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Using DNA to narrow down our History

My brother Ben and I have both taken tests from different companies. I'm sharing some screenshots to highlight the slight genetic differences between us, despite being brothers.

Ben and Tim's DNA Regions

Both Ben and I have 99% European DNA, but in different amounts.

Ben's DNA results from Ancestry

Ben's DNA results from 23&me

Timeline of DNA

You'll note that my specific results are slightly different, and even show some Israeli traits. Also, my results are weighted 79% toward the British isles, while Ben's are 32.3%.

In contrast, Ben is much more German: 48.2% vs my 16%. Moreover, Ben's eastern European traits are pronounced, while mine are not detected beyond trace amounts.

Tim's Regions from Family Tree DNA

My Family Tree DNA site also gave me a Chromosomal breakdown, which I'll use in the future to investigate the specific parts of my story.

Tim's Chromosome Painter

Why Are There Differences Between Brothers?

Without change something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken. - Dune

It is the result of DNA recombination. It's a remarkable way our bodies keep a link to the past while preserving genetic diversity. A part of our ancestors sleeps in us, waiting till called upon. The process is explained in the video below:

What specific regions are we from?

The 23&me results for Ben give a specific breakdown for two regions of high DNA concentration: Ireland/UK, and Germany.

Ben's Regions from Ireland, and UK

Ben's regions from Germany

How accurate do the regions match up with our Family Tree?

Let's compare our immediate family surname information with the maps above. My working family tree to date, is shown as a fan chart below; stretching back seven generations. The Gold are German born, Coral Irish, Pink Polish, and Blue American (note: Most of those were English settlers who came to America in the 1600-1700s).

Genetical speaking, the first 4-5 generations are the ones that matter most for DNA. So, I'll focus for now on my grandparents surnames. Will explore more deeply in the future.

Clustered of ancestors from Family Tree

These maps show the birth locations of our Family Tree ancestors. The numbers are a clustering technique, used to lump together multiple people in the same location.

Zoomed in view of South Germany

As the map zooms in, there is a more refined view by town of birth. Some family members only have a generic "Ireland" or "Germany" location, and are grouped in the center. Having precise birth locations helps greatly in determining origin.


The Lauffers are of the Reformed faith [Calvinism], and lived in the Rhine country, in the old Palatinate; and Heidelberg, its capital holds a place in family traditions. When the valley of the Rhine was devastated by French armies, the Palatines sought shelter in Switzerland, Germany, Holland; from the latter country many went to England, and thousands of them found an asylum on these shores, especially in Pennsylvania.

See the Laufer Gate, and the Laufer tower in Nuremberg. See also my posts on Edward Laufer, of the Dutch Reformed Church. Notably, Laufer is a common Jewish name, and a possible origin of our Ashkenazic DNA. The Ashkenazis were natives of the same River Rhine region during the Holy Roman Empire. Both Calvinists, and Jews faced conflict in Germany (see these maps for details) and were displaced .


FamilySearch: Gentner is a variant of Ganter

The origin of the name Gentner is uncertain. As far as I know, the name is first found in Germany. People with the name Gentner are recorded in Württemberg in the late 1300s. Several accounts say that the name Gentner is derived from the old German word Gantner, meaning auctioneer. If that is true, it would be a delightful irony, because around my home town of Springville, New York, the Gentner Livestock Auction is a colorful and widely known landmark... Andreas Gentner of Geislingen, Germany writes that in an old bavarian dialect, Gantner meant a "debt collection agent", giving us another possible origin for the name. If you would prefer a more exotic origin for the Gentner name, Max Gottschald, in his book on the origin of German names... says that Gentner is related to the German word Gand, which derives from the old Norse words gandy (magician) and gandr (werewolf).


The name Conrey has changed considerably in the time that has passed since its genesis. It originally appeared in Gaelic as O Maolconaire, denoting a descendant of the follower of Conaire. However, this was not the only Gaelic name Anglicized Conroy; others were O Conraoi, Mac Conraoi, O Conaire, and O Conratha. The surname Conrey was first found in around Galway Bay, where counties Galway and Clare meet. The Conroys first settled in Lough Corrib and Lough Lurgan, the ancient names of two lakes which now constitute Galway Bay. In modern times, Conrys are also common in Leix and Offaly. There were several different septs whose Gaelic names were Anglicized as Conroy, the most important of which was O Maolconaire.


The ancient name Heron is a Norman name that would have been developed in England after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. This name was a name given to a person who was long legged or of tall stature. The name Heron is derived from the Old English word heiroun, which meant heron. Alternatively, the name originated in Heron, near Rouen in Normandy and some of the family arrived with William the Conqueror. "Tihel de Herioun was of Essex, 1086. [1] Odenel Heron, temp. William Rufus (third son of William the Conqueror), witnessed a charter in Durham. "


Taking the tests and comparing them gave me an appreciation to my family connections, while reinforcing our individual differences. The results matched up with my expected past from surname and genealogic research, while also offering potential insights I would not have considered. For example, the Costellos in our tree were from Ireland, but Costello is an Anglo-Norman name. Rose Savage (an early Conrey) was from Ireland, but the name has a French origin. As I continue to fill in tree, I look forward to uncovering more of these stories, and, who knows; maybe one day a Laufer who looks like a Costello will enjoy it.

From Left to Right: Ben, Chris, Tim, Jon, Nana, Dad, Rachel, Mom, Jeremiah

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