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.



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?

Ancestry Indexing Update

Well, it is the first of the month and time for my monthly call to about my public tree (Heartland Genealogy) not showing up in searches. Prior to making the call, I used a free account to search for my tree.  I have been using the following search criteria:

  • First Name: Judson
  • Last Name: Crawford
  • Death Year: 1949
  • Match all terms exactly

My search returned 24 trees — none being my tree.

I was very pleased with the Ancestry associate on the other end of the phone. She took time to verify the issue and research the cause. Unfortunately, I didn’t get her name, so I can’t thank her publicly.

Unfortunately, she verified that trees were last indexed on October 3, 2017. She also indicated that it was Ancestry’s practice to index the trees every 3 to 4 months. Hopefully, she was correct in saying that the trees would be indexed in the ‘next few weeks.’

Since I had her on the phone, I also asked about my DNA results. I manage my mother’s DNA test which is attached to my (unindexed) tree. That DNA test has very few ‘hints’. My DNA test has about half of the hints it had prior to connecting the DNA tests to my Heartland Genealogy tree (published in late July 2017). I explained that I could see cousins in my mom’s match list that had public trees that share a common ancestor. However, these cousins aren’t showing up when I click on the DNA leaf (hints). She was able to verify that my unindexed tree was likely the issue.

For the back story on this issue, see the following blogs:


Shared Matches Issue

I recently learned how to use the ‘MedBetterDNA‘ extension for Chrome. In order to take advantage of the features of this extension, I have been editing my notes for DNA matches. While working thru some of the matches, I discovered a match that wasn’t listed as a hint when it should have been.

When I looked at the tree, I found several common surnames, including Hammond and Fisk

When I expanded the Fisk and Hammond surnames, I found my ancestors: Louisa Fisk and Horatio Hammond.

My Ancestry Tree, Heartland Genealogy, contains both Louis Fisk and Horatio Hammond.

Is this just an Ancestry glitch today, or is there some other issue keeping my tree from matching up with other trees?

What I’ve Learned from DNA Testing

The January 10, 2018 issue of our local newspaper (The Courier Tribune) contained an article on DNA and genealogy (The Skinny on DNA Testing, by Greg Newlin) This article skimmed across the topic. Unfortunately, it also promoted the opinion that DNA testing is too commercialized.  [Note: Article may be behind a paywall.]

Thanks to Blaine Bettinger, Marty Flanagan, and many, many other genealogists that have shared their knowledge of DNA testing in a variety of ways, my knowledge of this field has grown tremendously.

Wanting my small community to have an understanding of the benefits of DNA testing, I wrote a letter to the editor which was published in the Jan 16, 2018 paper. Below is my letter:

What I’ve Learned from DNA Testing

I am writing in response to the article “The Skinny on DNA Testing” by Greg Newlin in last week’s Courier Tribune. Although I agree that there is a lot of commercialization of DNA testing, particularly at Christmas time, I felt the article fell short when discussing the benefits of DNA testing. Thus, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned over the past few years about DNA testing.

My experience with DNA testing began a few years ago when I spit in a test tube to have my DNA tested. Since the bulk of my genealogy research was on Ancestry, I purchased my kit thru Ancestry. Since that time, I’ve had my brothers and mother tested on Ancestry.

When I first submitted my saliva, I was hoping to prove two things. First, I wanted to prove that my father’s (Crawford) family was related to another Crawford family that lived in the same area and followed the same migration path over 100 years. Second, I wanted to prove that my grandmother’s grandfather, Hiram Currey of Leavenworth was a grandson of Hiram M. Currey, who was the treasurer of Ohio in 1819.

My experiences with DNA have taught me the following:

