Are We Irish (or Not)?

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s day. Growing up (and throughout my teaching career), this day was for the ‘wearin of the green’. I’m guessing that more children wear green to avoid the pinching than to proclaim their Irish roots.

I remember asking mom about our heritage. I don’t remember the exact question, but I’m guessing that I asked if we were Irish. I do remember the first part of her answer: “No, we are Welch.” She had to go on and explain that being Welch meant we came from Wales. Then she expanded and named some other countries (which I don’t remember).

Unfortunately, the paper trail hasn’t led to Wales (yet). I can safely say that for over 200 years, I am American. Prior to that, our lines lead back to England, to the Alsace-Loraine area of Germany, to Scotland and possibly to Ireland.

It is my RALSTON line that may go back to Ireland. My great-great grandfather, Richmond Fisk Hammond’s first wife was Sarah Ellen Ralston. Sarah was the granddaughter of David Franklin Ralston. According to Find a Grave, David Franklin Ralston was born in Ireland.

Since the Ralston surname is of Scottish origin, it is likely that our Ralston line is Scotch-Irish. Scotch-Irish families were Scottish families that settled the Ulster plantation during the time of King James. (The YouTube video, Born Fighting, provides background on Scotch-Irish heritage.)

Thus, the paper trail says we may be Irish – but more likely Scottish people who lived in Ireland for a while.

With DNA ethnicity reports being popular, one might assume that my DNA results would verify Irish blood. Unfortunately, our potential Irish ancestor first appears in my 7th generation of ancestors. Thus, the chances of my getting much ‘Irish blood’ are slim. The article, Where is my Native American DNA helps explain why some ethnicities won’t show up in a DNA test.

So, does my DNA ethnicity report reveal Irish blood? The answer is ‘maybe’. According to Ancestry, there is a ‘low confidence’ that my heritage is 3% Ireland/Scotland/Wales. For one of my brothers, that percentage increases to 9%.

From what I’m learning about the Ulster Scots, I believe that our heritage may be Scotch-Irish (which is basically Scottish by blood, Irish by where living prior to America).

So, will I continue to wear green?

Yes, because I believe that everyone is a ‘wee bit Irish’ on St. Patrick’s day.



Feeling Lucky – and – Grateful!

In thinking about a ‘lucky‘ post for a ‘52 Ancestors‘ post, I couldn’t think of any family stories where someone got ‘lucky‘. Without an idea about what to write about, I was going to skip this prompt.

My thoughts then turned to a DNA study group meeting on Monday at the Topeka Genealogical Society. As I was thinking about using new tools to look at my DNA results, I realized that I am LUCKY to have quite a few second and third cousins that have had their DNA tested on Ancestry.

Having seen McGuire charts used to show DNA results, I decided to use these matches to begin constructing a McGuire chart for my Crawford line.

Screen Shot 03-09-18 at 08.00 PM

I was able to enter the number of shared cM for myself and my brothers on the chart. However, I was not able to enter the amount of DNA shared between any of these cousins and any of the other cousins. Even though my McGuire chart is incomplete, creating this chart helped my figure out the relationships between these cousins.

By looking at my data in this way, I realized that one of my 3rd cousin once removed matches had quite a bit more shared DNA than my other 3rd cousin once removed matches. At this point, I have no idea what this means. However, I would not have been able to make this observation without creating this McGuire chart.

Will I repeat the process and create a McGuire chart for some of my other lines? At this point, I doubt it. First, these charts would be much easier to create if there was a way to ‘print’ a  box family tree descendancy chart to Excel. Second, I don’t have as many known close cousins on my other lines.

I feel lucky that my 2nd and 3rd cousins have been willing to have their DNA tested. More than that, I am grateful that they are contributing to the family research in this way.


Mary Foster Crawford

This week’s writing prompt for 52 Ancestors is ‘Strong Woman’. I have a lot of strong women in my family, including those young mothers modeling for their children what it means to be a gentle, kind mother while being a strong woman. Thus, it was hard to decide who to write about.

I’ve selected my great-great grandmother, Mary Foster Crawford (1842-1929) as an example of the strong women in my tree.

Mary Foster was born in 1842 in Warren County, Indiana. Like most women of that time period, most of Mary’s story comes from the story of her father and her husband. Since Mary’s father, Zebulon, was listed as a farmer on the 1850 census in Pike Township, Warren County, Indiana, Mary likely was raised on a farm.

At the age of 17, Mary married Washington Marion Crawford on 4 Mary 1860 in West Lebanon, Indiana. According to the 1860 census, Washington and Mary Crawford were living in Jordan Township of Warren County, Indiana. The young couple was establishing their home on a farm worth $2000 at the time. An affidavit included in Washington Marion Crawford’s military file provides more information about their farm life:

State of Indiana Warren County

Before me the undersigned authority personally appeared Washington M Crawford who being by me first duly sworn says my age is 46 years.

