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Wired up and ready to go, I don't sit still for long! 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Genetic Tales of My Father: DNA Updates and Goodreads

Who knew my research into genetic genealogy would develop into a multiple series of blog posts?  Just goes to show how detailed DNA can be when combined with genealogy research.  Detailed, yet rewarding and rather fun truth be told as DNA can really add some context to family history.  Test results can offer support or invalidate "traditions" as well as answer specific research questions.

For those that have been following along in my previous posts AncestryDNA Autosomal Test Results and Genetic Tales of My Father: An Autosomal DNA Strategy, I defined a research question using my AncestryDNA admixture results of 49% British Isles, 49% Scandinavian, and 2% Uncertain to determine where the 49% Scandinavian results come from.  The end results included using additional admixture results to compare to my documented family tree which proved very helpful.  It has been a very interesting process so far with more to come. 

Additional blogs to read
Others are also blogging about results from AncestryDNA.  Blaine Bettinger of The Genetic Genealogist outlined issues and explanations in Problems with AncestryDNA's Genetic Ethnicity Prediction? and Your Genetic Genealogist, CeCe Moore, focused on the "Scandinavian question" through admixture results and an interview with General Manager of AncestryDNA in My Review of AncestryDNA's Admixture Tool and a Glimpse into the Future of Genetic GenealogyBack in May, the Legal Genealogist's Judy G. Russell also commented in Up Close: AncestryDNA about her interview with John Perreira, vice president of DNA at Ancestry.com, during the National Genealogical Society.  All three blog postings offer great insight and different perspectives about the new AncestryDNA product.  I did not know that the "Scandinavian question" was so prominent until I read them.  They are definitely good reads!

Matchmaker, matchmaker, bring me a match!
A wonderful song from a great musical is also the silent mutter of those testing with DNA.  Some of the first results people look at is their DNA matches.  This week I found a match for my autosomal DNA with AncestryDNA!  My "6th cousin 1x removed" is related through my mother's family.  My "cousin's" admixure was almost all British Isles so at least I know the Scandinavian reported in my autosomal admixture did not come from that particular branch of the Rowlett family.  Fortunately, I already knew of this match through the regular family trees on Ancestry.com.  So our family history research and genetic relationship was confirmed through our DNA. 

Reference Populations
Different labs and websites use different reference populations in admixture tests.  The populations and their descriptions are not standardized, which can make it difficult when transferring results between labs.  As stated in a previous blog post, it is most help to find out all you can about the reference populations used in an admixture test.  In my father's Family Tree DNA autosomal test, he was reported as 100% Western European (100% Orcadian).  Since my initial posting I have found out that the Orcadian reference population refers to an English population group, not just the Orkney Islands.  However, admixture results through Gedmatch do support some Orcadian DNA as it is separate from the British population group for the Gedmatch admixture test.  While there is Orcadian ancestry, it is not 100%.  Bennett Greenspan, Founder and CEO of Family Tree DNA, has mentioned that the Orcadian reference population will probably change in a future update to reflect more of a British Isles population.

Coming soon......
My husband's autusomal DNA results are in and some other surprises came with it.  More on his admixture after some research. Stay tuned....

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday's Obituary - Stabbed To Death

Another fun attention grabbing headline this time from a 1889 newspaper article of the East St. Louis Journal from East St. Louis, Illinois.  I found this a long time ago, before I knew the value of citations so unfortunately I don't have the exact date.  East St. Louis is right across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri.  St. Louis a major migration point in the 19th century with East St. Louis becoming a large suburb in the 20th century.  Again this is not so much an obituary but an article in the paper.  However, the details read like an obituary:



1889 East St. Louis Journal
Belleville Public Library
Belleville, Illinois


"On Sunday afternoon, Fred Mehring and Peter Leesey, or Lese, engaged in a game of cards at the Strobel House.  For a while, everything passed pleasantly.  After two hourse elapsed, Leesey accused Mehring of taking ten cents which the barkeeper had placed on the table and which had been returned as change from beer. Mehring denied taking the money.  Hot words were exchanged.  The lie was passed and re passed.  Then the two men left the saloon and proceeded in the direction of Mehring's house, not far away.   The latter entered the house and it is supposed procured a knife.  Leesey stood near the house talking to some other parties who appeared to be trying to quiet the difficulty between them.  Mehring came out again and called Leesey a liar for stating that he (Mehring) had taken his dime. Leesey said you lie; you did take my dime for when you were searched it was found in your mouth.  Mehring then struck at Leesey but the blow fell short or was warded off, but in the next instant, before anyone could interfere, Mehring used his knife with terrible effect.  Leesey fell to the ground after walking about three steps [illegible.........]"

