Genealogy is the determination of how one generation is connected to the next using evidence from valid sources resulting in the establishment of an ancestral lineage for a family. Genealogists gather this generational evidence from oral interviews, historical records, genetic analysis and other records to demonstrate (or prove) kinship among the members of a family. Adding biographical, community and country information for family members results in a family history. Genealogists pursue family history to satisfy a desire to show how one’s family fits into the larger picture of history, and to preserve the past for future generations.  One way to present family history is through a family tree (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Illustrating the structure of a family tree

Members of the Sons or Daughters of the American Revolution (SAR or DAR) have proven their kinship to a patriot ancestor who served in the American Revolution. That means that they have proven their lineage by tracing their family history back through all generations linking to their patriot. Prospective new SAR and DAR applicants must do the same to gain membership. A convenient way to represent this patriot lineage tracing is through a family tree, or more precisely, a pedigree tree since only you and your direct ancestors back to your patriot are needed for your SAR application. A pedigree tree only shows you, your parents, your parents’ parents (your grandparents), and so on back to your patriot ancestor (Figure 2). That is, a pedigree tree does not show your siblings, aunts, uncles, great aunts,

Figure 2. A pedigree tree shows only your direct ancestors

great uncles, etc. because they are not part of your patriot lineage tracing. However, putting information about siblings, aunts and uncles in your tree may help identify additional information about your direct ancestors. This is because as your direct ancestors age, they sometimes go to live with other family members such as a brother, sister, son, daughter or an in-law. In such cases your direct ancestors will show up in these other family members’ census data. If you do choose to build out your tree this way the amount of data collected grows quite rapidly and data management becomes challenging– all the more reason to take advantage of online or computer-based tree-building tools.

Also, be aware that your patriot ancestor may occur on any branch of your pedigree tree – not just on your surname line. In fact, only about 10% of SAR members actually have a patriot ancestor who shares their surname. So be sure to trace all branches of your pedigree tree before you conclude that you do not have a patriot ancestor.

One of your most valuable genealogy resources is oral family history. Your living relatives – father, mother, uncles, aunts and grandparents – know your family history because they lived it. Ask them to tell you about their history and what they remember about their ancestors. Take notes on the information they tell you: write down ancestor names, their birth, marriage and death dates, where they are buried, where they came from and places where they lived, who else was in their families, what kind of work they did, their military history, and who is related to who across as many generations as they can remember. Write it all down and then review your notes with them for corrections and additions. They will probably remember new details the next time they think about the old times. Conduct these oral interviews as soon as you can, especially among your older relatives. Remember, when these folks are gone, your oral link to the past is gone too. Try to validate the information they have told you. When we age, our memories can fade. Your old family members may not remember everything correctly so what they relate to you, and what you write down, may not be completely accurate. But treat this oral family history as a strong guidepost and use it to help you recover verifiable details of your past generations.

Before you start building your pedigree link to your patriot ancestor from scratch, consider the following question: “Do you know, or suspect, who you patriot ancestor might be?” If so, tell your SAR registrar/genealogist because he can look the person up and see if he is already in the national register of known patriots. If he is, that means one or more other of his descendants has already proven their linage to him, and that may save you some effort if you can piggyback on the pedigree links they have already proven. Your SAR registrar can pull those other applications to help you determine this. If you are lucky, you may not have to reinvent the whole wheel – just add a few spokes!

Historical Records

If you do decide to build a family tree, start by writing down: 1) your full name and when and where you were born; 2) your father’s and mother’s full names, their birth dates and locations and, if deceased, their death dates and locations; and 3) the same information for your four grandparents. Continue extending your family pedigree to earlier and earlier generations until you either reach your patriot ancestor or run out of information.   It may help to enter your immediate family information into an online family tree such as provided by or unless you already have your pedigree tree recorded elsewhere all the way back to your patriot ancestor. You can set up a family tree at one of these online genealogy websites for free (or for nominal cost if you want to utilize search features – heartily recommended). These online resources provide large genealogy databases that can really help you identify and provide important information about your earlier ancestors. Remember, it is not sufficient to just record your ancestors’ names, birth and death dates: you must also provide information that proves your relationships to them to establish your pedigree. To do that you’ll need official documentation for each generation that provides the proof, beginning with yourself and spouse (if any), such as: birth and death certificates; marriage licenses; baptismal and bible records; US and state census records (dated 1850 and later); land records; tax receipts, wills and other published family histories. A lot of this information can be obtained online. Often it is free or is provided in the cost of your membership with a genealogy group such as When not directly available from online genealogy databases, birth, marriage and death certificates can usually be purchased for a nominal cost from the vital records department of the state and county where the event occurred.

From 1850 until 1940, US Census records are very useful official documents for establishing pedigree because they list individual household members at a specific location (state, county, district) at a specific time (the date the census data were recorded) by name, age, birth date, birth place starting with the head of household (usually the father/husband), wife, children and any other people living with the household including relatives and others such as farm laborers, servants, boarders, etc. Children linked to their parents by name in a census record, officially connects one generation to another. Usually the state or country (if foreign-born) where the father and mother of each household member were born is also listed. If a household member is foreign born, the immigration or naturalization date may be given. If a household member arrived at the census location from another state, then the state where they came from is sometimes noted. The relationship of household members to the head of household is specified in the census record (head, wife, son, daughter, grandson, etc.) along with their current marital status (married, widowed, single). Figures 3 and 4 provide examples of the 1940 and 1850 US Federal Census records.

Figure 3a. An example of a 1940 US Census showing the left side of the record page

Figure 3b. An example of a 1940 US Census showing the right side of the record page

Figure 4. An example of an 1850 US Census record

The 1850 US Census shown in Figure 4 is for William R Wiggins of Henry County, TN.  Notice that it shows him, his wife Susan and a son, James C. Wiggins.  This record shows the ages, sex, occupation and birth state.  From this record one can determine that William R Wiggins was born in North Carolina in 1823 and that he is a farmer in Henry County, TN in 1850.

Unfortunately, prior to the 1850 US Census only the head of household is listed by name. The only other information provided for a person in a pre-1850 census is their approximate age within 5-year age windows, whether they are male or female and whether they are free white or slave (black). An example of an 1830 US Federal Census (which covers two pages) is shown in Figures 5 and 6. As a result of this unspecific nature of pre-1850 census information, these records do not provide clear pedigree

Figure 5. The left page of an 1830 US Census record

Figure 6. The right page of an 1830 US Census record

linkage and so are not accepted as official records by the SAR. But pre-1850 census records, like this 1830 census, can be used to pinpoint the location of the head of household as of the census date. Let’s take a closer look at this 1830 census. This record is for Reuben Wiggins. Notice that only his given name appears in this family record; the names of the other family members do not appear.  The left page of the record (Figure 5) shows that Reuben’s family lived in Humphreys County, TN and totaled 12 members, 8 male and 4 female-all white. The male and female family members fell into the age groups shown. There was 1 male in the 40-50 yrs. group (Reuben), 1 female in the 20-30 yrs. group (Ruth), 2 males in 0-5 yrs., 3 males in 5-10 yrs., 1 male in 10-15 yrs., 1 male in 15-20 yrs., 1 female in 0-5 yrs., and 2 females in 5-10 yrs.  Figure 6 presents the right page of the census record for Reuben Wiggins. It shows the male slaves, the female slaves, free colored persons (male and female) and lastly, the total of all on both pages. The age groups shown are 0 up to 10 yrs., 10 to 24 yrs., 24 to 36 yrs., 36 to 55 yrs., 55 to 100 yrs., and 100 and upwards. Figure 6 shows that Reuben had no slaves and that there were 12 total people in the family including those on the left page.

Prior to 1850, slaves were listed as part of the US Federal Census. In 1850 and 1860 there were separate US Census records for slaves. Slaves were listed under the surname of the slave owner or holder. Slavery was abolished as a result of the Civil War so in US Census records dated 1870 and thereafter slaves no longer appear.

The first year a US Census was recorded was 1790, the first decade following the end of the American Revolution with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Independently of the US Census, some states (or colonies) acquired census data before and after 1790 and they also help establish where your ancestors lived at the time the census was taken. After 1790 the US Census has been repeated every 10 years up to the present time. However, the 1940 US Census is the latest one that has been released. The 1950 US Census will be released in April of 2022. US Census records are recorded by state, county and district (sometimes denoted by a Post Office location). As mentioned, before 1790 and up until the early 1900s, some states conducted their own census independently of the US Census. These state census records, where they exist, were also taken at 10-year intervals but at the half-decade points rather than on the even decades. That’s really great because when such records are combined with US census records, they narrow the time interval gap on a given person’s location and household member information to every 5 years instead of every 10 years. Such combined records can help you track your ancestor’s movements on a finer scale. This finer time scale is important because people can grow up, die, and marry between census periods. Figures 7 and 8 provide an example of a two-page 1905 Kansas State Census for Oscar Olson, son of B F and Ida Olson. Given his age and different surname, Will Dunn is probably a farm laborer living with the Olson’s and thus is included in the census as a family member, but is probably not related (but no way to know for sure from this record alone). Reference line No. 19 in Figures 7 and 8 is for BF Olson.  From other data, eg., later census records, we know that “BF” is Benjamin F.  Line 19 of Figure 8 shows that BF was born in Norway and that he came to Kansas from Wisconsin; his wife, Ida was born in Iowa and came to Kansas from Missouri; and son Oscar was born in Kansas. Laborer Will Dunn was born in Kansas.  You can see how useful this information is in tracking the movements of your ancestors.