In the matter of my claim for Pension No 170744 my occupation has always been that of a farmer for five years preceeding my enlistment in Co H 2nd NY Cav. I worked on a farm for my father in Washington township Warren County Ind except the last year prior to the breaking out of the war. I moved to Jordan township and began farming for myself.

Mary’s life as a young wife changed when her husband enlisted in Company H of the 2nd New York Calvary. Washington Crawford’s affidavit continues to tell the tale of the young couple.

I continued there until August 3rd 1861 when I enlisted in the army in the above named Co and regiment. I was in all the engagements the regiment was in from the time of its organization until the 22nd day of Sept 1863 when I was taken prisoner in an engagement betwen Gen Kilpatrick and Gen Stewart near Liberty Mills, Va.

Whether Mary knew of her husband’s capture is unknown. Washington Crawford’s military record suggests that she may not have known since he is reported as “Missing in Action since Sept. 22, 1863” on several Company Muster Rolls including the March and April 1864 report.

Washington Crawford was imprisoned at Belle Isle in Virginia from his capture in Sept 1863 until March 1864. Then he was transferred to Andersonville Prison in Georgia. His affidavit continues with the story of his imprisonment.

The circumstances under which my disability was incurred was hardships of prison life such as being confined with thirty five thousand men on about sixteen acres of ground with insufficient food and no shelter except a government blanket which makes a poor shade and no shelter from the rain whatever I passed the winter of 1863 and 1864 in Belle Isle and in March 1864 I was taken to Andersonville Ga where I incurred the disability during the summer of 1864. I went from there to Charleston SC was there eighteen days and was then taken to Florence SC where on the 7th of Dec 64 I was paroled in the agreement between the two commitioners to exchange ten thousand sick

When her husband returned from the war, the young family moved in with his mother so his mother could help care for him. For the next few years, the family moved around a lot as Mary’s husband was under constant medical care, leaving Mary to care for their growing family.

I arrived home in June 1865 and remained on the old homestead with my mother and was treated by Dr Tebbs and Dr Greely who are both deceased. In 1866 I lived in Jordan township tried farming. and received treatments from Dr Frankeberger who is also deceased. in 1867 I lived in Washington township followed farming and was again treated by Dr Greely. I remained in Washington township until 1871 when I moved to Pike Township and followed farming there until 1873 when I again moved to Washington Township where I have remained to the present and have been following farming. …

I am not above to do more thane one fourth as much of any kind of farm work as I could before the war … all the work I do must be done under great difficulties and with great pain. I am frequently confined to the house and sometimes to my bed

Mary was fortunate to be surrounded by both her husband’s family and her family during this time. The need for family support is likely why the family moved to Dodge City Kansas in 1885. Washington’s brother, James H. Crawford, had moved his entire family to Dodge City in 1878. With family and land drawing them westward, the family moved to Dodge City where Washington Crawford paid $2 at the Garden City land office toward 160 acres of land in the SE 1/4 of Section 31 township 28 South of range 26 West. At about the same time, the family began the construction of a boarding house on 2nd Avenue in Dodge City.

In 1886, Washington and Mary faced another struggle as their daughter, Carrie died of consumption. A little over three years later, Mary would bury her husband, Washington Marion Crawford, next to her daughter.

It was the boarding house built in 1885 that provided a livelihood for Mary as she continued to raise her children.

I wish I knew more of the story from Mary’s eyes. I believe she was the glue that held the family together as they faced the after affects of her husbands imprisonment during the civil war. Thus, Mary Foster Crawford, is my example of a ‘Strong Woman.’





DNA – Re-Trying NodeXL Graphing

Last summer, Shelley Crawford posted directions on how to use NodeXL and Microsoft Excel to create a cluster diagram for DNA matches in her Twigs of Yore blog. [Visualizing DNA Matches – Index]. When I tried this with my data, I had trouble getting past a ‘blob’. According to a Facebook post dated July 16, 2017, I was able to transform my black blob into some smaller clusters.

Not remembering exactly how this process worked, I decided to try again. I used the DNAGedcom client to download my match data from Ancestry. For this trial, I downloaded ALL of my matches. Following the directions, I loaded my matches and in common with files into the NodeXL Template. I also imported my ‘Additional Input’ file. In the ‘Additional Input’ file, I told the program to skip DNA data for my brothers and my mother. When I graphed this data, I got a blob.

The next step was to group. I tried grouping by ‘connected component’ and still had a black glob. Thus, I tried grouping by cluster instead. I picked the Clauset-Newman-Moore cluster algorithm. I also set the layout option to “lay out each of the graph’s groups in its own box.”

Now, I have several colored blobs of varying sizes. The grey background represents all of the lines connecting one ‘blob’ to another.

The above graph contains data for over 50,000 matches. It also does not skip my dad’s first cousin.

