Mystery Monday – Native American Day

Today is Native American Day, in South Dakota at least, which reminded me of an old family rumor that my grandmother was part Native American.

Doris Mae Bowen

My Grandmother Doris Mae Bowen 1913-2004

She didn’t think she was, but  didn’t know.

Bessie Stanhope Tree

Her mother, Bessie Stanhope, was the great-granddaughter of James Carter and Deborah Newell.  James was born in 1765 in England and by 1788 had settled in Moose Island, Maine, which is part of Eastport and right in the heart of Passamaquoddy Tribe territory. According to many online family history pages and forum messages (example), his wife Deborah was from the Passamaquoddy Tribe. I haven’t found any evidence of this specifically, but I certainly haven’t exhausted all sources yet. The websites I’ve seen haven’t pointed to any actual source documentation either.

I have taken DNA tests with 23andMe, Ancestry DNA and Family Tree DNA and none have shown any Native American ancestry, however Deborah would be my 5th great-grandmother, so it’s possible that none made its way to me in an identifiable segment.

While it won’t prove that Deborah was Native American, I’d love to hear from any other descendants of James Carter and Deborah Newell that have taken DNA tests.

Tech Tuesday – DNA Test Results, Update 2

Back in April 2012 I received my AncestryDNA results and wrote about my surprise at seeing Scandinavian and Persian/Turkish/Caucasus in my Genetic Ethnicity results. I’ve had some recent results that possibly shed some light on both question marks in my, and hopefully others, genetic ethnicity as AncestryDNA sees it.

My Ethnicity Summary

My Ethnicity Summary

Scandinavian

At the time of my DNA test, the most popular theory was that the Vikings were lovers as well as fighters and that most of my Irish/English heritage is shown as Scandinavian. Back in August I connected with a cousin from my Stanhope line (Hi Susan!) and she pointed me to the website of Michael Stanhope, which seems to support that theory.

Michael, with the disclaimer that the information is“…what might have been rather than what definitely was”, documents the Stanhope line back to “…Halfdan Olafsson, Jarl of Vestfold, Ringerike, Hadeland, and the Opplands.” around the year 700 in Norway. The line supposedly goes from Norway to Normandy to England to America. That could certainly account for some of my Scandinavian ethnicity but it’s all but unprovable from a genealogical perspective. I was hopeful for something more concrete.

My Irish/English and Stanhope ancestry is on my paternal side, so every time I saw someone with Scandinavian listed as our “Shared Ethnicity” on Ancestry DNA, I automatically looked for surnames and locations from that side of my tree. Turns out I was being shortsighted.

My maternal grandfather’s parents are German and Lithuanian and although my grandfather is no longer here, his wonderful sister Jane is. My great-aunt Jane took the DNA test in December and yet another surprise when her results came in: 64% Eastern European, 36% Scandinavian.

Jane's Ethnicity Summary

Jane’s Ethnicity Summary

When I look at the matches we have in common, it turns out that on many of them the Shared Ethnicity is Scandinavian and the Shared Birth Location is Germany.SharedBirthLocations

Most of the matches have no obvious Scandinavian heritage (surnames or birth locations). Some matches have Central European ethnicity as well, which is where you’d expect German heritage to show.

So, it seems that some German ancestry shows as Scandinavian in the Ancestry DNA system. Perhaps these people originally were from Scandinavia and the test is picking up that deep ancestry or perhaps it’s just an error in the way the system works.  Any readers with Scandinavian in your DNA results where you expected German?

Persian/Turkish/Caucasus

My maternal grandmothers parents are both from Quindici, Avellino, Italy, which is a small town near Naples. You’d expect them to show as Southern European in my ethnicity, but I don’t have any.  I recently found a DNA match where the persons grandmother was a Manzi and our only shared ethnicity is Persian/Turkish/Caucasus.

Legend has it that my Fusco’s from Malden, Massachusetts are cousins of the Manzi’s from Lawrence, Massachusetts but I have not been able to find documentation of the connection yet. I’ve sent a message to the match to see if we can find a connection, I’m hopeful we will.

Are you seeing a similar or contrary pattern in your AncestryDNA results? I’d love to hear about it, please leave a comment.

Sale pricing on Family Tree DNA Tests

Family Tree DNA sent out a note to customers about end of year pricing, if you are considering getting a DNA test, now is a great time.

By the way, avoid that “AncestrybyDNA” test you see in Living Social ads, you can read more about why it sucks here, but suffice to say it’s a toy in comparison to a real DNA test.

As we ended our 8th Annual Genetic Genealogy Conference, several conference participants asked us to start our year-end sale as soon as possible. In answer to those requests we decided to start it immediately:
New Kits Current Price SALE PRICE
Y-DNA 37 $169 $119
Y-DNA 67 $268 $199
mtDNAPlus $159 $139
mtFullSequence (FMS) $299 $199
SuperDNA (Y-DNA 67 and mtFullSequence) $548 $398
Family Finder $289 $199
Family Finder + mtDNAPlus $438 $318
Family Finder + mtFullSequence $559 $398
Family Finder + Y-DNA 37 $438 $318
Comprehensive (FF + FMS + Y-67) $837 $597
To order this special offer, log in to your personal page and click on the Order An Upgrade button in the upper right corner. A link to the login page is provided below. ALL ORDERS MUST BE PLACED AND PAID FOR BY MONDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2012 11:59:00 PM CSTTO RECEIVE THE SALE PRICES.Log In to Order an Upgrade.Click Here to Order a New Kit.
As always, we appreciate your continued support.Family Tree DNAwww.familytreedna.com“History Unearthed Daily”

Tech Tuesday – DNA Test Results, Update

Cousin found! Well, technically he wasn’t lost as we had connected via Ancestry.com trees several months ago, but it’s nice to have the documented relationship backed up by DNA results.

