Lost in DNA

Lost in a world of DNA.

This week I’ve finally looked at my Family Finder (autosomal) DNA results from Family Tree DNA. I’m a genetic novice so I’m in a state of complete confusion wishing I’d paid more attention previously. You wouldn’t think I’d ever done science as I sit bewildered by it all.

WHY FAMILY FINDER?

Y-DNA is out because my father is deceased, I have no brothers and neither did he. I could go wider to cousins but I “know” my ancestral paternal line from documentary evidence – always assuming no surprises like adoptions/playing away etc.  I’d still like to have a couple of cousins for genetic comparisons on this line but I have no first cousins on this line at all

Matrilineal DNA (MtDNA) and X-DNA are also less of an issue because I again “know” what my line is, even though there’s more work to be done the conventional way. I do have a few first cousins on this line though two of them I haven’t seen since I was about 10. My only uncle on this line had no children…another brick wall on the Y-DNA chart.

Autosomal DNA seemed to be the best strategy for me, enabling me to look at my other 22 chromosomes and their genetic matches.

WHAT WAS I HOPING FOR?

Like anyone (pretty much) with Irish ancestry I hit a brick wall around the time of the Famine, with the limited availability of records. There are also a number of lines for which I only have parents’ names (from shipping lists) and a few where I have nothing before them. These are all at the 6th or 7th generation level, which would bring in 4th or 5th cousins – this seemed just right for the Family Finder DNA test.

MY WISH LIST WAS:

  1. To link with someone who has Sherry DNA from Ireland (I have nothing pre-1860).
  2. To perhaps find descendants of Philip Joseph Kunkel (my 2xgreat uncle)
  3. To learn whether my Furlongs in Tullamore are genetically linked to the Wexford family
  4. To see if I got any new “hits” on my Partridge line enabling it go back further.
  5. Any other connections that arose.

WHAT DID I GET?

As anticipated, no 1st or 2nd cousins, as yet anyway. I suspect there’s some bias in the database in that more Americans are being tested overall (well there are more of them than Aussies anyway). Many of those tested seem to have long lines in the US, making close relationships unlikely….I hadn’t anticipated this, logical though it is.

FTDNA did find three matches at the 3rd cousin level. That’s pretty close as we should share a genetic link at the 2 x great grandparent level. My best link is to someone simply listed as “F” with no further details. We have the greatest overlap of 60.29 cM and a longest block of 32.09. How frustrating not to be able to contact them.

I’ve contacted the other two 3rd cousins and they have replied but so far there’s nary a suggestion of a family link in their tree that I can determine. Can you tell the why I’m getting confused?

I got a fair number of 4th cousins and have contacted some of them. Initially the e-book by the Genetic Genealogist suggests that at this level, the DNA overlap could be coincidental (IBS –Identical by State) rather than due to biological inheritance (IBD or identical by descent). At this point I went back to focus on my 3rd cousins. However FTDNA’s FAQs suggest that their statistical modelling ensures matches are IDB not IDS (FAQ 12). So that makes both 4th and 5th cousins worth investigating in more detail.

ANY SURPRISES?

Firstly I thought I was going to have a pretty DNA image to play with…should have read the manual first.  However I’ve downloaded the raw data which as yet is purely Double Dutch, as they say.

My pie chart for documented ancestral birth places.

I also used the Population Finder tool and got something of a surprise. I expected all of mine to be in the Western European category. To a large extent this was correct BUT I also got another 4.43±1.52% from the Middle East.  This percentage compares very closely to my German ancestry which suggests to me that it’s this line which originates in the Middle East. This was a surprise as this is one of my longest lines which I can trace back to Bavaria in the early 1600s.

My population finder map from Family Tree DNA.

WHERE TO FROM HERE?

As well as the list of 4th cousins, I also have a whole gaggle load of 5th cousins who I will need to investigate further. Some people have email contacts and some also have surnames of interest and GEDCOMs uploaded. I’ll work through those first.

I’ve had a play with the chromosome browser and put my closest/best matches onto that. Of course the elusive “F” reveals a good block of common DNA! I can only hope they come looking for me.

QUESTIONS:

Does anyone know if the Population Finder map will show highlighted areas in continental Europe or always just the UK?

Has anyone used GEDmatch for further comparisons? If so what were your experiences?

 SUMMARY

So there it is, my first foray into the world of genetic genealogy! I feel rather as if I’m in the deep end with my nose barely above the water line while I should be in the toddler pool. There’s much to learn and I’ve been very grateful for Kerry Farmer’s Unlock the Past book on DNA for Genealogists. Seems like I have a lot more reading to do so I can understand this better. My reading will include a number of my Genimates who have written about this topic. Now I have my results, I’ll be more able to see how they can help me with ideas etc.

 Have I misunderstood anything/made a mistake in the process here? Please jump in and let me know. Also feel free to share your experiences with autosomal DNA.