Eugen Hartmann joined the genetic genealogy community in 2009. He is the group project administrator of two geographic projects. Both focus on those of German descent. He lives and works in Russia with his family.
Rebekah: Please tell me about yourself. Are you currently working or retired? What are your other hobbies or interests outside of genealogy?
Eugen: I am a skilled software engineer. My specialization is remote desktop software. I live in Tomsk, Russia but work (remotely) for an American company which does not have any branches in Russia.
I am interested in financial markets. Usually if you take a course on that subject, you will be taught how to collect an effective portfolio of bonds and shares, but it is not so interesting. Analyzing the business activity of small companies by reading their annual reports, news, etc. is more interesting as it may enable you to predict the future cost of their shares. It worked in 2006 – 2007 in Russia, but then we had Russo-Georgian war and investors left the Russian market. Great Recession trampled it. I think the current Crimean crisis will totally destroy it.
Rebekah: How long have you been actively involved in genealogy, and how did you become interested in the field?
Eugen: I have been involved in genealogy since my childhood. I have four very different lines of ancestors. Maybe I should say ‘thank you’ to the Soviet government for that because my ancestors met each other in Siberia and it made my life possible. The parents of my grandfather on my maternal side were deported to Siberia from the Vologda Region (North Russia) during Dekulakization, and his father was executed here. The parents of my grandmother’s great-grandfather on the father’s side were deported to Siberia from the Volga Region (Tatarstan or Bashkortostan; I do not have clear information) during Dekulakization too. My grandfather on the direct paternal line was deported from Volga German colonies in 1942 because the Soviet government considered Volga Germans as potential collaborators and transported them en masse to labor camps. By the way, those three lines lost all their possessions. On the other hand, we can see that the Soviet government motivated us to research our genealogy and effectively solved the problem of autosomal recessive diseases (it is sarcasm surely). The parents of my grandmother on my mother’s side came to Siberia from Ukraine by their own will.
Rebekah: At what point did you decide to become involved in genetic genealogy?
Eugen: I believe that I should give information about my ancestors to my children. Children should know who their ancestors were. In 2009, I was expecting my daughter. She is my first child. So I started to research my genealogy more intensively. That year I found out that I can test my Y-chromosome, and I did it in a Russian company. It was a very simple test only for some main SNPs. In 2010, I ordered my first test (Y-DNA37) from FTDNA, then I tried Family Finder. Since that time, I am a permanent FTDNA customer.
Rebekah: What genetic ancestry tests have you taken?
Eugen: I took Y-DNA, mtDNA and Family Finder tests. In addition, I tested a couple dozen SNPs on my Y-chromosome and CCR5 del32. In addition, I use different free ethnic calculators.
Rebekah: Have you tested family members?
Eugen: I have tested my children and my grandmother (Family Finder). I was interested in the longest segments that I share with my real relatives. In the case of my children, the longest segments are 250 – 270 cM (overall shared about 3400 cM). In the case of my grandmother, the longest shared segment is 133cM. The results made me understand that I should not pay attention to any DNA matches with very small longest segments at all. For example, my ancestors emigrated from Germany in 18th century, but I still have common segments (10-15 cM) with Germans whose ancestors have permanently lived in Germany and have never heard about Russian Germans. Moreover, our ancestors (by classical genealogy) lived in different German states.
Rebekah: Have you ever been surprised by your or your family’s test results?
Eugen: I have only one big surprise. I have a Y-chromosome DNA cousin who shares a common ancestor with me who lived within 500 years ago. The cousin is from another ethnic group by the direct paternal line and he has another surname, but his ancestors lived 350 km North of Volga German colonies. I am in the I1 (M253+, Z140+) haplogroup, so it has Germanic/European origin anyway. But I still cannot be sure exactly about my not so distant ancestors on the direct paternal line. I cannot share any additional information, but it is likely that the issue will be solved soon.
Rebekah: Has genetic genealogy helped you break through any of your brick walls or solve a family mystery?
Eugen: No, it has not. Overall, genetic genealogy proves my data received via classical genealogy.
Rebekah: Are you involved as a group project administrator? If so, what made you decide to become involved? What projects do you administer or co-administer?
Rebekah: Have you witnessed success stories in your projects?
Eugen: Yes but I cannot mention them.
Rebekah: What advice would you give someone starting out in genealogy or personal ancestry DNA testing?
Eugen: I would like to talk about privacy. If a tested person sees that their DNA results do not correlate with their classical genealogy results, then they sometimes stop researching. The likelihood of such behavior increases if the person sees that, for example, most people with the same results (markers, shared segments, etc.) are from another ethnic group, and they did not expect to be related to that group. I believe that is not the right pattern of behavior. Let’s assume that some groups of people moved through different countries and continents through centuries more intensively than the others. I think they are more interested in genealogy, so they use the services like genetic genealogy extensively. So there are a lot of markers (shared segments etc.) which are common for them, but it does not mean that other groups do not have such markers or shared segments. So, imagine that there are a lot of people who do not agree that their results theoretically get them to “wrong” groups, but they are silent. However, to gather the world mosaic correctly, we need everyone. We have examples when a marker considered to be specific for an ethnic group was split into a lot of sub-markers which are shared by a lot of groups.
Rebekah: What do you think the future holds for genetic genealogy?
Eugen: I do not like to predict the future, but I would like to mention things which we can do right now. All family lists and censuses are based on surnames. Y-DNA results are surname markers. There are a lot of men who tested their Y-chromosomes. Moreover, a lot of them have researched classical genealogy. This way, we can add DNA results to family lists and censuses. Surely we can do it only provided that we are sure that there were no NPEs (for example, two distant descendants have been tested); otherwise we should specify that some links are speculative. Anyway, we can start doing it right now. I think that the administrators of DNA projects should try working on it, because it will bring genetic genealogy closer to people who research genealogy. Also, I think that DNA companies are interested in that too, because this is a sort of promotion. This way, DNA companies should help administrators in doing that.