Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Soft Opening

One of the tasks on my Jamboree post-conference to-do list is to finish up the website for my newly-established DNA project. Since this is a learn-as-you-go effort, I've decided to borrow a page from the play book of restaurateurs: launch via a soft opening.

The DNA project I've chosen to do is a dual geographic project focused on descendants of residents of Perry County, Ohio. Anyone who has tested (or is planning to test) either their Y-DNA or their mitochondrial DNA and who has an ancestor on their patrilineal or matrilineal line who resided in Perry County any time since the county's formation in 1818 through the 1940 census is eligible to join the project.

Now, that's a mouthful to say. And for the uninitiated who are new to DNA testing, it can be quite intimidating to read such a statement. What it means, basically, is that the project is looking for participants whose roots were in Perry County, Ohio, any time before World War II. The project's goal is to seek out any commonalities between project members, and to see whether the data reveal any tendencies regarding immigration pathways.

The reason for this hunch is simple: among the county's first settlers were a core group who gave many indications of having known each otherpossibly having been related to each other, or at least having come from the same original vicinity prior to emigration from their homeland.

The corollary to this is another tendency: many of the earliest settlers' families remained clustered in the vicinity for generations afterwards. Their intermarriages became so well-known in the area that people sometimes joked that before accepting a date in high school, the parties had to compare notes on mutual great-grandparents. One Perry County researcher's website comments,
I've heard it said that if you go back far enough, you'll find everyone in Perry County, Ohio, is related to everyone else.

I don't know whether that is actually so, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn it's close to the truth. In the twenty-plus years I've researched the genealogy of several lines in Perry County, I've uncovered multiple connections. Not enough to classify the situation as endogamous, but definitely one fitting the description of "pedigree collapse."

In the process of all those years of genealogical exploration, I've met quite a few other researchers sharing an interest in the same lines as I'm following. Of course, we've compared notes and collaborated with each other. When a Perry County descendant can claim he is his own distant cousin, it's no surprise to learn that there are umpteen paths of relationship with others from the same place.

These are the people I'm hoping will take an interest in this DNA project. Hopefully, comparing notes on our respective DNA results may point us to a specific mutual homelandat least for specific clusters of descendants.

The only caveat to this process is that, about the time of the second World War, many family members moved away from Perry County permanently. While this is somewhat true even during the era of the first World War, so as to not eliminate participation from some whose data might be useful in this project, I've set the cut-off point with our most recent documentation in the 1940 census.

While I have much work yet to do to polish the details and information available for the Perry County, Ohio, DNA project website, the site is now live and open for new participants to join. Yet to be accomplished, in addition to work on the website, will be the effort of spreading the word via distant relatives, fellow Perry County researchers, and groups sharing this interest in Perry County genealogy. There are some details I've yet to learn how to managea frustrating sticking point for someone used to reading instructions, then applying thembut the site is now out there for anyone to stumble upon.

Joining the site is easy: click the "Join" box on the top right of the website. For those who have already tested their Y-DNA or mtDNA and are signed in to your account at Family Tree DNA, one click and you're in. For those yet to do those tests at Family Tree DNAthe only company now offering those types of DNA testsa request to join the Perry County project (or any project, for that matter) will yield the customer a percentage-off discount on whichever DNA test is purchased.

At some point in the near future, I'll be ready for the hoopla of a "grand opening" of this new DNA project's websitebut not quite now. However, if youor anyone else you knowhave roots in Perry County, Ohio, and are interested in testing at Family Tree DNA, please consider joining the Perry County, Ohio, DNA project


  1. Interesting. I have run across some scattershot Perry County data associated with some distant cousins who were mainly centered in Bowling Green Twp., Licking Co., and neighboring area of Muskingum Co., such as Granville.

    Land issues can be hard, beginning with allocation of lands of the Refugee Tract. But post-1900 newspaper items regarding Federal Land Bank transactions can give surprising genealogical clues to earlier generations.

    While it's important not to disregard the splatter of people (such as Cooperriders) across County lines (say, Perry-Licking and vice-versa) finding ways to arrange data requires an open mind and imagination. So for Perry County people don't disregard Licking and Muskingum newspapers and their estate and vital records as well as those of Fairfield Co.

    The Probate Court records of Licking Co. burned in 1875, but there are useful workarounds.

    The same caveats apply here as elsewhere, especially that same surname does not inevitably equal same family. For example, there were some unrelated Griffith families.

    Good luck with your project.

    1. Thanks so much, Geolover!

      You bring up some valid points on researching this area around Perry County--your familiarity with the area prompts me to want to compare notes with you!

      I have found exactly what you've mentioned about the various contiguous counties. Interestingly, it seems our earliest ancestors moved from Fairfield County to Perry County, while later family members moved from Perry County to either Muskingum or Licking. And while we have no close relatives in Perry County any longer (that I'm aware of), we do have a connection currently in Licking County.

      While there was all that movement in and out of the county, as you mentioned, in our families, it seemed there was always someone of that surname who remained in Perry County through all the generations.

      Of course, there was the big city suck factor, causing many to leave Perry County for the jobs in Columbus, but that is to be expected--and reason to keep tabs on yet another Ohio county in this research pursuit, as well.

  2. The web site looks good. I hope your membership grows by leaps and bounds!

    1. Thanks, Iggy. I still need to add some details, and then I'll go looking for interested participants.


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