Me and my Neanderthal DNA

One of the interesting things that some DNA tests show is whether or not a person has Neanderthal DNA. I have about 2% of Neanderthal ancestry in my DNA, I don’t know from which side or both. It turns out about six billion people have about that much, and what it means is that as early humans migrated out of Africa oh a gazilion years ago, the genes recorded interbreeding events that took place at the early stages of that migration. So….early humans interacted and mated with Neanderthals who lived in Europe and parts of Asia. And my ancestry is completely of European origin. Interestingly the first Neanderthal skeleton that was found was in the Neander Valley near Dusseldorf, Germany (I am very German).

People of European, Asian and Australasian origin all have at least some Neanderthal DNA. It was thought African populations did not have the DNA but this was recently debunked as it was found for the first time that African populations do share some Neanderthal ancestry. Right now I’m reading a book “The Neanderthals Rediscovered”. It is a small but engrossing book and describes how the Neanderthals’ story is being transformed because of new fascinating scientific discoveries, including DNA.

Neanderthals have really gotten kind of a bad rap over the years. What scientists have been discovering is that while there are some differences in terms of skeletons, i.e., prominent brow ridges and protruding noses, etc., they may really not have been that different.

Some surprising facts about Neanderthals: they buried their dead and left grave markers; they were artists; they were extremely skilled hunters; they looked after sick and elderly family members; they had loud, high-pitched voices. However, one drawback is many modern day genetic illnesses likely came from them, one example being a gene that heightens the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

So the next time you tell someone they are acting like a Neanderthal, you might think twice about that. You may be be one of those six billion with Neanderthal DNA! 

Thanks for reading!

Dutch bingo redux! Slagboom side

Last weekend I spent an entire day researching/confirming information on my Slagboom side of the family and entering all of the data into my Legacy family tree software. This family is on my father’s side, Lena Slagboom married Cornelius Kros, they are my great-great grandparents. I really know nothing about Lena’s family but for the heck of it, I did a search for the name in my Ancestry DNA matches and linked trees. I was super excited to get one match, and it turned out to be a distant cousin living in the Netherlands. When I compared our trees I found the connection, and it goes quite a ways back to the early 1700s. Here’s a quick schematic—

Jan Andriesse Slagboom and Aart Andriesse Slagboom were brothers, born to Andries Janse and Geertje Jansdr (Rauda) Slagboom. They were five years apart —  Jan, the oldest, born in 1725; Aart born in 1738. I still need to confirm data through WieWasWie on their little family, but it looks like there were eight children, including the two brothers, and they grew up in Sliedrecht. Jan’s great granddaughter was Lena Slagboom, my great-great grandmother, and Annigje Slagboom was Aart’s great-granddaughter, my new friend’s great-great grandmother. So Jan and Geertje are our common ancestors and we are sixth cousins. Ancestry is correct in its prediction that according to our DNA we are somewhere between 5th – 8th cousins.

Here is Jan’s baptism record, which is of course, all in Dutch. “Get” is an abbreviation for “getuige”, which means witnesses.

And here is Aart’s baptism record:

Virtually all of the Slagbooms lived in Sliedrecht, which is located in the province of South Holland on the Merwde River and has a population of a little over 25,026.

The first IKEA in the Netherlands was opened in Sliedrecht in 1978 (which eventually closed), but what is really important about the town is the Netherlands would not exist without it and without dredging. Dredging was the backbone of the Dutch economy for centuries. The National Dredging Museum (called the National Baggermuseum) is in Sliedrecht and displays the town’s history and the importance of dredging to the country.

I sent my newly discovered cousin a message and he seems very nice and was happy to receive my message, and we have a little email correspondence going. He lives about 25 miles from Sliedrecht.

Thanks for reading!

German or Polish? Or both?

One of my cousins and I were texting just recently about whether or not Frank Winarski and his wife Julia were German or Polish. My cousin said they were Polish, but all of my records came up with Germany. I have always assumed Frank was of Polish descent because of his name. According to my research on names with the ending of -ski, these names are Slavic, and this is seen in varying degrees in different countries. -Sky, -ski, -skiy can be seen in Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia. These names can also be seen in German names in the eastern part of Germany and can also be found in the western part due to migrations.

In all of the federal and Wisconsin census records, Frank and Julia both indicated they were from Germany and each of their parents were from Germany. However, the 1930 census lists Frank as being born in West Prussia and speaking Polish. So this lead me to research a little bit into Germany’s very confusing geographic changes.

Since I didn’t know much about Germany in the nineteenth century, the one thing I learned is that before 1871, there was technically no “Germany”, the name Germany didn’t exist until that year. So searching for birth records for both of these people in Germany was pointless because they were both born before that year. Their obituaries both listed them as being born in Berlin so researching Berlin records made sense but as there are no Berlin records available before 1871, I turned to searching Prussian records. Unfortunately, I still have not found anything for Frank with his birth date, in any different name variations. For Julia, her name in their son Bernard’s birth record from Berlin is spelled as Julianna Lichnarewitz, so I tried researching that spelling and other variations. (Note the spelling of the Winarski name on this document was spelled as Wienarski).

I found nothing whatsoever with her exact birth date. However, I found one record in West Prussia for a Julianna Licknerowick, the birth date being just thirteen days different than what I have in my records (and the obituary). I just received both of their death certificates and the parents in Julia’s match the names for this Julianna Licknerowick, born in West Prussia. I’m having trouble finding anything with her father’s name, but I did a search for her mother, Anna, whose maiden name is listed as Isbrandt and found this record for another child, Adam, born in the eastern part of Prussia, which is now known as Poland: 

A little more of Germany’s history—before it came into existence as Germany in 1871, it was known as the Kingdom of Prussia. According to Wikipedia, Prussia is considered the legal predecessor of the Unified German Reich (1871-1945) and is a direct ancestor of today’s Germany. Prussia included half of modern Poland and all but southern Germany, and at one point included West Prussia, East Prussia, Brandenburg (including Berlin), Saxony, Pomerania, the Rhineland, Westphalia, non-Austrian Silesia, Lusatia, Schleswig-Holstein, Hanover, and Hesse-Nassau.

According to my DNA report, I have over 52% of French and German (including Netherlands) DNA. I also have 9.1% Eastern European DNA. Eastern European classification includes the countries Poland, the Czech Republic, Belarus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the Ukraine. However, the testing could not determine the specific locations of my Eastern European DNA, and ethnicity estimation is really still in its infancy and subject to limitations.

Recently, I contacted a fourth cousin on my DNA list with the last name of Winarski. She didn’t have a lot of information but referred me to her aunt, who is related to Paul Winarski, one of Frank and Julia’s children. She said that oral history passed down in her family is that Frank was born in Posen, Poland. She, like me, has been unable to find his birth record anywhere. She also confirmed the northern part of today’s Poland during the 1800’s was Prussia and controlled by Germany and that many of her Polish relatives on the other side of her family also stated in census records they were from Germany.

My library has a fantastic book on German boundary changes (The Family Tree Historical Atlas of Germany published by James M. Beidler). The map below is of Prussia between 1806-1905, and Posen is clearly a part of Prussia (see Bradenburg right next to it). The book said that as Prussia continued to grow, many people in the German states began thinking of themselves as members of one nation, rather than separate kingdoms and this is why we may see Germans from different parts of the region known as Prussian — so thinking about what my new friend said makes sense.

Currently, this takes an assumption — even if Frank happened to be perhaps born in the western part of Germany or Berlin, his family was very likely from the eastern Poland area. I will continue my search for the elusive Frank Winarski birth record!