Wednesday, March 29, 2017

My First Impressions of AncestryDNA's Genetic Communities

I first heard about AncestryDNA's  genetic communities from the Roots Tech live stream in February. The communities were said to use Ancestry's large genetic data collection to group people according to locations, based on genetic data. These groups are called communities. Some communities are both regional and ethnically based.

I have to say I was disappointed when I finally saw my own results yesterday. I was disappointed because we were told of the possibility of finding unknown information, or additional confirmation of our lineages. I learned nothing new personally.

The biggest problem I see so far is much of what is illustrated on the maps presented basically just shows migrations of your cousins. Not information about your own ancestors.

Here is an example of the information provided for my mother:


She has two communities Early Settlers of the Lower Mideast & Virginia, and Settlers of the Alleghenies & Northeast Indiana. The dots reflect mostly migrations of my mother's cousins. Her father's, Charles Forgey's, distant ancestors generally arrived in America through Pennsylvania prior to the Revolutionary War. All of his ancestors ended up in Indiana by 1820. My mother's genetic map covers all of those places. Dots also cover Missouri and Arkansas. Places my mother's ancestors never lived. Her distant cousins settled in those states. This could be confusing for people who don't know their ancestry.

I would like to see subgroupings for my mother. The lack of subgroups means the information as it stands is useless. The area covered is too broad. Odd my mom doesn't have an Indiana subgroup because her ancestors were all in Indiana by the 1820's, and some before that even? Her father was born in Indiana too. The family had been living in the Jackson County area of Indiana for 80, and more, years before my grandfather was born.

My mother's communities reflects half of her ancestry. Her mother being Nicaraguan. Oddly my mother isn't in the Nicaraguan community?

The fact my mother's father had early American roots seemed to help with the quality of her genetic community results. My results only cover a very small slice of my Ancestry. This presents a problems for adoptees and others who know very little about their heritage. They might assume the map shows all places of origin of  their ancestors, or at least a significant portion. My communities reflect about 20% of my heritage. So 80% of my ancestral heritage isn't shown.

Here is what I got:

Unlike my mother I have no American communities. I also have two regions or communities. One is for Connacht, Ireland and the other Quebec, Canada, i.e.  French Settlers Along the St. Lawrence. My great grandmother Helen Mullen-Mason was born in Galway, Ireland. This result reflects one of 8 great-grandparents. My great-great grandfather Peter (Pierre) Mason (Masson) was French Canadian. The Quebec result reflects one of 16 great-great grandparents. So like I said about 80% of my ancestry isn't represent.

The genetic community results are correct for my mother and I. However all of our ancestry isn't represented. In my case only a very small fraction. The cautions when looking at these results are they reflect migrations of cousins, and may represent as little as 1/8 of your heritage. After seeing these maps myself I felt more of a connection with the two regions than I really have lol.

It's hoped with more testers the results will get better? I think this will always be a better tool for some than others. There will always be groups underrepresented since everyone in the world won't test with AncestryDNA. It may get much better for those with a great deal of early American ancestry, because that group tends to test more.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Irish Ancestral Sources

My Irish Great-Grandmother with her son and granddaughter

For many years I had no idea where my Irish Great-Grandmother Helen Mullen-Mason came from. I only knew she was born in Ireland. My father thought she was born in Cork, Ireland. That was a common misunderstanding as most Irish immigrants travelled from a port in Cork to the US. I only found out that was erroneous when I received a copy of her sister's eulogy which stated she was born in Co. Galway, Ireland. Her parents names were said to be Patrick Mullen and Mary Huvane, also according to the eulogy. I was thinking Huvane didn't sound like an Irish surname. I was told it was Spanish. I have since found out it isn't Spanish but a variant of a surname common to the area, Hoban.

Here are all of the sources I've used to discover more about my Irish ancestry:

1. The first source I had access to was Helen's sister's Eulogy, naming their parents and place of origin. The eulogy stated "Mary Kathleen Mullen was born in County Galway, Ireland on February 1, 1888, just two months after Mary Frances Clarke died. The BVMs motherhouse was still St. Joseph's on the Prairie and Mt. Carmel was only a dream." Bridget Mullen, Sister Mary Kathleen, was a younger sister of my great-grandmother.

