Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Random genealogy search engine frustration

Sometimes the easiest way to find genealogical information is to go to Google or some other search engine and just type in the name of the person you're looking for. I've found obituaries, newspaper articles, and other research being done by amateur genealogists from around the world. But I always hit two roadblocks in my searches.

If I type in "Gorry genealogy," I get a ton of hits. Not one of them has to do with my family tree. There is a professional genealogist out there, Paul Gorry, and websites about him and his work will always turn up. And he's not researching his family tree. He's always doing somebody elses.

I also can't type in "Rudolph Stutzmann." Well, I can, and of the ton of hits I get, one or two of them will be about his contributions to the Ridgewood area or his German roots, but 99 percent of them are obituaries for other people, in which he and his funeral home did the funeral arrangements. Apparently his funeral home was very successful and very popular, much to my genealogical researching chagrin.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The interesting thing about genetic genealogy...

...is actually something I will probably never experience. As someone of entirely Western European descent (could my ancestry *be* anymore boring? Thank God for Peter Berg of Denmark for mixing it up just the tiniest bit!), there's really nothing...exotic? unique?...that I expect my DNA ancestry to reveal. Having my dad return as a K and not the uber-popular H was a pleasant surprise, but all that really tells me as of right now is that he belongs to a somewhat common Western European group, not a super common one.

I'm thinking in terms of people of mixed ancestry, or who don't know specifics but who have family stories that their great-great-great grandmother might've been a slave or that somewhere along the line, a Native American married into their family tree. Or for people who don't know anything about their genealogy. Maybe you're of Asian descent. Maybe you're of Jewish.

That's where I think, right now, this genetic genealogy is most interesting. Finding out something like that, about your theoretical, far-reaching family tree, could give a starting point and fuel an interest in researching your tangible, much closer family tree. That's what I think anyway. But I'm already hooked, so what do I know?

Haplogroup T

I knew my results would come last night. The lab received my sample the day after my dad's, so I had a feeling I would get my results the day after he got his. Hoped, anyway.

Reconfirmed that I am, indeed, part of mtDNA haplogroup T. Second-most popular group to belong to among people of European descent (I think the number is between 10-20 percent). So, while I might have more fun looking for possible ancestral paths for my dad's group, K, I will probably have more luck finding people who are an exact match for me.

Of note: mtDNA mutations change so slowly that if you're not an exact match to someone, you're not related. That doesn't mean you are closely related to someone who is an exact match, but you definitely are not if there are any differences. Not through that branch, anyway. So, so far there are about 20 people on Ancestry who match up to me exactly. And my dad so far is SOL, thanks to his one extra mutation that nobody else in K seems to have. What a mutant! Ha ha...no, seriously. My next line of thought for this genetics journey when it comes to T is to find people who are tracing an Irish T line, since that's where my T comes from (Limerick, to be exact, as far back as I can tell, which isn't that far - 1820s, maybe). You have to start somewhere, so I figure you go from one thing being in common (haplogroup T) to something else you might have in common (Irish ancestors).

Another note: about belonging to haplogroups, which is kind of hard to wrap your head around. My dad asked me last night if I'm a K since he's a K. Genetically speaking, no. Genetically, my mutations make me a T. But genealogically, yes. Genealogically, I am a T. I am a K. I am a y-DNA haplogroup R1b. I am whatever my Raynor line turns out to be. I carry the genetic markers of a specific haplogroup, but I am here and who I am because of all the people I am descended from who belong to all these different haplogroups. Humans seem to have a need to define and categorize and organize things. And by "humans," I mean "me." Life is messy. Genealogy is messy. Haplogroups help trace the human journey - literally. The human migration. Genetically, I am a T. But genetically, I am also related to my dad. So I would like to think that if the Ks all got together and threw an awesome party, that I would get an invitation because even though I'm not one of them, I am of one of them.

Yeah, trying to wrap my head around this is starting to hurt...

DNA a potential aid in solving Raynor mystery?

