Growing my roots:

Interlocked and Interwoven by common ancestry & DNA

DNA genealogy should not be a parlor trick. This is real and serious stuff.

It has been a while since my last post. Well I have graduated, and a new chapter begins. I don’t have any new discoveries—only thoughts.

I notice that many newer people who have gotten into DNA genealogy are only interested in the most uncertain and ever-changing aspect of it, the ethnicity mix. (Heck, I even initially was swept up in it and posted my and my sibling’s results in a post.) These are the same people who refuse to believe the more concrete and never-changing part of the science, the matches. After a certain percentage of centimorgans of DNA shared, the odds of it being a false positive is null.

There are not many African Americans into genealogy, and this is a shame. We could really help each other piece things together. (Genealogists helping fellow genealogists is also a problem that I will bring back up later.) Many African Americans who cross over to DNA genealogy and not part of the people in the above paragraph usually have a one-tracked mind. They see a population that their DNA shows an affinity with and make an assumption that they are part that population. An example is that AncestryDNA shows I have a small percentage of Finno-Russian. I may very well have Finno-Russian. It is also may be Native American. The area that is now made up of the countries of Finland and Russia has been proven by peer reviewed science papers to be an area where some Native American tribes actually came from. (Believe me; I am not chasing that Indian princess relative that so many who take these tests are interested in. I am just looking for the real ancestors that made me.) Basically, I am saying a little knowledge of history should be accompanied when interpreting your results. That was just one example of hitching on to one aspect of one’s results and not investigating further.

Many people, not just African Americans, get hung up on a surname not showing or a place not appearing among their matches. I have said it before and will say it until I lose my ability to speak: DNA trumps oral history and recorded documents. (I have not much more to add to that. You either believe it or you don’t.)

A huge dose of genetic science by all should be attempted to be understood when interpreting your results. This is mainly the companies’ fault though. They advertise in such a way that leads consumers to believe that once you receive your results all your genealogical and ancestral questions will be answered. This is not the case. You have to work very hard to figure out what the DNA is telling you. I always provide my matches with a link to Kelly Wheaton’s Beginners Guide to Genetic Genealogy.

I visit many DNA-genealogy based groups, forums, communities, and message boards, and the snobbery among those who feel like someone else has nothing to offer them (because of lack of family knowledge, small pedigrees, or not coming from the “right” branch) is disheartening. I get that people want to give just as much as they can get, but many people lack family knowledge for legitimate reasons. Simply not being told, being adopted, not having funds to spend on documents, and or not having the luxury to travel to ancestral homes or genealogical databases are all valid reasons. These people are still as much related to those ancestors as the “hoarding” genealogists are. I, myself, do this in hopes that I can freely share what I discover with anyone who will listen.

The last thing that I really think genealogy, specifically genetic genealogy can benefit from is a standard that all companies, geneticists, and casual dabblers should adhere by—an internationally recognized board, if you will. And this is where I may turn those who deem themselves “citizen genetic scientists” off. This board needs to be filled with equal parts citizen genetic scientists and actual degree-holding geneticists. How can you discuss genealogy without a genealogist? On the same hand, how can you discuss genetics without a geneticist? On these aforementioned forums, I see a lot of well-respected folks saying opposite things or with agenda and company loyalty. That is not a standard.

In other news, I bought a better Web site that I was going to migrate to. It is much more complicated than I had anticipated.

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June 7, 2014 Posted by | DNA results, The journey | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More powerful than science, stronger than belief…it is truth!

I am glad to see the sea between genealogist who use DNA as a valuable tool and strict paper genealogists is drying up. Paper genealogy got me back to the early 1800s on a few of my lines. For black Americans that is pretty far back.

I have always been a lover of stories, fiction, nonfiction, science fiction etc… . In my mid-20s I realized that I had no family stories of my own. Most of my friends had and conveyed them without even knowing they were doing so. My many siblings and I could only say that our mom was from Mississippi and still had family in Mississippi. I grew up not knowing my dad, so that was even more stories unrelayed.

Science fiction for a good decade was my fiction reading of choice. I have been fascinated by science, itself, but some smart science fiction that dealt with the biology of humans, human existence, and genetics made science more understandable for me. So when I heard of people using DNA in assisting with genealogy (history and science combined), I was excited. Problem was that initial tests were $1000 or more. Me producing that much money for a test would have been a work of fiction, for real.

In 2011 DNA testing became more affordable and the prices have since dropped. Therefore, I have gotten my autosomal DNA tested at three companies, five of my sisters’ austosomal tested at one, one brother’s tested at two, had mybrother’s and my mitochondrial DNA tested at two,  and my brother’s paternal (in essence, my father’s) paternal Y-DNA tested at two. Yes, you can call me a DNA junkie.

What is it that I hope to learn and how does it tie into genealogy—my story

Although the paper trail, documentation, and oral history have guided me back further than most people expected I could go, many lines still have gaps. Even those lines that go back to the early 1800s have a chance of getting back to the 1700s or 1600s or beyond. One of my hopes is that DNA will help me bridge the gaps and blaze a trail as far back as I can go.

