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October 2004

Facts & Genes from Family Tree DNA
October 21, 2004 Volume 3, Issue 6

In This Issue
Editor's Corner
In the News: Family Tree DNA Announcements
Genetic Genealogy: How safe is your DNA sample?
Recruiting Participants: Posting Announcements
Recruiting Participants: The Message
Recruiting Participants: Making Contact
Case Studies in Genetic Genealogy
Spot Light: Meates Surname Project
In the Next Issue

Editor's Corner

Welcome to this issue of Facts & Genes, the only publication devoted to Genetic Genealogy. Facts & Genes provides valuable information about utilizing DNA testing for your genealogy, and keeps you informed about the latest advancements in the field.

Have you been thinking about taking a DNA test, and waiting until you knew more? The best way to learn is to have a DNA test. Once you have your DNA test result, and can compare your result to the result of others, you will start to see the power of DNA testing. DNA testing is used in conjunction with traditional family history research. Many questions can be answered with DNA testing, especially where the papers records end, or existing records are unclear.

Have you wondered about the origin of your surname, and if others with the same surname are related? DNA testing is the only definitive approach to determine if all Lines or family trees with your surname are related. DNA testing, combined with research, will provide the answer to the question: "Is there one origin to the surname?" Also, if you are interested in finding the ancestral homeland, or the area where your surname originated, this result can be achieved by combining DNA testing with the methodologies used by those who research surnames.

DNA testing is the most powerful tool to ever become available for genealogists. To get started, and have the DNA experience, your first step is to determine if there is a Surname Project for your surname, and the second step is to order a DNA test under the umbrella of the Surname Project, or as an individual. It is recommended, though not necessary, to order a DNA test as a participant in a Surname Project, if a Surname Project exists for your surname.

A Surname Project is a group that has been established for a surname and variants, and each Surname Project has a Group Administrator. The Group Administrator acts as a facilitator for the group, and provides assistance in understanding and interpreting your results, and reports results to the group, usually through a web site and/or a newsletter. In addition, Family Tree DNA provides email and telephone consultation, and a Forum where your questions can be answered. Visit the Forum by clicking on the link below:


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If you have fellow genealogists, friends, family members, or participants in a Surname Project who you think would enjoy receiving our monthly newsletter, send them the link below, where they can get a free subscription:
In the News: Family Tree DNA Announcements

Family Tree DNA is pleased to announce milestones achieved, a new Group Administrator selection, Mitosearch.org for mtDNA, a mtDNA promotion for October, a complimentary product, and a success story.

The following milestones have been achieved:

Family Tree DNA now has over 25,200 records in our database of Y DNA results. We also have over 1,200 Surname Projects which include over 9,000 surnames.

The Group Administrator's Page now has a new selection called General Fund. Clicking on this selection will show all the transactions for the General Fund for the Surname Project. The transactions shown will be funds received by Family Tree DNA for the Surname Project General Fund and fund expenditures. Family Tree DNA accepts funds by check, credit card or PayPal. (Checks must be in US Dollars only. PayPal transactions must be to info@familytreedna.com, and specify XYZ Surname General Fund.) The General Fund provides an opportunity for Group Administrators to raise sponsorship funds in any currency by the sponsors using the credit card payment feature to handle the currency conversion. In addition, sponsors may feel more comfortable making their sponsorship contribution directly to Family Tree DNA. This feature could increase the sponsorship funds raised.

For the month of October, Family Tree DNA will match any funds contributed to a General Fund, up to $200.00. The rules for these matching funds are:
- up to $25.00 can be used per test kit from the matching funds
- matching funds can only be applied to new test kits
- matching funds must be used by 12/31/04, when they will expire

On October 1, 2004, Family Tree DNA launched Mitosearch.org. Mitosearch is a public database for mtDNA results, and is provided as a public service by Family Tree DNA. Regardless of the vendor utilized for your mtDNA test, your results can be entered in Mitosearch, to find others whom you match. Family Tree DNA customers can upload their results to Mitosearch.org from their Personal Page, by clicking on the mtDNA Matches selection, and then clicking "Click Here" to Upload to Mitosearch.org.

