Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Future of Genealogy: Four Stories

   Come in and close the door. Sit down and make yourself comfortable. Would you like a nice cup of Darjeeling tea?

   I have a crystal ball. It does not show a singular future, it shows multiple possible futures. That’s what you get when you drop it one too many times.

   You want to know what the future of genealogy holds? I could ‘read’ you and tell you exactly what you want to hear. My first impression though, is that you didn’t just fall off the turnip truck and that you will appreciate seeing the whole picture without the sugar glazing. I will regale you with four very different stories of the future and since you look very trustworthy, I will let you peek behind the ‘curtains’.

   The future is not carved in stone waiting for the sunrise to reveal a new chapter. Telling the future is not mystical, it is a combination of science and plausible fiction. All you need to do is analyze the social, political, opportunity, innovation and legal trends that are driving the future. There are many more drivers, including environment, economy, education and technology, but I was looking for a cool acronym (SPOIL).

   For this prognostication to work we need the biggest drivers as they relate to genealogy. I’m going to rule out the economy. Even in a down economy, folks are still spending. Environmental factors, while huge, don’t play a significant role. Education is key, but it rolls up to larger social issues. I think the big three are society, technology and the law.

   Federal, State and local governments have the ability to enact laws that could either help or hinder genealogical research. The trends within this aspect are well understood. Unless an Amendment is repealed, I expect that as a whole more records will be available rather than less.

   There are quite a few social issues. The baby-boomers are still retiring and actively trying to get in touch with their roots. The next generation is interested in family history, but not necessarily traditional genealogy. Professional genealogists are concerned about proper sourcing and the growing surge of ad-hoc genealogy. Genealogical societies are struggling with increasing their memberships as the oldest generation is becoming history.

   Technology is a double-edged sword. It can drive adoption and it can be a gatekeeper. New tools will make it easier to do genealogical research, but perhaps it will make it too easy. As more family history becomes technology driven a portion of the community will become disenfranchised. Can technology solve all our problems or will it be our downfall?

The Stories:

Wild Wild Web
   My friends and my enemies call me Dr. Bob. I consider myself a modern day scoundrel. I’m known as the go to guy for anything genealogy related. Ever since AncestorBook accidentally released financial and privacy info on their one billion customers, the web has been more like a ghost town. My clients are always amazed at the detail of my research results. A little fiction goes a long way. After a search and replace on a few surnames, I can sell the same family tree over and over. It’s not like anyone is going to check up on my work or my lack of credentials. If you look up genealogy in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of me. I redefine family history every day.

Genealogy is easy money.

Golden Age
   Hi, I’m Bonnie Jean and this is my first week as a genealogical consultant for Gene-way. I can’t tell you how hard I worked at having the right dinner parties and getting introduced to the right folks down at the club before I finally received my invitation to join Gene-way. As soon as I have one hundred clients under my belt then I can start inviting and sponsoring my own associates. That shouldn’t be hard, if folks want an official genealogy following the Gene-way Genealogical Standard, then they are required to go through a Gene-way consultant. The internet has become such a place full of filth, corruption and social openness that no right-minded person will go there. Even though the libraries and archives are thriving and busy, I’m still home from researching in time to make dinner for my family.

Genealogy is big business.

Woodstock 3.0
   Skye here, casting to you via the socialnet. I’m here at GeneaCon, the largest virtual family history convention this month. As you can see, I’m sporting the latest tie-dye fashions because I’m heading for the Woodstock pavilion. The fans there have given the storytellers over a million thumbs-up. One of the stories coming up is going to be about my great great grandfather. I’m not sure who he is or how he is related, but my Ancestor App is telling me that this is a must-see. With Genealogy 3.0 I don’t have to worry about names and dates and records, the apps just do it all automatically. Genealogy is about the hardships and the emotions and the exciting events that my ancestors have been through. Someday I’d like to be a professional story weaver. Now that’s real entertainment.

Genealogy just wants to be free.

The Empire
   Hello...hello...this is Simon. Our location has been compromised and this may be my last transmission. Moments ago we finished hacking ProGene’s 1950 US Census database. Our breach did not go unnoticed and the feds are massing outside. ProGene used to protect the genealogists. They made sure we had access to records. Just when technology was getting easier and digital records were becoming more accessible, ProGene inked a deal with the feds to get proprietary rights to the records. ProGene claimed that this was the only way to keep data free, but it essentially locked it away from the average user unless you engaged with ProGene consulting. We won’t stop until all genealogical records are freely avail........damn, they’re coming through the door and they have mind erasing gear. Simon out....

