Cousins, Cousins Everywhere

I have had the most fabulous few days in that I have had several cousin connections! I can’t even begin to go in-depth on all of them, but in brief:

  • a third cousin of mine, Nafeesah, emailed me after searching online for more information about her family and finding my family genealogy site.  She and I share Anthony & Martha Jane (Baker) Walker of Washington County, NC as our 2nd great-grandparents. I spoke to Nafeesah tonight and had a great conversation. I cannot wait to speak to her sister tomorrow.
  • via the 23andMe account of a cousin Devon, we found another cousin — Katrina. Katrina, like Devon,  is also a descendant of Thomas & Phillis Holloway of Craven County, NC.   Katrina is my 3rd cousin once removed.   I was excited to learn that her grandparents live about an 90 minutes away from me and her grandfather went to high school with my grandfather. I am now making plans to go visit her grandfather as soon as I can.  She matches me at a different segment than she matches Devon – so, I now have two separate DNA segments that I can trace back to our common ancestral couple.
  • via 23andMe, I made contact with a genetic cousin, Eric but we do not yet know how we are related.  Such a small world though because Eric is an active member of the African-American Genealogical Society of North California – the same group which my hubby’s genetic cousin, Nicka Smith, is involved.  Eric has been doing genealogy for well over 30 years and I was the first person he’s chosen to connect with on 23andMe – he said he could tell I was serious about my business.   Eric and I share .76% of our DNA and 23andMe predicts us to be 3rd-5th cousins.  That may not sound like a lot, but here is the order of percentage shared from largest to smallest at the top of my Relative Finder list – my mother (49.6%), my sister (54.5%), my uncle (25.2%), my 3rd cousin Devon mentioned above (.80%), and Eric! I spoke with Eric Friday night and we are both excited about the potential to find our connection.

In addition to these wonderful connections, my uncle and my stepfather’s DNA results came back from 23andMe on Friday so now I get to sort through their relative matches.  I hope I get more relatives from my uncle’s results!

 

Which Test Do I Use?

I have a goal to do a DNA comparison test this month.  There are two individuals I want to test so that I can find out if they descend from the same male ancestor – one is black (Person A) and one is white (Person B).  My primary genealogical research leads me to believe there is a strong possibility they both descend from a male white male who lived from 1798-1881.  I want to compare their Y chromosome DNA.   My dilemma is this — which DNA testing service should I use?

Here are the considerations:

a) 23andMe – I have a free 23andMe testing kit I can use for Person A.  I ordered it for him as part of the Roots into the Future Initiative.  I would love to use this b/c the test is free.  For Person B, I would then order another 23andMe test for him and pay for that one ($99).  The benefit of having them both in 23andMe is that I could compare both Y-DNA and autosomal DNA.  I know that 23andMe will tell me if their Y chromosomes are the same or not — is it as good as what I could learn from FamilyTree DNA?

b) FamilyTree DNA — is my other option – they are so well-known for the Y marker tests.  Since I have the kit for Person A already, I could then pay $50 to submit his DNA to FamilyTree DNA.  Then, I would purchase the 37-marker yDNA test for Person B.  The benefit of using FamilyTree DNA is that if  Person A turns out not to be related to Person B, then there would be other surnames in the database that *may* come us as matches.

Which would you use in this situation and why?

Update 11:30pm —  I have my answer! FTDNA it is.  Turns out that 23andMe does not test markers on the Y Chromosome like I thought they did so I’ll be ordering the 37 marker test for both men.  Thanks everyone!

 

23andMe: Another Cousin Connection

I am elated to share another cousin match story from my 23andMe results!  This time it’s even more interesting because said cousin (i”ll call her DK) has been following my blog for several months, saw my posts about the free 23andMe testing, and ordered her kit because of it.  But, while she knew she was related to me, I had no idea who she was prior to tonight!  I just knew that there was a mystery match in my Relative Finder that shared .80% of her DNA with me and 23andMe predicted us to be 3rd-4th cousins.

DK matches my sister and I at several segments.  Here is our shared DNA (she matches me where it is blue; matches my sister where it is green).

