Friday, August 23, 2013

Notes From the Field

Overheard at FGS 2013:

Incredulously, "Your mother worked at the WHAT house?"

Rejoinder, "That was the COURT house, COURT!!"

Saturday, August 10, 2013

I Have Matches -- Now What

I just had a chat with someone who is right behind me on the DNA journey, but is feeling lost. So today I'll share some progress.

The tools at each DNA web site are different than the others, but the end goal is the same: connection with cousins. Ancestry is missing a key tool that can be found at GedMatch and at Family Tree DNA (FTDNA). That tool is the chromosome browser or chromosome comparison.

I was contacted by a gentleman that I'll call John. He is in my match list both at GedMatch and at FTDNA and he's been working with DNA for quite a while. I have part of my tree available at FTDNA and he had checked it out. His family and mine had intermarried in Weakley County, Tennessee, during the late 1800s. We don't see a common ancestor yet, though we know we must have one. But what does our DNA tell us?

Looking at GedMatch, he's near the top of my match list with an estimate of 4.2 generations to our common ancestor. His kit number is on the left and his email on the right. I've hidden both of those items. He and I don't have any X-chromosome (#23) DNA in common. But our Autosomal DNA (#1-22) has a fairly large matching area.

Let's do a chromosome review at both GedMatch and FTDNA.

GedMatch shows us, in blue, several areas where we have matches within different chromosomes. It's larger on the screen. This is just small so I can show more of the matching areas.

Here's the FTDNA match list, where John is the second one. He has an email address, a tree at FTDNA and I can add a note. Some of his his surnames are shown and I can also see which DNA tests he has done.

In the chromosome browser, I select John (in orange). This browser shows only the larger match. I was able to find several other people in my match list with a very similar matching pattern. The gray areas are not used in matching. At the top, I can download the matches to Excel so I can see the numbers.

OK, we have matching DNA. So what? My first question to John was what he knew about the source of that section of shared DNA.

John has worked with several of those matches over the past few months and they can't find the common ancestor. I'm new to the game, but I bring some new surnames to explore. We have a location to focus on, which John said they didn't have before. I also knew more about my family than John did and he taught me things about his family. Together, we have a clearer picture of how our families relate.

If John and I can find our common ancestor, everyone who matches us on that piece of DNA will suddenly know what they are looking for. We'll be able to say that segment came from our ancestor X. Anyone who matches that location in the future can be advised to look for their connection to ancestor X and their parents and siblings. Others may be able to help refine the source of the DNA as the mother of X or father of X.

The chromosome browsers are interesting, but useless by themselves. The payoff is when you find the connection to that common ancestor X.

What's the strategy? Work the closest matches first. Review trees. Send emails. Ask if they know about the common ancestor in the DNA segments where you match. When you find the common ancestor, document the DNA segments and look for others that match those segments. Then reach out to those others to let them know what you've found. And, of course, hope others will let you know when they unpuzzle a match.

I sent such an email the other day. I searched on a particular surname, found a match, found the common ancestor couple in his tree, then used the chromosome browser. I looked for others with a matching segment and emailed a woman to share what I found. I now have a list of 8 DNA segments that associate to two surnames. The largest is on chromosome 22 from 41311622 to 44012037. It's up to me to keep track of those numbers and the associated surnames. I'm looking for a way to do it, but Excel is what I'm using for now.

I hope that example is simple enough to follow. Let me know.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Ethnicity Through DNA -- Revisited

Earlier this year I shared my questionable ethnicity analysis as provided through AncestryDNA. The more I work with the DNA tools online, the more disappointed I am with Ancestry. So I paid to import my Ancestry DNA map into Family Tree DNA (FTDNA), as well as importing it into the free GedMatch website.

Of the various tools, I like what's currently available in GedMatch for ethnicity evaluation. For me, it has provided several ways to look at my ethnic background and to figure out for myself what fits. The best part is that it is free. As one of my friends says:

Free is in my price range!

First let's look at the AncestryDNA ethnic breakdown and then at one of the models from GedMatch.

Quite a difference! GedMatch lets me put my DNA map through a number of ethnicity models where my DNA is compared with control samples from other countries. That's called admixture. There is no one admixture that tells me all I want to know. By looking at all of them, I found several that flagged my Native American ethnicity, as well as refining European and Asian roots.

Here's a look at a 13-ethnic group test that shows Native American. It doesn't analyze the various European areas in depth, as the 36-group test above did. Nor does the pie chart show the Native American or other small percentages.

All of this requires analysis and thought. It's not as simple as the Ancestry model pretends.

I'll be writing a lot more about DNA. If you're working with DNA genealogy, be sure to check out the DNA Explained blog for explanations, tips, tricks and forms. It's a great resource that I'm leaning on in my own journey to understanding DNA.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Sad Task

One of the saddest things that I do as a genealogist is to enter into the database the death information for a family member with whom I have a personal relationship. This week I had to do such a task. Because just after death is a highly risky time for identity theft, I'm not going to share any other information about this huge loss in my extended family.

As a tribute to this man, here's one of our World War II veterans who served in the Pacific Theater.

Liberty digital kit by Michelle Coleman for Digital Scrapper (formerly Scrapper's Guide)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Courthouse Planning - Part 12

It's the last day of planning for the research trip to Macon County, Illinois, and it's the hardest. I have listed repositories and records, family events and national events, land location and maps. In the background I've been probing online web sites, including Ancestry, for new clues. That's all been easy -- it's just putting one foot in front of the other.

Now it's time to state the questions with potential records to answer each one. Then prioritize the record sets and repositories. It is possible that I may not finish in the one day allotted, so I need to see the more important records first.

  1. Where did George come from and when did he immigrate?
    Land purchase, naturalization, declaration of intent
  2. Did the 1870 census correctly state his age?
    Militia roll, draft registration, probate
  3. Who were his family members?
    Probate/will, land sale, bankruptcy, guardianship, chancery
  4. Was George married before 1862 and if so, were there children?
    Probate, guardianship, early births, land sale
  5. Did George own land in 1870, was it his wife's or was he leasing?
    Land purchase, land sale, bankruptcy, probate, tax
  6. When did George die? When did his wives die?
    Probate, land sale, death records, Bible records, school records, tax
  7. What happened to the children? Did they go to George's relatives or Elizabeth's or neither?
    Probate, guardianship, school records
  8. Is there more information underlying the marriage register?
    Marriage records
  9. Is there burial information?
    Probate, death records, cemetery lists

Now that the key record sets are listed, group them by repository and prioritize.

The Clerk of the Court opens earliest, at 8 AM, so that's first. The records to find:
  • Naturalization
  • Chancery
  • Probate/will indexes
  • Guardianship
  • Bankruptcy

Next stop is the County Recorder.
  • Land purchase
  • Land sale

If it is before 10 AM, go to the County Clerk's office. Otherwise go to the Decatur Genealogical Society, which opens at 10 AM. They have lots of indexes and close a bit earlier than the County Clerk. Records to review:
  • Bibles
  • Militia Rolls
  • Probate Packets
  • Birth index
  • Death index
  • Cemetery Books
  • Tax records
  • County History books
  • School records?

Possibly end the day at the County Clerk's office, if there is an outstanding vital record to obtain. Make sure to leave DGS early enough to get there by 4 PM. Records:
  • Marriage
  • Birth
  • Death

I hope this series has given you some ideas about your own research. I really enjoyed doing it because now nearly everything I might need to refer to is in this series of blog posts that I can pull up wherever I am. Bet you didn't think of that!