Genealogical freedom is not free.

   I have painted four dystopian pictures of our genealogical future and have used a fair amount of hyperbole. Technology is wonderful, it has brought us the digital revolution and made records available, creating a genealogical boom. Technology should never replace good research practice or become so integrated into our lives that the loss would be devastating. The definition of what genealogy is should not be defined by any one person or group. I was once told that if I didn’t have proof, then it wasn’t genealogy. That is not the way I want to practice. I am perfectly happy living in a genealogical world that combines proof and theory.

   Predicting the future is like announcing the latest fashion trend. As soon as you tell everyone about it, you have guaranteed that the trend will die. You are no longer in fashion if everyone is wearing the same thing. When you announce the future, there will be groups that will actively work toward and against that vision. The net gain falls somewhere short of the prediction and usually to the benefit of the human race.

   I've shown you four stories that I don’t want to come true and they won’t. The intention is for you to think about what the future of genealogy should look like.  What would you want to happen or not happen?  Meanwhile, each new generation will shape some aspect of the future. We can choose to understand their needs and shepherd them or we can sit back and enjoy the surprise of what Genealogy 3.0 will bring.

   For now, relax and finish your tea. The future is not here....yet.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The DNA of John Cutter West: Connected and Disconnected

   Bill West, author of the blog series ‘West in New England’, has been writing about his ggg-grandfather, John Cutter West, for over five years.  Bill calls him ‘The Elusive John C.’

   Some genealogies connect John Cutter West as the son of Paul West and Hannah Crowell of Liverpool, Nova Scotia.  It has also been suggested that he could be the grandson of Josiah West and Elizabeth Griffith of Plymouth, MA.  Both Paul and Josiah are descended from Francis West of Salisbury, England who immigrated to Duxbury, MA.

   Bill West completed a 37-marker y-DNA test and his results came back as haplogroup J2.  Multiple descendants of Francis West have also been tested.  Their results indicate that Francis West was a member of haplogroup R1b.  Bill is related to Francis West in the same way that J2 is related to R1b, but you have to go back 40,000 years ago to find that family connection rather than 400 years.  DNA results can be a double-edged sword.  They can prove your connection or just as easily disprove your assumptions.

   One of the most exciting events in DNA testing is when you receive your results showing multiple matches with your surname.  If you have already researched a dozen generations, the test is confirmation.  If you are just getting started, the test connects you with cousins.  Or, if you were adopted, getting matches to multiple records with a surname you weren’t expecting will lead you on a path of discovery.  In a survey of major DNA databases, Bill’s genetic record didn’t have any close matches.  The wonderful part of y-DNA testing is the ability to dig deeper.

   Here is what we do know about Bill’s DNA.  Haplogroup J2 has origins in Mesopotamia about 18,500 years ago and it is associated with speakers of the Semitic languages.  The J2 haplogroup is widespread around the Mediterranean with connections to both Arabs and Jews.  Bill’s haplotype, the 37-markers from his test, are a genetic fingerprint that can help us find his tribe.

   I've developed a tool, TribeMapper®, which allows me to take a haplotype record and map ancestors across time and place.  One of the first clues we find is that Bill’s haplogroup is more uniquely related to subgroup J2b2.  Only a test looking for SNP M241 can prove J2b2 for certain.  My next step is to map the DNA to determine which J2b2 ethnicity Bill belongs.

   As I look at slices of time, 4,500 years ago Bill’s ancestors were in places like Turkey, Armenia, Syria and Saudi Arabia.  If I look at a branch of Bill’s tribe at about 3,000 years ago, I see a distinct correlation with locations like Cyprus, the coasts of Italy and Spain and the islands of the Azores.  These places match up with the colonies of the Phoenicians.  Phoenicia had origins in what is modern day Lebanon.  They were known for their extensive maritime trading culture. Phoenicians were not only sea travelling merchants with colonies around the Mediterranean, they had trade routes across Europe as well.  Bill’s closest DNA matches were part of a Phoenician branch that headed into central Europe.

