Jacob Copple and Margaret (Blalock) Copple… Data Viz of their DNA-tested descendants

My Copple line was one of my “brick wall” lines, meaning I did not know the identities of  my great-great grandmother Libbie (Copple) Englehart’s parents, not to mention the fact I did not know for certain Libbie Englehart was even a Copple!  Thanks to DNA testing, it appears that the family oral history that Libbie was in fact a Copple appears to be true.

Below is a chart which shows Libby’s likely paternal grandparents Jacob and Margaret (Blalock) Copple, her father Ben and some of his siblings who have living descendants who have DNA-tested AND who match my mom.

I say “likely” paternal grandparents, meaning they are the best possible candidates for her grandparent

This particular data visualization is called the “McGuire Method” after Lauren McGuire, who developed it; her explanation of the chart can be found here.


What does this chart tell us?  It gives us an straightforward visualization of how the various descendants of Jacob and Margaret, my 4th great grandparents, relate to my mother and to me.

Jacob and Margaret are listed at the top, and are shown as the parents of Ben F Copple, Sarilda Copple, Jacob W Copple, and Sanford H Copple.  (Jacob and Margaret had 5 other children who reached adulthood, but those children either don’t have any descendants alive today, or don’t have descendants who have tested AND match my mom.)  Matching my mom is critical, if we are to use the DNA matches to validate the “paper trail” of documentation for the ancestors back to Jacob and Margaret.

Ben Franklin Copple is my 3rd great-grandfather, and the eldest son of Jacob and Margaret.  He was married twice — first to Phoebe Harvey, the mother of his 4 (possibly 5) daughters, and then to Susie, the mother of his 3 sons.  Libbie, my great-great grandma, and her sister Mary have descendants alive today who have gotten their DNA tested and match my mother and me.  In addition, a descendant of Ben’s son Nathan has tested and matches my mom.

Ben’s sister Sarilda has a descendant who has tested (called “M” on the chart), as does Ben’s brother Jacob Washington Copple.  Ben’s brother Sanford Howard Copple has numerous DNA-tested descendants, not all of whom are shown here.  Tested matches include descendants of Sanford’s daughter Margaret and Sanford’s son William. 

The two lines at the bottom of the chart are the key to the “McGuire Method” of visualization.  The first line shows the amount of DNA (in total centiMorgans) that my mom “A” shares with the tested cousin(s).   What is a centiMorgan?  The most simplistic explanation is that it’s a logical — not physical — unit of length of an unbroken sequence of the bases (adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C), and guanine (G)). 

Your longest unbroken string of base sequences for each of your chromosomes would be shared with your mom and your dad — that is, from one end of each chromosome to the other.  More distant relatives, like 3rd cousins, may share only one or two segments of DNA — or none at all.   (For more detail on centiMorgans, see here, here and here.)

Amounts of shared DNA highlighted in yellow on this chart are based on the AncestryDNA test; amounts highlighted in purple are based on FamilyTreeDNA’s test.  Below the centiMorgan (cM) amounts is the relationship (e.g., “4C” = 4th cousin, “2C1R” = 2nd cousin one generation removed).

Below my mother’s shared DNA amounts is my own shared amounts with those same cousins.  With certain matches, I inherited less than half of mom’s shared DNA; in other cases, I inherited essentially all of it.

Since I first created this chart, a descendant of another of Ben Copple’s sons — brother to Nathan shown on the chart — has had their DNA tested and shares DNA with my mom.  In addition, at least one descendant of a third child of Ben’s brother Sanford has tested, and they, too, are a match.   As additional descendants test — and match — my mother, this strengthens the case I am making (based on the paper trail) that this is Libbie (Copple) Englehart’s family — her dad, her paternal aunts and uncles, and her paternal grandparents.  And hence my mother’s family and my own as well.