I was just thinking about it now as I was sitting here looking at my family tree. As with all small founding communities, there was a lot of intermarriage among just a few families in early Hempstead, so I have no less than three generations on my family tree where there is a Raynor marrying a Raynor. About 8 generations back, though, on one branch it comes down to a single couple, Jacob Raynor, and his wife, Rebecca Raynor. Jacob's parents are disputed at best, unknown at worst. It is through his wife, Rebecca, that I connect myself to the larger Raynor family tree on that branch. But it is to Jacob and his father and grandfather that a y-DNA test would connect the Raynor men in my family - my mother's brothers and their sons (my cousins). I can connect myself to the larger tree through other male Raynors, but they are the fathers of daughters on my line. Jacob is the mystery, and an exact match to someone else would guarantee with 95 percent accuracy that you are related within 11 generations, which means if my cousin matched exactly to another Raynor who could trace his paternal genealogy that far back (and lucky for me, most of the Raynors can), then at best, we might be able to narrow down which of a few individuals might be Jacob's father. At worst, we could definitely connect Jacob to one of Freeport founder Edward's sons, which would be proof at least that Jacob is part of this interwoven tree.

On that note, my male Raynor cousin has offered to take the y-DNA test. He has his own Ancestry.com family tree up now. It seems he has gotten the genealogy bug from his father. I'm starting to become convinced that an interest in genealogy is either genetic or its contagious.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

mtDNA Haplogroup K

This is all going much quicker than I thought it would. Well, I guess it is my DNA nd the DNA of my family...it should be aware of how impatient I am!

Last night I got an e-mail saying my father's mtDNA results were in. These results follow his mother's mother's mother's line, and turns out he (and I by extension) belongs to haplogroup K. What does this tell me? Not much so far. I just started sifting through the information. It does tell me that this is another line where I don't belong to the most popular Western European haplogroup of H. Awesome. I have a serious need to be different. Of course, this will make it more difficult to connect with DNA family. Oh well. I love a good challenge.

What else...Katie Couric belongs to haplogroup K, as does Oesti, the Tyrolean Iceman, which is interesting because my family's always kinda been interested in him, since he was found on the Austro-Italian border shortly before we traveled there for the first time.

Haplogroup K is also found in large numbers in the Ashkenazi Jewish population. This doesn't mean that if you're a K, you have Jewish roots. But it's an interesting angle. According to Wikipedia, it is common in non-Jews from Ireland, the Alps, and Great Britain. In my family, K belongs to a German line I'm following (Helen Stutzman, Helen Haase, Meta Ricklefs, Meta Tiedemann, Meta Buckmann, and possibly Lucia Borger. Obviously, it goes way further back than that. Bu that's he extent of my non-DNA genealogical research into my father's maternal branch.

The way mtDNA works is that certain mutations in your DNA place you into certain haplogroups. So, K members have six basic mutations - 16311C, 16519C, 73G, 263G and 315.1C. Then there are subclades, or subgroups, within the haplogroup. Ashkenazi Jews have certain markers. More than a few K subclades have the 146C and 152C mutation as well. My father has all of these. So far, though, i my limited research, he also has 2 other mutations, one, 309.1C which I think I saw someone else had, and 16153A, which I haven't been able to find in anybody else. The good thing about this is that you have to be an exact mtDNA match to be anywhere close to being related (and I'm talking close as in thousands of years, not tens of thousands of years). The bad thing is it makes the search harder.

I also realized that my father's test results were HVR 1 plus HVR 2 results, which means more markers were tested, which means you have a better chance of findng what subclade you belong to. When I tested as haplogroup T for the National Geographic Genographic project, I only got HVR 1 results, so I may actually get new information back when I get my results (of course the impatient one's results come in last!)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Relatability test

Ok, so starting to get a feel for what these DNA tests can do. Ancestry created a new account for each of the tests I bought. I didn't want to have to log into my brother's account every time I wanted to check his results, so I manually entered his results onto my page (since they belong to me, too). Now we're both in the database, so when it gives me my paternal matches, my brother comes up as an exact match. With an exact match, our most recent common ancestor (MRCA) was given as 1 generation back. Which, yes, that's true. But it turns out that it's only a 50 percent certainty. The site pretty much guarantees a 95 percent certainty of a MRCA at 11 generations. So while my brother and I are an exact match and related one generation back, anyone else I find in the database with an exact match could be anywhere between there and 275 years back for a MRCA. The database says anyone off by only 2 or 3 markers is a pretty close match, which would seem to be true, but to find someone related no more than 300 years back from you, you need an exact match. Which considering my branchless tree (at least on the Gorry end of things) is one I need to cross my fingers and knock on wood for.

