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.  :-)

23andMe Results: My Ancestry Painting

With much joy yesterday I was delighted to learn that my DNA results were back from 23andMe. I ordered my kit for free through their Roots Into the Future initiative and have been working on getting my family members tested too.  So far, my husband and my sister are done; my mother’s will be done in a few weeks.

My maternal haplogroup was already known to me since my sister’s results came back awhile ago – -we are L2a1e.  This lineage goes back to sub-saharan Africa.  No surprise :-).

My Ancestry painting was what was the most fun to look at last night.  My mother and I went through it in detail and especially noted how I compare to my sister.  According to 23andMe, my DNA has the following approximate origins – 84% African, 13% European and 3% Asian (likely Native-American).

My ancestry painting

This is in contrast to my sister’s  78% African, 18% European and 4% Asian (again, likely Native American).  Goes to show how siblings do get their DNA distribution differently from each parent.

Kelli's ancestry painting

One thing that is clear from both of our paintings is that most  of our European DNA is coming more from one of our parents.  Most of the blue colored segments are in the bottom half of the chromosomes and 23andMe uses a distinction between the top half and bottom half of each image to denote the two parents.  At this point, we do not yet know which parent, but if I had to guess I would predict from my father’s side.  We will hopefully know more once my parent’s results are in.  Very exciting!  I have so much more to blog about with these results so stay tuned.

You can read my past 23andMe blog posts here.

Grandma Truly Is Forever In Our Hearts

My daughter Kaleya was born on her great-grandmother Alice’s birthday – October 16th.  Yesterday, we celebrated Kaleya’s 7th birthday.  Yesterday, my grandmother did not turn 87.  :-(

Today, b/c of it being her birthday, my mother went to her gravesite to visit her and to take the first pictures of her headstone.  Grandma is buried in Sarasota National Park cemetery and is in fact in the same section as her eldest son, Stanley, who passed away 10 months before her.

Mommy says that Grandma is in the same diagonal row as Stanley – just 11 rows above him.

 

Upcoming History/Genealogy Projects from the IMLS

At my job, one of my primary responsibilities involves a grant project we have that is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.  Just this week, they announced a new round of funded projects.  Some of them caught my genealogy eye as they have potential to be of benefit for family history researchers.

The full list of funded projects can be found here but the following are of interest:

  • Florida – Orange County Library System(Orlando) — the library is planning to work with community partners to prototype and evaluate the feasibility of a new type of library service geared towards creating openly accessible online databases of obituaries.  The online obits will be places where family and friends can submit detailed tributes and in doing so, help build a meaningful history of the residents of the community.  This is a planning project, so the database will not be built in this round of funding, but concepts surrounding it will be explored.
  • Chicago – American Library Association – another planning grant; in this project, the ALA will begin a collaboration with StoryCorps to make the service accessible to public libraries across the country.  The StoryCorps program is an important one for capturing oral histories, so the more that we can capture now, the better off we will be in the future.
  • Southeastern New York Library Resources Council – to increase awareness of oral histories, the organization will work with libraries, museums, community organizations and others to digitize oral histories from several repositories. They will create radio broadcasts, create linked and dynamic websites to showcase the collections and create mobile apps. Sweet.

 


23andMe Results: Kalonji’s Ancestry Painting

Continuing my posts on our 23andMe testing, I continue with a brief description of Kalonji’s Ancestry Painting and what we’ve learned from it.

The Ancestry Painting is a feature of 23andMe that shows an analysis of the 22 non-sex chromosomes we inherit from our parents.  The result is a beautifully colored image that illustrates DNA segments and gives a report of if the DNA is likely inherited from Africa, Europe or Asia.

The first part of the Ancestry Painting gives the overall breakdown.  Apparently, Kalonji’s DNA is 78% African origin, 21% European origin and 4% Native American (shows up as Asian but is very likely Native American or else statistical noise).

It is not uncommon for African-Americans to have 20% or more European DNA given our history of slavery, so the results were not really surprising.  What I found most interesting about the painting was the distribution of the European DNA.  If a DNA segment is bi-colored, it means each of the chromosome pairs came from different parents.  From reading blog posts from 23andMe, I learned that the coloring is consistent in that the top half of the chromosoume represents one parent, while the bottom half represents the other.  23andMe cannot tell you which half is which parent, but clues in a person’s family history may provide that.   In this case, it was true for Kalonji.

When you look at the Ancestry painting, it is clear that one half of all the chromosomes contains more European DNA than the other half for there are more blue segments on the bottom halves of the 22 than their are on the top.  This is consistent with what we know of Kalonji’s paternal ancestry and that of all of Kalonji’s 2nd great-grandparents, we are fairly sure that one of them in particular was white and he was on Kalonji’s paternal side (see previous posts on Kalonji’s McClellan ancestry).  Given Kalonji’s father’s complexion, paternal grandmother’s complexion, and her father’s complexion and features, we are pretty sure most of the European DNA is coming from that lineage.  Thus, we hypothesize that the bottom halves of the Ancestry painting are the portrait of DNA Kalonji inherited from his father.   We kinda knew this already, but it was neat to see it in the DNA analysis. :-)

My New (Old) Microfilm Reader

Can you say ecstatic! That is the feeling I am having this weekend after my geneabuddy Billie gave me a microfilm reader. She got it from a library that was closing several years ago. Finding herself not using it any longer, during a recent conversation we had about microfilm, she said she’d be willing to give it to me.

And I love it! Nevermind the fact that it is sitting on my nighstand in our bedroom :-). Until I get a “real” office space set up this is where it is going to remain. It is a Dukane model and I have no idea how old it is, but I know that it works. Yeah!

Thank you Billie!