2. With the parents names was I able to find a marriage record for my Great Great-grandparents Patrick Mullen and Mary Huvane. The fact Huvane is so uncommon allowed me to find the correct marriage record quickly by cross referencing Mullen and Huvane. I wrote to Ireland to get this marriage document which is now online and free (I give the Irish Civil registration website link below).

3. With the ecclesiastical parish name I was able to order a church record microfilm from my local family history center. I found some baptismal information for my family and further confirmation of the information from the marriage record, which stated the family lived in the Townland of Pollaturick. My great-grandmother's date of birth seems to be off by a day however?
These church books are now searchable at the National Library of Ireland website. You just need to know the name of the parish. Click on the microfilm you want to search, and a digital copy will come up.

Milltown Baptisms

4. Armed with this information I posted on Irish Genealogy message boards. I found some posters with the unusual Huvane surname. I heard back from someone with quite a bit of information about the Huvane family. This family was from bordering Co. Mayo. The spouse of the cousin who answered my inquiry has provided me with a great deal of information. She and her husband have visited Pollaturick, and the Huvane (Huane) townland of Fallakeerin. She was able to get in contact with a cousin who wrote to her regarding the whereabouts of my living cousins. We now know that Tom Huvane and I are 4th cousins. We also match as 4th cousins at AncestryDNA.

5. I found both my Mullen and Huvane family on Griffith's Valuation of Ireland. The valuation gives information about their property, and the name of the landlord. The name of the Landlord can lead to more information about families.

The maps associated with Griffith's Valuation give the exact location of property. You can find the exact location of your ancestors property by using the numbers and letters.

6. I had also found the family on the 1901 Census using Family History Center Microfilm. The 1901 and 1911 Censuses are now online here. They weren't when I started researching. I now have the family in both censuses. Helen, my Great-Grandmother left Ireland in 1898 and is not enumerated with the family.


7. Findmypast Ireland has court records online. I was able to find family in these records. Some relations were housed for a time in Castlebar Prison.
8. Relatives also appear in landed estate records at Findmypast Ireland.

9. Findmypast Ireland also has dog license records which will tell you what kind of dogs your ancestors owned. I found out my ancestors had mostly black and red border collies. These dogs were working dogs for herding their sheep.

10. When the parish microfilms came online at the National Library of Ireland website I was able to get additional marriage information for my Great Great-grandparents Pat and Mary Mullen. This record was missing from the LDS microfilm I looked at. I found out Mary Huane or Huvane-Mullen was living in Ballindine, Mayo, Ireland when she got married. Something I didn't know.

Church marriage record book
11. I never thought I would be able to go a generation further back from my Great-Great grandparents because the parish registers for their parishes are in poor condition, and only go back to the mid to late 1800's. Happily I was wrong. Recently the 1851 Census of Ireland has come online which has allowed me to go another generation back in time. The 1851 Census is actually a reconstruction. In my case its source is pension records. It contains the maiden names of Pat and Mary's mothers.
You can search the 1851 Census at The National Archives of Ireland website

1851 Census Ireland reconstructed.
12. I was wondering when my Great great-grandparents died in Ireland, for years? I had absolutely no idea when they died or where?  I found deaths of Patrick Mullens on the civil registration index at FamilySearch for Galway. I had no idea which one he might be? There were a number and I couldn't order copies from Ireland for all of them. I could not find anyone that appeared to be Mary Huvane-Mullen, however?  Thankfully these civil registration records are now online! I was able to find the death record for Patrick Mullen he died August 13, 1930, in his home in Pollaturick. His wife was alive at the time. I still haven't found her death information?
 You can find digital copies of the original Irish Civil registration records at the website.

13. When you have the townland names for your ancestors you can use Google maps to take a street view tour of the townland. It's been very rewarding being able to see the area my ancestors came from using Google street view.

Cemetery in Google Street view where my ancestors might be buried
They still keep Border Collies

Success in Ireland comes down to knowing the name of the Townlands your ancestors are from. Once I had the townland I was off and running.