If you need help using Mitosearch, a forum has been set up. Visit our Forums at:


In conjunction with the launch of Mitosearch.org, for the month of October, Family Tree DNA is offering mtDNA tests at a special price. If you have been curious about your mtDNA, which we inherit from our mothers, this is an excellent time to take advantage of the special pricing, and order your mtDNA test. See the link below for more information.


One of our customers has created a complimentary product to our testing service. Charles Kerchner, a Group Administrator of several Surname and Geographical projects, has developed and produced Y DNA and mtDNA Haplogroup Lapel Pins. To learn more, visit:   http://www.DNApin.com/

Every day we hear success stories from our customers about how DNA testing helped them with their genealogy research, and how testing has enabled them to get past brick walls. Here is an example of the success that can be achieved with DNA testing:

In a situation reported recently, the customer, after 30 years of research, was still stuck in 1850. Their ancestor had relocated to the US in the early 1800's, and their prior location could not be determined. DNA testing enabled this customer to break through their brick wall. With DNA testing they found a match, and research in the geographic area where the ancestors of the match lived commenced. The records for this location provided the evidence needed to connect their branch to the family tree of the person they matched, and to take them back to 1615.

Without DNA testing, it is doubtful that the link between the two families would have ever been found.

Genetic Genealogy: How safe is your DNA sample?

When considering which vendor to select for your DNA testing, an important factor to consider is how your DNA sample is handled. At Family Tree DNA, we designed and implemented a system for handling you DNA sample that eliminates all risk to you. This system has been in effect since the very first DNA sample was submitted.

Your DNA sample is safe with Family Tree DNA. Our separation from the lab, the University of Arizona, is a critical element in protecting your DNA sample. The lab can not identify the owner of a DNA sample, and can not connect a sample to a person. The separation of the DNA sample and the identifying information is just one safeguard in our system. When considering other vendors, if the vendor is also the lab, they cannot provide this safeguard.

The following paragraphs explain how a DNA sample is handled at FamilyTreeDNA, and each step of the process.

1. Place an Order

When you enter an order, you supply a name, postal address and email address. This information then resides on the secure Family Tree DNA server. At the time you place an order, your test kit is assigned a unique Serial number. This Serial number identifies your kit and this number is stored with your name and address record on the secure Family Tree DNA server.

2. You Receive the Test Kit

In the test kit is a release form. This release form is short and simple, and is required to participate in the "matching" function at Family Tree DNA. The matching function lets you see who you match in the FamilyTreeDNA database of results. Signing the release form authorizes us to share your name and email address with those whom you match. When you have a match, you will see the name and email address of those whom you match, and they will see your name and email address. That is the only information that Family Tree DNA provides to others, and this only occurs when you have a match, and you have signed the release form.

3. Send the test kit to Family Tree DNA

When your test kit is received at Family Tree DNA, we go through our "check in" process. This process includes removing and processing any payment enclosed with the test kit, and entering in our secure database the receipt of your test kit at Family Tree DNA. When we enter that the test kit is received, you are immediately sent an email which tells you that we have received the test kit. We also note in your record if the release form was returned.

4. A batch goes to the lab

Every two weeks, Family Tree DNA sends a batch to the lab. Each sample is identified by only the kit number and the surname. That is the extent of the information that the lab receives regarding the identity of the sample.

5. At the lab

The lab handles hundreds of tests each week. At the lab, a unique sequential number is assigned to your sample. Your identity is 100% anonymous. There is no way for the sample to be connected with a person in the world, with just a surname. Even with a very rare surname, the lab would have no idea of the country where the person resides.

Testing with Family Tree DNA also includes 25 years of storage of your DNA sample, at no additional charge. This is a tremendous feature, which offers many benefits. For those who are elderly, or who have older relatives, their sample is safely stored, and available for future tests that become available as a result of scientific advances in the field. For those on a budget, they can start with a 12 Marker test, and upgrade to 25 and/or 37 Markers, without dealing with another test kit. Any of the other tests available from Family Tree DNA can be ordered in the future without submitting another sample.

The samples are stored in a locked refrigerator at the lab.

The lab performs the test(s) requested and the test results are returned to Family Tree DNA electronically. The test results are a string of numbers or letters, depending on the test requested.