   Looking at a period from 1,300 (Bill’s closest match) to 2,000 years ago, we see a pattern of migration into what is modern day Germany and more specifically those genetic connections appear in cities in the Hessen region.  Research into John Cutter West gives the appearance that he has English origins.  The DNA trail ends in southwest Germany.  We are still left with the fact that there are not enough DNA records to fill the gap between now and 1,300 years ago.  It is possible that Bill’s ancestors migrated further, from Germany to England.

   Now it’s time to move from facts to theory.  The closest DNA matches indicate a connection to the Hessen region of Germany.  An avenue worth investigating is whether one of those ancestors was a Hessian soldier that stayed in America after the Revolution.  Perhaps the reason there are no records of John Cutter West before his 1827 marriage record is that he was born under a different name, a more German sounding name.

   Sometimes DNA can help us make all the connections.  In the case of Bill West, he is still disconnected over the last 1,000 years.  That’s a big space of time with plenty of questions.  More folks are being tested every day and the DNA databases are growing.  Today the data shows that Bill has deep Phoenician roots and that those ancestors settled in the German region of Hessen.  Time and more data will help revise and refine this picture of Bill’s tribe.

© Origin Hunters & OriginsDNA

Friday, August 17, 2012

Celebrating the Best of OH!

   In celebration of reaching 11,111 views of my blog I'm highlighting the best of Origin Hunters with the top 11 articles.

In no particular order here they are:

Finding the origins and descendants of the Huns...
Attila, Native Americans and DNA: A Hunny Story - Jul 4, 2012

Who has the best DNA...
DNA: The New Discrimination – Jun 22, 2012

Are you or someone you know affected...
Genealogy Addiction: Just Say Know - Dec 2, 2011

Finding the Irish royal branches...
Genealogy Gold: McCarthy DNA - Aug 10, 2012

Sometimes paper is not enough...
Is Your Family Tree Broken? - Feb 14, 2012

All in the family...
Kissing Cousins: Kevin Bacon & Kyra Sedgwick - Jan 9, 2012

He still has more to tell us...
My Cousin Otzi: A Story Written in DNA - Mar 1, 2012

Finding Standish's English origins and more...
Myles Standish: Mayflower DNA - Jun 15, 2012

A glass of juice could have made the difference...
The Avoidable Death of William A. Clark – Jul 12, 2012

What's your favorite flavor of DNA testing...
Why Y-DNA? – Feb 27, 2012

The 3rd in my series on DNA for genealogy...
Your Father’s Father – Aug 11, 2012


Friday, August 10, 2012

Genealogy Gold: McCarthy DNA

   Sometimes in genealogy, we go for the gold.  We try to figure out how we are descended from Presidents, royalty or other famous people.  In the US, if your last name were Adams, you might ask if you are related to the second President.  With a surname like Stewart/Stuart you could try to research back to UK royalty.  If you are Irish, some of those royal names are O’Neill, O’Brien or McCarthy.

   The last King in Ireland died in the 1600s.  For many of us it is incredibly difficult to go back beyond the 1800s in our Irish genealogy research.  The lack of paper records makes finding that connection to Irish royalty challenging.

   DNA is the next best answer to the lack of records.  Both regional and surname projects can collect enough genetic samples to build family trees.  Not in the same sense as child - father - grandfather etc., more in a phylogenetic sense.  A phylogenetic tree will show how individuals connect back to common ancestors and in turn, those common ancestors trace further back to another common connection.

   I have McCarthy ancestry and like everyone else I have researched as much as possible about one of my surnames.  Historically the surname comes from Carthaigh or Carthach, an 11th century King of Ireland and ancestor of the McCarthy Kings of Desmond (current day Cork and Kerry).  His son, Muireadhach, was the first to take on the Mac Carthaigh name.  Literally the ‘son of Carthaigh’.  In names like O’Neill or O’Brien, the O’ means grandson or descendant.

   Time to go for the gold.  How am I related to the Kings of Ireland?  Which DNA haplogroup do the McCarthys belong?  First, I found that a surname project existed on Family Tree DNA.  Then I started analyzing the data on the McCarthy Surname Study DNA site.  Nothing is ever simple.  There are six different haplogroup represented in the group, E1b, I1, I2a, I2b, R1a and R1b.  There are also four different R1b subgroups.  The site has R1b divided into Group A (SNP R-L21), Group B (SNP R-P314.2), Group C (SNP R-M222) and Group D (misc. others).  I would expect there to be multiple R1b subgroups as it is the most numerous haplogroup in Western Europe.