DK matches to me (blue) and my sister (green)

After speaking on the phone tonight and learning who her father was, I was able to tell her that they graduated high school together and share pictures from the class yearbook (since I *stole* it from my father a few years ago).  :-)

Newbold High School - Craven County, NC

DK and I actually are double cousins though – both of her grandparents are related to me – her father is related to me on my father’s maternal side and her grandmother is related to me on my father’s paternal side.  I wonder if we’ll be able to tease out which DNA is from which couple?  Theoretically, DK should also match another of my known cousins who also did the 23andMe test but I’ll need to check.  23andMe does not have a way to establish more than one known relationship but they should add it.  Not only are DK and I 2nd cousins once removed, but we are also 3rd cousins.

I am so pleased that the testing has brought us together!

Meeting a 23andMe Cousin!

This past weekend I learned that I have a genetic cousin that lives quite close to me – she is also here in Nashville!  23andMe predicts that we are approximately 4th cousins.  Crazy thing is, she also turns out to be a genetic cousin of Kalonji’s also.

Since she does not match my mother, I know that she is related to me on my paternal side of the family. We have a DNA segment that we share on Chromosome 6 that includes about 3014 SNPs and has a length of 16cM.  The dark blue is her match to me and the lighter blue is her match to my sister.

With Kalonji, she shares a DNA segment on Chromosome 7 that includes about 1500 SNPs and has a length of 12cM.

Because she is related to both of us, this means then that somewhere along the way one of my ancestors hooked up with one of Kalonji’s ancestors and she is a descendant of one of their children. How fascinating.

However, even better was the fact that we were able to meet today during a quick work break. She was on campus so I ran over to the hospital to meet her.

There is so much to explore on our family tress; this is only the beginning.  I would love to one day figure out her connection to both Kalonji and I.   In looking over her tree, I do see one surname of potential interest for my family tree, but nothing yet for Kalonji’s.  Small world isn’t it?

Isariah – I Know Your Lineage

Tonight, the 23andMe results have come back for a relative of mine – a gentleman for whom I am his 3rd cousin once removed.   At this point in time, his Relative Finder results are not back but his daughter and I spoke this evening about his results and we learned some interesting things!

Of particular interest for me was his mtDNA.  His maternal lineage is L3e2a1b. It is through this line that we are connected for he is the son of a female descendant of my 3rd great-grandmother, Isariah Wood.    Isariah is a paternal ancestor of mine, so I don’t have her mtDNA.  I am so pleased to know her lineage now!

However, this is a perfect example of needing a capacity as I described in an earlier post of being able to tag DNA sequences to specific individuals in a more shareable fashion than what we currently have with 23andMe.  Furthermore, tomorrow his Relative Finder matches should come in so I am particularly interested to see where we will match DNA.  Oh, the anticipation is killing me!  :-)

Note: Read my other blog posts on mine and my family’s 23andMe results.

 

23andMe: A DNA, Surname & Geographic Location Match!

Continuing my blog series on our 23andMe results, I had to share an exciting lead I have now that my mother’s results have been processed!

One of my mother’s matches is a lady who we’ll call Ms. W.  Ms. W  has DNA similarity with my mother at 2 segments:  a) On Chromosome 3 with a segment that is 23cM and includes 4965 SNPs and b) Chromosome 6 with a segment that is 6.5 cM and includes 1244 SNPs.  From comparing our family trees we learned that we both have Lennon ancestors from the Bladen/Columbus County region in NC.  23andMe predicts my mother and Ms. W to be 4th cousins.

shared DNA segments

Ms. W has a 3rd great-grandmother named Caroline Lennon who was born a slave around 1855.  Caroline married Creed McNeill and had at least 5 kids.  Caroline most likely died by 1910 as in that census year Creed has remarried.  My mother’s paternal grandmother was named Lucinda Lennon, daughter of John & Etta Lennon.  Lucinda was born in Bladen County and her parents lived in both Bladen & Columbus counties.  Both John & Etta were Lennons so if Caroline is part of my family, then she could be related through either John or Etta.  The DNA they share is of African origin.

