Saturday, December 22, 2012

Testing All Your Genes

Deep Into DNA*

   We all have 46 chromosomes, 23 from mom and 23 from dad. Two of those chromosomes are the sexy kind, X and Y. We’ll ignore those for now. The other 44 chromosomes are your autosomes. Autosomal testing has become available only within the last few years and has become a very popular choice. It offers the broadest range of results, including cousin matches, ethnic proportions and health indicators.

...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, November 26, 2012

Genetic Genealogy: Adding DNA to Your Toolkit

We’re all cousins! Genetic genealogy can tell us just how closely we are related.

Each of us already has a key to a library of knowledge about our ancestors, it’s in our DNA. Until recently, genealogists have relied on oral tradition and historical records. With DNA for genealogy, we now have a valuable new type of evidence.

Join us on November 28th at 6pm at the Boston Public Library as the Local & Family History Lecture Series hosts and I present Genetic Genealogy: Adding DNA to Your Toolkit.  We will look at the variety of testing options and the potential mysteries that they will unlock.  Learn about your deep ancestry, confirm your existing family history or break through brick walls in your genealogy research.

See how easy it is to add DNA to your genealogy toolkit.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Stephen Hopkins: Saxon DNA?

   As we approach Thanksgiving, it’s a great time to write about our Mayflower ancestors.  So far, I have found two on my wife's side, Stephen Hopkins and Stephen Hopkins.  Ok, that’s really just one, but I have two lines that trace back to him.   This isn’t unusual, estimates put the count of Stephen Hopkins’ descendants at about 2 million Americans.  

   What can Stephen Hopkins’ DNA tell us about his origins and his ancestors?  First, I should say that no one has a sample of Stephen’s DNA.  What we know about Stephen comes from tests completed by his male-line descendants with corroborating genealogical paper trails.  The Hopkins families are members of y-DNA haplogroup R1b, the largest genetic population in Europe.  R1b is often associated with the Celtic and Gallic tribes.  Hopkins’ DNA may be able to shed additional light on his birthplace, extend his genealogy further by tapping into an older family line or tell us about his deep ancestral origins.

   One of the first things I like to do is compare the haplotype, (the numeric markers from a y-DNA test) against a public database like  The goal is to find other parallel lines of Hopkins with ancestry that predates Stephen.  This would allow us to work forward in time, connecting to Stephen and his father John, breaking through the current brick wall.  Unfortunately, no such records exist.

   What we do get from ySearch is list of genetic cousins and their ancestral locations.  Plotting these locations generates a distribution from Kent to Cornwall across southern England.  The highest concentration of cousins is in the historic Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex.  The current research on Stephen Hopkins has him baptized in Hampshire, the heart of Wessex.
   What kind of R1b was Hopkins?  Was he a Celt, a Gaul, an Anglo-Saxon or something completely different?  One way to get close to the answer is to look at his genetic cousins again.  Since R1b is such a large group, it is important to focus on both the haplotype and SNP that defines his R1b subgroup.  The SNP that best defines Stephen is S493, which on the 2012 haplogroup tree is R1b1a2a1a1a2.  With the explosion of new SNPs identification and the rapidly expanding and changing subgroup nomenclature, researchers are advocating the use of the SNP rather than subgroup as a naming convention.  Let’s call Stephen Hopkins R-S493.

   When I take all these genetic cousins and run them through TribeMapper®, a pattern forms.  Ancestors start to pile up on either side of the English Channel and an approximate date of migration emerges.  Here’s where we pull out our history books.  If the date were about 2,500 years ago, I would say this was a Celtic migration.  If the date were 2,000 years ago, I might say these were Gaels fleeing the Romans.   The calculations come out to be about 1,500 years ago, putting this migration in line with the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain.

   Why stop there?  What flavor of Anglo-Saxon are we talking about?  Angle, Saxon, Jute?  The great thing about tribe mapping is that we can continuously turn back the clock and get a new picture.  If we find a Danish connection, then we might say Jutes or an association to the Angeln region of Germany, we could say Angles.  We have to be careful as those names and locations were just a snapshot in time when ancient historians catalogued Germanic tribes.  Those tribes, like all tribes, were just passing through.

   Stephen Hopkins’ DNA points to a genetic cluster in modern day Lithuania and Latvia.   This data most closely correlates to the Saxons and their origins on the Baltic coast.  Continuing this process gives us the following migration map.

   The R-S493 data takes us through Finland, Sweden and back to the mainland Europe to the Iberian Peninsula.  This puts the origin of R-S493 in Iberia about 4,000 years ago ± 500 years.