Figure 7. Example of a state census record showing the first page

Figure 8. Example of a state census record showing the second page

A major problem hindering your genealogy research is that the 1890 US Census was mostly lost due to a fire in Philadelphia where the records were kept. This means that there is 20-year gap from 1880 to 1900 where there is almost no information on your relatives from census records. A lot can happen in a 20-year interval.   For example, a female can be born, grow up for 10 or 15 years, marry between age 15 to 19 (which young women often did in those days) changing her surname to that of her spouse, and never show up in any census record under her traceable surname! Unless they are born and die in the 20-year interval, males don’t have that problem. They and their family will show up in the next census just fine and can be tracked. You can conveniently access US Census records online using and other search engines. Also, some state census records are accessible similarly. Libraries, and especially genealogy libraries, also provide census records that you can search.

You need to be aware of two things about census records: 1) the person providing the information about the family at the census location may not be head of household or even a relative or, even if so, may not provide completely accurate information; and 2) the census taker may not hear, spell or record all of the information correctly. Common errors include: misspelling the surname; misspelling the given name of a family member or recording a nickname instead of a given name; giving the wrong birth date; giving the wrong birth state; and forgetting a family member. Sometimes the head of household may even spell his surname differently from one census to the next. Census records are handwritten. Sometimes the writing, even if correct on the census page, may not be completely legible. The result can be misinterpretation of the data. When you search census records, you need to be aware of these issues. There are ways to overcome them. For example, when you search census records for an individual and you don’t find a certain record year for the person, change the way you spell their surname and search again. Search on every variant of the surname that you can think of. Sometimes you get lucky. Usually you can tell if you have the right person because the given names of the other family members will match the ones in earlier or later census records for the person being searched. Sometimes the first letter of a surname is misspelled in the census record. In this case, you can search each family line by line in the census for the state, county and district the person lived in previously. If they haven’t moved or died since the last census, you may be able to find them this way by finding the family that matches the given names, birth dates, birth states, etc. Check to see if the surname found sounds phonetically like the real one. If so, you have probably found the correct person.

Other records can augment or help bridge gaps in census data. A duly recorded will that mentions a person by name and indicates their relationship to the deceased can provide an official record even if no census data exists for that person. Wills, probates, estates and guardianships records can be searched by state and county for individuals. Bible records also can identify family members who may or may not show up in census records. Bible records can provide official records of pedigree, but only if certain conditions are met: one must provide a copy of the bible cover, the copyright page and the page showing the birth, marriage or death information of the person being researched. Unless one has the actual bible one typically does not have, or have access to, these first two pieces of data.

Death certificates can be especially useful because they are official records and typically list the birth and death date of the deceased, the location where the death occurred, the cause of death and burial location, the spouse, and the mother and father of the deceased. So, death records can link the generation of the deceased to the previous generation (the parents of the deceased). Most states began requiring and keeping death certificates in the early 1900’s. Unfortunately that means, in researching ancestors who died during the 1800’s, there probably will not be a death certificate. Figure 9 is an example death certificate.

Figure 9. An example of a death certificate

Published family histories and state and county records can also provide official records for family members. When using this data, be sure to include copies of the cover page and copyright page of the document as well as photocopies of the pages containing your pertinent family information.

Land records for individuals provide official documents and can be accessed and searched online; these records include:

U.S. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900
U.S. General Land Office Records, 1796-1907
U.S., Indexed County Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1918
U.S., Indexed Early Land Ownership and Township Plats, 1785-1898
(State) Land Records
U.S. Bounty Land Warrants
(State) Homestead and Cash Entry Patents

Often you can find the actual deeds, plat maps and location of lands where your ancestor lived.

Tax receipts and tax lists for individuals that provide official documents and can be accessed and searched online include:

(State) Early Tax List Records, typically late 1700s – late 1800s
U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862 – 1918

Sometimes tax receipts will be found among probate records in a deceased ancestor’s estate. Tax receipts for land typically were paid annually and provide the location of the person’s land (range, township, section and lot numbers), the acreage, the levy rate and the amount of tax paid. It can be a lot of fun to use this information to actually pinpoint where your ancestor lived on a plat map and then Google it to see what it looks like today. Figure 10 is an example 1852 tax receipt for plantation land in Claiborne County, MS paid by Martha Browne. The receipt was found among papers filed on behalf of the Estate of John Browne, deceased, her late husband.  Knowing the county, township, range, section and lot numbers (as shown on this tax receipt), you can go to the Bureau of Land Management records online for Claiborne County, MS and find the land deeds and plat maps to pinpoint the actual location of this 753 acre Browne Plantation at Grand Gulf, MS near the banks of the Mississippi River in Claiborne County.