6. Processing the results at Family Tree DNA

When your results are posted, you receive an email notice that your results are now available for viewing. For those of you who have had a Y DNA test, you are aware that the results are a string of numbers, either 12, 25, or 37 numbers, depending on the number of Markers you have had tested. For those who have had an mtDNA test, your results are a string of numbers and letters.

Your test result is in the Family Tree DNA database and is a string of numbers or numbers and letters. If another male in your family tree with the same surname took a Y DNA test, he would most likely have the same result, or a close result. The test results are not unique to you, since others to whom you are related will have the same or close result. That is the value of the tests, and how they can be used for genealogical purposes. Since the test result is not unique, then the test result can not be used to identify you.

Several hundred miles away from Family Tree DNA, in Arizona, your DNA sample sits safely and securely in a locked refrigerator. The lab can not connect the sample to a person. Family Tree DNA does not have the samples.

As you can see from the steps above, your DNA sample is safe and secure.

Family Tree DNA has designed a system of handling and storing your DNA which is safe, secure and anonymous.

The three letter word DNA scares people, and sometimes invokes conspiracy theory thinking. People leave DNA everywhere they go, and on items they touch. The odds of the lab selling a DNA sample is about equivalent to the restaurant taking your glass after you leave, and selling your DNA sample.

For Group Administrators who are recruiting participants, you will encounter potential participants who are concerned about their DNA sample. Often, educating them about how the sample is handled will eliminate their concern. For additional information about overcoming fear, click on the link below to read the article called "Overcoming Fear" in the August, 2003 issue of our newsletter:




Recruiting Participants: The Message

Recruiting participants is an on going process, and a terrific opportunity to meet others interested in research of your surname. Most people who are interested in Family History research are not knowledgeable about Genetic Genealogy, so they don't come to the conclusion independently that they should have a DNA test. Therefore, recruiting participants involves both making people aware of the benefits of DNA testing for genealogy, and educating them to a level for them to feel comfortable taking this step.

The focus of your recruiting efforts should be on finding people who are interested in family history for your surname, instead of focusing your efforts on finding DNA participants.

The difference between these two approaches will have a long term impact on your Surname Project.

If your focus is on finding people who are interested in the family history of your surname, you will develop a large pool of potential participants. Over time, you can turn many potential participants into participants, and often potential participants can help you find other potential participants.

If your focus is only on finding participants, you will miss others who could turn into participants over time.

Your focus determines the "message" that you will use in your communications to recruit participants. If your message focuses on family history, you will typically get a larger number of responses. If you focus on DNA testing in your message, you will skim off those ready to be participants, but leave behind all those that could be turned into participants over time.

Turning a potential participant into a participant is a process of building trust, identifying benefits, and education. These elements are important to incorporate in your message.

Usually it will take more than one email or posting to create a participant. Occasionally, people will read one of your postings or emails, and immediately participate. As much as all the Group Administrators would wish that this would happen all the time, it will take several more years before it becomes common practice for those who are interested in their family history to start with a DNA test.

In the meantime, recruiting participants is an on going process.

If the focus of your message in your communication with others is about family history research, combined with a short component about DNA testing for Genealogy, you will receive a higher response rate. If you also include or share some family history information that may interest the reader, you should get an even higher response rate.

Recruiting Participants: Making Contact

After you have established your Project Profile, set up your web site, and posted your announcement, it is time to contact people.

The first people to contact are those that you need to participate from your family tree. Typically, a minimum of two persons are tested to validate the result for your tree. If your family tree spans centuries, or is very broad with lots of branches, you will probably want to test more than two persons. In this case, you would select a person from each of the primary branches. If you are a male with the Surname Project surname, you have your first participant.

Review your family tree and determine those who would be the ideal participants. Perhaps you know these relatives. If you know the people, it will make your first recruiting task a little easier.

When identifying the ideal participants in your family tree, always select the oldest male, if possible. Selecting the oldest male will eliminate any mutations that can be introduced by additional generations, and you will be getting the DNA sample for this male stored for 25 years, so the sample is available for future scientific advances.

Since you will be approaching your relatives, first consider their economic status. As much as they would like to help you with your Surname Project, it may not be possible for them to afford the cost of the test. Most people will feel uncomfortable stating that they can not "afford" to participate, and instead will voice other objections.

A quick way to overcome the economic hurtle, and avoid any potential embarrassment for your relative, is for you to sponsor the tests needed for your family tree. This removes a potential objection, and your focus can then be on securing the participation of the ideal participants.