   We can’t be certain that Stephen Hopkins has Saxon DNA.  We can’t even say that all Saxons were haplogroup R1b.  It’s unlikely that they were a single homogenous ethnic group, but the core of the tribe would have had strong familial and genetic ties.  Were Hopkins’ ancestors at the core of this tribe or part of the fringe, picked up along the way?  A broader study of DNA associated with the same places and times would be required to answer that question.

   If we look at the surname Hopkins, its origins are from Hobbes-kin and even further back to the Germanic name Hrodberht.  Stephen Hopkins and his closest genetic cousins are found in the historic Kingdom of Wessex (West Saxons).  Time-wise, there is a correlation to the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain.  We can even make a connection to the proto-Saxons along the Baltic coast.  I’m going out on a limb and calling Hopkins a Saxon.

   That Saxon bloodline remained adventurous and served Stephen well as he voyaged to Bermuda, Jamestown and Plymouth colony.

   It’s never obvious where DNA will lead.  Each tribe mapping is an adventure in itself.

© Michael R. Maglio and OriginsDNA

Monday, November 5, 2012

Your Mother's Mother

Deep Into DNA*

Your mother’s ancestry can be extremely challenging. Most of us live in a patrilineal society. The wife and the children take the surname of the husband. History shows us that recording the maiden name of the wife was often an afterthought. We have all tried traditional genealogy for our mother’s line. Some of us can go back a couple of generations and have hit brick walls. Some of us have researched a dozen generations. Mitochondrial DNA testing can aid a genealogist in discovering those lost surnames and validating your research.

Two months ago, I wrote about y-DNA and its use in tracing your paternal line. Mitochondrial DNA testing looks at your maternal line. There are many similarities and just as many differences between the two tests.

...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.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mystery Solved: Enigmatic Graphic

   Update: Since writing this in February, both my father-in-law and my mother-in-law have passed away.  One in March and one earlier this month.  I have been helping my wife go through their belongings.  The mystery symbol that I was trying to identify has appeared twice.  Once on a pair of earrings and once on a homemade bookmark.  On the bookmark was a poem by Edward Markham.

“He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic , rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In !"

   Coincidentally the last line of the poem was inscribed on my father-in-law's stone.  Mystery solved.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

   I was scanning some artwork from my father-in-law this past weekend (remember the mantra – digitize, digitize, digitize) and I came across some graphic designs that I recognized and one that I didn’t.

   Warren Francis Clark was an Artist, an Art Professor, an Art Director, a Humanist and a Unitarian Universalist.  I describe him that way because all the graphics that I scanned were his versions of religious symbols.  I also tend to talk about Warren in the past tense because he has Alzheimer’s and is not the same person that I am writing about.  He also can’t tell me the meaning of one of the symbols that I scanned.

   Google has a feature that they released in the last year or so in their Images section.  If you upload a copy of the image you have then Google will search for similar images.

   Now this worked great for the symbols of Taoism and Buddhism that looked familiar but I couldn’t place the names.  The last symbol is a mystery to me and Google couldn’t find anything similar.

   Does anybody out in the Blogosphere recognize this graphic?  I don’t even know the correct orientation.

Friday, October 12, 2012

In Case You Haven't Heard...

I also write for The In-Depth Genealogist.  They offer a free newsletter covering a wide variety of genealogy topics.

In case you missed them, here are some of my posts from the In-Depth Genealogist site.

Genealogy as a Minefield:  Watch Where You Step - 22 May 2012

DNA: The New Discrimination - 22 Jun 2012

The Avoidable Death of William A. Clark - Part 1 - 12 Jul 2012

The Avoidable Death of William A. Clark - Part 2 - 12 Jul 2012

The Fluid Nature of Self-Identity: DNA and Ethnicity - 17 Aug 2012

Don't forget to sign up for the free newsletter.  The next issue comes out tomorrow.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Find Your Inner Barbarian...

Was your family part of the Anglo-Saxon invasion or did they ride with Attila the Hun?

Join us tonight at 7pm at the Southborough Public Library as the Southborough Genealogy Club hosts and I present Mapping Your Tribe.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Vandals DNA: Leaving Genetic Graffiti Across Europe

   I have been fascinated by barbarian history since my sixth grade Social Studies teacher, Mr. Rose, handed me the textbook on the subject.  I still read everything I can on the topic.  The biggest draw is the mystery of where each tribe came from, appearing out of the shadow of mythology and for many, disappearing into obscurity.  I’m finding that DNA can help answer the questions of ‘Where are they now?’ and ‘Where did they come from?’

   The word barbarian is first seen in the Greek language as barbaros.  One possible origin of the word is that it was coined from the sound of the language used by these nomadic tribes – ‘bar bar bar’.  The Vandals (Vandali) appear in the history books as early as 166 AD and are described as an East Germanic tribe.  The theories on their origins include having Scandinavian roots in the parish of Vendel, Sweden or Germanic roots with a connection to the word meaning to wander (wandeln).

