Friday, May 22, 2015

In Search Of...."Viking DNA"

The pariahs of ancient Britain are now the beloved ancestors of modern descendants. Who would have predicted that during the invasions?

Personally I wouldn't have my DNA tested to find so called "Viking DNA". When someone's DNA is tested it isn't like tiny Vikings are found swimming in their DNA and pronounced Viking . Some haplogroups and subclades are more common among the Scandinavians. Vikings did invade Britain mixing their DNA with the earlier migrants. It would appear that many I1 Haplogroup members in Britain likely did have this Haplogroup passed down to them through Vikings invasions. Another source of I1 would have been from the Anglo/Saxons,Jutes and Frisians, and of course later migrations. Historical research, archeology, and DNA can shed light on these different origins.

The Viking DNA question came up in our Forgey DNA project. So far most of our Forgey/Forgy & Forgie testers have matched each other in our Y DNA project; and they are grouped together in the I2b haplogroup. Some R1b's surfaced and were found to be the result of line breaks due to the surname coming down a female line, instead of a male line. We have two testers, however, who don't match our other Forgey group members and don't match each other. They were expected to match each other, at the very least, because they are 5th cousins on paper. Looking at the paper trail for these two people we can't find the explanation for the break? According to a biography for one of their Forgy ancestors, Robert Forgy, was an Irish immigrant to America in the 18th Century. This corresponds with the rest of our other Forgey/Forgys, who arrived in America around the same time and were Scots-Irish. My theory is the name Forgey/Forgy & Forgie is a variant of Ferguson as stated in a book written about Irish surnames, which was based on a government report on Irish surnames. Not all Fergusons are related, and throughout time there have been breaks in surname lines which could explain these two 5th cousins not matching the rest of us. So my questions are when did the break occur between these cousins, and does one of their lines go back to Ireland and the surname Ferguson? Did both of their lines have a break after this Robert Forgy arrived in America?

One of the lines is our beloved "Viking haplo" I1 M253, or the haplogroup often attributed to the Vikings by testing companies. Looking at their match list about half a dozen of this I1 Forgy's 42 matches, at 37 markers, are Scandinavian. This as opposed to our I2b haplogroup which is predominantly made up of Scottish and Scots-Irish matches with a couple Spanish matches, but no Scandinavians. I've been analyzing this persons I1 results over and over trying to figure out if this person's ancestors could indeed have been Scots-Irish, as stated in the 19th Century biography? Another possible explanation is a break occurred in this Forgy family in the Great Plains area where the family later migrated to in the 19th Century from Pennsylvania? I've been wavering back and forth on that question.

The Scandinavians are high up on this persons match list. In fact their closest match is a Norwegian man, who apparently still lives in Norway. This had led me to believe the break occurred on the Great Plains in the US. The myOrigins ethnicity prediction for this Forgy doesn't show any Scandinavian admixture. It shows 100% British Isles. The ethnicity predictions at Family Tree DNA are notoriously off, so the lack of Scandinavian admix may not mean much. Looking at this persons Family Finder results we find one match with a couple Scandinavian lines. This match shares a 32 cM segment. This person also has British Isles ancestry so it's hard to say where the 32 cM segment comes from?

Here is an example of this Forgy's top matches from haplogroup I M253:

This Forgy's 42 matches mostly consist of Scandinavian and British matches and one Slovakian match. This is a very unusual match makeup as compared to all of the other Scottish and Scots-Irish match results that have been shared with me.
Here is the information from the Ancestral Origins list Family Tree DNA provides (comparing at 37 markers):

This can be contrasted with the results of another I1 Haplogroup member who has confirmed Scottish ancestry going back to the Middle Ages (comparison at 67 markers) No Scandinavians:

Since there are UK matches I can't dismiss the possibility that this Forgy's ancestors were Scots-Irish, as stated in Robert Forgy's biography. This could be his Haplogroup? The other descendant of Robert Forgy has numerous matches, because he is in the R1b Haplogroup.  One of his surname matches suggests the possibility of a break in his line, and his surname coming down through a female line. So far the R1b Forgy hasn't taken the autosomal test, which could establish whether there was a break in both of these lines or just one? If they match on the autosomal it would suggest that the R1b tester's surname came down a female line.

I believe we may be able to compare 2 fourth cousins from these separate branches of Robert Forgy's descendant lines? Hopefully that will answer some of our questions?

I am not sure if we are looking at ancient Scandinavian roots on the I1 Forgy's match list or something much closer? Do the results suggest Viking origins? I'm not expert enough to answer that question. Hopefully these mysteries can be answered at some point.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The PT Barnum Affect: Y And mtDNA Testing?

Prof. Mark Thomas' doesn't agree with such maps

I listened to a presentation by the Population Geneticist Mark Thomas this past weekend. The presentation was from the "Who Do You Think You Are?" the live event, "Ancestry Testing Using DNA: the pros and cons." Prof. Thomas did bring up some great points about some of the unscrupulous practices being employed to sell test kits. I think it's great to educate the public regarding what can and can't confidently be established using DNA testing.