James Diamantini: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, #2

My granddad was the youngest of 3 sons, born to Giuseppe Diamantini and Maria (Bolognesi) Diamantini in Sonoma County, California, on 16 October 1914.   My mother — his daughter – always said he was born in Calistoga, which is in Napa County, or in Mark West Springs, which is in Sonoma County.   The California Birth Index lists the county as Sonoma; I still (!) need to order the actual certificate, so I guess we’ll see.   

The U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936 – 2007, database online at Ancestry.com lists Grandpa’s birth place as Santa Rosa South, and his name as James Diamantine.  He made his application in 1942, and at this time, he and his brothers were Anglicizing their name from Diamantini to Diamantine.

I knew my grandfather’s name to be James Eugene, but I do not know the name he was born with.   According to the California Birth Index, a first name for my grandfather is not listed on the birth certificate.  However, on the 1920 census, his name is given as Trenton (which doesn’t sound very Italian to me, nor is it a family name that I know of.) 

1920 census, Sonoma County, California (click to zoom in)

My granddad’s two older brothers were Gaspare Antonio (aka “Gilbert”), born in 1904, in Italy, and Francis Angelo (known as Frank), born in January 1909, in Healdsburg, Sonoma, California.   Although the State of California required registering births as of July 1, 1905, there is no certificate for Frank.  My great-grandparents,  just recently in the U.S. – they arrived in 1908 – likely did not know “the routine”.     However, I do have a copy of Frank’s Social Security Application, on which he states his date and place of birth.

 I have not been able to find the family on the 1930 census (yet), but presumably they were living near Healdsburg, as my grandfather attended Healdsburg High as a member of the Class of 1934.   

While in high school, my granddad played football, and also met my grandmother, Elizabeth.

my grandparents

James and Elizabeth married on 22 November 1934, in Healdsburg, and then went to live in Tracy, California, where they worked at the service station owned by James’ older brother Gil.  My mother was born within two years of their marriage, and life was good, until Elizabeth died in 1940, after giving birth to a stillborn daughter.

my grandparents’ marriage certificate

After my grandmother’s death, my grandfather came back to the Hayward area, where his parents were living.  They fixed him up with an Italian woman his age who lived down the street from them, and the two were married in May 1941.  James and Jean (“Nonna”) had 6 children in the next 10 years.  

Grandpa worked in the shipping yards during World War II, and later worked with his brothers, who owned a lumberyard.   He was also a beekeeper, and, in the early 1970s, he and Nonna moved out to Manteca, California, where they had a ranch, and where he cultivated a vineyard.

But Grandpa began to suffer from Parkinson’s during the late 1970s, and so he and Jean decided to sell the Manteca property, and move back to Hayward.  I only saw my granddad a few times when I was growing up, and didn’t go out to California to see my mom’s relatives at all for a period from about the age of 10 to the age of 25.  

Grandpa’s Parkinson’s got worse over the years, to where he could barely walk and talk.   He died in May 1995, at the age of 80, in Hayward, and is buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Hayward, near his parents and his brothers.


Social Security Administration, “U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007,” database,
Ancestry.com (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60901 : accessed 11 January 2016), entry
for James Diamantine, 1995, SS no. 567-24-6586.

Social Security Administration, “U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014,” database, Ancestry.com (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=3693 : accessed 11 January 2016), entry for James Diamantine, 1995, SS no. 567-24-6586.

1920 U.S. census, Sonoma County, California, population schedule, Enumeration District 152, Santa Rosa, sheet 4, page 12B, dwelling 83, family 84, Joe Diamantini household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6742 : accessed 20 December 2018); citing National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) microfilm publication T625, roll 151.

“California Birth Index, 1905-1995,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VGQF-SHV : accessed 7 July 2016), Diamantini, 16 Oct 1914; citing Sonoma, California, United States, Department of Health Services, Vital Statistics Department, Sacramento.

Mapping your DNA segments to your ancestors


What is this picture telling us?  It is from a tool called DNA Painter (https://dnapainter.com/)  I am focusing on a specific set of segments on chromosome 2 on my mother’s side (hence the wide bar for chromosome 2 and the pink color for the chromosomes shown.)