If your budget does not include sponsoring the participants needed for your family tree, consider soliciting some contributions from other members of your family. Small contributions from several family members can quickly add up to cover the cost of a participant's test. Once you have the sponsorship funds, you are now ready to make contact with your prospective participant.

Before approaching the prospective participant, a little preparation will ensure success, and avoid the situation where the participant gets the test kit, and then doesn't return the test kit.

Think benefits.

How will the participant benefit? Will they be making an important contribution to the family history research of the surname? Is their participation important to validate your result, and therefore establish the result for your family tree? These are all benefits. Other benefits are:

- participating in the latest scientific advance for genealogy
- representing your family tree in your Surname Project
- be one of the first, or the first, in your family to participate

Once you have the benefits identified, you will need to decide if you will call or write the potential participant. This choice is dependent upon your relationship and what you know about the potential participant. Often, people have an easier time with written communication. They can review the communication several times if they don't understand with the first reading. This is especially helpful for older relatives. Having a piece of paper to reference also establishes credibility. Written communication provides an opportunity for you to prepare and polish your communication. The objective of your communication is to lay the foundation so they will agree to participate, as well as then do the test kit and return it. A telephone call may solicit a yes response, because people have trouble saying no, but the test kit could very well not get returned. The best approach is to write a letter or email and enclose a one page description of the project. Later, if you do not receive a response, you would follow-up to answer any questions.

One advantage of written communication, in addition to the advantages listed above, is that you can prepare an easy to understand letter/email and a Project Summary, and use these items over and over in future contacts. This will save you a lot of time over the course of the Surname Project.

To prepare your written communication, first prepare the Project Summary. Since you are getting started, your Project Summary will be short. Even if you had a 100 participants, your Project Summary should still be no more than one(1) page.

The Project Summary will cover:

- one or two paragraph summary of Genetic Genealogy
- project objectives
- any results for the Surname Project, such as your result. The value of showing a result is that the potential participant can see that the result is a string of numbers, and this removes much of the fear that the word DNA can invoke. If you don't have any results yet, show a few example results, so that the reader will understand that the test result contains no personal information.

As your Surname Project progresses, you can occasionally update, add participant's results, and improve your Project Summary. Your Project Summary is a document you can enclose with letters, or paste into emails, or attach to emails.

Once the Project Summary is prepared, it is time to write your letter or email. Your letter/email will also form the basis for a standard form letter that you will have and use repetitively, saving you time.

Your letter, which will go to the one or more sponsored potential participants in your family tree, will have the following elements:

- introductory paragraph: why are you writing them. This paragraph should generate interest and excitement
- benefits to participate
- their test kit is sponsored or the cost of participation and any sponsorship available
- reference the enclosed Project Summary for additional information
- request for action: ask them to participate
- How to contact you to get questions answered

Save on your computer both your Project Summary and your letter/email to the potential participants in your family tree. A small revision to this letter/email will result in a form letter/email you can use to approach other potential participants in other family trees or Lines of your surname. The letter/email and Project Summary can also be used if you build a mailing list of email addresses or postal addresses.

Having a form letter/email and Project Summary can save you a lot of time as you recruit participants.

Case Studies in Genetic Genealogy

In each issue of the Newsletter, we present a situation which you may encounter as you utilize Genetic Genealogy testing for your family history research, followed by our recommendation.

Case Study

My Surname Project is just getting started. We recently got back the first two results, and one of the participants is from my family tree. Both of these two participants have the same surname, and their ancestors come from the same country, but their results don't match, and aren't even close. I am quite upset, since this means that all the years of my genealogy work is a waste.


There is no reason to expect that two participants should match because they have the same surname and are from the same country. Surnames can have multiple points of origin, within a country, as well as in more than one country, and migrations spread a surname geographically.

When you are testing persons who do not have a genealogical connection with a paper trail, you are in effect testing Lines of a surname to determine whether the surname has a single or multiple points of origin.

Some surnames have a single point of origin, where one man or family took on the surname initially, and all the people today are descendents from the original bearer of the surname.

Other surnames have multiple points of origin, where more than one person, who weren't related, took on the surname. There could be multiple points of origin in a country, or points of origin in more than one country.