The goal now is to find out if we can place Caroline with a family since the only thing Ms. W. knows about her at this point is that her maiden name was Lennon.   As I consider it, the following are things that can be done as next steps:

  • Can we locate any marriage information for Caroline & Creed?  According to their 1900 census record they married around 1870.  I’ve located a book of marriage records for Bladen County that includes both white and black marriages during that time period. Need to find someone who can do a lookup.  Perhaps parents will be listed? As a black couple, it’s not likely there was ever a newspaper notice published.
  • Look for burial records? If Caroline died before 1910 as I suspect she may not have a death certificate. But, maybe she is buried somewhere in the area and has a tombstone.  Need to look for cemetery listings, focused on cemeteries where her other family members may be buried.
  • Look at those living near her in 1880 and 1900 to see if any names look familiar.  Often people lived near family so maybe she did also.
  • I need to look more closely for any white Lennon’s that owned an approximately 5 year old female black slave in the 1860 slave census schedules to see if I can identify a potential slaveowner.  Such a determination may offer clues in searching the records of the white Lennon family for Caroline spottings.
  • Caroline had at least 5 kids, but Ms. W. has only traced the descendants of one of them which is her own direct line. Time to start tracing the families of the other 4! Who knows what we may learn and find by contacting individuals in those other branches? Would be great if we did locate a few people of the other branches and they agreed to be DNA tested.
  • My mother has a 1st cousin who has a 23andMe kit on the way.  If this cousin also matches Ms. W then we will know for sure that the match comes from my mother’s paternal side of the family as we highly suspect.
  • My mother has 4th cousin once removed that we could ask if she is interested in the DNA testing.  The 4th cousin once removed is related to my mother via Lucinda’s paternal family.  If that cousin also matched my mom and Ms. W. then we would at least be able to narrow it down to Lucinda’s paternal branch.
This is going to be a process for sure!  I am sure I am missing some potential research avenues — do you have any recommendations/suggestions to offer?

 

 

 

 

23andMe: You ARE the Mother!

My mom and I have had a running joke since sending our DNA in for the Roots Into the Future Initiative on how it would be funny if it came back she was not our mother.  Of course we know that’s not the case, but the joke was more a reflection of her awe that from DNA the system can tell that we are so closely related.

Upon logging in to see the Relative Finder results, we see immediately that there are close relatives for her in the database.

After clicking on “Show Close Relatives” her two daughters, myself and my sister, show up. What was so cool was that neither Kelli nor I had marked her as our mother yet from our profiles. We then of course proceeded with marking our relationships so that 23andMe has it on file.  I did find it interesting that from my profile, it predicted my mother as either “Mother or Daughter” and I had to indicate she was my mother. I wonder why they could predict I was her daughter, but could not predict that she was my mother?

Of particular note though now that Mommy’s results are in the database I can start to divide my sister and I’s matches to either our maternal side or our paternal side.  If someone matches me (or Kelli) and my mom, then I know that match is through her side.  If someone does not match one of us but not our mother, then I know that match is on our father’s side.

Lastly, here is my mother’s Ancestry Painting – her African-origin DNA is 93%!  If my understanding is correct, most African-Americans in this country descended from slaves have on average around 20% European origin DNA, so Mommy is well below average here.

There are so many more things to investigate…..

 

Veteran’s Weekend Trip to the Nashville National Cemetery

This Veteran’s day I did not have a chance to blog about any veterans in my family, so I decided to honor the holiday differently.  I visited the Nashville National Cemetery yesterday and took pictures using the BillionGraves app.

In two hours I was able to take more than 800 photos – amazing.  Now, my work is done – the images are uploaded to the site and others are already transcribing them.  This is why I love BillionGraves – it is just too easy to be a contributor.  I even had the kids helping again :-)

Kaleya clears leaves in preparation for Jihad's photo-taking

Kaleya takes a picture

I wish I could share the map of the cemetery too and where I took pictures, but I had to add it to the BillionGraves database and it has not yet been added to the website.  However, here is a snapshot of my dashboard as of the end of the day today.  My next goal will be to hit 2000 pictures before the year is out.

My BillionGraves Dashboard as of 11/13/11

 

Genetic Genealogy Idea: Tagging DNA!

In the past few weeks, I have spent considerable time contacting DNA matches in 23andMe as first steps towards looking for verifiable connections.  As I go through this process, I know there must be an easier way to leverage all the work we as individual 23andMe users are doing on the site.  For my day job I deal in knowledge management and let me tell ya – there is a lot of knowledge yet to be managed in 23andMe and it gave me an idea.