Chris and I are 4th cousins, via the O’Brien family of Tuam, County Galway, Ireland. Here’s how AncestryDNA presents a match when a common ancestor can be identified. They could have picked either 3rd great-grandparent, Patrick O’Brien or Bridget O’Hare. I think the system is very precise when it comes to names, dates and locations. It does not seem to accomodate for alternate spellings, abbreviations or common date modifiers (like circa or about) like the Ancestry search engine does.

My 2nd great-grandfather Patrick J. O’Brien was born in 1848 in Tuam (pronounced choom) and came to America around the late 1860’s. In August of 1874, he and Ellen Ryan (1846-1934) were married in Portland, Maine. They lived in Rochester, NH and had four daughters: Katherine (1876-1956), Bernice (1879-1948), Mary (1881-1972) and Sara (1883-1900).

I’m seeing a lot more potential matches on the AncestryDNA Member Match page now, averaging about 10-15 new matches every 7 days. Each match is shown with several pieces of information: possible relationship range and a confidence level. Interesting to note that Chris was shown as a possible range 5th-8th cousin and a “Low” confidence level on page 3 of my matches, so it took me a while to even notice that he was listed. I have six people listed as 95%+ confidence, 4th-6th cousins, 3 of which have trees that are public, yet unfortunately no obvious connection. Interesting leads though, lots of Virginia/North Carolina families but all of my people are from New England, maybe an unknown sibling went south at some point? I’ll just have to keep digging.

Tech Tuesday – DNA Test Results, Surprise!

I’ve wanted to have a DNA test done for years, but the technology that was available (Y-DNA, and mitochondrial or mtDNA) was expensive and limited. Briefly, Y-DNA tests a direct paternal line, mtDNA tests a direct maternal line. Each test starts at around $150 and goes up from there and the results are only telling you about a very specific line in your family tree.

On this past season of the PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates Jr., Dr. Gates introduced a DNA part to the show where he would show a very simple pie chart that represented the persons ethnicity. The type of test he uses is an Autosomal (auDNA) test. From my very basic level of understanding, you get a much more complete picture because each autosome (1/2 of a chromosome pair) has segments of DNA that are passed down from each prior generation. More about Autosomal and genetic testing here.

Around November 2011, Ancestry.com sends me an email that says for $9.95 shipping and handling, I can be in the Beta test of their new Autosomal DNA test. So I signed up, got my kit, swabbed my cheek and sent it in. And waited, and waited… Finally, in April 2012 I get the notification that my results are in!

At this point, I had certain expectations based upon what I know of my family history. I have always self-identified as Irish/Italian. My immigrant ancestors are from Ireland, England, Italy, Poland and Germany. I have documents that show this, so I feel very confident that my DNA results will show this makeup. Well, not quite, here’s a screenshot of my results:

The numbers on the map represent birth locations from my actual tree.

Scandinavian? What the…. I’m thinking – there’s a mistake, my results were mixed up with someone else’s. I don’t have one ancestor from that part of the world, not one. So I start doing some research on the web and find that others were seeing similar results. I’m  not sure about the 7% Persian/Turkish/Caucus either.

I call Ancestry customer support and the helpful rep tells me that first- the results could be showing information from hundreds and hundreds of years ago and second- as more people take the test, the more accurate the results will be and that percentages can change a little. I think, like a lot of people, my expectations were that the test would show maybe 200 years back at the most, although I didn’t have a specific number in my head. It would be Irish/Eastern Europe/Italian/English, confirming exactly what the birth certificates show. Apparently, DNA doesn’t really care what we think, it just is.

So the more I read about it, the more comfortable I am that the test is accurate and that ultimately the results are showing “deeper” ancestry than is possible by using records alone. Vikings got around apparently. Right now I’m reading Saxons, Vikings, and Celts: The Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland by Brian Sykes to learn more. Spoiler alert: the genetic roots of Britain and Ireland are significantly Scandinavian!

Maybe that’s why I had such blond hair as a kid and why I can actually stand to shop in Ikea? Ok, I really don’t like shopping at Ikea, but I do like this song. It’s interesting to learn new things that challenge what you’ve always thought about yourself, although I don’t think I’ll change my “Irish/Italian” self-identification just yet.

Ancestry also compares your results with other members results to find potential “cousins”.

I haven’t found a connection with anyone as of yet, although I’ve found many cousins via the traditional genealogical methods. I’m hopeful that as more members take the test I’ll see more matches.

You can order a test or read more about the AncestryDNA program. I’d recommend it, you might learn something new!

Have you taken a DNA test? Did the results surprise you? Please let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear about it.