Friday, January 15, 2016

Time to Dig In

Sometimes, it's time to stop learning all the ins and outs of the conceptual side of a new skill, and roll up one's sleeves and dig into the nitty gritty for ourselves. At the genetic genealogy class at Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, I'm now ready to give it a go. There can't possibly be any more room in my overstuffed brain for more information to take up residence, and I'm more than ready to put to use all I've gained in this past week—before I forget it.

Thankfully, yesterday's classes came to a close with a few case studies. That satisfied my growing appetite for the practical side of the experience. My ears perked up when I realized one of the cases involved a family in Perry County, Ohio. Now, that's a place I'm familiar with! Thanks to my mother-in-law and research on her extended family—some of them resident in that county since the time in which it was formed in 1818—I think I even spotted a surname in that case study that I recognize.

It isn't lost on me, however, that in order to proceed with the work that happens after those DNA test results are tabulated, there are a few necessary preliminary details. First of all, it is essential to have your own tree in as good an order as possible, for efforts to confirm—or disprove—relationships with DNA matches can only be as good as one's paper trail is accurate (at least for starters). The corollary of that provides the second detail: you have to realize that the other party's family tree may need a tune-up, as well (to put it kindly in some cases).

The bottom line, however, is that you can't have matches unless those other, unknown, mystery relatives also take a notion to blow a hundred bucks or so on this extravagant chase known as DNA testing. In the case of curious people with recent immigrant backgrounds, that may mean having to depend on (possibly as-yet-unknown) relatives in other countries having the means to purchase such kits. That chance is sometimes regrettably slim.

Thankfully, by virtue of the details I've learned during this week's class, I feel better equipped to tackle the nearly one thousand matches that have accumulated in my own account at Family Tree DNA. In addition, as was recommended before the class began, I've now tested at a second DNA company—AncestryDNA—and also uploaded my results to GEDmatch, a website providing not only a place for customers of all three companies to compare their results, but a set of tools for further analysis.

It will take some hands-on work to get enough practice at these three websites to arrive at the station of feeling facile at these analysis skills. However, I'm more than ready to get started.


  1. It's disappointing to get a notice of a new match only to find that person has posted no tree at all, let alone one that needs fine-tuning.

    1. It was interesting to learn--especially since I thought I was the only one who is this driven--that other researchers have found themselves building out a shadow tree for those matches with incomplete trees (or maybe no tree at all, just using clues from the matching person). For my newfound matches at Ancestry, I'm hoping these "no tree" matches will turn out to be a case of too-new-to-post-yet recent customers. In one case, I already recognize the surname, and am hoping it isn't just a strange coincidence.

      Yeah, this gig is full of opportunities for disappointment. But we're tough, Wendy. We can take this!

  2. Replies
    1. It's amazing how a little learning, diligently applied, can be such a boost to understanding. Bit by bit...

  3. I just heard something while watching a PBS show (Globetrotters) that said an isolated village in southern Ukraine was settled by Celts. If so, the DNA results that say "Irish" might actually mean "Ukraine"? I find this "DNA soup" to be confusing!

    1. Love it that you brought that up, Iggy! Actually, it depends on which DNA test you are looking at. While autosomal DNA tests provide indications of who your close relatives might be (up to about fifth or sixth cousin), both Y-DNA and mtDNA provide predictions of "deep ancestry," ranging back to ancient history. These are the tests which help determine ethnic origins--but also take into account the migratory patterns evolving over centuries.

      Actually, the origin of the Celts was in central Europe, and (though some of this is disputed among academics) may have dispersed to several areas on the continent, not just the British Isles. While I haven't run across anything indicating Celts settled in the Ukraine, it wouldn't be far from the supposed central European origin.


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