Pride, prejudice and genealogy

As they say “pride comes before a fall” and that applies in genealogy research as well. Over the years you’ve heard me say that I vastly prefer narrative documentation to conventional genealogy in trees, pedigree charts and ahnentafel numbers.

My earliest genimates, in the late 1980s, both belonged to the narrative tribe and they were both super-smart women. Perhaps that influenced my documentation but more likely it was also a personal predisposition. One was a little inclined to over-romanticise the story within the facts, which didn’t suit my direct style.

qld-muster-rollI suppose somewhere in the distant past I must have started with some pedigree charts and family group sheets – in fact it comes to me that this is what went into my contribution to the Genealogical Society of Queensland Bicentennial Muster Rolls (somewhere on my shelves). My preferred genealogy program has always been the now-defunct Relatively Yours and this is where I kept my basic data of BDMs. Writing my Kunkel book required me to have a full chart for the family in there. However, overall the program contained the bare data while the rest went into narrative from my notebooks.

Now that DNA has arrived on the scene this level of pride, and prejudice, has come back to haunt me. Now I need to know exactly where everyone fits on a family tree. Now I need to know the degree of relationships and who is a third cousin twice removed. How the genealogy gods (our ancestors?) must be laughing! On the positive side I’ve always been a fan of FANs (friends, associates and neighbours) or FFANS and I’ve used my research of collateral lines to solve mysteries and knock down the odd brick wall.

our_community_place_sandbox

Playing nicely in the sandpit. Wikimedia commons.

My documentation has been expensively and laterally obtained from original sources in archives and libraries in Australia and around the world. I was more than a little precious about it and reluctant to share especially where it was a one-way street. A few cases of slurping up my data with no thanks or reciprocity had made me cynical….no more playing nicely in the sandpit for me. Then there were a few cases where the fanciful family story was stacked against the facts and came out ahead…in came that pride and prejudice again. Let the facts speak and if you want to tell the inherited story, tell it as exactly that.

Another source of pride has been my blithe, and close to total, disregard of Ancestry trees. Funnily enough I do think you need to know what you’re looking for, by working steadily back from yourself, the old-fashioned way.

There was the day that one tree gave me a dose of conniptions when I saw a tree with umpteen more children than my particular family. Back to the drawing board and it took only a short time to realise they had mixed up two totally separate families (albeit with the same parents’ names): one lot was in New South Wales (Aussie royalty) and the other was my Queensland mob.  The children from each had been interleaved on the one tree. Whew! Prejudice confirmed.

naryshkin_family_tree

Naryshkin family tree: Wikimedia Commons

Over the time I’ve also been too prideful to much attention to online trees because I’d been careful and was confident my research was a rigorous as I could make it. What I missed was that those trees  were being grown by likely cousins….how astonishing! I may shake my head at seeing un-cited images from my book but I’ve come to the conclusion that at least people are enthusiastic about their family trees and sharing information. I’ve even bitten the bullet and put up a tree of my own and made it public….believe me that’s been a huge leap of faith. Get back pride, take a seat prejudice.

So my task at present is to work through those shaky leaves on family trees and pin down where they fit in: are they cousins or do they simply have some remote peripheral family link? It’s going to take time and it can only help build up my knowledge of family and should help with my DNA matches, and maybe encourage some to test as well. There’s certainly no shortage of kin out there.

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.