Wolf’s DNA and Our Hirschenhof Ancestors

I was notified recently of some of my new MyHeritage matches. Some of these matches have been turning out to be very interesting. I was surprised that one of the shared ancestral names was Gangnus. I never see that name in the context of unknown DNA matches. So that piqued my interest.

Wolf’s Many Shared Ancestral Names

Here was one note from MyHeritage:

With all these shared ancestors, it would make sense to look at the closest matches first. All of these names looked valid except for Luther. Wolf matches me on my mother’s side. I have a Luther on my father’s side who lived in Colonial Massachusetts. These names that Wolf has appear to be from Hirschenhof. My Rathfelder and other ancestors lived in this German colony in Latvia. Due to the isolated nature of the area, it appears that intermarrying occurred.

Wolf’s Maternal Side

Wolf has a good tree at MyHeritage. The names I recognize are on his maternal side:

These are the ancestors that I think we have in common. Also Beidermann to the left of the two blank spots. MyHeritage didn’t mention that we have Hammich in common, but the name sounds familiar to me. Also, I have had other DNA matches with Hassenfuss, so I may be related to that name either by direct descent or a collateral family. This helps confirm where those matches could come from. The places we don’t match are on Hassenfuss, and Heusel. The circles are 5 generations from Wolf, so that would be at the 4th cousin level approximately.

My Mom’s Paternal Side

My mom was born as a Rathfelder Here is her dad’s tree:

Perhaps I should have circled the surnames where we don’t match. We don’t match on Rathfelder, Mertz, Muth and Lutz. It looks like I should have circled Schmidt. The last row represents 6 generations from me, so that would be at about the 5th cousin level. By DNA, MyHeritage thinks that we are third to 5th cousin. I would guess it would be more like 5th.

As Wolf was born the same year as me, it seems like I need another generation on his mother’s side. I can create a maternal tree for Wolf, but that will take a while.

A Schwechheimer Connection

Here is part of Wolf’s 6th generation out on his mother’s side:

There are two Schwechheimers, but I am interested in the first one. Here are the details on Wolf’s tree:

Here are two Schwechheimers from my tree:

I have the first Schwechheimer as Johann Markus born in Baden. He was a first generation colonist in his family in Hirschenhof. His son was Johann Gottfried. I had that Johann Markus had these sons:

The last one apparently corresponds with Wolf’s ancestor.

Next, I draw a Schwechheimer Tree:

This shows that Wolf is a 4th cousin twice removed to my mother and a 5th cousin once removed to me.

A Look at Wolf’s DNA

At MyHeritage, Wolf and I share 41 cM.

That DNA is shared over four chromosomes in five segments. I suppose some but perhaps not all of this DNA would be Schwechheimer DNA. The fact that we share several segments on the small side could mean that these are for matches that go back a way and it could mean that there is more than one line that we match on. Wolf actually shares a bit less DNA with my mother.

I did not inherit the match my mom has with Wolf on Chromosome 2. I did have a match on Chromosome 15 that my mother did not have. That could mean that the match is on my father’s side, or that it is not a real match. Or perhaps my mom should have matched there. I say it would be better to ignore Chromosome 15.

My Cousin Anita

Anita, Wolf and I form a Triangulation Group (TG). That is when three people all match each other on the same segment. This means that we have a common ancestor.

Here is a chart of DNA-tested descendants of my Latvian great-grandparents:

Rusty, Cindy, and Catherine are not at MyHeritage but have uploaded their DNA to Gedmatch for comparison. That makes Anita and Wolf 6th cousins on this Schwechheimer Tree:

Here is the small area of triangulation as shown on the MyHeritage Chromosome Browser:

The TG is from about position 56 to 60M. My match with Anita is in red and my match with Wolf is yellow above. However, I would hesitate to say that this Chromosome match is from Schwechheimer and no one else.

I mentioned above that I share 41 cM of DNA with Wolf. However, my mother shares 38 cM with Wolf and is a 4th cousin twice removed at least once. Here are some statistics:

My mother and I are both above average for our relationship with Wolf. But as I say, there is more than one line of relationship.

The Biedenbender Connection

My 4th great-grandfather Hans Jerg Rathfelder married Juliana Biedenbender. Juliana’s dad was Johann Tobias Biedenbender.

My research shows that Juliana’s older sister was Wolf’s ancestor Elisabeth:

That will lead to a Biedenbinder Tree starting with Tobias:

In this tree, I am actually more distantly related to Wolf as a 6th cousin.