  1. There are three kinds of DNA tests: autosomal, mitochondrial and yDNA. Autosomal testing evaluates the information on the 22 pairs of non-sex chromosomes and the X (female sex) chromosome. According to genetic genealogists, this test is most accurate for identifying the sixteen family lines of my great-great grandparents. The mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) test uses DNA found in the mitochondria (energy storehouse) of cells. The mtDNA test is used to discover female lines in a family tree. The yDNA test evaluates the information on the Y (male sex) chromosome and helps unravel male lines. Since one of my goals was to learn more about my dad’s (Crawford) heritage, I asked one of my brothers to do a yDNA test.
  2. Even though Ancestry has the largest pool of DNA data, it isn’t the only company doing autosomal DNA testing. The growing list of companies doing this type of testing includes: 23andMe, My Heritage, and Family Tree DNA. A list of companies and services provided can be found on the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) wiki at
  3. DNA tests go on sale at various times throughout the year. The Black Friday / Christmas sales are the most popular, but tests also go on sale for DNA day and usually for holidays like Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
  4. I could download my data from Ancestry and upload it for free to MyHeritage and FamilyTreeDNA.
  5. Gedmatch is a free tool that will show matches with other Gedmatch users who tested at other companies. Gedmatch also includes a chromosome browser that helps in identifying matches.
  6. A lot of adoptees are using DNA to find their birth families, including some of my matches. Many of the leaders in the field of genetic genealogy are adoptees. The purpose of the Facebook Group, The DNA Detectives, is to help use DNA results in this quest.
  7. DNA inheritance is random. My brother’s and I share some DNA but our DNA isn’t exactly alike.
  8. The Ethnicity reports were interesting but not why I took the test. However, Ancestry’s newer “DNA Story” screens are helpful to track the migration paths of my ancestors. See
  9. With (currently) over 928 pages of matches for just me, I have more DNA matches than I can manage.
  10. I’m finding other 2nd, 3rd, and 4th cousins and sharing information, including photographs, with them.
  11. With the ‘shared matches’ tool on Ancestry, I can locate more ‘cousins’ that descend from an ancestor and contact them.
  12. Ancestry’s DNA Circles tool is valuable in linking me to cousins that don’t share DNA with me but do share DNA with other descendants from the same ancestor.
  13. My DNA matches verified my circumstantial evidence that Hiram M. Currey of Leavenworth is descended from Hiram M. Currey of Ohio.
  14. My DNA did not match the descendant of the other Crawford line. However, we both match another Crawford line. At this point, none of us know how we are related, but our research continues to look for proof of the relationship.
  15. Surname Projects are utilizing the yDNA results of members to figure out the family tree for that surname. Since participation only requires a yDNA test on FamilyTreeDNA, my brother is part of the Crawford project. By participating in the project, I’ve verified that my Crawford line goes back to Scotland.
  16. There are a lot of ways to learn more about DNA, including Facebook groups, YouTube videos, and area genealogical societies.

For me, DNA has been a valuable tool in my genealogical research.

Marcia Philbrick

What Are Unsourced Citations on Ancestry?

While investigating an issue with Ancestry hints brought up by Russ Worthington in a comment on the Genea-Musings blog post, “When Did Last Index Ancestry Member Trees?” I discovered ‘Unsourced Citations’ on Ancestry.

These ‘Unsourced Citations’ appeared in a small tree created by uploaded a gedcom file to Ancestry and then using TreeShare to bring the tree down into RootsMagic.

When I looked at the event in RootsMagic, there were sources attached.

The sources are complete.

Upon further investigation, I found that these ‘unsourced citations’ were the Notes attached to an event.

Since my tree was created by uploading a gedcom file, I looked back at the gedcom export screen and found that I had included the Notes in the gedcom export.

Thus, the source of the ‘Unsourced Citations’ are the Notes attached to an individual event.

Why do those notes transfer to Ancestry (via gedcom) as a citation?

Ancestry Hints: Public vs Private

I’m writing in response to Russ Worthington‘s comment on the Genea-Musing’s blog post,

When Did Last Index Ancestry Member Trees? In the comment, Russ brings up the issue of hints not showing. Since I haven’t noticed an issue with ‘missing’ hints on my un-indexed tree, Russ’s post made me question whether I was indeed missing hints. However, I did notice one difference between my tree and Russ’s experiment. I work with a public tree and Russ’ test was with a private tree.

Thus, I wanted to know whether public trees produced hints when the tree lacked Ancestry sources. Thus, I needed a public tree (small) without Ancestry sources. Since I’ve been searching for Judson Crawford to see if my tree was indexed, I decided to create a small public tree on Ancestry for Judson Crawford, his wife, children and parents.

My first attempt at creating the tree was to drag Judson and his family into a new tree. When I tried to use TreeShare with this new tree, I did not get the option to upload the tree. Instead this small tree was connecting to my large tree on Ancestry.

For my second attempt, I created a Gedcom for Judson and his family. I then imported that gedcom into a new RootsMagic file. Again, I couldn’t use TreeShare to upload this tree to Ancestry.

On the third try, I uploaded the previously created Gedcom to Ancestry. I then used TreeShare to download that tree into RootsMagic. [JudsonTrial2]

Lightbulbs started appearing in the RootsMagic tree shortly after the download completed.

On Ancestry, those same individuals with light bulbs in RootsMagic had hints in Ancestry.

Based on this experience, I would conclude that there might be a difference between private and public trees in the way hints are populated. Unfortunately, the public/private tree status was not the only variable in our two experiments. Russ uploaded his data from his software to Ancestry and I downloaded my experimental tree from Ancestry to my software. In addition, I’m using RootsMagic while Russ is using FamilyTree Maker.