Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Results Are In - AncestryDNA

The news of the day is that my AncestryDNA results are in. I'm guessing a big batch of results were posted yesterday (3/19), because quite a few of the genealogy folks I follow on Twitter were reporting that they had results in too.

The test results comprise two components - the Ethnicity Estimate and your Matches. Both parts are interesting in their own way and deserve some discussion.

First, the Ethnicity Estimate.  No surprises here.  My estimate is 97% European, with the remaining 3% spread out over other categories. 

The breakdown (in descending order of prevalence) :

  • Europe West (37%) - Primarily located in: Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein
    • Most of my ancestors on my paternal line (with the exception of my surname line and a few others) are from the German speaking areas of West Europe - many early German immigrants ended up in south-central Pennsylvania, so most people who have roots in that part of the country will have deep German roots
  • Ireland (27%) - Primarily located in: Ireland, Wales, Scotland
    • Between this category and the one to follow, this covers pretty much entire maternal line as well as the Irish components of my paternal line.
  • Great Britain (25%) - Primarily located in: England, Scotland, Wales
    • My maternal line is largely predominated by that group of immigrants known as the "Scotch-Irish" or "Scots-Irish", early settlers from Northern Ireland, originally of Scottish and English origin.  More than a few of these immigrants ended up in what is now known as Appalachia.
 These three categories make up 89% of my estimate, based on the averages that Ancestry has calculated (Ancestry describes the methodology used to calculate these numbers in some detail, and I'm not going to try to explain it in detail here, but  the averages are based on a number of trials which define a potential range of values, the listed value being an average of the values in the range).   The remainder of my Estimate is composed of what AncestryDNA calls trace regions - regions that have a positive average but where the range begins at 0% and which could thus appear by chance.

Trace Regions (in descending order with no commentary:

  • Iberian Peninsula (4%)
  • Scandinavia (2%)
  • Finland/NW Russia (1%)
  • Asia South (1%)
  • Europe East (< 1%)
  • Africa Southeastern Bantu (< 1%)
  • Melanesia (< 1%)
So, according to AncestryDNA, that's my genetic heritage in a nutshell.

Now, we turn our attention to the Matches component.  At the time of writing, I have 252 pages of  matches, ranging in predicted degree of kinship from second cousin to distant cousin (5th cousin or more distant) - most in the last bucket with verying degrees of confidence.  I have not had the chance to review all of my matches so far, but i've at least browsed most of my closer matches.  I haven't initiated contact with any of my matches, but two of my matches have contacrted me - one whose user name I recignized as a known cousin and a second who AncestryDNA pegged us as 4th cousins, but who has no recognizeable paper trail to connect us at this time.

Some observations:

  • I'm seeing a lot of matches on my maternal line, and in quite a few of those the degree of kinship is overstated, primarily due to the presence of Barnabas Curry as a common ancestor. I have, I believe, three Curry lines that trace back to him, so even though he is either my 4x great or 5x great grandfather, his impact on my DNA is somewhat disproportionate
  • I need to do more work on my Ancestry Family Tree, particularly on my maternal side to facilitate matching
  • I think I need to come up with a handful of templates to use in contacting prospective cousins, one or two for each of my maternal and paternal lines

All in all, still lots of work to do.

One final note - I have located a folder that documents a potential family unit for Christopher McNally back in Ireland.  In the very near future, I'm going to document that on the blog and tie that in to the Y-DNA testing I have going on FTDNA.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Book Review - "Finding Your Roots: Easy-to-Do Genealogy and FamilyHistory" by Janice Schultz

I read a lot of books, both fiction and non-fiction, and one of the main varieties of non-fiction that I read are genealogy books, whether on general instruction or specific themes (such as DNA, sourcing, particular record types, etc.).  With the volume of genealogy books that I read, close to one per month, I thought that I might add a book review as a semi-regular feature to the blog.

The first book to be reviewed in this feature is "Finding Your Roots: Easy-to-Do Genealogy and Family History" by Janice Schultz, published by Huron Street Press, an imprint of the American Library Association. According to the biographical blurb, prior to retirement in 2013, Ms. Schultz was the genealogy librarian/branch manager for the Midwest Genealogy Center at the Mid-Continent Public Library.  I've never been to the MGC, but I know it is a major genealogical library.

"Finding Your Roots" is a reasonably comprehensive and up-to-date genealogy how-to instructional book, suitable for beginners to genealogy, but with enough information to serve as a solid refresher for more experienced practitioners. In the preface, Schultz states that her original intent was to update Ray Wright's "The Genealogist's Handbook", originally published in 1995. (A good book, by the way, one which I read some months ago and recommend.)  The weakness of Wright's book is that it set in the pre-web world of research, and Schultz does a fine job of bringing the concepts into the 21st century.

What I'm always looking for in an instructional book is some nugget that I wasn't aware of before, even something so small as a mention of a resource I wasn't previously aware of .  For example, in a section about military records, Schultz mentions a periodical concerned with Confederate veterans that published between 1893 and 1932 called "The Confederate Veteran" and that it is available at FamilySearch.  I know of at least one Confederate veteran in my wife's tree, so I'll be taking a look at that resource in due time.

There are a few small issues I saw - the discussion on sourcing your research is an afterthought rather than a proper section in its own right, and I believe that she is factually mistaken when she states that New York passenger arrival records are extant from 1820, as I distinctly recall seeing something in print from NARA that there are missing passenger arrival lists for the port of New York prior to 1850, but I cannot put my hands on that document at this time, so I could be mistaken.

Overall, "Finding Your Roots" is a solid effort, worthy of a place in your genealogy library if you do not already own a good how-to book or at the very least, a check-out from your local public library.

Grade:  B+