Posted by Kelly Kautz on April 19, 2017 in Guest Bloggers
Kelly Kautz at Landis Valley Farm Museum in Lancaster, PA.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania has a long and storied past. It served as the United States capitol for a single day during the American Revolutionary War. Thaddeus Stevens and former United States president James Buchanan both called it home.

I call Lancaster home, too. But for years, I considered myself a transplant. My mom hailed from the Midwest, my dad from the Pacific coast. They met at college in Florida, then moved to Lancaster shortly after I was born.

I grew up surrounded by preserved farmsteads and blue historical markers. Even the Amish horse-drawn buggies that slowed traffic seemed like relics of a long-ago time. But I never considered this history my own until the day my great-aunt Kathleen called. She’d been researching our family tree, and found ancestors from a small Pennsylvania town called “Manheim.” Did we know of it?AmishHorseAndBuggyInLancaster

I was seven or eight years old at the time, and I have no memory of Kathleen’s phone call. But my mom loves to tell the story.

“We laughed and laughed,” Mom says, “because it was two miles down the road. There our ancestors were in the 1700s and here we were, three hundred years later. It seemed like we’d come full circle. ”

The First Immigrants

According to Kathleen’s research, our ancestors immigrated to the Lancaster area from central Europe in the early 1700s, about twenty years after William Penn acquired the land from King Charles II. Some settled in the area; others moved west.

“I knew my mom’s family came from Pennsylvania,” Kathleen told me recently, when I asked her about the discovery. “They were the people who came to America and worked to get his country started. But nobody could find the name of my fourth great-grandfather. My uncle had traveled to Pennsylvania twice, trying to find out who this guy was. I advertised in several magazines, but we still couldn’t find his name.”

It took a chance encounter at a family reunion to find the name of the man Kathleen was seeking: Valentine Metzler, a bishop in the Mennonite church. Further research revealed that his bible was housed in the historical archives of a college in Lancaster.

Valentine Metzler’s Bible

Metzler’s bible also has a long and storied history. The book was printed in Zurich, Switzerland in 1571. According to a handwritten inscription on the front page, Metzler bought it for 40 shillings on 27 April 1767.

According to the “Family Record of Bishop Metzler” in The Pennsylvania German, records of the bible were lost after Valentine’s death until 1832, when a tramp sold it to a man in Manheim, Pennsylvania for five dollars. From there it was passed through the Metzler family for several generations.

Today, Ancestry has almost a dozen member photos of the bible. But Ancestry didn’t exist at the time of Kathleen’s research. To see the bible, she had to drive from Indiana to our home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania—a trip of nearly 600 miles.

“It was the only family artifact I got to see,” she recalled. “But it was worth it.”

A Family Comes Full Circle

Kathleen’s trip forever changed the way I see my hometown. It also sparked an interest in genealogy that continues to this day. Unlike my great-aunt, I don’t have to travel cross-country for research. The preserved farmsteads that I visited as a child likely housed some of my early ancestors. The blue historical markers, too, have taken on personal relevance. And if I don’t feel like leaving home, I can access many of the documents online.

As Ira D. Landis wrote of my sixth great-grandparents, Valentine and Anna Metzler: “Though dead, yet they speak, and eternity will alone reveal their worth. May we cherish their faith and traits and be the better because they lived.”

Kelly Kautz is writing “The Skeleton Club,” a memoir about family secrets. She lives with her husband and two young sons in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Connect with her on Twitter @KellyKautz.

Kelly Kautz

Kelly Kautz is writing "The Skeleton Club," a memoir about family secrets. She lives with her husband and two young sons in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Connect with her on Twitter @KellyKautz.


  1. Mary

    I was so excited when I sent my DNA sample to be texted. I watched everyday for the results. When I saw the email with the results I was so excited. My excitement soon turned to disappointment. The only part of my heritage that I’m sure of was listed as “possible”. I also have background on where my family did NOT live when they came to America. This was listed as where they could have lived. It is my opinion that Ancestry saw my demographic information and made this up. I am not as upset that I wasted my money but that something that I was so excited about was so disappointing.

