’s 2 million customers
  • I may have been able to find out the same information in the first part of the blog leading up to the Rathfelder common ancestor without using gedmatch.
  • Gedmatch gave me more confidence in where to look. I knew I needed to look for Rathfelder ancestors in Hirschenhof.
  • I wouldn’t be able to map any DNA without gedmatch. AncestryDNA does not tell me on what Chromosomes that I match. For me, this is where a lot of the fun is in genetic genealogy.
  • This genetic match has pointed out a some holes in my genealogy. In order to nail down these DNA matches, one has to also nail down the genealogy and include many siblings.
  • I didn’t have either Wilhelmina Rathfelder in my genealogy, so this helped improve my Rathfelder genealogy.
  • The Spengel descendant didn’t know of any Rathfelder or Hirschenhof ancestry, so that has helped my mom’s match learn more about their genealogy.
  • I am grateful for AncestryDNA in supplying the match; I am grateful for the match in posting to gedmatch; I am grateful for gedmatch; I am grateful for the Raduraksti web site; and lastly I am grateful for my German cousin with Hirschenhof Rathfelder roots for helping me to understand the Church Registers.


My Mother’s Rathfelder DNA: An Initial Look

My mother is a Rathfelder. That is a fairly uncommon name. According to, it is the 413,549th most common name in the world. By comparison, my last name, Hartley, is in the 6,000’s. My mother’s father Alexander grew up in Latvia. He worked on a ship and jumped ship in New York City in the early 1900’s. So he doesn’t have a lot of relatives around here. My mom’s family tree at looks like this:

Gladys Ancestry Tree

On the bottom left, are the Nicholson and Lentz families. Ann was born in Sheffield, England. The Lentz family was in current day Philadelphia by the time of the American Revolution.

Here are the DNA testers:

  • Me – tested at all three DNA companies for autosomal DNA. I also tested for mitochondrial DNA. This covers the line on the bottom of the chart only.
  • My 2 sisters – Tested at AncestryDNA and transferred to FTDNA
  • My mother – tested separately at FTDNA and AncestryDNA
  • Judy – a second cousin. She tested at 23andme, but hasn’t uploaded her results yet to for comparison. Our common ancestors are Jacob Lentz and Annie Nicholson.
  • Catherine – a Rathfelder second cousin in England. Our common ancestors are Joahnn Rathfelder and Maria Gagnus.

I have also test results from my father’s side. When I put all my known test matches together, it looks like this:

Chromosome Map 2nd

The matches we are looking at here are on my Maternal side, so that would be the red (Lentz/Nicholson) and flesh colored (Rathfelder/Gagnus) segments at the bottom of each Chromosome. Note that we receive DNA from both our parents on each chromosome. This means that if someone matches me and Catherine on the same segment of Chromosome 13 that is colored in, I will know that person matches us on my mother’s side. And more specifically, the match will be along one of the ancestors of this Rathfelder/Gagnus couple.

My Mother’s Rathfelder/Gagnus DNA

My mother will have more Rathfelder/Gagnus DNA than I do, because my DNA is watered down with my father’s DNA. If I look at cousin Catherine’s DNA matches with my mother, me and my sisters, this should show us the DNA the 3 of us got from this Rathfelder/Gagnus couple that were born in the mid 1800’s. That’s what I did, and it looks like this:

Catherine Chromosome Browser

Here, my mother, Gladys, is in orange, I’m in blue. My sister Heidi is green and sister Sharon is pink. On Chromosomes 2, 8 and 14, some of the Rathfelder segments didn’t make it to me or my 2 sisters. Also note, that I am missing Rathfelder segments from Chromosome 4, 6 and 10, that the rest of my family have.

Does Anyone Else Match the Rathfelders?

As one might guess, this line is German. I checked at using a utility showing people that matched both Catherine and my mom, Gladys. Then I compared them in something called an autosomal matrix to see how they all matched each other.

Gladys Catherine Autosomal Matrix

The upper left part of this matrix represents matches between Catherine and my family. The upper right part shows our matches to others that match Catherine and Gladys. The lower right part shows how the people that match Catherine and Gladys match each other. This is important for triangulation and finding common ancestors. From this, we can see that Michael and Tara match each other closely. In fact, they have the same last names, although I don’t show it here. Christine and Kenneth match each other at 20.8 cM, so let’s look at that. It turns out that they don’t match Catherine or my family where they match each other, so there is no triangulation there.

Let’s try something else. On the Excel spreadsheet I have created of my mother’s matches, I show where she has triangulated groups already. Here is the most promising Triangulation Group as seen from Gladys’ matches:

TG Gladys

I went in to and made sure that Catherine matched the last 2 matches and that the last two matches matched each other. All these overlap on the same Chromosome 13 and at the same areas of that Chromosome. This makes a TG or Triangulation Group. This means that these last 2 people will have the same ancestors as Catherine and Gladys, somewhere up on our shared Rathfelder or Gagnus family tree. Perhaps these 2 people have good family trees and it will be easy to see. Or they may not know much about their family history. At this point, one could contact these people by email to try to find out if they know where we match.

What About the Lentz/Nicholson DNA?

This is a bit more difficult. Cousin Judy has tested at 23andme. I have tested there, but no one else in my family has. I have downloaded Judy’s results to my spreadsheet. There I can check other matches around her matches to see if they match on my mother’s side. Not many do. Here is one spot where there are a few matches at Chromosome #17:

TG Lentz Nicholson 17

The blue matches are on my paternal side. We can ignore those. The pink is my maternal side. The white don’t match either side so are IBC (Identical By Chance) or they go below the threshold when checking which side they are on. At any rate, I can ignore the unhighlighted names for now. LinnyLou and Douglas are closely related. However, they do triangulate with my mom and Judith. That means we likely have a set of common ancestors out there.

DNA the Ancestry Way: Trouble With Schwechheimers

Ancestry automates all this work: easy for me and easy for them. Right? Actually, easy, but not accurate. Here is another mistake I notice that they’ve made. They see where I have a DNA match and then they find if there are common ancestors in our trees and say this is a likely match. The problem is is they don’t triangulate. And Ancestry doesn’t know if our trees are correct. For my Ancestry kit, this is what they found:

Schwechheimer False Match

Ancestry found that I (represented by the line on the left) matched the person represented by the line on the right. We matched at 5.4 cM on one segment. That is tiny, but Ancestry puts the results through a filter, they reason, which filters out the bad matches. So what is wrong? The problem is that I tested my mom and she doesn’t come up with the same match. That means if she doesn’t match, I can’t match with this Schwechheimer as I would have gotten all my Schwechheimer DNA from my mom.


  • I’m glad to have the testing results of Judy and Catherine because they each represent one side of my mother’s family – Paternal for Catherine and Maternal for Judy
  • Even with these testers, it is difficult to find many matches that triangulate
  • Don’t always trust Ancestry. Upload your results to where you can see where the match is on the Chromosome and check for triangulation there.