Figure 10. County land tax receipt showing the land location and amount of taxes paid

Family trees posted online at genealogy sites can help provide information about an ancestor, either as a check on information you already have or when other search methods fail to provide information that you do not have. But you need to be careful about using information from these sources because it may or may not be accurate. There are two types of family trees: public and private. Anyone can access a public family tree and search for their ancestors. A private family tree can only be accessed if permission is granted by the tree’s owner. Sometimes a tree is private because the owner knows some information has not been verified and doesn’t want to share possibly inaccurate data with the public. If you contact them for permission they will often grant you access with that caveat. When using online public or private family trees as sources to extend your own family tree about an ancestor you should consider the following. Is the ancestor’s data self-consistent with facts that you already know such as the person’s birth, marriage and death dates and locations, other family members (father, mother, spouse, children and siblings)? How many sources does the tree reference to back up the data provided in the tree? The more sources and attached media the better. How many trees provide the same information? Beware, many tree builders just copy and repeat the same information about a person, so the fact that many trees agree with each other does not mean that the information provided is true or accurate. So, whenever you use information from someone else’s family tree always treat it as unproven hypothesis until hopefully you can verify it in the future. Now you might ask, “If the online tree information may be wrong, why use it?” The answer is that by using it, with caveats, it may prompt you to explore areas or people that you would not have known about and, in so doing, may actually lead you to uncover the correct information about your ancestor. For example, family trees can help you identify who your ancestor’s parents were in case you didn’t know. You can then use the parents’ trees to extend your ancestor search farther back in time.

Cemetery records including cemetery name and location, grave marker inscriptions and photographs of markers provide long-lasting proof and record of the existence of an ancestor – and often also of his or her deceased family members. Markers usually give the person’s birth and death dates and sometimes the spouse’s name. Quite often, even when inscriptions on markers are no longer legible, the cemetery provides a list of the people buried there and their inscription or pedigree information. Occasionally the dates on headstones and other records are different.  Sometimes a headstone will show a person’s second name or nickname.  You can usually access cemetery records online through the county in the state where the deceased is buried; or you can contact the county genealogy archives for the cemetery records. An especially useful online tool is U.S., Find A Grave, 1600s – Current. Often that site will provide a list of the deceased family members and an obituary.

As you trace your lineage you will sometimes find that military records can provide very useful data on your ancestors. Military records are also official documents and can be accessed online at genealogy sites such as, and even more extensive military records are available at Ancestry’s for an extra cost. Information available with the basic subscription includes draft, enlistment and service records; casualties; prisoner rolls; and pension records, such as:

U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917 – 1918
U.S., Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889 – 1970
U.S., Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783
Abstract of Graves of Revolutionary Patriots
U.S., War of 1812 Service Records, 1812 – 1815
U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942
U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938 – 1946
U.S., Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863 – 1865
U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861 – 1865
U.S., Civil War Prisoner of War Records, 1861 – 1865
Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 1861 -1865
U.S., Marine Corps Muster Rolls, 1798 – 1958
U.S., World War II Navy Muster Rolls, 1938 – 1949
U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940 – 1947
U.S., Confederate Soldiers Compiled Service Records, 1861 – 1865

Draft registration and enlistment records often reveal where the person lived, age, date of enlistment and his parents and spouse, if married. Casualty records may reveal when and where an ancestor died and is buried.

Newspapers can provide another very useful source of historical records about your ancestors – especially published obituaries and sometimes stories. Many of these resources are available online, either directly from a particular newspaper website or from repositories of newspapers accessible from genealogy site such as provides a separate database of over 4,700 historical newspapers from the 1700s – 2000s for extra cost at Many pages are added to this database every month. There are several other online historical newspaper databases you can subscribe to.

Genetic Analysis

Today, you are indeed fortunate to have a relatively new and very powerful tool available to help you establish pedigree with your ancestors: DNA. Your DNA contains a genetic history of all of your ancestors – back to your patriot ancestor – and beyond. In a very real sense your DNA is the genetic equivalent of your historical records described previously. Actually, your DNA is probably better because in all likelihood it contains fewer mistakes than your historical records! “How is this possible?” you may ask. It is actually very straightforward: you receive half of your DNA from your father and half from your mother; and they, in turn, each got half of their DNA from each of their two parents (your four grandparents); and your grandparents got their DNA from their parents (your eight great-grandparents). This sequence of DNA inheritance from the previous generation continues back in time through all your generations. So, you are literally a combination of the DNA of all of your direct ancestors. This means that you share DNA with your patriot ancestor. What if there was something unique in your patriot ancestor’s DNA that you inherited in your DNA that would signify your kinship? If you are male and your patriot ancestor shares your surname, the answer is: there is! It is called the Y-chromosome. The Y-chromosome is passed by a father only to his son(s) through each and all generations. Women do not have a Y-chromosome. This means that, as long as you are male, you inherited, through your father and his direct male ancestors, the Y-DNA of your male patriot ancestor. As this Y-DNA was passed down through the generations, mutations occasionally occurred – errors in the genetic code of the DNA – and these errors, called “markers”, got passed along as well. These markers are used to compare your Y-DNA with that of other males to find a common ancestor. Here is how Y-DNA helps you identify your patriot ancestor. First, you take a test to determine your Y-DNA by submitting a simple saliva sample to a DNA testing company such as Family Tree DNA. Then, when you receive your test results, you logon at Family Tree DNA and look at your Y-DNA matches. You can choose to have your Y-DNA tested at a number of different marker levels: 12, 25, 37, 67 and 111. The higher the level of markers you choose, the more precisely it is that a match to a shared ancestor will occur within a certain number of generations. The cost of the test increases as the marker level increases. You should start at 37 markers; if you find that you match with someone else at a genetic distance (GD) equal to zero (GD = 0) at this level, then consider upgrading your Y-37 DNA test to the 67 marker level. It is simple to do; you will not even have to submit another DNA sample. Genetic distance is simply the difference in the number of markers that your Y-DNA results match with someone else’s. A GD = 0 means that you are a perfect match with the other person: all 37 out of 37 markers match at the Y-37 DNA test level. A GD = 1 means that you match with the other person to 36 out of 37 markers. If you match someone else at a GD= 0 or 1 at the Y-37 DNA level, it means that you both are tightly related through a common ancestor within about the last 8 – 10 generations. It means that the two of you share that ancestor’s Y-chromosome! This means that your shared ancestor is an n-great grandfather, where n is the number of generations you have to go back to find him.