Paternal genealogy

The interesting thing about my paternal genealogy line (and maybe for some of you I'm playing a little fast and loose with the word "interesting") is that with the exception of my dad's cousins by his dad's brother, I'm not entirely hopeful about finding close relatives on the Gorry line. Well, close is a relative term. At least as far back as my 3rd great grandfather, James Gorry (6 generations, born 1830 in Ireland) until my grandfather and his brother, there is only a single Gorry line to follow. James Sr. had two sons, James and Michael, but Michael never married or had kids. James Jr. had two sons, Joseph and Elmer Sr., but Joseph died three days before his 7th birthday. Elmer Sr. had two sons, Elmer Jr. (my grandfather) and Eugene (Uncle Gerard), and its here that the Gorry line has its first branches in 100 years. Uncle Gerard had three sons who each had a son, and my grandfather had two sons, of which my father had two sons. So I have my paternal second-cousins, but other than that, the closest paternal cousins (or even cousins following a maternal Gorry line for that matter as none of the daughters born in that 100 year interval had any children of their own, either...totally branchless!) I can hope to find would be if James Sr. had any siblings or if his father, Cornelius, had any siblings. Cornelius is as far back as I've traced that line. That would be a fifth or sixth cousin. But it would be interesting if I could find one, although if I had to go even further back to find a long-lost cousin, it would make me even more amazed at the persistance of the Gorry line in the face of its branch shortage...nature just can't seem to get rid of us!

DNA results #1 are in!

I am super stoked! Just yesterday, I was on the Ancestry.com website checking the DNA page and saying to myself, "Why are you being a glutton for punishment? You *know* the results won't be in yet!" And then I got the e-mail!! Apparently my brother has super speedy DNA. I was supposed to have to wait four weeks and I only had to wait a week for his. If his DNA was a girl, some people would not be calling it a lady...but I don't care, because it knew I was impatient and it came through for me to tide me over till the other results come in!

I guess y-chromosome DNA tests are easier to read than mtDNA tests. That's probably the real answer.

So, the y-chromosome test was for the Gorry line (father's father's father's line, etc.) and the Gorrys, like 70 percent of people from Western Europe and 90 percent from England and Ireland, belong to the group R1b. The page shows a readout of the results, a map of the group coming out of Mesopotamia and traveling through Eastern to Western Europe, a description of that particular group of people, all of which I have to read more closely to get a better idea of what it all means. But the coolest factor I think is you can also find paternal matches of other people who have uploaded their DNA results to Ancestry. Depending on how many markers you have in common, you can find people you are closely related to and how many generations back you have to go to find a common ancestor. Like, at 70 generations back, my brother matched with more than 250 people. Big whoop. Everyone in the world is related 70 generations back. But there's one woman in England that has a 50 percent chance of being related to us only 13 generations, or 325 years, back. That would be around the year 1683. My Raynor ancestors had already been in America for 50 years at that point, so for me as a genealogist, a connection from that time period does not feel that far back. And on the Gorry side...I can't trace them farther than 1800 so far!

Anyway, it's all just as exciting as I thought it would be. And as more people do this and add their info to the database, more possible familial links will turn up and more "long-lost" relatives could be found. Definitely have to start finding out more about my bro's results, then...jeez, I feel like such a dork. But I'm so excited, I don't even care!

Friday, September 5, 2008

DNA analysis in progress!

Just checked the Ancestry website and finally got the news I've been looking for...the labs have received my DNA samples. They got mine and my brother's yesterday, my father's on Wednesday. Apparently his DNA was so super excited to be analyzed that even though I mailed all the packets at the same time, his searched for and found a short cut in order to get to Utah a day earlier than the other two...and he couldn't share his time-saving tip with his comrades? I don't know how I feel about my dad's DNA anymore...

Anyhow, uppity and unfriendly DNA aside, all three samples are accounted for and the analysis can begin. They say it takes an average of 4 weeks to get results. With my Irish luck, it'll take longer, but in any case, let the countdown begin!