   Even if the Vandals’ name wasn’t derived from the word wandeln, wandering was what they did the most.  Perhaps chased is a better description.  Around 300 AD, the Goths fought with the Vandals and pushed them west along the Danube River.  By 400 AD, the Huns pushed the Vandals further west to the Rhine River.  At the Rhine, the Vandals fought with the Franks, won and moved into Aquitaine (western France), pillaging and plundering the whole way.

Historical Vandali migration

   I’m reminded of an old cartoon where the barbarian leader is addressing his troops – ‘This time, remember: pillage, then burn.’  The term vandalism is directly attributed to the Vandals’ ruthless pillaging and destruction of culturally significant objects.

   In 409 AD, the Vandals crossed into the Iberian Peninsula, only to be chased by the Visigoths and the Roman army into North Africa in 429 AD.  Over the next decades, the Vandals conquered North Africa and made Carthage their capital.  From there they invaded Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and in 455 AD they sacked Rome. Fortunes fade, the Vandals were defeated by the Byzantine Empire in 534 AD and disappeared into history.  The name Vandals may have disappeared but the people didn’t.  They were either assimilated into the local cultures or dispersed as slaves, the spoils of war.

   To figure out ‘Who were the Vandals?’, first I had to figure out ‘Where are they now?’  Based on their historic origins, the Vandals would probably fall into a small group of y-DNA haplogroups.  The ethnic descriptions that I’m using are overly simplistic, just enough to give you a feel for the possible cultures present.


   We can’t assume that the Vandals were genetically homogenous.  At various times they were associated and allied with the Alani and Suevi tribes.  Any DNA trail found, could just as easily belong to a group along for the ride.  I started researching all these haplogroups along the Vandals’ 400-year migration route to find a DNA footprint. The key datasets included records from Sicily, Sardinia, Tunisia, Spain, France and Germany.  These locations create a triangle of migratory patterns, clockwise, counterclockwise and dispersion.  If these sets have evidence of Vandals DNA, there should be a counterclockwise flow around Europe and a west to east flow across the Mediterranean.  Immediately I was able to remove haplogroup N from the running, there were no records.

   I have to admit that going into this project I thought that the Scandinavian I1 haplogroup would be my most likely suspect.  I had built a picture in my mind that all the Germanic tribes had come out of Scandinavia.  I researched this group first, looking for genetic flow across time. Usually I work with an individual record and trace backward through time.  For this project, I’m analyzing large groups in multiple datasets.  At a high level I’m searching for DNA that has migrated from Germany, through France and Spain to Tunisia and then to Sicily and Sardinia.

   Using TMRCA (time to most recent common ancestor) and my own TribeMapper techniques, I was able to identify that the Scandinavian I1 haplogroup formed a parallel dispersion pattern.  The y-DNA genes flowed from Germany down into the Italian peninsula and into the Iberian Peninsula at roughly the same time.  Haplogroups G2a and R1a also fall into this category of dispersion.  These DNA records don’t fit the pattern of the Vandals’ migration.

I1, G2a & R1a migration pattern

   The R1b Celtic-Iberian haplogroup proved more difficult to decipher.  This is a major group in Europe, representing over 60% of the Western European population.  For over 10,000 years, there has been a strong flow out of the Iberian Peninsula toward the British Isles, Germany and Scandinavia.  Detecting a counterflow against that tide is problematic.  The apparent direction of migration across the datasets I researched shows a clockwise pattern out of Spain, into France and Germany and then down the Italian peninsula.  R1b doesn’t look like our Vandals, but I’m going to reserve judgment until better analysis tools are developed.

R1b migration pattern

   I’ve left haplogroup I2a, the Danubians, for last because they have the best correlation to the Vandals.  Their genetic migration does show a counterclockwise flow from Germany, through France and Spain and into Sicily and Sardinia.  This DNA can be found in the historic Vandali regions of Aquitaine, Galicia, Lusitania and Andalusia.  Haplogroup I2a is a dominant Germanic group associated with the Danube River, giving them the nickname Danubian.  This matches the Vandals earliest historical references.

I2a migration pattern

   Myles Standish of Mayflower fame was also haplogroup I2a.  Standish is not closely related to the DNA that I am chasing.  His tribe and the Vandals parted ways over 5,000 years ago.

   Have I found the Vandals, Alans or Suevi?  So far, I have been looking at the past 2,000 years.  If I expand the datasets and research back further in time, additional patterns appear.   The DNA takes me to Georgia, Armenia and Iran.  The timing and the location of these records put us in the historic Alani homeland on the Asian steppe.  The Huns were also responsible for driving the Alans west into Europe around 300 AD.  I’ve been looking for Vandals and I’ve found the Alans instead.