So how does all this information help you prove your linage to your patriot ancestor? Figure 11 helps to explain.

Figure 11. A Y-37 DNA match at GD of 1 – 2 means you both must be related through your shared patriot ancestor

In the example, suppose your patriot ancestor and his wife had 6 sons and a daughter and that you descend from Son 5 who happens to be your 3rd great grandfather while your match descends from Son 3 who happens to be his 4th great grandfather. Your patriot’s Y-DNA is transferred to each of his six sons (but not to his daughter). Each of the six sons transfer the Y-DNA they received from their father to their sons who, in turn, transfer their Y-DNA on down through the generations until you and your match receive it. Further suppose that comparing your Y-37 DNA test results shows that you and your match both have a genetic distance (GD) of either 0, 1 or 2. The chart at the bottom of the figure shows that the two of you are related at any of these three GDs. The lower the GD, the tighter is your relationship. A match at any of the three levels means you share a common male ancestor and he can only be your patriot ancestor. At the Y-37 DNA test level, if your GD is 6 or greater, you are not related, but if it is as high as 4, you are still probably related. Testing at higher marker levels means that the genetic distance between you and your matches can increase beyond 4 and you will still be related. For example, a match at the 67-marker level at a GD = 6 means you are related.

One thing to keep in mind: since the Y-chromosome is passed from father to son, if your patriot ancestor had brothers (or his father had brothers – your uncles), then they also have the same Y-chromosome as your patriot. And all of the brothers’ (and uncles’) descendants would also inherit the same Y-chromosome, right on down the line until today. This means that you must show that both you and the person you match with are really in your patriot’s line and not in the lines of his brothers or uncles. You must show that the pedigree trees of yourself and your Y-chromosome match both lead back to your patriot ancestor.  Another thing to remember is: the Y-chromosome technique only works when your patriot ancestor shares your surname!  If your patriot ancestor is on a branch of your mother’s line, or your paternal grandmother’s line, Y-DNA will not help you.

Another type of DNA test very useful in genetic analysis is the test of your autosomal DNA. This test is available for both men and women and surveys connections along all of your family lines – both maternal and paternal. The test results provide information about your ethnic mix (i.e., the percentage of your ancestry that comes from Western or Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, etc.) and it helps to identify cousins (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) on any line. Autosomal DNA resides in the nucleus of each cell in your body and contains twenty-three pairs of chromosomes. Twenty-two of these matched pairs of chromosomes are called “autosomes,” while the 23rd pair determines your sex (male or female). Your autosomal DNA is inherited from both of your parents, and includes random contributions from their parents, grandparents, and so on. Therefore, your autosomes essentially contain a complete genetic record, with all branches of your ancestry at some point contributing a piece of your autosomal DNA.

Here is how it works. For each of your twenty-two pairs of autosomal chromosomes, you received one from your mother and one from your father. Before they passed these chromosomes down to you, the contents were randomly jumbled in a process called “recombination” (this is why you and your siblings are all a little different from each other). Your parents, in turn, received their chromosomes from their parents (your grandparents). Your autosomal DNA, therefore, contains random bits of DNA from your great-grandparents, great-great grandparents, etc. Close relatives will share large fragments of DNA from a common ancestor. Connections with more distant relatives will result in smaller fragments of shared DNA. The smaller the fragment of shared autosomal DNA, generally the further back the connection in your family tree.

Autosomal DNA tests for genetic genealogy are provided by a number of companies including 23andMe, Family Tree DNA (the Family Finder test) and AncestryDNA. The Family Finder test and the AncestryDNA tests are both genealogical DNA tests which give you matches with genetic cousins and also give you ethnicity percentages. The 23andMe test is a genealogical DNA test but also provides information on health and traits. Taking the test is simple: you sign up with one of the companies above, receive your kit in the mail, return a saliva sample in the prepaid mailer, and wait 4 – 6 weeks for your test results.