Currently, when 23andMe has identified someone with whom I share a DNA segment with, time is spent between myself and my match to share our family tree information in the search for shared ancestry.  Sometimes, it may be possible to verify the exact relationship and other times it may not pan out.  Many factors must be considered when evaluating the shared DNA and for the lucky ones, those relationships can be determined.  For example, Randy Majors describes an inspiring success story in verifying a common ancestral couple (his 6th  great-grandparents) with a 23andMe match.  For the sake of argument, let’s pretend that I too were descended from his 6th great-grandparents and had the same DNA segment match as he and his distant cousin.  As the process now stands, despite the fact that Randy and his distant cousin KNOW their shared DNA segment came from that couple, the only way I would be able to find out would be to contact Randy & the distant cousin (assuming they both showed up as matches for me) and go through the long and tedious process of comparing information and/or doing triangulation.

This is where my idea comes in:

  • what if after Randy & the distant cousin confirm this couple as the origin of their shared DNA they were able to “tag” that DNA segment with information and metadata about the couple and add that information to the 23andMe website so that it could be USED BY OTHERS.
  • what if everyone who confirmed relationships could tag DNA segments to specific individuals — imagine how genea-rich with information 23andMe would become!
  • what if when I logged into 23andMe I were presented with names/dates/locations of specific people based on computer aggregation and analysis of all the “tags” that successful matches had been able to identify and associate with DNA segments.
Thus, for the next person who matches Randy at that segment, 23andMe would be able to show them the match to Randy at that location, but also be able show information about the people from which Randy inherited the DNA.  Would that not be awesome!
Of course there are issues to be considered but ultimately I do think genetic genealogy needs to head in this direction and I would like for it to happen sooner rather than later.  Let’s leverage the knowledge of the 23andMe user database and combine it with computing power to facilitate the tagging and presentation to others. They already do it for health traits and conditions so why not for genealogy?
A natural question that comes to my mind is who would do this first? 23andMe has an obvious health focus and I wonder how committed they are to the genealogy aspect of DNA testing. But, Ancestry.com is now getting into the autosomal DNA testing game and Ancestry.com already has the technology to allow users to tag  specific individuals across their massive database of records.  Imagine them making it happen with DNA.  For this reason, I know that as soon as I can, I will be making sure I get my DNA info in the Ancestry database also.   Think of the potential!!!

What do you think of this idea?

 

 

 

 

 

23andMe: Hooking in My Family

Okay, I might as well face it.  My blog posts for the next while are all going to be 23andMe and how things are going with my involvement with the Roots Into the Future initiative.  Hope you don’t mind!

As I shared last time, my results are now in and I’ve had a wonderful time working through them.  Then, about a week ago, I learned that the free kits were available again and I’ve been on a mission to see how many of my family members are also willing to do it.  One thing that I have seen clear in my experiences so far with me, my sister, and my husband is that the more family members you have in the system, the more valuable the results can be as you work to compare with others in the database.

So, I ordered more for myself and now have 3 to take with me our next trip to Alabama for some of Kalonji’s family members.  These are earmarked for his grandmother and two of his male cousins.  One was an extra one from the last round and I ordered two this round.

As for others in the family, I have been ordering them and having kits mailed to their homes directly.  Trying to make it easy on them ya know? Here is where we stand now — in addition to us three….

  • My mother has sent her sample in and those results should be in soon as it’s been more than a month now
  • My father has agreed to do it
  • My brother will hopefully do it; his wife has her sample ready to mail on Monday
  • My step-uncle is going to do it – hopefully his sister, my step-mother, will also; I’ve been working on their family tree for years.
  • My stepfather is going to do it; I’ve been working on his tree too for years
  • A first cousin of my mother’s is going to do it
  • a 3rd cousin of mine has his sample ready to mail on Monday
  • a 4th cousin of mine has ordered her kit and will send it in
And, I have asked another 5 family members and await to hear back about their decisions.  Is this not awesome?  I am trying to cover both sides of my family and will keep asking them until the free kits run out.  :-)