My next step was to change the visibility for my dad’s first cousin to ‘skip’. Unfortunately, all of the globs are still globs. So, I went back to DNAGedcom to re-download data. This time, I checked ‘Skip Distant Cousin Matches’.

I started the entire process over with these new files. This time I had almost 1800 matches. I still had a ‘blob’ but much less dense.

The next step was to group the results. Knowing that grouping by connected compenent didn’t work before, I again grouped by the cluster. After changing the layout options to ‘layout each of the graph’s groups in its own box’, I now had a graph with the dots arranged by colors.

Curious as to whether the various colors could be associated with a specific surname, I used the notes field on the spreadsheet to locate specific dots. When I clicked on a line in the spreadsheet, the graph would show that line as the center of lines connecting it to other dots (the shared matches).

The first dot I tried was a match with my mother and a likely MENTZER relative.

That dot started from the red area and branched out. Thinking that the orange area below the red area corresponded to my CRAWFORD line, I clicked on the match directly above that previous match — only to discover that it also originates from the red area.

Both a MENTZER match (my mom’s line) and a CRAWFORD match (my dad’s line) have dots in the red area and not in separate areas. Thus, my theory about the colored areas matching surnames doesn’t stand up to this simple test. I also can’t use geography to explain this. My Mentzer line was in Massachusetts, Illinois and southeast Kansas. My Crawford line was in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and southwestern Kansas.

Thus, I need to learn more about how to interpret this data!

RootsFinder – DNA Clusters

Recently, RootsFinder announced a new DNA tool that helps visualize DNA data. To take advantage of this new tool, I had to create an account (currently free) on RootsFinder. Then, I had to add a tree.

Since RootsFinder had the option to upload a gedcom file, I tried to upload a file containing my ancestors and collateral lines. I created the gedcom file from my RootsMagic data. In the process of creating this file, I clicked to include sources in the gedcom file. This file failed to upload to RootsFinder. I then tried creating a gedcom file with just my ancestors (no collateral lines) and sources. This file also failed to upload.

My next step was to create a gedcom file of 5 generations of ancestors without sources. This file uploaded to RootsFinder.

Once I had a (limited) tree on RootsFinder, I was able to ‘upload’ my DNA. Instead of uploading my raw DNA, I had to use my GEDMatch data. Essentially, I ran the one to many search for my DNA kit and copied/pasted my matches into RootsFinder. The process was repeated with two Tier 1 tools: Matching Segment Search and Triangulation.

Contrary to some of the images other users have posted, my diagram is more of a glob than smaller clusters.

I tried repeating the process to add my DNA from the Genesis.Gedmatch site. Unfortunately, RootsFinder does not currently recognize that site as a Gedmatch site. Since I have close to 5000 matches on the beta Genesis version of GedMatch, I’m hoping that this will change in the future.


Shared Matches – Names Matter!

When working the Ancestry DNA’s Shared Matches and Circles, I’ve often wondered how spelling of names affects those shared matches. After looking at a shared match today, I have proof that the names do matter!

Below is a screenshot of a shared match going back to Leah Gillies making me a 6th cousin to my shared match.

When I studied this connection, I recognized the name William Henry Harding as a sibling to Julia Harding. Ancestry isn’t recognizing my William G. Harding as the same person as William Gillies Harding in my match’s tree.

My match has the following information for William Gillies Harding;

While, I have the following information for William G. Harding:

After studying my match’s tree, I believe that William Gillies Harding and William G. Harding are the same person. That makes us 4th cousins instead of 6th cousins.

Based on this experience, I believe that shared matches ARE AFFECTED by the spelling of the name!

Thus, I’m facing a decision: Do I change a name to match other DNA matches? OR Do I accept that I may not get shared matches or circles because of differences in the names?

Never Done!

While walking on my treadmill, I often watch YouTube videos. Yesterday’s video was one of Crista Cowan‘s presentations: Family History All Done? What’s Your Number? In the video, Crista demonstrated a way to analyze one’s family tree using an Excel spreadsheet.

Even though I’ve never claimed to be ‘done’ with my genealogy, I was intrigued by this video. Thus, I decided to analyze my own tree containing over 11000 people. In the video, Crista utilized the following column headings:

To make it easier to keep track of who had to be in the starting position on the pedigree when counting the number of people in the ‘5th’ column on the pedigree, I added a column that I titled, ‘pedigree start to count 5th column’. I also added columns to pull cM data from Blaine Bettinger‘s ‘Shared cM Project‘.

I then followed Crista’s directions to fill in the columns: Generation, Relationship, How Many Expected and Common Ancestors to. The next step was to simply count how many people I had in each level of my pedigree. I already knew that I was nowhere near ‘done’ but this analysis revealed exactly where my tree begins to have holes (and lots of them).

Over 10 generations, I only had 224 ancestors out of a potential of 1023. Thus, I have LOTS of work to do!