To illustrate what you can learn from an autosomal DNA test, Figure 12 is an example of ethnicity test results received by Susan from AncestryDNA. On her father’s side, Susan’s more recent ancestors were from Norway (Scandinavia) and Great Britain, and on her mother’s side, they were from Germany (Europe West).

Figure 12. An example of a person’s ethnicity as determined by an autosomal DNA test

Susan’s ethnicity is mostly Great Britain (42%), then nearly equal Europe West (26%) and Scandinavia (24%). She also has some Irish (2%) and Italy/Greece (2%). Her trace ethnicities are Finland/Northwest Russia, Europe East and Caucasus. Because of her trace Caucasus ethnicity, she is only 99% Europe ethnicity. Susan’s ethnicity has contributions from 9 different regions.

As was mentioned previously, your autosomal DNA is inherited from both of your parents, and includes random contributions from their parents, grandparents, and so on. You received one-half of your DNA from each parent, you received one chromosome from your mother and one from your father for each of your twenty-two pairs of autosomal chromosomes; but they were randomly jumbled through the process of recombination. Therefore, while your autosomes essentially contain a complete genetic record, with all branches of your ancestry at some point contributing a piece of your autosomal DNA, your particular DNA record (your genome) will be different from that of your siblings. This is why each sibling is unique even when they each get half of their DNA from each parent. These interesting results are shown graphically in Figures 13 and 14. Figure 13 shows actual autosomal DNA ethnicity results for parents, Dan and June, and their three children, Bob, John and Audrey.

Figure 13. Results from autosomal DNA testing that show how children inherit the ethnicities of their parents

The three major ethnicities for Dan and June are the same: Europe West, Great Britain and Ireland account for 96% of Dan’s and 71% of June’s ethnicities.

These three regions dominate the ethnicities inherited by their children: Bob (85%), John (82%) and Audrey (86%). Yet, notice how uniquely different the ethnicities of the children are.

Dan’s ethnicity is 100% European: his 4% trace ethnicities, Finland/Northwest Russia (2%), Iberian Peninsula (1%) and Europe East (1%), are all European.

June’s ethnicity is 96% European of which 71% is Europe West, Great Britain and Ireland. Her remaining 29% ethnicities are: 26% European (Iberian Peninsula (7%), Scandinavia (11%), Europe East (3%) and Italy/Greece (5%)); 1% Caucasus; 2% Africa North; and 1% Asia Central.

Dan does not have Scandinavia or Italy/Greece ethnicity and June does not have Finland/Northwest Russia ethnicity, but Bob, John and Audrey have all three, so they inherit Scandinavia and Italy/Greece ethnicities from June and Finland/Northwest Russia ethnicity from Dan. Bob gets the most Italy/Greece ethnicity. John gets the most Scandinavia and Finland/Northwest Russia ethnicities. Audrey gets the most Iberian Peninsula ethnicity.

European Jewish mostly overlaps Europe East which accounts for traces in Bob and John.

Some of June’s trace Africa and/or Asia ethnicity goes to each child: Bob (3%), John (2%) and Audrey (2%).

The above results demonstrate how the parent’s DNA flows into and is distributed uniquely among the DNA of their children.

Figure 14 shows actual autosomal DNA test results for four brothers. Look at the variation among them leading to the uniqueness of each sibling.

Figure 14. Even though siblings inherit their ethnicities from their parents, each is unique.

All four siblings show significant Europe West and Ireland ethnicity. And all but Mark show significant Great Britain ethnicity. All four show some Iberian Peninsula and Europe East ethnicity. All but Sam show some Scandinavia ethnicity. But Sam shows more Finland/NW Russia ethnicity than any of the four (Mark shows none). All four siblings are 100% Europe ethnicity. Mark has the most Irish; Bill the least. Bill has the most Great Britain; Mark has the least. Mark is the only one who shows trace Italy/Greece ethnicity. Mark, Bill and Dave show 7 ethnicity regions; Sam shows 6 (lacking Scandinavia). Sam also shows Finland/NW Russia. While the four siblings are 100% Europe ethnicity, their individual ethnicities are all unique reflecting the fact that each inherited a different mix of their parent’s DNA. This is also why it is advantageous to enlist additional family members to take the autosomal DNA test. You will understand better why this is so after you review the next section on your DNA matches.