I believe that fairly accurate information about the origins of Haplogroups is being presented by companies like Family Tree DNA. I think these predictions will just get better in the years to come. The Professor stated he felt the full sequence autosomal DNA test would provide more accurate information about the origins of our ancestors. He doesn't feel like the mtDNA or Y DNA results provide accurate information about the origins of populations. He seems to question the whole idea of Haplogroups? There is controversy in the academic community regarding what can and can't be proven regarding dating population migrations and the origins of Haplogroups.

This presentation was aimed at a UK audience and I don't know what the marketing for the testing is like there? Or the reasons the average person would decide to test? I don't think the descriptions below regarding the reasons for testing would apply to most of us in the US. Many people are interested in establishing a relationship to a famous person, everywhere. I'm skeptical about the other motives listed below. I feel like all of the reasons are stereotypes and hurt the reputation of genetic genealogists. What should be stated, instead of using insulting stereotypes, is that it's this scientists opinion that ancient origins in a particular area can't be proven using Y and mtDNA.

Prof. Thomas Mark's reasons why people "indulge" in interpretive phylogeography:
  1. the desire to say somebody is the descendant of some ancient king, princess, warrior or famous person
  2. the desire to mould a population's history or individual's ancestry back to some nationalist agenda  
  3. the desire to make spectacular claims about population history / human evolution  
  4. The Forer effect/ Barnum effect Explains the popularity of horoscopes etc

My own interest in DNA testing using the Y and mtDNA tests has generally been for reasons sanctioned by the Prof. Mark Thomas, comparing markers with cousins. I'm also interested establishing the origins of the surnames Forgey and Kapple. I know our Forgey family was Scots-Irish, which has been established using DNA and traditional genealogy research. A journal states the family was in Ulster during a particular uprising, and it was stated in the same journal the ancestor knew the words to a ballad about the uprising. There are factions in the family which believe Forgey is a French name brought to Scotland by the Normans. My opinion is it's a variant of Ferguson and isn't a Norman name. In this case I'm looking to Y DNA to prove the family was in Scotland before the Normans. In the case of my Kapple /Koppel surname everyone felt it was an Ashkenazi name, the family looks Ashkenazi and knew some Yiddish. So far the autosomal testing isn't showing any of that admixture? Our Y testing is showing a J2b haplogroup. Our family was Catholic for 200 years and existing records can't help us to go back any further. In these cases I'm looking to prove, or disprove family stories, with the help of Y and mtDNA. I believe this should be possible.

Many adoptees in the US have no information about their family's ethnic origins. Using Y and mtDNA testing can be very helpful for them. The descendants of former slaves would like to reclaim their stolen heritage.

There are valid reasons for pursuing the origins of haplogroups when it comes to genetic genealogy. Academic stereotyping, and condescension, hurts the reputation of those who are pursuing the subject based on valid intellectual curiosity.

Prof. Mark Thomas stated, why would it be important to establish the origins of one or two lines when everyone in Europe is related not so long ago? Everyone in Europe is Viking etc., etc.  I'm not interested in establishing the origins of every line. I'm interested in my maternal and paternal family surnames. It sounds like many in Europe are looking for the villages or migration patterns of their families, and linking rare surnames to particular areas. Reading many papers about the subject of locating origins using Y and mtDNA I realize we have a ways to go when it comes to establishing these connections with a high degree of confidence.

I think the academic community would rather not see genealogists affiliate themselves with population genetics. I believe some members of that community are out of touch when it comes to the goals of the average genealogist. There is much handwringing in that community about dark ulterior motives when it comes to testing for ethnicity.

There is a valid criticism of the lack of scientific backing for claims made by testing companies. I agree, and would like to see more papers on the subject containing evidence for claims made by all of these companies. I'm not against critical review, but I'm against stereotyping and blanket comments about the motives for testing. Calling DNA testing Astrology gets a lot of attention in the press, and is a good strategy for getting attention, but it has been used to discredit the valid uses of DNA for genealogy, whether that is what Prof. Mark Thomas intended this or not, this terminology has been used to discredit the entire genetic genealogy community. I would just like to see a more respectful debate. It would be great to see critics of the ancestry testing companies, and company representatives on stage at a conference debating all of this.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Where Is Our Native American DNA? Plus Consider The Source

We had some good news a couple weeks ago when someone from a line that matched our Owens family on the Y test perfectly, at 25 markers, also matched my family on the autosomal test. The fact they matched both at AncestryDNA and Family Tree DNA is a good sign. Anyone who survives the AncestryDNA process plus shares common ancestors is likely a true match. When this test came back, from AncestryDNA, GEDmatch wasn't able to process new accounts so we couldn't compare immediately. Another test for a confirmed distant cousin of this match had come in a little before this. This person wasn't able to create a new account at GEDmatch either. Lucky I had created extra accounts at GEDmatch that I never used. When I finally remembered the passwords for these accounts I was able to give them the accounts to use. I found out my family shared a 14.3 cM segment with one of them, but didn't share any DNA segments with the other. This is to be expected because our connection is 7 generations back. It's incredible that even one of them matched us.