   The I2a1 tribal haplotype that I have identified has remained relatively unchanged for thousands of years and has allowed me to follow a migration in and out of Asia and across Europe.  I cannot say that I have found the DNA of all the Alans or that the Alans were only haplogroup I2a.  The correlations that I have made are based on records currently available and it is impossible to say what additional future DNA records may reveal.

   The mystery of the Vandals remains a mystery.  I now have an unexpected peek at a piece of the Alani origins and migrations.  When clients want to know more about their DNA, I can check them against this data.  I’d love to be able to get to a point where I can tell folks - ‘Hey, you’re a Visigoth!’  One of the biggest parts of DNA testing beyond finding family, is connecting ourselves to history, knowing that your ancestors played a role.

© Origin Hunters & OriginsDNA

Friday, September 7, 2012

Your Father's Father

Deep Into DNA*

   Raise your hand if you’d like to know more about your surname and your father’s ancestry.  I’m raising mine!

   Most of us live in a patrilineal society.  The wife and the children take the surname of the husband.  We can’t help but to associate with our father’s family, his clan.  The males in the family will inherit the Y chromosome virtually unchanged, though genetically, we can only attribute a small fraction of our overall DNA to that patrilineal line.  Psychologically though, 50% of our ethnic identity comes from dad.   

   We have all tried traditional genealogy for our father’s line.  Some of us go back a couple of generations and some of us have researched a dozen generations.  A few of us are adopted and know nothing about our paternity.  Y-DNA testing has benefits that aid a genealogist in all these situations...

...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.


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.   

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.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Armenia, DNA and Ethnicity

   Self-identity, what culture or ethnicity do you identify with?  Your current culture?  Your immigrant ancestor’s culture?  Perhaps you identify with a culture buried deep in your DNA.

   See this article as a great primer on the differences between - Ethnicity, Nationality, Race, Heritage, and Culture.

   Culturally, my wife is an American.  I could even say that she is a New Englander.  She grew up in an Armenian family, but she doesn’t know the language.  What she does identify with is the food and family.  Her immigrant grandfather, Reuben, was born in Turkey.  Turkish was his nationality, but culturally he associated deeply with the Armenian heritage that was strong in Adana.

   Nations redraw their lines, form and dissolve over the course of decades.  If you had lived in central Europe over the past few hundred years, one day you might be French and the next day German, only to be French again in a week.

   How long does it take us to lose our ethnicity?  If I took my family to Armenia and we stayed there for three or four generations, would they think of themselves as Armenian American Armenians.   I doubt it.  Each generation would absorb the culture around them to a greater degree.  Given enough time, some descendants might think that it was just family mythology that they ever lived in the US.  We’ve always been here.

   We are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants.  That goes for the entire planet.

   If I look at another side of my wife’s family, they’ve been in America for over 350 years.  Their immigrant ancestor, Edward Clark, was ethnically English.  In turn, Edward’s immigrant ancestor was Norman and the immigrant ancestor before that was Danish.  I can keep going back, Iberia, Asia and Africa.  Which culture should they identify with?  Nationality is fleeting and uncertain.  Ethnicity is in your genes, embrace all the cultures of your ancestors.

   About 50,000 years ago, there were no humans in Armenia, or for that matter, Asia Minor.  Over the intervening years, folks trickled in from every direction.  Let’s look at the current distribution of Armenian y-DNA.

J1c & J2a
Arabic / Semitic
I2a & R1a

   This is a snapshot of modern Armenia.  Without analyzing individual haplotypes from this dataset, it is difficult to determine which group arrived first.  More than likely each group had multiple waves of immigration across history.  I’ve created the map below for you to get a feel for the origin and flow of the major haplogroups.

   It’s not unusual for groups J1c, J2a and G2a to have high percentages.  Those groups also have their origins in that region.  The large portion of R1b can be attributed to the crusaders passing through for hundreds of years.  Many of the taverns in this region have signs that say, ‘Alexander the Great slept here’.   His empire would have contributed the E1b DNA as they conquered eastward and the Dravidian DNA flowed back toward Greece with the spoils.  The Roman and Byzantine influence brought the Balkan DNA.  The Huns also stopped by on their way to conquer Eastern Europe.

   My wife can count Armenian as part of her heritage, with roots on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.  Someday I will find her living Armenian cousins in order to get DNA tests.  Those results will allow me to identify her deeper ancestral ethnicity.

   On another line, she is descended from four generations of Sea Captains from Maine with Scottish origins.  Should my wife self-identify with all the cultures of her ancestors?  Probably not.  Should she learn about and understand all those cultures?  Definitely.  We can pick and choose the best parts of our ancestral heritage and create our own unique ethnic identity.  She has a love for the ocean that didn’t come from any early family experience.  It’s in her DNA.