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Did you get a DNA kit for Christmas?

Cousin Connections

Everyone I know seemed to have gotten a kit recently! Wondering what it will reveal? Will it produce cousins you didn’t know you had?

I did a test a few months ago purely out of curiosity so that I’d know what it entailed. As a genealogist I have been asked more and more lately whether it was a good idea, what would it reveal and would it produce cousins and family trees without having to do any research (ah, the answer is no by the way, you still need to do your research). I usually referred people to articles or other sources so I thought it was time I dipped my toes in!

Little did I realise it would be just as absorbing as document research!

I’m lucky that I’m a genealogist living in Ireland and have been able to trace my family, both maternal and paternal, back at least 4 generations to the same part of Ireland, Tipperary and Kilkenny borders, to where my Dad now lives.

My grandparents on both sides married local people. I didn’t expect any unknown branch of the family to materialise but with both paternal grandparents and paternal great-grandparents having the same surname (no, not cousins!) it was going to be a challenge working out who was who! That’s the unique and quirky side to Irish Genealogy, family name origins evolved in regional clusters and people often married people from the locality.

The Big Reveal

Now, I’m no expert in the science of DNA analysis, but I am fascinated by the results and matches I received. I had done an Autosomal DNA test which is the most popular and tests both males and females.

My Ethnicity and Ancestry

I had been given a gift of a DNA test kit so it was not that I chose a particular kit over another but purely convenience. The ethnicity result was no big surprise, ‘80-100 per cent Irish, with links to Munster, Ireland’, but then I uploaded the raw data to another site and they said I was ‘95 per cent Irish, Scottish, Welsh; 4 per cent West Asian; and 1 per cent Greek’! From what I understand from reading sources,  the accuracy of results such as this are dependent on the size of the testing ‘pool’ with a particular DNA kit site.

Cousin matches revealed

The other important feature, and much more interesting, is the relationship results or cousin matches. Only one of my first cousins had done a test and I knew who he was so the first entry was fine. After that the next closest matches were 7 possible 3rd-4th cousins with a confidence rating of ‘extremely high’, then the next 40 were classed as 4th-6th cousins with a rating from ‘very high’ to ‘high’. There were a lot more but the chances of making connections would be low so I focused on the 47 which is still a lot to go through, and I have only started, but that’s the life of a genealogist, we love a challenge!

Examining the DNA matches

I started going through each ‘cousin’ to see what we might have in common. The thing about these tests is they don’t separate your mother’s side from your father’s side, they are just listed in descending order of centimorgans ( basically, this is a unit of measurement, which estimates the number of generations to a common ancestor). Some had either listed their family surnames, and/or given access to their family trees so I had to look and see if there were any clues or shared matches. Because of my profession, I wanted to find the connections for myself and prove who they were. Some turned out to be my father’s paternal side, some his maternal side, and a few were on my mother’s maternal side with only one of her paternal side.  To find even more matches there is a third-party site called Gedmatch where you can upload your raw data and cross reference with kits from other test sites if the tester had uploaded them there too. More matches to go through!

Traditional genealogy research v DNA research

Document research is time-consuming in itself but now that I have all these leads in DNA matches I’m only feeding my genealogy addiction! This could be a long running saga! I have plans to create a spreadsheet with workbooks for each family side, matches and any detail and sources that will help identify the family connections. I have been in contact with some of the matches and we have shared information that has explained or broken through a brick wall where genealogy research had come to a standstill. That is the ultimate prize – finding living relatives!

At the end of the day, DNA tests are just another tool in your genealogy toolbox so bear that in mind, to have a complete picture of your family history you should support your research with documents sourced as well as DNA test results. If you would like to find out more, the book I would recommend is ‘Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy’ by Blaine T. Bettinger; published by The Family Tree books.  There are also a number of websites and facebook groups that could explain the science behind DNA testing better than I can.

While I’m still learning as I go, if I can guide you or use my experience as an example, do get in touch and leave a comment if you found this article useful. I plan to do follow-up articles on my DNA cousin research as it progresses so if you ‘follow’ my blog site you’ll be kept up to date!