Another extremely important result that you receive from your autosomal DNA test is a list of DNA matches with others who have also taken the test. Your DNA is compared with everyone else’s DNA in the database (which can be a million or more!) to find the matches which then identify your relatives. All matches are prioritized by a confidence level that the person you share DNA with is actually related at a certain level (1st, 2nd, 3rd cousin, etc.). All matches through the 3rd cousin level reveal your immediate family members (mother, father, siblings, aunts and uncles) and close cousins. You can expect to have even more 4th cousin matches, and yet even more potential 5th cousin matches and beyond. The confidence of a match decreases as your cousins become more distant, and you may not be related at all to some of them. The thing that really helps is that you can actually contact the people you match DNA with, discuss family ties and examine their family trees. This can lead you to discover vital ancestors to add to your genealogy and family tree. You should strongly consider using autosomal DNA test results to help build your family tree. And since your siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins inherit different mixes of DNA from parents, you should also strongly consider enlisting as many of them as possible to take an autosomal DNA test and share the results with you. This will help ensure that a 2nd or 3rd cousin does not escape matching with at least someone in your group even if they fail to match with you.

How many generations are there between you and your patriot ancestor? The answer is that it depends on three things: your birth date; your patriot ancestor’s birth date; and the average generational period between you and your patriot. You know your own birthdate, but you can only know or estimate your patriot’s birthdate after you have identified him, and you can only estimate your average generational period after you have filled in a number of generations in your tree. The generational period is the time between one generation and the next. For example, it is the time between your birthdate and your parent’s birthdates, and the time between your parent’s birthdates and your grandparent’s birthdates, and so on. But wait; what happens if you have siblings; aren’t your parent’s birthdates different; and, don’t you have four grandparents – all with different birthdates? The answers are all or mostly all yes, so what you really want to know is: what is the average generational period. If you go to the trouble to actually calculate it, you will most likely find a number between 25 and 30 years for your average generational period. For example, suppose your birth year is 1941, your patriot ancestor’s birth year is 1755, and you determine your average generational period to be 29 years. Then, if you count yourself as generation #1 and add it to (1941-1755) years/29 years/generation, or 6.4 generations, you get 7.4 generations. Rounding the result, your patriot ancestor is generation #7. So your tree will need to go back seven generations from you to reach your patriot ancestor’s generation in this example. If you were born more recently than 1941, or your patriot ancestor was born earlier than 1755, or your average generational period was less than 29, the number of generations from you to your patriot could easily be 10 or 11. These examples serve as a rough estimate of how many generations you will need to go back in your tree to reach your patriot’s generation.

Another result of the previous discussion is that you can determine the number of your ancestors to check who might have been a patriot in generations 7 – 11. The number of your direct ancestors increases by a factor of 2 each generation as illustrated in Figure 15.

Figure 15. Your pedigree tree showing that the number of your direct ancestors doubles every generation

If you count yourself as generation 1, your parents as generation 2, your grandparents as generation 3, and so on, you can express this as 2n-1 direct ancestors per generation, where n is the generation number. So for n=1, yourself, 20 = 1 (you); for n=2, your parents, 21 = 2 (your two parents); for n=3, your grandparents, 22 = 4 (your four grandparents); and so on. For n = 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11, the most likely generations of your patriot ancestor, you have: 26 = 64 7th generation ancestors; 27 = 128 8th generation ancestors; 28 = 256 9th generation ancestors; 29 = 512 10th generation ancestors; and210 = 1,024 11th generation ancestors. Only one-half of your ancestors in each of these generations are male, so the number of male ancestors you may need to check to see if they were patriots is: 32, 64, 128, 256, and 512 for generations 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11. Wow, that’s a lot of possibilities and a lot of checking! But the reality is that it is unlikely that you will be able to extend your tree uniformly back across all these generations. Even so, if you include siblings in each generation, your tree can easily become quite large – including thousands of entries. This is why you should consider developing your tree using online resources (e.g.,; that will help you keep things better organized. This is also why it is very helpful for you to provide your SAR registrar/genealogist with as much direct ancestor information as possible. If you can provide the first three generations and indicate who you think may be your patriot ancestor, you will remove some of the research burden from him. Remember, your SAR genealogist is very likely to be simultaneously working on many other applications at the same time as yours. So, the more information you provide him, the more time he spends on your application, rather than on someone else’s who has not provided inputs, and the faster yours will be completed.

Another implication of Figure 15 is that if you have found one patriot ancestor, you may have others! Clearly, if you find that you had other direct ancestors living in America during the Revolutionary War period, then given the large numbers of direct ancestors possible in generations 7 – 11 means that there is a good chance that some of them were patriots too. Try to build out your tree in these generations to explore this possibility.

An Example SAR Application

So what does a completed SAR application look like? A completed SAR application is shown in the Figures 16 and 17. Here, Figure 18 is simply a list describing the documents accompanying the application. The actual documents themselves are sent with the application. These supplementary documents provide the detailed proof of the claims made on the two-page application and can total many pages.

Figure 16. Page 1 of a SAR application

Figure 17. Page 2 of a SAR application

Figure 18. List of attached documents that validate the claims in the application

Remember, your SAR registrar and genealogist is responsible for filling out and filing your application. Only he knows the precise manner in which to organize and present your data for formal review by the SAR. You will need to sign the application and initial all the accompanying pages of attachments.

