Thursday, December 23, 2010

Doubts about “Personal Genomics”

I chose Family Tree DNA for my Velten y-DNA project because they have the largest database of results and host over 6000 surname projects, and they specialize in genealogy and nothing else. But it was hard to resist the 23andme year-end $99 offer. The 23andme tests include an Ancestral portion, with samplings from both y-DNA and mt-DNA (and I think autosomal DNA), and a Health portion that will supposedly screen me for risks of disease and for traits like baldness. In fact, the marketing hype on the 23andme web site heavily pushes the health aspects of their testing and has caused increasing scrutiny from the FDA and Congress.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sweetwater Joe

I can sympathize with the struggle those who have difficult surnames have getting their names spelled correctly. Many immigrant families simplified and anglicized their names. Examples in my family tree include Backes to Bockis, Hüther to Hiither, Reiter to Rider, and Bischoff to Bishop. The Velten surname is simple and short, so you think it would not be a problem. But I have spent my lifetime spelling my name for people. It’s just a reflex now. Still, there are branches of the family that reverted to the Velton spelling. I just assumed they gave in, but I learned from an aunt that there is another story behind it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Navigation Aids for Genealogy Sites

One of the challenges I had in designing a genealogy web site was providing visitors with navigation aids that would let them access and understand the relationships being presented. There are over 7,000 persons included in the site, each presented by an individual narrative. The web site is built using John Cardinal’s SecondSite program, which creates the site directly from my TMG database. SecondSite automatically provides all of the standard hypertext features, including elaborate linking of persons to other persons, and to places and sources. In addition, it builds a master index, a surname index, and a place index with reverse links from a place to persons associated with that place.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Velten y-DNA Project on Family Tree DNA

In August, I finally took the plunge and had my DNA tested. At the same time, I decided to volunteer to administer a Velten surname project on Family Tree DNA (  What convinced me to try DNA testing was the increasing number of queries I was getting about possible relationships after my web site was published. Velten is a saint’s name, the Germanic form of Valentine, and occurs throughout Western Europe, in various phonetic spellings. There was migration around Europe and a lot of emigration to the United States and elsewhere. The Velten surname variants are not extremely common, but are not rare either. A search on just Castle Garden shows arrival records for 89 Velten, 5 Velton, 153 Felten, and 67 Felton immigrants (a total of 314). That’s a lot of people to keep track of.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Going to the West

This blog was created to allow me to write at greater depth about the tidbits of family lore and family history that I have collected from family members and my own research. The title of the blog is taken from a traditional American folk song, Going to the West. I'm partial to the Bill Staines recording, from his album of the same name. The song speaks to the determination of our ancestors to take a risk and seek opportunity in a new land.

In this fair land, I cannot stay,
Here labor is in vain
I'll leave the mountains of my birth
to seek the fertile plains,
I'm going to the West.