   Like the Olympics, there can only be one gold medal winner in this event.  Only one (or none) of these groups can be related to the original Carthaigh.  There are many reasons why there are multiple McCarthy haplogroups.  The Administrator of the McCarthy site, Nigel McCarthy, is well aware that there could be non-paternal events and has posted some possible situations where a McCarthy name could have arisen:

“•Soldiers, serfs, or slaves or hostages taken in battle and who remained with their captives, all under the tutelage of a McCarthy king, chief of chieftain, adopting this surname.
•Rape of McCarthy womenfolk by invading forces.
•Other illegitimacy.
•Adoption (e.g. by a chieftain of a sister’s orphaned children).
•Raiders such as Vikings being absorbed, a century or two after they settled in Ireland,  into the group which became the McCarthy family as they became “gaelicised”.
•Stepsons taking the McCarthy name of their new stepfather (early deaths of husbands or wives, and thus remarriages, were common).
•The sons of Cárthachs other than he who died in 1045 forming their surnames in a similar manner (although there is no explicit evidence of this).”
-source McCarthy Surname Study - Background

   Which genes are the royal McCarthy genes?  Other projects have been able to analyze DNA records and come back with an announcement that they have identified the haplotypes of Genghis Khan or Niall, ancestor of the O’Neill kings.  The same methods should work for the McCarthys.  If we consider the McCarthy DNA records as a random sample representing the larger population, then the groups with the larger number of records are more likely to be part of the royal group.  A wealthier family would have had more resources to provide for larger families, allowing for more descendants.

   Looking at the McCarthy site, haplogroup R1b Groups A and B have the most records.  At first glance, the other haplogroups seem to be ruled out for lack of representation.  An analysis of the haplotypes within these haplogroups gives us additional evidence.  The E1b group shows a clear pattern of migration from Greece through Italy, Germany, England and Scotland before arriving in Ireland.  This is consistent with the Alexandrian origin of E1b and the timing fits with Rome’s incursion into the region.

   Haplogroup I2b shows a migration from the Danube River region through Germany, England, Scotland and into Northern Ireland.  They appear to have arrived before the Romans.  Haplogroup R1a originated from Eastern Europe and took a different path via Normandy, Devon/Cornwall, into Ireland through Cork.  Their timing fits the Norman invasion of Ireland about 900 years ago.

   If we calculate the time to most recent common ancestor (TMRCA) for Groups A and B, we see that within each group they are closely related.  For each group, their common ancestor lived about 1,000 years ago, which coincides with Carthaigh’s timeframe.  Comparing the two groups against each other shows a common ancestor over 2,800 years ago.  Both groups have the right ancestral timing.  Group A has DNA that is associated with Southern Ireland and an analysis across a larger R1b tribal haplotype indicates that this group entered Ireland over 2,600 years ago.  The same analysis of Group B indicates that they entered Ireland about 500 years later.  Group A has been in Ireland longer and occupy the ancestral region of Desmond.

   So far, we have circumstantial evidence.  We need something more concrete.  We can get a clue from the historic royal genealogies.  The McCarthys were more than just a royal family.  They were a dynasty.  Along with the surname McCarthy, there were also the Sullivans, Callaghans, Keeffes, Donoghues and Donovans that made up the larger related genetic dynasty.  Looking at each group in the context of the larger genetic pool of records and surnames shows that Group A has a close DNA connection to the dynastic surnames and Group B does not.  This method was a key factor in the O’Neill project.

   The evidence points to Group A as the descendants of the royal McCarthys.  The haplotype for Carthaigh is slightly different from the modal for the McCarthy Project Group A.  Considering the dynastic records, makes the values of DYS576=19 and DYS442=13.