Your registrar will mail your application with supporting documents to the state society, the Texas Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (TXSSAR) for applicants to our chapter, for initial review. If it is deemed complete, then TXSSAR forwards the application on to the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (NSSAR) in Louisville, KY where it is formerly processed. The review process by NSSAR takes about three months. When your application is accepted, you are issued a national SAR number. The registrar of the local chapter who submitted your application is notified by NSSAR of your acceptance, and the registrar then notifies you and together you set a date for your induction ceremony into the SAR.


Some important resources you will likely need to help you assemble your genealogy data to support your SAR application are listed in the sidebar and are elaborated below.

With over 2 million subscribers, provides access to approximately 16 billion historical records including more than 70 million user-generated family trees.   It is a privately held Internet company based in Lehi, Utah and is the largest genealogy company in the world. operates a network of genealogical and historical record websites focused on the United States and nine foreign countries and offers a wide array of genealogical related services. has indexed and scanned all of the United States Federal Census records from 1790 through 1940 into their database.  As a basic subscriber you can access these and many other records online. provides an excellent family tree builder online.  It is easy to learn how to use, very convenient and provides a clean user interface to their many databases.  Once you begin to enter basic family history data into your tree, Ancestry automatically searches their databases for information related to your inputs.  When new information is found for an individual in your tree, a “green leaf” signifying HINTS appears in the upper right corner by their name.  Clicking on the leaf opens a page listing all of the records found for that person.  When you review a hint, you have the option to accept or reject it (sometimes it will not pertain to your tree person).  This “green leaf” provides a powerful tool to help you automatically extend your tree.

AncestryDNA is a subsidiary of that offers autosomal DNA testing of men and women to identify their ethnic roots and relatives. “Click” here to see how the test works.  There are over 2.5 million DNA samples in the database.  You should consider taking the autosomal DNA test.  It provides another powerful tool that can help you build your tree.  Adding additional family members increases the effectiveness of this approach.

“Click” here for more detailed information about

Clayton Library

If you live in the greater Houston area you are indeed fortunate to have access to one of the best genealogical libraries in the United States: the Clayton Library of Genealogical Research.  Clayton Library is located at 5300 Caroline near the museum district (see map in sidebar).  The first floor contains the US State and County record books, computer terminals for online access to other genealogical sites, and the card catalog.  The second floor contains family history books arranged alphabetically by the last name of the primary family, census records on microfilm from 1870 – 1930 and state and county records on microfilm. Click on the links under Clayton Library in the sidebar to learn more about this local jewel.  Hint: Bring a thumb drive when you visit so you can download digital documents that you find online at other genealogy sites using Clayton’s computer portals.  Also, pay attention to the hours of operation because they vary day-to-day.

Family Tree DNA

Family Tree DNA, located in Houston, TX, is the logical choice if you plan on submitting samples for Y or mt DNA testing.  The Y DNA test reveals your matches to other descendants of your paternal ancestors (your father, his father, and so on).  The mt DNA test explores your maternal line of ancestors (your mother, her mother, etc.).  If you have identified your patriot and believe that you descend from him through your patrilineal line (he shares your surname), you should consider taking a Y-DNA test to search for matches with his other descendants.  Close matches found may help you prove your kinship to your ancestor.  Joining a Project devoted to your surname will let you compare your markers with others sharing your surname. You should probably start with a Y-37 DNA test (a test at the 37 marker level).  Based on what you discover (like really close matches with one or two others), you can always upgrade your test to one with a higher level markers later, without having to submit another DNA sample.  “Click” here to learn more about what Family Tree DNA has to offer., located in Salt Lake City, UT, is operated by the Mormon church.  It maintains one of the largest genealogical record repositories in the world.  Sometimes you will find that has records on your ancestors that other genealogy sites do not have.  Recently, established records sharing partnerships and myHeritage.  “Click” here to learn more about and how to use this excellent resource. is an online genealogy company with web, mobile, and software products and services. Users can create family trees, upload and browse through photos, and search billions of global historical records, among other features.  It supports 42 languages, has around 80 million users worldwide and has 35 million family trees on its website. is headquartered in Or Yehuda, Israel with additional offices in Tel Aviv, Lehi, Utah, and Burbank, California.

MyHeritage entered has a partnership to allow FamilySearch to use its technologies to allow its users to help find ancestors more easily.  The MyHeritage technologies are described briefly in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Summary of technologies used by MyHeritage

The MyHeritage online database includes census, birth, marriage, death, military, and immigration documents along with historical newspapers. The SuperSearch feature allows users to search through the site’s entire catalog of historical records to find information about potential family members. The SuperSearch page is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2.  The Search input page used by the MyHeritage SuperSearch technology

MyHeritage provides Family Tree Builder as free downloadable software to allow users to build family trees, upload photos, view charts and statistics, and other tasks.

Please “click” here for more information about Myheritage.