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 other—possibly 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 homeland—at 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 manage—a frustrating sticking point for someone used to reading instructions, then applying them—but 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 DNA—the only company now offering those types of DNA tests—a 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 website—but not quite now. However, if you—or anyone else you know—have roots in Perry County, Ohio, and are interested in testing at Family Tree DNA, please consider joining the Perry County, Ohio, DNA project.