   The pedigree of Carthaigh’s ancestors borders on mythology.  Many Irish pedigrees trace back to Milesius of Spain as the father of the Irish people.  Historians found it easy to dispute these claims as these records often are full of conflicting historical information, a lack of dates and obvious attempts to connect back to the Biblical genealogies.  As with most mythology, the Irish origins contain grains of truth.  Haplogroup R1b, which is predominant in Ireland, has its origins in Iberia (modern day Spain and Portugal).  The McCarthy Group A DNA data can be traced backward in time via STR mutations to their Spanish and Portuguese cousins.  Imagine two brothers at a farewell party on the slopes of the Pyrenees 3,000 years ago.  One brother has decided to go north to seek better fortunes and the other decided to stay behind.  The ancestors of each exist today for us to compare.

   The Irish do have ‘Spanish’ origins.  Some elements of that oral history remained intact over 3,000 years as the Iberian tribe migrated and settled in Ireland.  As with any oral tradition, embellishment can occur, especially when developing a royal pedigree to show divine right.

   McCarthy Group A was not the first Iberian tribe to land in Ireland and certainly not the last.  Group B arrived about 500-1,000 after Group A.  Irish mythology suggests that there were at least four previous waves of immigration to Ireland from the mainland.  The E1b McCarthy ancestors begin to show up around 2,000 years ago with the Roman invasion and the R1a McCarthys are associated with the Norman invasion of Ireland about 900 years ago.

   My next steps are to find my male McCarthy cousins and get them tested.  I’ll look for at least two, one from each of my g-granduncle’s surviving lines.  My McCarthys trace back to Kilmichael Parish in County Cork and my gg-grandfather, Florence McCarthy, has one of those names that repeats throughout McCarthy history.   I look forward to finding out which McCarthy DNA group I belong.

   If you are a McCarthy, please consider DNA testing and joining the McCarthy DNA Project.  Your data will help build a better understanding and a better genetic family tree of the McCarthy groups.  Along the way, we can learn more about our ethnicity and our Irish culture.  You may even want to change your surname back to its original Irish spelling, Súilleabháin (Sullivan), Ceallacháin (Callaghan), Donnchadha (Donoghue), Donnabhain (Donovan) or Mac Carthaigh.

© Origin Hunters & OriginsDNA

Thursday, August 9, 2012

An Imperfect World

Deep Into DNA*

   Anthropology is the study of humans.  Cultural anthropology is a branch that studies the knowledge, beliefs, art, morals, laws and customs of the world’s people.  I include genealogy, the study of the generations, as a very focused branch of cultural anthropology, the study of your own heritage. 

   For centuries anthropology relied on the study of languages and the discovery of artifacts to build a model of human history.  Today and for more than a decade, anthropologists have used DNA to support their arguments.  This as a tripod of evidence and adds balance.  Language, artifacts and DNA give anthropology three legs of support.

   As genealogists, we rely on oral tradition and historical records.  With DNA for genealogy, we can build our own tripod of evidence...

...continued at The In-Depth Genealogist with a free membership.

*The Deep Into DNA article series is published each month in The In-Depth Genealogist Newsletter and will demystify genetic genealogy and make sense out of DNA testing terminology.  Each month we will talk about the types of tests available from major labs and show relevant examples on how to use DNA in your genealogy research.


Monday, August 6, 2012

The Library of You

Deep Into DNA*

   Imagine getting a letter that a distant relative has passed away and that you are invited to the family home. There is a gift waiting for you there. When you arrive, you are handed a skeleton key with a little tag. Handwritten on the tag is your name in faded, old ink. The caretaker tells you that the key fits the door to one of the rooms in the house and you should feel free to look for it.

   As you wander the old home, you see priceless antiques and old photos.  In the study, there are volumes of genealogies of surnames both recognizable and foreign.  The entire place is a treasure trove of information and memorabilia.  You would be happy with even the smallest of gifts...

...continued at The In-Depth Genealogist with a free membership.

*The Deep Into DNA article series is published each month in The In-Depth Genealogist Newsletter and will demystify genetic genealogy and make sense out of DNA testing terminology.  Each month we will talk about the types of tests available from major labs and show relevant examples on how to use DNA in your genealogy research.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Calling All Maglios

I have created the Facebook page Maglio Famiglia.  http://www.facebook.com/groups/maglio/   

Please consider joining the group and tell us about your Maglio family.  Where in Italy did they come from?  How and when did they get where you are now?   

My goal is to see how we are all connected.  I also have a DNA project, which will help us figure out exactly how we are related.  http://www.familytreedna.com/public/maglio/