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.


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?

DNA Ethnicity

Recently, Ancestry added a feature to create a ‘player card’ based on DNA Ethnicity results. Creating the card was simply the press of a button.

I’ve been more interested in shared matches and DNA circles than my ethnicity results — especially since my paper research hasn’t gotten outside of colonial America. Since my paper research isn’t leading me to Scandinavia or Spain, I thought I’d review what I do know about the lines of my 16 great grandparents:

  • Crawford – resided in Garrard County, Kentucky in 1799 – likely born in Virginia – likely Scottish
  • Foster – resided Maryland in 1735 – likely English
  • Hammond – resided 1636 Plymouth, Massachusetts — likely English
  • Ralston – resided 1810 Armstrong County, Pennsylvania – likely Scottish
  • Currey – resided 1783, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania – likely Scottish or Irish
  • Burke – resided 1835 Jackson County, Tennessee — likely English
  • Hutchinson – resided 1790 Hampshire County, Massachusetts – likely English
  • Harding – resided 1767 Orange County, New York (family was Loyalists in New Brunswick after Revolutionary War) – likely English or Irish
  • Briles – resided Wierttemberg, Germany 1703 – part of Germanna Colony in 1717
  • Thompson – resided 1820 Ohio County, Kentucky – likely English
  • Ricketts – resided Anne Arundel County, Maryland 1729 – likely English
  • Christy – resided Fayette County , Ohio 1842 – likely Scottish or Irish
  • Mentzer – resided Suffolk County, Massachusetts 1792 – likely  German
  • Minnick – resided 1822 in Pennsylvania – likely Irish
  • Wells – resided 1758 in Washington County, Rhode Island – likely English
  • Crandall – resided 1761 in Washington County, Rhode Island – likely Scottish

Since my paper genealogy roots lead to Germany, England, Ireland and Scotland, I have to question where my Scandinavian ancestry is. However, I believe my Scandinavian DNA comes thru my Scottish ancestry. Wikipedia’s article on Scandinavian Scotland supports my beliefs about my Scandinavian DNA.

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?