There is no way to tell from the surname itself whether it has a single or multiple points of origin. There is a genealogical methodology for determining the number of points of origin of a surname. Combining this methodology with DNA testing would provide a definitive answer regarding the origin of the surname.

There is no paper trail between the two participants. With only two results back for your Surname Project, it is too soon to draw any conclusions. Most likely, these two different results indicate multiple origins of the surname.

It is also possible that there was an extramarital event in one of the Lines tested. It is too soon in the Surname Project to worry about the cause behind the two results not matching.

It is recommended that for each Line or family tree, you would test at least two participants, so that the result for each Line is validated. The second participant for each Line would be a distant cousin of the initial participant. For Lines that span multiple centuries, or Lines that have many male branches, it is recommended that several additional participants are tested for the Line.

Testing multiple participants for a Line will also provide information to determine the ancestral result for the progenitor or founder of the line.

In the early months of a Surname Project, it is better to focus on recruiting participants, and once you have a larger set of results, it often becomes easier to draw conclusions.

Spot Light: Meates Surname Project

The Meates Surname Project was started in December, 2001 and currently has 119 participants residing in 15 countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, England, Fiji, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Republic of South Africa, Romania, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, Wales, and the USA.

There are only a few Meates residing in the US, so, from the beginning, the Group Administrator had to search in other countries for participants.

The Group Administrator took a structured approach to recruiting participants for the Surname Project. From prior research, the various Lines of the Meates surname had been defined. There are multiple Meates Lines traced to Ireland, and one Meates Line where the progenitor was in London in the late 1700's. The Meates Lines traced to Ireland all encountered a brick wall in the early 1800's or late 1700's due to the lack of paper records available.

The first recruiting step was to contact males from each of the Meates Lines. This step involved primarily sending postal mail. Over time, participants were recruited for all the Meates Lines.

From the DNA test results, all the Meates whose family tree were traced to Ireland were a 25/25 match. (Two mutations were found in initial participants, and these mutations were resolved by further testing in their family tree.)

The Meates family tree traced to London did not match the Meates of Ireland.

The next step in the Surname Project was to test the Mates Lines where the founder had been located in Ireland. It was suspected that in Ireland, Mates was a variant of Meates in County Wicklow. All Mates Lines in Ireland had been traced to County Wicklow, except one Line whose founder was in County Kildare. To find descendents of the various Mates Lines who had immigrated from Ireland was often time consuming and difficult. For the Mates Line of County Kildare, it took over a year to find a descendent, and he was found currently residing in Romania. The result from testing all Mates Lines with a founder in Ireland, was that all the County Wicklow Mates Lines were a 25/25 match to Meates, and the County Kildare Mates were not related.

Following this structured recruiting approach, the Surname Project then moved on to testing Meats Lines. The family trees of the various Meats Lines were traced back to 4 counties in England, and one county in Wales. Some Meats descendents had, at various times dating back into the late 1800's, deliberately changed their surname to Meates, and migrations over time put descendents of Meats Lines in multiple countries. An extensive search was performed to find a descendent of one Meats Line, who was finally found in the Republic of South Africa, and is the last direct male Meats of that Line. Participants were found to represent all the Meats Lines, and the results were all a 25/25 match to the Meates of Ireland, except 1 mutation, which was resolved.

The Surname Project then moved on to testing Mate and Mates in the UK. Both Mate and Mates are surnames with multiple points of origin in multiple countries. Migrations from Continental Europe to the UK have occurred for centuries. Lines were defined for these surnames, and postal mailings were used to find descendents. For the Mates tested, only one result matched the large group of Meates, Meats and Ireland Mates whom all matched, and 7 different other results were identified. It is most likely that these 7 other results represent migrations to the UK, and as additional Mates Lines are identified and tested in other countries, a match is expected to be found.

At this point in the project, the Group Administrator started working towards identifying the Ancestral Homeland for the large group who matched, with the surnames Mate, Mates, Meates, and Meats. The Meates population in Ireland over the various centuries indicated that the surname did not evolve in Ireland. Based on the large group whose DNA results matched, most likely the ancestral homeland at the time surnames were adopted was in England, though this was only a guess.