According to many sources, including contemporary sources, John Owens had an Indian wife. It's not known for certain which of his children had a Native American mother, or whether all of his children were part Native American? Around a dozen descendants of John Owens have tested, and so far no one has any Native American admixture according to all three testing companies. Trace amounts of Native Admixture can be seen using the GEDmatch admixture utilities. My Aunt shows the highest amounts at GEDmatch of around 2%. Most descendants come out with 1%, or less, admixture using the most sensitive and optimistic projects at GEDmatch. I'm not sure if all this is just noise, and none of John's children, who carried his surname, are children of his Native wife?

I know that DNA from distant ancestors is lost as the generations pass. I wonder about the lack of Native American DNA in those families with traditions of Native American ancestry? It could be that many families just passed down a family tradition not based in fact? It could be that the Native ancestor lived so long ago that no trace of their DNA is visible with the current autosomal tests? I also wonder if the testing companies tell people that no Native American is showing up because that ancestor lived so long ago is just to satisfy customers unhappy with the lack of the sought after Native American results?

"An Extream bad collection of Broken Innkeepers, Horse Jockeys, and Indian Traders"

Brigadier General John Forbes described the character of his provincial troops with the terms above (he probably would wonder why I would be interested in establishing my relationship to these people?).

Genealogical research in Western Pennsylvania during the Colonial era is difficult because so few records were kept. There are no early marriage records. County marriage records weren't recorded until well into the 19th century. Dower releases weren't required in early Pennsylvania either making finding wives names even more difficult.

It's also difficult to find men listed in early deed books in Pennsylvania. Many men took out warrants to survey land, but later abandoned the land without actually finishing the granting process.

Considering the above it is a challenge to find anything about people living in the frontier area of Pennsylvania during the Colonial and early American era. Military letter writers and personal journals have been the best sources I have found for my family during this time period.

Unfortunately I've had to rely on the typed transcripts from the Pennsylvania Archive book collections. This source is wonderful to a point. I have found a least one first name wrongly transcribed. I found the error in a list of names where the first name of the man above was mistakenly copied twice. Typed transcripts aren't my favorite sources but have to suffice until the originals become available, if they ever do?

Another problem I've had to contend with is how do evaluate the credibility of these letter and journal writers? I'm not always sure if what they are relating is from first hand knowledge?

I've been trying to confirm the assumption that David Owens the soldier in Pennsylvania and New York, was John Owens', the Western Pennsylvania based Ohio Country Indian Trader's, son.

According to a single source from one contemporary writer, Sir William Johnson, David Owens was the son of an Indian trader who traded with the Delawares and the Shawnees. The only Owens we have found who is known to have traded with them was my ancestor John Owens. We only have this circumstantial evidence suggesting John and David were father and son.

I did some research on Sir William Johnson in order to determine whether it could be our David Owens he was speaking of, and whether he would have access to this kind of information. He came to this country from Ireland in 1738. He settled in the Mohawk Valley of New York. He was involved in the fur trade and was well acquainted with George Croghan (John Owens sometimes boss) who also owned land in the Mohawk Valley (I'm not sure if John Owens also spent time in the Mohawk Valley of New York?). George Croghan became Sir William Johnson's  Deputy Superintendent of Indian Affairs. In 1756 Sir William Johnson was made "Sole Agent and Superintendent of Indians and their Affairs", and was also responsible for helping to raise troops to fight in Indian territory. In the 1764 letter he wrote, describing David's father, he also stated David had been garrisoned at his house. This didn't seem to fit with David son of John Owens because his father was a trader with a trading post in Western Pennsylvania. Johnson also stated that David was in Capt. McClean's company. I found out that a Capt. Allen McLean's company was part of General Forbes expedition which traveled through Pennsylvania on its way to take Fort Duquesne from the French. Locals were used in Forbes campaign. This could be how David hooked up with this company. McLean's company later moved on to campaigns around New York.

After completing this research I think it is possible that Sir William Johnson's letter may contain credible information. He could have received his information about David's father from David himself or from George Croghan? On the other hand he could have assumed he was the son of John Owens based on the common last name? It would be great to have more support for this relationship. Hopefully more will surface in the future.

I don't think that a Colonial official would have a reason to make a false statement regarding David Owens' father. A soldier named Robert Kirkwood wrote of a David Owens in his memoir. His memoir was highly embellished with exaggerated stories. I take much of this type of work with a grain of salt. He stated a David Owens he was held captive with was born in Pennsylvania. Kirkwood and David are together in Pennsylvania after their supposed escape from Indian captivity in the 1750s. Kirkwood later ends up fighting in New York at Ticonderoga, and may have been encouraged by David Owens to desert in 1761, when David himself deserted. Again I can see how David may have gotten to New York and garrisoned at Sir William Johnson's house.

It is hard to judge the veracity of people providing us with information recently. It's so much harder to judge the veracity of the writers who wrote about the Owens family a couple hundred years ago (this is where DNA testing can help). I tend to believe those accounts which were written by Military and Colonial Officials and contemporary journalists; but, memoirs being removed in time from events and prone to exaggeration are less trustworthy. I'm hoping to see more original manuscripts published online. The manuscript collections are invaluable sources for Pennsylvanian research. I've made quite a bit of progress using these collections and hope to unearth even more.