Bye for now,

Noreen

Website: Hibernia Roots

Facebook:  Hiberniaroots

Instagram:  nhiberniaroots

Twitter: hiberniaroots

 

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Vacations and Relations

Memories

A recent trip down memory lane, literally, with my Dad to the city of Birmingham UK got me thinking of the value of revisiting the past. When I was young I loved the summer. It was when our relatives might arrive on their vacation and call to see us. One particular aunt who lived in England loved taking photos of us and we all had to stand outside with a suitable rural backdrop! I was the eldest of a large family and we grew up in the country so it was exciting to have relatives we didn’t see very often come to visit. This visit would be planned for weeks so the house was painted, best clothes put on and apple tarts made!

My aunt would catch up with my Dad (her brother), ask about other family members and what was happening in our lives. We loved sitting in on the conversations but didn’t really know who they were talking about most of the time.

Now that I’m a genealogist I’d love to have those moments back. Sadly my aunt is no longer alive. My trip to Birmingham though was a chance for my Dad to catch up with his two younger brothers – out of a family of 10 there are just three ‘boys’ and their sister who is over 90, left. We got to talking about family connections and my recent DNA test results. I had found a match to a family that I couldn’t find a link to – one short conversation with Dad and I discovered there was a definite connection to this day. Of course when I got home I was on the trail and quickly unlocked the mystery. Despite the plethora of online databases and resources you can’t beat a conversation with an older family member to bring down that ‘brick wall’ – very apt analogy as my Dad was involved in the construction industry in his younger days!

My Geni Tips

So, what are your plans for Thanksgiving and the Christmas Holidays?

If you are planning to meet up with relatives and want to research your family tree, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Know what you don’t know!
  • Start with what you know, work back from yourself, your parents, their parents
  • Are there gaps – do you know your grandparents names on both sides? Do you know your grandmothers maiden names?
  • Do you know your parents and grandparents siblings names?
  • Do you know where they were born or lived?
  • Do you know what your father/grandfather’s occupation was?
  • Arrive prepared with your questions but give your relative advanced warning so they too are prepared
  • Have the right setting – not in the middle of a busy coffee shop or wedding venue with loud music!
  • Ask their permission if you plan to record video or audio and let them listen back before you share with others
  • Family stories and anecdotes are embellishments to any record searches you might do and make the whole family history process more personal.

If you would like more tips or individual advice email me at noreen@hiberniaroots.ie 

 These are just some of my suggestions and tips – I would love to hear your experience of interviewing family members at a get-together!

Noreen

Website: Hibernia Roots

Facebook:  Hiberniaroots

Instagram:  nhiberniaroots

Twitter: hiberniaroots

My Genealogy Journey

Where it all began

I was bitten by the genealogy bug over 8 years ago. It all started when I wanted to find out more about my husband’s family for our son and then realized I didn’t know where to look beyond family photos. I decided to do a course to learn more and ended up with a professional qualification – Diploma in Family History (Genealogy). I never intended becoming a professional genealogist but a year after I graduated I had a website up and running. That’s how easily you get sucked in! I named it Hibernia Roots as ‘Hibernia’ is the Latin/Roman name for Ireland.

Why I do what I do!

I’ve made some great friends through researching their families – I treat each case as if it was my own family,  and I still get excited when I find a piece of the puzzle. I’m like a dog with a bone, I don’t give up! I love connecting people with their Irish homeplace and have worked for clients all over the world – anywhere there are Irish Diaspora.

I’m passionate about Irish family history and local history and added another qualification string to my bow – a Certificate in Oral History.

As anyone who has started their family research knows, its the stories you’ve heard from older relatives that whets your interest in finding out more so Oral History is just as important – and more interesting than document searching! They complement each other though.

Hiring a genealogist

You might say ‘why do I need to hire a genealogist – a lot of information is online now‘ – but its not as simple as that. You need to know the reliable sources, how many sources are out there, and how to search for and identify the facts. We are all time-poor these days so ‘outsourcing’ your family research makes sense.

If you’d like me to help you find your Irish Roots then get in touch using the links below and we can start the journey together.

Talk soon,

Noreen

Website: Hibernia Roots

Facebook:  Hiberniaroots

Instagram:  nhiberniaroots

Twitter: hiberniaroots

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