The first step was a frequency distribution study for all countries with an online phone book. This study included over 20 surnames, so all possible variants were addressed. The results for this step indicated that the surnames Mate and Mates would have multiple points of origin in multiple countries. This observation from the frequency distribution study corresponded with the multiple results found from DNA testing Mate and Mates. The frequency distribution study did not clearly identify any country as the origin of Meates, and suggested for Meats that the surname originated in France or England.

To test the England origin theory, frequency distribution studies were done for the same set of over 20 surnames, starting with the UK 1881 Census, then Civil Registration deaths 1842-1852, and finally Parish Registers.

These frequency distribution studies did not yield a conclusive answer.

The frequency distribution step was then performed again, with a new set of possible variants, including Meat and Meate. The surnames Meat and Meate do not exist today in the UK. The results overwhelming indicated Staffordshire as the Ancestral Homeland at the time surnames were adopted.

A study of Staffordshire Parish Registers then commenced. Research showed that Meat and Meate families were disappearing in the late 1500's. One day, it was noticed that perhaps they weren't disappearing, and instead the form of the surname was changing to Mayat or Mayot. These families were then followed forward in the Parish Registers, and the surname changed again, from Mayot to Myatt in the 1700's. (Myatt rhymes with Hyatt. Meates rhymes with Meets.)

It was hard to imagine Myatt as a variant of Meates. Even so, random Myatts in the US and the UK were selected to participate in the Surname Project, to determine if what appeared to be occurring in the Parish Registers was correct. Several of the Myatt participants had a paper trail back to the same parishes in Staffordshire where Meat and Meate were found in the 1500's.

The Myatt test results were a match at 25 Markers, confirming the variant surname, and the significant change in the form of the surname. Later research has shown that this change was probably the result of the great vowel shift change in pronunciation.

The next step for the Surname Project was extensive research in Medieval records, to determine the original form of the surname. As a result of this research, the first occurrence of the surname found is Mayote in 1281, and the three primary forms of the surname in the 1300s are Mayote, Mayot and Mayott. In the 1400's, Mete is found, and in the 1500's there is more variety, probably as a result of the great vowel shift, with Meyte, Maot, Meat, Meate, Meyott, Mayotte, Mayte, Myott. In the 1600's the variant Mate begins to appear.

When the 37 Marker Upgrade was introduced by Family Tree DNA, the upgrading of participants began. This advancement to 37 Markers was very important, since almost all participants who matched were a 25/25 match.

The results from 37 Markers were very informative. The most difficult task was determining the ancestral result at 37 Markers. Once the ancestral result was determined, and due to the large data set of results, 37 Markers clearly identified branches of the ancestral tree. Based on the results from 37 Markers, combined with genealogy research, the following has been determined:

1. A mutation that only occurs in Meats participants indicates that all Meats descended from one person who lived after the adoption of the surname. The Meats form of the surname is not found in Staffordshire and is first found in Derbyshire. Most likely, a migration from Staffordshire to Derbyshire occurred, and the Meats form of the surname evolved.

2. A different mutation indicates that all Meates and Mates with the Founder in Ireland descended from one person who lived after the adoption of the surname. This person or their descendent, migrated to Ireland. This migration probably occurred in the late 1600s.

The Meates Line with the founder in London in the late 1700's is still a mystery. The Meates variant form of the surname arose from a prior surname when the family migrated to Middlesex. Testing is ongoing to find a DNA match from a pool of possible variant surnames today: Mate, Mates and Mietts.

The Surname Project continues with the global goal of identifying and testing all possible variant surnames world wide. The Group Administrator believes that the significant discoveries made about the origin of the Meates surname would not have been possible without DNA testing.

The primary recruiting method used was postal mail, and over 90% of the respondents then provided an email address.


In the Next Issue
We hope you have enjoyed this issue of Facts & Genes. Please feel free to contact the editor with your comments, feedback, questions to be addressed, as well as suggestions for future articles. If you would like your Surname Project featured in our Spotlight column in a future issue, please send an email telling us about your project. If you are a Project Manager and can help others with tips or suggestions, please contact: editor@FamilyTreeDNA.com

Copyright 2004, Family Tree DNA "Facts & Genes"   http://www.familytreeDNA.com/facts_genes.asp

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Diana Holland Faust 
Published  10 June 1996   This page added 6 November 2003   Last updated 17 March 2012