Friday, December 2, 2011

Serendipity in Genealogical Research

Have you ever noticed how diligent working on records can only get you so far in hunting for information on your ancestors? So many times we search for years for tiny glimpses into the lives of our forbears. Sometimes it seems that we go for weeks or even months without seeing any light on a particular question we are trying to answer.

But then, voila, something incredible happens. We get a lucky break. We find a massive clue in a place we wouldn’t ordinarily be looking. We find a person, just by chance, who has valuable information to give us. This wonderful phenomenon is known as “serendipity”.  


Just a few weeks ago, in early November, I had a serendipitous experience. I was doing a Google search on my Kreis line. I have been confused about John Kreis’ birth place as it is stated as “Switzerland” in some documents and as “Germany” in others. Just on a whim, I typed “Kreis surname: Switzerland” in Google. The second item that came up was the “Krise Surname DNA Project”. 
And right under this title were these words:

“Another surname in this group is Kreis. ... in the Habsburg project, two more matching profiles in the FTDNA databank belong to living Swiss men named Kreis. ...”

Well, this certainly got my attention. I clicked on the “About this Group” tab at the top of the page. There I found the purpose of the group:

 “The Krise Surname DNA Project has been established to create a databank of Y-DNA profiles of families with variations on the surname Krise. The primary purpose is to provide a basis for documenting and distinguishing different family lines which share a common surname.”

Now I was really excited; I wanted to communicate with this group. Here I might find another research tool.

 On the same page I found the name of the project administrator, Gary Kriss, and his e-mail address. I e-mailed Gary and introduced him to my Kreis line, starting with Johann (John) Ulrich Kreis and mentioned that I would like to join his project. Gary responded on the same day.

First, he said that he would welcome me to the group but the only way to get in was to get a yDNA test from a Kreis male cousin. Now, this was perfect timing! I had wanted to ask my cousin, Frank Kries, to take a yDNA test. I guess I was just waiting for an opportune time. I called Frank and he agreed. I was on the phone ordering the test from FamilyTree DNA.

In his first message, Gary gave me some invaluable background on the Kriss/Krise/Kreis/Kries surname that he had done. He said that he tended to believe that Switzerland was the origin of his Kriss forbears and perhaps mine also. And he offered this startling fact:

“We have living genetic cousins in Switzerland who spell their name Kreis. Since the Habsburg Project identifies our deeper roots in Switzerland and your family tradition recalls Swiss roots, there is a good chance that you are part of our genetic family. But the only way to prove that is with Y-DNA.”

This was the first glimmer of hope that I had in trying to pinpoint where John Ulrich Kreis was born. I will find out more when Frank takes the DNA test.

Gary also told me that his family’s American origins are in Pennsylvania and Maryland. I know that one of the families that the Kreises married into, Hausmann/Hannaman, also landed in PA on their way to NJ and IL. Perhaps the Kreis clan also spent some time in PA.

I feel so lucky to have found Gary Kriss and the Krise Surname DNA Project. It is wonderful to find others who have been bitten by the genealogical bug. This one lucky break has moved my research on the Kreis line a step forward.

Categories: DNA

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