Before using this tool, I had already gotten my DNA tested, as had both my parents, 2 of my siblings, and numerous known 1st, 2nd and 3rd cousins.  (Second cousins share a pair of great-grandparents; third cousins share a pair of great-great grandparents.)  In addition, I’ve already worked on determining who is the Most Recent Common Ancestor (MRCA) between my DNA match and me, using census records, vital records (marriage, birth, death), land deeds, and so on.

Based on my “paper” research and my DNA matches, each cousin (represented by a single color bar, except for cousin K in purple who has two bars) matches me, matches my mom, and matches each other.  This is known as triangulation (if A = B and B = C, then A = C) and is indicative of a shared ancestor (or ancestors) at some point back in time.  The paper research points to Richard Wright and his wife Ann (maiden name unknown) being the MRCA for all of us.

For some of the cousins above, the MRCA couple for them and me is Anna Patsy Wright and her husband Philip Copple (key = turquoise).  For other cousins, the MRCA couple is Richard Wright and his wife Ann (maiden name unknown) (key = orange).  Anna is the granddaughter of Richard and Ann, so in actuality, the segments assigned to her are segments she inherited from Richard or Ann.  (Thus, all the turquoise segments could in fact be colored orange.)

The point of using both turquoise and orange is to show that some of the people who match me are also descendants of Anna Wright, and other cousins (whose MRCA with me is Richard and Ann, rather than Anna and Philip) are descendants of someone other than Anna – specifically, from one of her paternal uncles or aunts.  (If they had descended from one of Anna’s own siblings, then the MRCA would not have been Anna’s grandfather but instead her father Amos Wright.)

Cousin K is being highlighted in purple to emphasize K’s two segments shared with me.  (If I were keeping to the color coding, one segment of K’s would be chartreuse, and one would be turquoise.)

Notice how the segments seem to be staggered; their starting ends line up.  These represent crossover points, here indicated by the vertical dark lines.  Since I inherited the entire segment from my maternal grandmother, it’s more likely these crossovers occurred sometime in the past, and represent segments inherited by her from different ancestors on the Wright line.


The teal segments, representing matches who have a Wright ancestor from Buncombe County, North Carolina, are unexpected matches.  Meaning, my maternal Wright line has no (apparent) tie to Buncombe County, NC –that’s too far west of where “my” Wright line lived.  That being said, because they match me and match the other cousins who are known to be Patsy Wright’s descendants and/or Richard Wright descendants, they must be relatives.  Our common ancestor likely goes back further than Richard – the fact that the segments are shorter than the others would seem to confirm that assumption.  (That being said, due to the randomness of DNA inheritance, there is not always a correlation between length of segment and distance of relationship.)


The as-yet-unknown ancestor segment is in chartreuse, and represents the segment of chromosome 2 from the first crossover (vertical line) to the second crossover.  I’ve labeled it “Waymire or Wright” in the legend, as it likely relates to my Wright line, and cousins who share this segment have Waymire/Wehmeyer ancestors in their tree.  And that matters because the Waymire and Wright families lived right next door to each other in Randolph County, NC circa 1770’s.  It’s the tiniest of clues to go on, and may not be accurate; more research, and more cousins tested, is needed to solve the puzzle.

The red arrow points to the “Richard Wright and Ann” segment.  What’s important to mention here is that I call it the “Richard Wright and Ann” segment because that’s as far back as I can determine.  Therefore, it’s a convenient label.  However, it may not actually have been inherited through the Wright line.  If the segment was passed down through Richard, but he inherited it from his mother, then it would technically be a “Becraft” segment, as Richard’s mother was Esther Becraft.  If the segment was passed down through Richard’s wife Ann, it wouldn’t be a Wright segment at all – but we don’t have a surname for Ann, so it’s easier to label this segment on chromosome 2 as a “Wright” segment.

The fun of mapping segments, though, is that it assists you in quickly figuring out how your DNA match may be related to you.  If I get a new match tomorrow, say, on MyHeritage, and they match me maternally on one of the segments shown above, I know they are related to me through my Wright line, and how far back is really the only question.  I don’t need to consider any of my other maternal ancestors.