The Niclas Connection

I was curious about the Niclas Connection. I have an Anna Eva, daughter of Johann Jacob Niclas in my tree:

Wolf has a Johann Georg Niclas in his tree. The green leaves are hints in my tree. One of those hints for Johann Jacob is for other people’s trees. There are five trees altogether.  The first tree has Eva Maria b 1757 as a daughter. The second tree is for Niclaus and looks like the wrong guy. The third tree has Johann George and Anna Eva for children. The fourth and fifth trees have just Johann Georg as a child.

Now I need a Niclas Tree:


This is still a 6th cousin relationship for me. The configuration of the tree is the same but the pathways are different.

More Biedermann Research?

Wolf’s tree has an Elisabeth Biedermann born 1856 and married to Johann Georg Heusel.

If the dates are right in Wolf’s tree, Elisabeth had Gustav when she was 15. Here is a possible birth record for Elisabeth:

This looks like an Emma Elisabeth Bidermann born to Georg Ludwig Bidermann and Pauline Alharma? Charlotte geb Asmus. Born in October 1854. If this is the right ancestor for Wolf, at least she would be 17 instead of 15 when she gave birth to Gustav.

Summing Up

Wolf has a great tree. However, even with a great tree, it difficult to see all the possible places that connections can be made. I was able to make three connections. It appears that there could be more. I would also like to follow up on other leads.

It helped to build out Wolf’s tree at Ancestry. That way his tree was in a format that was the same as mine and made comparisons easier. It also helped to make most recent common ancestor trees to see what relationship we were to each other on the different lines.

Even though I matched Wolf on many Hirschenhof lines, we didn’t match on my two most recent names of Rathfelder and Gangnus. At least not yet.

My New Match with Anita from Latvia

There has been some buzz recently on the genetic genealogy Facebook Pages about MyHeritage and how useful it is becoming. Not too long after uploading my DNA to MyHeritage, a new match, Anita, showed up as my top match. This was MyHeritage’s estimate as to our relationship:

I guessed that Anita was related on my mother’s side as my mom’s dad grew up in Latvia. I wrote to Anita and she kindly and warmly wrote back. Anita lives in Latvia, so she is my first Rathfelder relative living in Latvia that I have a DNA match with.

A Rathfelder DNA Testing Tree

I have had another Rathfelder descendant tested, Catherine. She is even more closely related to Anita. Here are some Rathfelder descendants that have tested.

The Old Rathfelder DNA Testing Tree

This is the tree I have been working with:

Astrid is related, but more distantly than my second cousin Catherine, my mom, my siblings and two 1st cousins. I’ll use a different method to add Anita to the tree:

This chart gives the relationships between each DNA-tested Rathfelder descendant. I am a 2nd cousin once removed to Anita. MyHeritage had me as first cousin twice removed to 2nd cousin once removed by the DNA. They were right.

The Leo Rathfelder’s Line

Anita’s great-grandfather was Leo Rathfelder. Here is my web page on that Line:

Anita descends from Vera. It will be interesting to hear what that part of the family has been up to in Latvia since 1944.

I had asked Anita to upload her results to Gedmatch.com and she went along with my request. Here is how we match there:

Gedmatch has an estimated number of generations to our MRCA as 3.1. The MRCA is our Most recent common ancestors, Johann Heinrich Rathfelder and Maria Gangnus. I am three generations away from this couple and Anita is four, so that is an average of 3.5 generations away. This means that Anita and I share more than the average DNA for our 2nd cousin once removed relationship. Also I note that quite a few SNPs were used in comparison which is good. The test at MyHeritage is apparently much better than the one at 23andme which does not currently meet the gedmatch.com threshold for normal sharing.

The Kitty Munson Chromosome Mapper

One fun thing to do with DNA is mapping. Kitty Munson has an on-line utility to map your DNA. All the DNA I have above will be mapped to Heinrich Rathfelder and Maria Gangnus. Right now my map looks like this:


Heinrich and Maria are a sort of orange color on the maternal (bottom) side of my chromosomes. Anita should make a good contribution to this map. Previously, Catherine’s matches with me contributed to this DNA from these two great grandparents. Catherine has a large match with me on Chromosome 18, so Anita will not add anything there, but she will on other chromosomes.

Here is the new map with my matches to Anita added:

Anita added a lot of DNA to my Chromosome map on Chromosomes 3, 11, 14, 15. 16, and 19.