  2. Lillian

    Still not soup
    by Judy G. Russell | Apr 16, 2017 | DNA | 14 comments
    Ethnicity reports are only estimates
    Here’s a quiz for DNA Sunday:
    How many people are represented by the DNA results shown below?
    DNA Result #1:
    Great Britain 49%
    Scandinavia 31%
    Europe East 4%
    Italy/Greece 4%
    Europe West 4%
    Iberian Peninsula 3%
    European Jewish 2%
    Ireland 1%
    Africa North 1%
    West Asia: Caucasus 1%
    DNA Result #2:
    West and Central Europe 87%
    Scandinavia 11%
    West Middle East 2%
    DNA Result #3:
    British & Irish 38.0%
    French & German 27.1%
    Scandinavian 4.2%
    Broadly Northwestern European 24.2%
    Southern European 1.4%
    Eastern European 0.8%
    Broadly European 4.1%
    West African 0.2%
    DNA Result #4:
    Northwest European 66%
    Mediterranean Islander 18%
    Northeast European 12%
    Southwestern European 4%
    DNA Result #5:
    Northern European 41%
    Mediterranean 38%
    Southwest Asian 21%
    DNA Result #6:
    North Sea 28.92%
    Atlantic 29.51%
    Baltic 11.42%
    Eastern European 10.91%
    West Mediterranean 8.07%
    West Asian 5.5%
    East Mediterranean 2.59%
    Red Sea 1.65%
    South Asian 0.64%
    Northeast African 0.79%
    DNA Result #7:
    East European 12.97%
    West European 49.33%
    Mediterranean 23.65%
    West Asian 10.75%
    Northeast Asian 0.31%
    Southeast Asian 0.11%
    Southwest Asian 2.21%
    African 0.65%
    If you guessed that all of these results are for the same person — namely, The Legal Genealogist — give yourself a gold star.
    The results, of course, are from different companies or services.
    DNA Result #1 shows my current ethnicity estimate from AncestryDNA. DNA Result #2 is from Family Tree DNA. DNA Result #3 is from 23andMe. DNA Result #4 is from DNA.Land, and DNA Result #5 from National Geographic’s Geno 2.0 Project.
    The last two both come from admixture calculators at, with DNA Result #6 from the Eurogenes EUtest V2 K15 calculator and #7 from the Dodecad V3 calculator.
    There have always been differences between the companies.1 But the differences aren’t getting any better over time; if anything, they’re getting worse.
    Some of the differences, of course, are because of the different ways geographic areas are lumped together. At DNA.Land, for example, Northwest European includes “… Icelandic in Iceland; Norwegian in Norway and Orcadian in Orkney Islands.” That’s likely showing up as Scandinavian at AncestryDNA.
    But the big reason why there are differences is because of what these admixture tests do: they take the DNA of living people — us, the test takers — and they compare it to the DNA of other living people — people whose parents and grandparents and, sometimes, even great grandparents all come from one geographic area. Then they try to extrapolate backwards into time. Nobody is out there running around, digging up 500- or 1,000-year-old bones, extracting DNA for us to compare our own DNA to.
    So coming up with these percentages in these tests requires this fundamental assumption: that the DNA of the reference populations — those groups whose parents, grandparents, great grandparents and more all come from the same area — is likely to reflect what we might see if we could test the DNA of people who lived in that area hundreds and thousands of years ago.
    In other words, these percentages are:
    • estimates,
    • estimates based on comparisons not to actual historical populations but rather to small groups of people living today, and
    • estimates based purely on the statistical odds that those small groups tell us something meaningful about past populations.
    These limitations are true of all of the testing companies. You can see from the above that my own results are — literally and figuratively — all over the map. I’m German with some companies, not German at all with another. Largely Scandinavian with one, only slightly Scandinavian with the others. A recent change in analysis at one company found my Germans, but in the process lost my British.
    DNA testing for genealogical purposes is a wonderful tool. But people get disappointed when they see these percentages and they don’t match up to their own paper trail and don’t match up from company to company. And when they get disappointed, they may lose interest in genealogy or in DNA testing. And when they lose interest, we lose out on the paper trail information they might add to our mix.
    The bottom line remains: We need to educate our friends and our families, our DNA cousins, to the limits of what these percentages can show — and to show them all the other things DNA testing really can help with.
    Because it’s still not soup yet.2
    And because we aren’t about to go digging up those old bones, it may never be soup.

  3. Kelly — great blog post. Please tell Ancestry Anne how to pronounce a town you will know Ephrata — But don’t tell her I said so. I have family there grew up not far away. Love the area. Thanks

  4. Alice Lee

    Kelly, Lancaster is the home of my husband’s 6th great-grandfather – Hans Herr. The lady working at the museum the day we were there was descended from the same son as my husband. We loved it.

Join the Discussion

We really do appreciate your feedback, and ask that you please be respectful to other commenters and authors. Any abusive comments may be moderated. For help with a specific problem, please contact customer service.