Peter Leesey was actually Pierre Leezy or Lisee.  He was from a French Canadian family that had been in the area since the mid 1700s.  The newspaper at the time suffered from yellow journalism and the journalist was trying hard to illicit some sort of strong emotional response from the reader.  Unfortunately, coroners reports from this time period are sketchy.  Also, court records do not contain much more information.  Continuing:

".......The coroner's jury held Mehring for murder and he has been taken to the Belleville jail.  The deceased was about 40 years of age and leaves a wife and three children.  Mehring is unmarried.  he is represented to be a mean man, always seeking quarrels and difficulty.  His new trouble may terminate at the end of the rope."

In looking through the newspaper for additional information, there was no other information about Fred Mehring.  So he probably did not "terminate at the end of the rope".

Monday, June 18, 2012

Genetic Tales of My Father: An Autosomal DNA Strategy

In my previous blog AncestryDNA Autosomal Test Results, I outlined my research question in determining the relevancy of Scandinavian ancestry in my research.  However, AncestryDNA does not provide any raw data so there are no single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).  What this means is that the actual scientific test results are not included with the admixture mapping results which are percentages of a population group provided.  In my case the admixture results showed 49% British Isles, 49% Scandinavian, and 2% unknown. 

AncestryDNA
Apparently AncestryDNA uses modern population groups when providing admixture results.  This can be great to pinpoint a country, or regional area, to research if you are looking at a time period when records existed.  However, modern population groups alone do not add context to the family history recorded in the DNA.

Admixture
Again, 49% British Isles was no surprise.  My father was born in Hindley, Lancashire, the son of an American GI and a true Lanky Lass.  In fact the paper trail has indicated that many of the lineages for both my parents is Scots-Irish.  Not knowing if the 49% Scandinavian was from the paternal or maternal side, or both, I knew I had to gather more information. After calling AncestryDNA and talking with a knowledgeable and very helpful customer service representative, I determined that the AncestryDNA product as it is structured now would not be very helpful in determining my research question due to certain limitations.

Matches
To begin with, there is a matching service that allows those that tested to contact others that have been compared through the DNA and have a scientifcally proven match.  AncestryDNA users are allowed to connect a single family tree they have created to the DNA results.  This can be a big problem as sometimes Ancestry subscribers copy family trees without fact checking which can lead to an erroneous family tree.  If DNA results are attached to an erroneous family tree it can make it seem that the DNA proves the lineage when in fact it belongs to a completely different family.  In looking through my matches I could not find a common ancestor with any of them, even the close matches within the past few generations.  Even with the DNA scientifically proving a genetic connection to an individual, the results may not be helpful due to wrong information association with a family tree.

Summary
Descriptions about the matches to the modern populations are provided.  Part of the description for Scandinavia was that it seemed that I may have some Viking ancestry.  Since there was no raw data, it was unclear where the information came from.

The representative with AncestryDNA explained that the professional team is looking at providing raw data in the future, but have no plans to make it available soon.  The test is certainly cheaper than most other labs at $99, but not much information is provided and there is good potential for not being able to use the matches due to erroneous family trees and the descriptions do not have the proof of SNPs or raw data.

Another Autosomal Test
In order to provide a comparison to my autosomal test at AncestryDNA, I chose to have my father's DNA tested at another lab, Family Tree DNA.  When the autosomal results were returned, not only was he 100% Western European (Ireland and Great Britain), but he was 100% Orcadian.  Now I was getting somewhere! The Orkney Islands are some of the most northern islands of Scotland.  The islands were originally inhabited by Iron Age Picts, the Vikings moved in and mixed with the Picts, and finally they became part of Scotland.  The Viking inhabitants in the Orkneys could account for some of the 49% Scandinavian as shown with the AncestryDNA test.

Gedmatch
With raw data results I was able to upload an excel file file to Gedmatch.com, which has additional admixture tests for researchers to use.  When using the admixture tests, be sure to read how they are structured and what population groups are used.  Reading the descriptions about them will help you make sense of the results.  If you are European it is best to used a test slanted for Europeans as there is more comparative data.  Also helpful is the oracle selection to define specific populations, such as Dutch, Orcadian, and Assyrian.  I found it helpful to use all the admixture tests and compare results.  Some admixture tests were more helpful to my specific lineage and research question than others.

Gedmatch: Dodecad V3 Oracle
One of the most helpful admixture tests was the Dodecad V3 Oracle which seems to be more for Western Europeans.  Results included British, Orcadian, Dutch, Cornish, German, French, Norwegian and others.  This certainly supports the results with Family Tree DNA.  There is a Dutch line on my father's side of the family with the last full Dutch ancestor being born in 1749 in New York.  There has also been some circumstantial evidence linking our Isbell ancestors to Cornwall, England.  In reading the definitions of groups used by Dodecad, Norwegian seems to be more like Scandinavian as used by AncestryDNA.  In my paper research I have not uncovered anything to indicate French ancestry, but there has been family traditions linking our Isbell ancestors to French-Huguenots.  I have been somewhat dismissive of the tradition in the past as nothing much has been found to support it.  What a clue for future research!

Gedmatch: Other tests

Using the other tests, I eventually found some other remnants of lineages from my research.  Northern Italian showed up on a few of the MDLP Oracles and I do have one documented Italian line from Torrino, Italy in the early 1700s.  Another interesting group from the test is Swedish.  Although I do not have a documented lineage from Sweden, I do have one from Switzerland in the early 1700s.  It is quite possible the family originally came from Sweden or that the Swiss population is included in Sweden for the test.  Welsh was also another result which makes sense given most of my father's ancestry is in the British Isles.  Other MDLP tests showed the following groups frequently and I have no idea where the lineage comes from:  Hungarian, Finn, Slovak, Croat, and Bosnian.

Observations
Most of the results from the admixture tests I could explain with documented genealogy research. The paper trail is just as important in establishing kinship as it is in establishing the relevancy of DNA test results.  DNA and traditional research rely upon each other so DNA is not a stand alone substitute for historical records.

What was surprising is that many of the population groups that are associated with my father's paternal lineage entered what we now know as the United States in the 1700s.  This was quite helpful in determining the reach of the admixture tests and how they compare in regards to time and scope. 

Did the autosomal tests answer my research question?
Yes and no.  In order to determine the authenticity of my own AncestryDNA autosomal test I had to also test the autosomal DNA of my father with Family Tree DNA.  This was needed for a comparison of admixture results and to receive a set of raw data for further admixture comparisons.  In using different admixture tests, there was a necessity to research each test and what populations were used since each admixture test used different names for different populations.

So where does the Scandinavian come from in my AncestryDNA admixture?  There is a good probability that some of it comes from the Orcadian group that my father descends from as the Orcadians do have some Viking and Pict history.  For more accurate predictions, I would need to have my mother submit an autosomal DNA test and compare the raw data.  Since we all receive half of the chromosomes of each parent, it is reasonable to suppose that some of the Scandinavian may also have come from her.

What I did not expect was to have some of lineages seemingly confirmed through the admixture tests with Gedmatch.  And to gather more clues to prove or disprove traditions was an added bonus!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Kinship Connection: Finding a Genealogy Research Buddy

Finding a Buddy
Over a year ago I was contacted by a fellow researcher who was visiting the Family History in Salt Lake City.  From what I recall, I believe she found my contact information through the Ancestry.com family trees.  She was trying to do find some documents to connect one of her ancestors to one of my ancestors.  This was great as a goal of mine is to use the genealogical proof standard to document the families of two generations of my maiden name.  While I was able to pull up some citations for her to look at while she was there, and share some documents that I personally had copies of, we both realized very quickly that most of the information for our two ancestors was "say-so".  There was very little documentation to tie the two families together. 

Growing the Buddy Relationship
Having a genealogy research buddy does not happen overnight.  Because of the nature of the families, and the lack of documentation, much time was spent in discussion about the relevancy of records that were found and theorizing the movements based on the historical events of the time period.  Other topics of discussion included using name patterns and family clusters to separate and sort confusing families in the Alabama area we were researching in.  It was wonderful to be able to bounce ideas off of my buddy, learn what research she had already accomplished, and share some of my past experiences to help her also.  We both learned an incredible amount of skills from talking to the other over a period of time. 

Compare and Share
During the course of the past year, we have shared files through Evernote and created a Dropbox folder for the both of us to use.  This has helped for a couple of reasons:  shortening lengthy email discussions describing records and organizing information for better context.  After defining the problem, we have also chased down many leads including a phantom Bible record that many have cited on websites but have not actually seen it or a reliable copy.  All in all we have developed a mutual admiration for the work that the other does and an understanding about the movements, naming patterns, and interactions of our two ancestral families.  While we have not been able to prove any direct relationship, the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming.  None of our findings could have been uncovered without the assistance from each other. 

Happy Anniversary!
Thank you Kay E. for sticking with it for almost a year and for your friendship.  Although we may not have proven Andrew Gailey and Martha Isbell as husband and wife, we are much closer.  Hopefully in the coming year, we will uncover what we need!