Mapping can be done at a much closer level – assigning your 4 grandparents to segments of each of your chromosomes (1 – 22, and the X). You’ll need your siblings to test with you.   I will cover that in a later post.



Elizabeth Holst Diamantini: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, #1

This is what I know about my maternal grandmother — nearly nothing.

Elizabeth died young – 2 months past her 26th birthday –likely from deep vein thrombosis, as she she had been in the hospital lying in bed for 8 days after delivering a stillborn baby girl in Tracy, California, in August 1940.

My mother was only 4 at the time, and her only real memory of her mother was the day she came home from the hospital.   Her memories, as she’s told them to me, are like snapshots: My grandmother was helping my mother wash up for bed when she slumped over; the next thing my mother remembers is her own grandmother, Hazel, yelling to her, “Go get your father!”  And, finally, she remembers her father bringing her into the bedroom, where Elizabeth’s body was laid out on the bed, and was told to kiss her mother good-bye.  She didn’t want to – her mother was so still, with her skin growing cool.  It was scary.

And in the years afterward, no one talked about it.  No one.  Not her dad.  Not her grandmother Hazel, who buried her only daughter.  Not her granddad Charlie.  Not her uncle Bill, or uncle Sonny, who survived their sister.  That’s life, we can’t change the past, let’s move on.  You didn’t know her, how can you mourn?

The mystery of my grandmother’s existence – what was she like?  Who were her people?  — was really what drove me to genealogy.

Elizabeth May Holst was the middle child and only daughter of Charles and Hazel (Englehart) Holst, born on 25 June 1914, in Healdsburg, Sonoma, California.   Her brother Charles Junior (aka “Sonny”) was 5 years older, and her brother William (“Bill”) was 9 years younger.    There was a fourth child – a girl – stillborn in 1928.

Elizabeth’s parents referred to her as “Honey”; in her later years, her brothers-in-law would call her “Betty”.   (“Betty” is how I think of her, too, since I knew my grandfather’s brothers, and never knew her as a grandmother.)

Elizabeth_6thgradeClass - Copy

The girl circled in yellow is my grandmother, in the 6th grade.

Betty attended Healdsburg High, graduating in 1932.  I know she took Home Economics, as my mom has a bound set of handwritten notes and recipes Betty wrote down from class.


She may have taken music classes; in the above photo, taken in November 1930, she is playing the mandolin (third from right).

Grandma Mandolin

Grandma’s mandolin

Above is Betty’s mandolin, currently in my mom’s possession, on a rocking chair which belonged to Betty, and resting on a quilt Betty made.

Here is Elizabeth at 17, her senior picture:

Eliz age 17 - Copy

And below, is a photo from her high school graduation day.  She is at the ranch off Dry Creek Road, near Healdsburg.

Elizabeth_HSGraduation - Copy

It was in high school that Betty met James Diamantini, a first-generation American, whose parents were Italian Catholic immigrants from the Marche province of Italy.

Eliz and James - Copy

James and Elizabeth got married on 22 November 1934 in Healdsburg.  Elizabeth converted to Roman Catholicism prior to their marriage, and took the confirmation name of Catherine.  The strong Protestant heritage of my grandmother was something new I learned in my research and may explain why my great-grandmother did not attend her daughter’s wedding.

MyGrandparents_WeddingDay - Copy

My grandparents on their wedding day.

After the wedding, my grandparents moved down to Tracy, California, in San Joaquin County,  where they ran a gas station.

Elizabeth at Gas Station

It was in Tracy where my mother was born about 16 months after my grandparents were married.


Mom, as a baby, with her mother.

My grandmother got pregnant a second time in 1940; unfortunately, the baby girl was stillborn in August 1940 in Tracy.  Sadly, my grandmother passed away a week after the stillbirth, the day she came home from the hospital.  She was only 26 years old; my mother was just 4.


Elizabeth is buried in Oak Mound Cemetery, in Healdsburg.