Anita and the X Chromosome

The X Chromosome is more of a female thing than a male one. I say this because woman have two X Chromosomes and men have one. This is the X Chromosome DNA match that Anita and my mom share:

Gangnus DNA

The DNA that Anita and my mother share is from the Gangnus side. How do I know that? Here is the paternal side of my mother’s DNA inheritance chart:

The maternal side (not shown) does not apply to Anita. My mom inherits X Chromosome DNA from the blue and pink areas but none from the white areas. This shows that at the level that my mom and Anita match each other, the DNA that they share has to be on the Gangnus side. That is because my mother’s father Alexander didn’t get any DNA from his father. He only got a full dose of DNA from his mother Marie Gangnus that he sent down to my mom.

Anita’s X Chromosome DNA inheritance pathway is a bit longer:

Anita got a full dose also of her grandmother Vera Rathfelder’s  X Chromosome from her dad. However, I think that Vera’s X Chromosome would have been a combination of her father and mother’s X Chromosome.

I have mapped out the X Chromosome for myself and four of my siblings:

The Rathfelder part is in green. Lentz is my mother’s mother’s side. That was the part I didn’t show on the bottom side of her X Chromosome inheritance chart. As I mentioned above, all the Rathfelder DNA on the X Chromosome came from Maria Gagnus, so it could just as well say Gagnus instead of Rathfelder. I am on the J bar. I got Lentz DNA from 100 to 140. My mom matches Anita from 114 to 144. That means that I should match Anita from 110 to 114 as my green Rathfelder/Gangnus X Chromosome inheritance starts at 110. When I check gedmatch for an X match with Anita, at first I didn’t get a match. That is because gedmatch sets the SNP level for matching higher than  the other chromosomes. When I lower the SNP level, I get this match with Anita on the X Chromosome:


Anita and Catherine’s Mystery X Chromosome Match

At first, I thought that I had stumped myself with this one, but I figured it out. Anita’s largest X Chromosome match is with her 1st cousin once removed Catherine:

I confused myself by the way I drew the DNA inheritance map:

Here it looks like the X Chromosome is traveling from Leo to Catherine’s father which is impossible. After posting a question to the ISOGG Facebook Page, I figured it out. Obviously Leo had a wife, Lidia Vasiljeva. This DNA was from her. I was focused on the Rathfelder side and forgot the Vasiljeva side that I’m totally unrelated to. So if Anita and Catherine are ever sitting around pondering their X Chromosome match with each other, they will now know that their match is a Vasiljeva match. Mystery solved.

Here is Marie (Maria?) Gangnus.

Other matches with Anita are from Marie Gangnus or her Rathfelder husband and we can’t identify which. Matches with Anita and my family on the X Chromosome would be from Marie’s DNA.

Other DNA Matches

This could be a topic for further research. Gedmatch has a way to look for people that match two other people. In this case, I’ll choose my mom and Anita. When I put these two names into the Gedmatch Utility, I came up with a short list including myself and my siblings.

One prominent DNA match was David. He matched my mom and Anita. This chromosome browser is from the perspective of my mom:

On Chromosome 14, my mom matches #1 Anita, #2 Catherine and #3 David. David tested at Family Tree DNA, so I’ll check there. Unfortunately David has no tree posted at either FTDNA or Gedmatch, so I may write to say hi.

Anita and Astrid

I’m a bit puzzled by Astrid. I had written a few Blogs about her previously. The most recent Blog is here. It seems like the DNA is telling me that Astrid should be more closely related than she is.

This table gives different matches to Astrid. If I have the tree right, then all these people seem to be off by about one generation. At the time I wrote the previous Blog on Astrid’s ancestors, I had thought that the higher matches had something to do with her being related to the Gangnus family also.

Summary and Conclusions

  • I was pleasantly surprised to find Anita through DNA matching. I would like to find out more about her family.
  • I was able to match much more of my Rathfelder/Gangnus DNA thanks to Anita
  • X Chromosome matches that Anita and my family and cousins share is really Gangnus DNA coming through the Rathfelder male line.
  • It is possible that this DNA match with Anita will make it easier to find other Rathfelder relatives.
  • The Rathfelder family has been separated for over 100 years between Latvia, England, and the United State (and perhaps other places). Now thanks to DNA matches and the internet, connections are being made again.


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 gedmatch.com.
  4. The administrator of the match put the results up on gedmatch.com. 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 forbears.io, 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 Ancestry.com 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 gedmatch.com 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 gedmatch.com 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 gedmatch.com 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 gedmatch.com where you can see where the match is on the Chromosome and check for triangulation there.