Before testing, the certainties that I could tell you about my family was that we were mainly from Mississippi, we were mainly of African descent, we were mainly of slave descent, and, because of the nature of slavery, we probably had some European blood. After testing I can tell you that many of my DNA matches are mainly from North Carolina, therefore my family was probably there before being enslaved in Mississippi, we have matches to Nigeria and Ghana, my DNA matches seven modern-day African areas (with Cameroon,/Congo, C’ote d’Ivoire/Ghana, Mali, and Nigeria being the top regions), we range from 13% to 25% European and my DNA matches six European areas, one suspected black ancestor successfully made it to Canada before the end of slavery, two suspected European ancestors were brought over as slaves (one English and one Irish), and my father’s father’s father’s father’s line leads to Belgium. Now, some of this knowledge came from collaborating with my DNA matches on what they knew of their own history. Without the DNA, I would not have been led to these clues.

Another important thing that I am getting from DNA genealogy is proof that oral history or written documents cannot provide. DNA autocorrects the mistakes or “mis-leads” that have been left from the past. It does not give instant answers, afterall it is a tool that you have to work hard at. It challenges what you have been told or even what you have seen some times. This can be quite scary for some. But it is so exhilarating when you actually confirm that you were on the right track with your paper trail and in your oral history.

For me, knowing that an ancestor passed down a piece of themself that made me is something more powerful than science or belief. It is mystical and mesmerizing. It pushes me on with my genealogy because I want to discover who they were, every good, bad, or ugly detail.

All of my siblings only share one parent with me. Below is exactly what segments on the chromosome that we match.

Genome1aGenome2a

November 20, 2013 Posted by | DNA results | , , , | Leave a comment

Snps…chips

Genealogy is truly a cutthroat business. I mean some people feel as if they are sole owners of those that came before. I find the notion quite ridiculous because it is the descendants who belong to those who came preceded us, and by our mere existence, they own us. I begin this with the mind to discuss the types of genealogist that I have come across and have issue with.

As stated above, I have a real problem with “ancestor hogs.” Those are people who don’t want to share information but will drain you dry of any information that you may have. I am not advocating that genealogist become like me, but I share freely. I want my ancestors to be remembered. In fact, the lack of research that others are not doing on some of my lines makes me sad.

There are those who want you to do things in the manner in which they would. I am me. One thing I like about me is that I walk to the beat of a different drummer so well that I am actually following the surging riff of an electric guitar. That will not change. So the jazz hands that keep trying to tend to my tree and place all this manure that this gardener is not ready, willing, or able to tend to at the moment should tend to their own. There are good reasons that I don’t need to justify and will not explain as to why I am taking the road that I am taking on my journey.

I am mainly black (yes, I use this term more easily than African American), but have some white ancestors. I am just as connected and proud of both groups that I descend from. I want to know all of who made me.  Along my path, I have come across three types of researchers. The first are those who couldn’t care less about race and just want to figure out our connection. I like these people a lot. The last two make me want cut myself, make a salt and vinegar solution, and use the edge of a knife to rub it in my wound. I am thinking of those of you who feel as if I should not research my European ancestors and only focus on my African ancestors and those European cousins who, even the nice ones, have a sense that our European ancestor is really just your ancestor who raped, had sex with, made a mistake with, or had some fun with (pick your theme) my ancestor and created something that is really not connected to your ancestor at all. I call both of these types of genealogist the “deniers.”

Now, people can create a myth or choose to research in whatever manner they deem fit. I only have an issue when it impedes on me finding out who I am. The former does not slow down my progress but irritates me, because they feel a need to email me and tell me where I need to focus. The latter can be split even further. A good majority give information but still refer to our common ancestor as their ancestor, make apologies for their ancestor, and express anger at their ancestor. Well, I can do all of that for our ancestor on my own.

The latter in that category, if they do accept contact, offer very little information or say there is no way we can be related. Well, I have taken DNA tests to supplement what little oral history that I have. In fact, I am a science gal and believe the science way more than any oral history. The stories usually speak of familial connections, whereas DNA speaks of a genetic connection. There is a difference. Surnames, family stories, pictures, and such are more indicative of familial connections. I am interested in sorting out the genetic connection; although, I am not saying familial connections are not as important. I am not trying to figure out my bloodline because I want something such as money, a phone call, an invite to the next family reunion–things that my genetic relatives may feel like I am not entitled to. I want only what is owed to me, and I can prove ownership with my and my known families DNA. That is giving my ancestor a seat at my pedigree table. Therefore, with the ways that names changed, the manner in which census takers and transcribers recorded it, and the sordid history in which blacks took names, the fact is that not even a good amount of my third cousins will share many of the surnames that I know.

The last type of genealogist that irks me is the genealogist who tries to create a fact out of a fallacy. These are the people who will never admit their tree is wrong. They can have a mother in the tree giving birth to a child after her recorded death, see that their supposed grandfather Ryan Bennett married their supposed grandmother Louise Jones but still leave “grandpa” Jack Avery in their tree, etc. And those of us who consider ourselves DNA genealogist are no better. People will swear up and down that the science is wrong if we cannot place our matches, if we don’t see the Cherokee princess’s DNA (insert whatever ethnicity some people consider exotic), do see some signs of DNA we don’t want to see, or “close” paper trail cousins aren’t matching.

No, my tree is not ready for primetime either, but I state that and look into it when others suggest that I may have gotten it wrong. I welcome that. And there are times when I don’t change things right away. I do acknowledge erroneous information as erroneous information though.

My rant is up and time for a drink now.

September 28, 2013 Posted by | The journey | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment