Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Talking Irish right at home

Mom and Dad in Ireland, about 1986.

I guess once you're Irish, you're always Irish, even down through the generations. Both Mom and Dad can claim their Irish heritage so I get to as well. Mom's Irish DNA goes back to her great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Farrell who was born in 1835 in a county that still eludes us. Dad's Irish goes back to his great, great grandfather John Kelly who was born in Shannonbridge, County Offlay, Ireland. The funny thing is that I've listened to common Irish sayings all my life and use them too, not knowing where they came from. And I'm not talking about the really corny stuff that passes for "Irish talk" on St. Patrick's day.

Just ran across an article entitled, "Irish brogue for dummies," courtesy of Irish Central and was amazed at how many pieces of common daily Irish language found their way down through three or four generations and still counting. So here they are, and I swear, the family all still uses these... and a few more salty ones;)

OK, you know what body part that means, so no need for explaining there. But it's about the way we use it. Mostly we say, "he's such an arse." But once in a while we'll say, "so get off your arse," mostly when someone complains in such a way that subtly implies they wish you'd do it for them. So, get off your arse isn't meant to be harsh because it's said with a snide smile and the use of the word "so" which underlines that it's meant as an introduction to the way to get their problem solved: get off your arse and do it yourself.

You probably know which body part this word references. But our family uses the word as a way of saying, oh darn, or a more emphatic way of saying oh shucks. And the tone goes down as you say it expressing the negative aspect of the situation, such as after spilling an entire 32 oz. container of honey on the kitchen floor. Bullocks.

Your man
As we use it, it refers to the patriarch of the family, the head man. "Is that your man I saw downtown last night at the tap room?"

And again, you know what this means: come on over here. The family has always said it with an excited tone as though the person being summoned would receive a prize if they did come on over.

You're all right
The meaning here is, whatever happened, it's all fine now. I didn't take offense, no damage done, we'll all get over it. In today's language one would use, "we're good."

Idiot, just pronounced differently. The meaning is that whomever the word is referencing did a stupid thing and could have done much better.

A Do
Let's have a real do and celebrate! It's a party, a gathering, a get together, and above all, a real good time no matter where it's held.

If I think about it a little while I can probably come up with a number of other phrases the family uses and maybe a couple that the grandparents used. It's fun to remember these and connect the dots all the way back to their Irish roots. And I like to keep them alive by bringing them into daily use in our family too. My husband, the Jewish guy from the Bronx, regularly call out to me, "C'mere," because now it's part of his own vocabulary. Have to admit, you'll hear me say, "Oy" too, and that didn't come from Ireland.

John Kelly's tombstone in St. Michaels's Cemetery, Frostburg, Allegany, Maryland.
John came from Ireland to Western Maryland and the big clue to where his homeland was there is on the tombstone.

Difficult to make out, it says he came from Shannonbridge, Clonmacnoise, Ireland. And that lead us all the way here...
Clonmacnoise, the name of the historical site as well as the parish where John came from.
Here is the graveyard at the historical site.

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sad sushi

It's almost a cliché: older woman falls and fractures hip. But it just happened to me.

We were in Palm Springs for a short get-away staying in one of those cute boutique hotels. Got some take-out sushi for an afternoon snack back in the room with the kiva fireplace in the corner, and playing a game of "you've got to taste this." He had his sushi and I had mine when I said oh, you've got to taste this, and jumped up to give the sushi to him. Long story short, somehow the chord of the light on the bedside table got around my ankle, sushi flew in the air - in slow motion I might add with about a thousand grains of rice lofting high - and I landed hard on the saltillo paver tile floor with my left hip taking the worst of it.

Thought it was just bruises and bumps but after almost a week and the pain getting worse, off to the doctor. X-ray shows a fracture in my hip. Surgery next week.

Talk amongst yourselves.

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

DNA with 23andMe and now AncestryDNA for Mom

Mother's Day is coming up and what do you give the mom who is 95 and has it all, and is an avid genealogist? Another DNA test, of course!

Just in time, the results are now in for Mom's AncestryDNA test. Mom got a 23andMe test for Mother's Day last year and we've had so much fun with it that it seemed like a good idea to do it again this time with Ancestry. Cousin Rich with whom we've been working on the Farrell DNA Project, highly recommended AncestryDNA. He was a newbie when he started but he's experienced now and likes it a lot. And now that Mom's results are back I can see why and I'd like to share a few observations and thoughts about its advantages as well as a place or two where they could tweek it.

First, and this isn't news to anyone, is the ethnicity profile, also called in common parlance, ancestry composition. Here's the AncestryDNA screen for Mom's ethnicity.

Now here's the one for her Ancestry Composition from 23andme.

You'll be noticing that the AncestryDNA chart shows Mom as having 49% Irish DNA, and she'll like that! It also shows her Great Britain ethnicity as 6%. 23andMe breaks it down into Non-specific Northern European as 45.1% and  British and Irish as 38.9%. That's a bit different but similar enough that I'm satisfied with it, and see it as indicating that Mom mostly descended from a whole lot of Irish and British folks (including the Welsh) and not so much from the Native American population. And that's what we expected. But that said, have to note that 23and Me does have a more detailed breakdown of ancestry categories.
Mom and I don't have too many mysteries about who our ancestors were, but the role composition of ancestry can play got underlined for me recently when a DNA match contacted me and was searching for their grandfather. All of her DNA tests showed a largely Portuguese heritage but there were no Portuguese people on her tree. We're all about the Irish and British - and have no Portuguese going on - so we couldn't help her. At least she was able to eliminate us and our ancestors from her search.
The bulk of the work for me in using DNA for genealogy has been contacting matches. This is where AncestryDNA excels. Just look at this, below.


There ya' go. It's all I need in order to evaluate a match. No more waiting and hoping that the person you match will be interested in genealogy as has been my experience on 23andMe. There is a lot of information on this screen and let me point out a few of the features I particularly enjoy.
First and foremost, look at the trees! Whoop-de-do! The middle column tells us how big the tree is, if it's private which is indicated by the lock, and if Ancestry has already spotted a shared ancestor indicated by a leaf. I really like that.
The look of the screen is visually intuitive, I think. 2nd cousins are grouped together with a color band separating them from third cousins. You can see right away if the match is male or female and you can also tell if the match is in an account managed by someone else so you know what you're getting into when you send a message.
The real pay-off for me is the little green leaf that indicates that Ancestry is taking a shot at matching us up and showing me and my contact where they think the shared ancestor is. Take a look when you click through and review the match. Now this is cool.
I have to say that this is way better than playing "do you have a tree online" which was my least favorite game over at 23andMe. At AncestryDNA when there's a match and both of you have a public tree on Ancestry then all the work is done for you.
Where I run into problems is people who don't have a tree on Ancestry even though they did a DNA test there. (Why would you do that? Oh, wait, I take that back. They might if they were adopted and have no clue as to who their parents were.) Then there are the people who have a private tree so I have to message them pleading for a peek at the goods. What if they fell off the edge of the world just yesterday? How's that gonna' work? It's not. Just put up a bare bones tree with only direct ancestors on it and make it public. That would work for both of us.
The second cousin match that I contacted for Mom knows her real well and is in frequent contact. We went back and forth a bit chatting about relatives and holes in our trees and documents we'd just love to have. It was just plain fun. And of course Rich's Aunt and Uncle were there on the list of third cousins, as expected and should be.
I'd like a chromosome browser on AncestryDNA. That would be very useful. But overall, we're real happy we tested with them.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Thomas and Judah Farrell DNA Project: Oh, Thomas Farrell, where are you?

Cherry Orchard Cemetery in Old Magnolia, West Virginia.

Thomas Farrell, where are you hiding?

Is there no record of your life to be found except the 1850 census? There you are, all of seven years old, with your family in District 42, Morgan County, Virginia (now West Virginia). If we didn't have that census we wouldn't know about you at all. But then you disappear from all the records that many Farrell / O'Farrell searchers have hungrily looked through. Where are you??

It's sort of a sad story, and has that Irish melancholy about it, I think. The missing Thomas' parents, left Ireland before 1841 and immigrated most likely under similar circumstances to those of the many other families leaving Ireland and seeking a safe life. There was Thomas Sr. and his wife Judah with their two daughters, Mary Elizabeth born in 1835 and her sister Catherine born in 1838, coming to America about 1841 and looking for land to farm. On 22 Feb 1845 at age 45, Thomas Sr. signed an indenture, a land lease, for the term of six years with Aaron Harlan and started farming on his own piece of heaven called the Widmeyer Tract. It sounds lovely, hard work but lovely, for this Irish family was finally able to work it's very own farm in peace, and two sons at the ready to work it.

But it wasn't all milk and honey for long. Thomas Sr. died in 1851 - just about the time the land lease expired - and his wife Judah died in 1857. Judah's estate settlement includes one black mare and a colt, a cow and calf, along with six hogs and household and farming items. A modest holding as compared to others I've seen. The return for the auction to settle the estate reports that Aaron Harlan, the land lessor, was there picking up quite a few items. So was Samuel Albert House who had married Mary Eliz the oldest daughter in 1855, just two years prior to Judah's death. There he was purchasing a few items from his wife's mother property: a skillet and a churn for Mary Eliz, and then useful items like potatoes, beets, and beans to plant, and 25 bushels of corn and a box of apples. He also got three of the best hogs, first choice.

Our big unanswered question is, where did the children go? Eliza and Catherine were married by then and we guessed that they took on some of the girls at least for a while. Here's a recap of what we find in the 1860 census, from a recent post.

* Sarah is 9 years old and serving in her sister Catherine Farrell Boxwell's house in the Magnolia area. We guess she married someone close by and find a Sally (common for Sarah) Farrell marrying in 1860 in Berkeley County, West Virginia to a man named John W. Wageley, working as a railroader, whose parents were William and Susan Wageley.

And now here are the three girls who remain a mystery:
* Ellen is 12 and serving in the household of John Coulhan (?), a merchant, and living in Cumberland, Allegany, Maryland. He too was born in Ireland. Then we lose her.
* Bridget is 13 and serving in the household of Patrick Connor in Clarysville, Allegany, Maryland. He was born in Ireland and is working in the coal mines near there. And then we lose her.
* Ann is 16 and serving in the household of a Mr. Cosgrove in Morgan County, West Virginia, who is a railroad watchman and was born in Ireland. Then we lose her.

But where did the boys go? James the older of the two brothers served in the Civil War and married at the end of the war when he came home to Magnolia and then went west to Missouri. You can read about him in the previous post. And now we're left with the younger son, Thomas Jr.

Mom has looked for Thomas, Cousin Rich has looked for him, and now I've looked and not found him. When I look at Mom's Big Tree on Ancestry and check out his page, the only hint (green shaky leaf) I see is two other public trees with about as much information as we all have, and that's not much, so no one is doing well finding him.

I also see one tree with a Thomas Patrick Farrell who died 15 December 1915 in Glenelg, South Australia, Australia. That's not him. I understand that some other trees on Ancestry have that death date and location plugged in for our Thomas, but really, that's not him.

Where all have I looked? All over the place in the 1860, 1870, 1880, and 1900 census. And - enough to make me nuts - there are a pair of brothers with the same names and also about the same ages living in West Virginia in Sheridan, Calhoun County. But the family structure is all wrong for our guys. I got nuthin'.

So Mom and I were talking about the possibilities for the boys after mother Judah died, assuming that Thomas was still living then and hadn't succumbed to some illness or accident which is a real possibility. For the short term immediately after Judah died, they too might have stayed with the married sisters just as the young sisters did. But they aren't living with the married sisters for the 1860 census. James would have been 18 years old and Thomas 17 then. They were old enough to be out on their own and it sure looks like they were at that point.

James was off to the Civil War by 1861 so we have him on our radar. But what of Thomas? If he was still living and had been close to his older brother he might have followed on and joined the war effort. But we find no record in the usual places such that it is obviously him. He's not in the 1890 Veteran's Schedule. He's not to be found, at least by me, using Fold3 or Ancestry's Civil War files, either as a search or a browse. And I don't find a Thomas Farrell or O'Farrell (as his brother adapted his own surname) in the 1870 census that makes any sense. No where, no how. He's just gone.

So there you have it. Maybe he died. But we find no record of his death in West Virginia records.

Sometimes it's just like that. You try and try and come up empty. Despite your best thinking and the help of others also looking for your missing relative, you just can't find him. And the further back you go in places that are rough like West Virginia was back then, the fewer records are available for you to look through. I have to be honest, these searches that return nothing useful wear me out.

The road to Magnolia as it is now.

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Thomas and Judah Farrell DNA Project: James O'Farrell and the Civil War

Let's take a break from the DNA aspect of this project and talk about the people involved starting with James. For me, it always comes back to the people, my people: who they were in life. I want to know them as best I can. After all I do have some of their DNA.

Thomas and Judah Farrell's oldest son was James Farrell (or O'Farrell as he used his surname in daily adult life, 1842-1914) and the third born child falling in line after two sisters, Mary Elizabeth (Farrell) House (1835-1919) and Catherine (Farrell) Boxwell (1838-1910). The girls were born in Ireland and James was the first Farrell child born in Virginia, now West Virginia. His father Thomas died in 1851 and his mother in 1857 leaving the children to fend for themselves. They were of very modest means.

James' nineteenth birthday was on January 9th of 1861 and the American Civil War began three months later when Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter on April 12th. James heard the clarion call that young men through the ages hear, now sounded by his newly embraced county. He marched to war on behalf of the Union in a time and place where some of his neighbors joined the Confederacy. Even his two older sisters were at odds: Catherine's husband, James Edward Boxwell (1831-1910) served with the Union while Mary Elizabeth's husband, Samuel Albert House, enlisted in the Confederate army and that cause tremendous trouble in the family. It was in fact brother-in-law fighting brother-in-law. If Ireland had been a place of turmoil for the Farrells, this new county was quickly becoming another one. Was there to be no peace for the Farrell family?

It was pretty easy to find James O'Farrell in the 1890 Veteran's Schedule which was the starting point and gave information about his service record. With his unit designations in hand, it was off to Fold3.

1890 Veteran's Schedule.

I have to admit, I love looking at the service records on Fold3. Luckily, both the Maryland and West Virginia Union company records are 100% complete so I wasn't missing anything. Even though I had the company info from the 1890 Veteran's Schedule it was set aside and the search began fresh. I searched and then I browsed, first in Maryland and then in Virginia and West Virginia making certain to look for all the variations of Farrell and O'Farrell. As a safeguard, I did the same without a state preference, and finally without a preference for Union or Confederate just to cover all the bases. It took a while. By process of careful review and then elimination, all of the files but one were deemed not to be our James O'Farrell. He was found in the same unit listed in the 1890 schedule.

Let me tell you about the guy described by those service records, and both Cousin Rich and I are pretty sure he is our James O'Farrell. This is the kind of dramatic story you hope you'll find and when you do, you're really scared for him. He served in the Maryland Cavalry and was captured, imprisoned as a POW at Salisbury where conditions were a nightmare, and then... well let's get to the whole story and begin at the start of the war.

James enlisted in the 1st Virginia Volunteer Infantry on November 24, 1861 and joined Company B, Capt. Zeller's Co., in Williamsport, Virginia.  The unit had formed during the period when pro-Union citizens got together in April of 1861 right after the state had voted for secession and West Virginia became a state. By January of 1862 after serving three months active duty, his unit seems to have been incorporated somehow into a Maryland unit, but as of yet I'm not entirely certain how that came about. He was now a private in Company H of the 1st Regiment of the Maryland Cavalry. In July and August of 1862 his unit took leave and presumably he went home for a rest. In September he was back with his unit which spent a lot of time guarding a very important asset of the North, the railroad.

The Company Description Book gives us a picture of him. He was, at age 20, five feet seven and a half inches tall. His hair was light as was his complexion, and his eyes were blue. Just like Mom! He was a farmer.

By the end of 1863, James O'Farrell's term of service was up. He re-enlisted and received a $100 bonus and was now a Veteran Volunteer. He fought with his unit until September 29th, 1864 when, while out on maneuvers with his company, he just disappeared at Chapin Farms, Virginia, near Dutch Gap while a battle was raging. By the next day, October 30, he was deemed missing for sure and the records indicate that he was "Missing from picket lines near Newmarket Road - Oct 2nd 1864." "Nothing heard of him since."

It's only natural they'd have to entertain the thought he might have gone AWOL - he had just received his reenlistment bonus of $100 - but it turns out he was captured. He did not fare well at the hands of "the Rebels," as the reports call the enemy. He was initially at a prison camp at Richmond, Virginia on October 1st, but soon moved to the horrors that were the POW Camp at Salisbury, North Carolina.

The Salisbury facility, opened in October 1861, was originally intended as a place of incarceration for Confederate men who committed infractions. By December of the same year it's purpose was changed to holding captured Union troops. In the early years there were enough rations, shelter, water and sanitation for the imprisoned. But the captured kept on coming in increasing numbers such that by the fall of 1864, specifically on October 5th when my relative was likely moved in and 5,000 soldiers arrived from other facilities such as Richmond, things took a nasty turn. All shelters were full and over capacity and by the end of October the numbers of incarcerated had shockingly skyrocketed to about 10,000 in a facility designed to house about 2,000. As winter came, the men who were without shelter dug burrows to try and keep warm. Disease and starvation were everywhere. They were termed by the hospital staff as "outdoor patients."

Many died that winter and were buried in trenches without formal registration of their identities. Those poor souls just disappeared, unnamed. But James O'Farrell was not to be one of them. Fearing starvation he chose to enlist in the Confederate Army, particularly the 8th Confederate Infantry.

How did that work? I really don't understand. You fight for the Union, get captured, get treated brutally in prison, then are offered enlistment in the enemy's army as a way to save your life. Are you expected to then take up arms against the very men you fought along side of. I must be missing something or maybe my imagination is too limited by a life lived safe.

James was recaptured by the Union under the direction of General Stoneman. Maybe it was during Stoneman's raid on North Carolina in March of 1865. And here's where it gets confusing. The image below is of the MEMORANDUM FROM PRISONER OF WAR RECORDS. Maybe you can read some of it. In part it reads:
Enlisted in 8” CS. Inf. At Salisbury N.C. was recaptured by Genl Stoneman while
in arms against the U.S. Govt. at Salisbury N. C. he voluntarily made
known that he formerly belonged to the US. Army and claimed that
he deserted from Camp of Pris. of
war to escape starvation. Confined at Nashville Tenn. And was released
on taking the oath of allegiance July 5 / 65

The war was almost over for our James O'Farrell and on July 5, 1865 he took the Oat of Allegiance in a POW camp in Nashville. He returned to his original Union unit from Maryland on July 23, 1865 and mustered out on August 8. He was owed $290 for back pay and a bounty.

Where he went immediately from there is not known to us and it's not from lack of trying. He probably went back home because on 14 March 1867 he married a local girl in his home county of Morgan County, West Virginia. Her name was Miss Henrietta L. Michaels, called Hattie. Doesn't she sound sweet? I so wish we had a photo of the lovely couple.

For the 1880 census they are living in Flat Creek, Pettis County, Missouri and he's farming. They stay there, have four children, and farm until he dies on 12 March 1914 and is buried two days later in the Point Pleasant Cemetery, Green Ridge, Pettis County, Missouri. (Find A Grave Memorial # 19014002.) Hattie joined him on 29 May, 1927. (Find A Grave Memorial # 22158470.) He was 72 when he passed and she was 82 when she passed. I hope they had a good life together.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Thomas and Judah Farrell DNA Project: The Connections Tree

See previous posts to find out about this project.

One thing you need when chasing the DNA rabbit down a hole is a tree that contacts can look at to see if you two match. If they don't have a tree (or a clue) at least you can send them on to your tree to window shop for a connection. Surnames and a surname list with locations and years is a good tool as well, but for my money, you can't beat a good tree. Give me a tree over a surname list any day.

I've been reading a couple of blog posts from wise writers that make the case for not posting a tree online in special or unusual situations and it opened my eyes. I now understand about the need to protect the innocent from prying eyes looking for character flaws, crimes, and the unspoken terrors of family life gone very wrong. I'm with them and to be candid there is one person, living, not on our tree because, well, of the mess. One has a moral responsibility to protect those who might be harmed from such messes made public. Doing genealogy in circumstances such as this makes the going dicey. For those of us who have garden variety family issues peppering our tree, most have a good-hearted desire to share the fun with others. After all we weren't there and we don't really know all the facts.

Mom, who you might know is 95 and been doing genealogy since the early 1970s, was reluctant to share her tree online. She'd happily send family group sheets and then GEDCOMs to anyone researching our ancestors, but putting her tree on Ancestry? She had to warm up to that. "I'm not done with it'" she said about her tree on more than one occasion. But as time went by we both came to see that even though every tree run by a living person is a work in progress, putting Mom's tree online was the best way to share her substantial work with the most people.

But not all searchers feel that way. I get it. How frustrating to see your work copied and recopied without a mention of where the document, photo or rare index came from. Recently, I had the pleasure (?) of finding a rare photo of a 2nd great grandparent I'd uploaded a while back and now on another tree without attribution. Someone had downloaded the picture and then uploaded it again and attached their name as the original submitting person. Is there a hidden tag on it stating who originally had the photo (Mom) and who cleaned it up (moi) in a photo editing program? Take a guess! But never mind about that. Back to The Farrell Project and cousin Rich's great idea.

So, cousin Rich and I had been sifting through some GEDmatch results and emailing back and forth about this and that, looking for people who matched Mom and Uncle Sonny. (See previous post or this will make no sense whatsoever!) We were working informally then, and each on his or her own avenues of pursuit when Rich emailed and said, in a nutshell, hey do you want to work together on this? You in, he asked? I immediately replied, YES!

Rich and I are trying to link as many of the descendants of Thomas and Judah Farrell by specific DNA segment and pedigree as we can. We know of a couple of hundred direct descendants, both living and dead, but just a handful of those have taken a DNA for genealogy test and are known to us. After a couple of goes at locating descendant's places on trees, both theirs and ours, Rich suggested that we needed a tree of only direct descendants - blood descendants - that could be available for prospective DNA match candidates to peruse.

Just to underline the problems faced without the Farrell Connections tree, here's what happened before we built it. If I sent GEDmatch matches to Mom's tree, they would have to either follow my very tedious instructions on how to locate the Farrell family group or try searching, or just start wading through over 60,000 individuals on Mom's tree. Either way, it's enough to send someone fleeing from the room, and not return emails.

Rich's personal tree focuses on only his wife's family in Cumberland, Allegany, Maryland. For example, Rich's tree only lists one child of Samuel Albert House (1832-1919) and Mary Elizabeth Farrell (1835-1919) whereas Mom's tree lists all 16 kids as well as each of their descendants and their kids. Yeah, we needed a new tree, a tree in common. Good idea, Rich!

As of right now there are a tidy 252 individuals on the Thomas & Judah Farrell Connections tree, all well researched, all blood descendants or spouses of blood descendants. Nice and tidy. Some descendants are sure to be missing but it's a work in progress, as are all trees. It's a fine tool to use when helping DNA cousins try to locate their ancestors within the Farrell big picture. Yeah, and it's Private. It's a research tool for us, not a tree for public consumption.

Joseph H. Whetstone (1858-1939) and Katherine Elizabeth House (1865-1947).
Kate was just one of the 16 children of Mary Elizabeth Farrell (1835-1919) and Samuel Albert House (1832-1917). Mary Elizabeth was born in Ireland.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Thomas and Judah Farrell DNA Project: Now for the DNA part

If you're now jumping on board this fast moving train, you might want to go read the previous post and get caught up. It's about one of those family lines that you start thinking about and then they move right in and inhabit your entire brain to such an extent you feel genealogically possessed. Know what I mean? Yeah, you do, I can tell;)

So last year both Mom and I did the 23andMe DNA test in hopes of finding relatives. There was a learning curve but it really wasn't too painful at all. I had an easy time moving around the 23andMe web site and locating my connections and contacting them. Oh sure, some people didn't get back to me and one even declined my invitation to share. That was to be expected because at that time 23andMe was busy advertising their health results, which they no longer offer. But some good connections were made and one of them - that's Ed and his father Harold - lead right back to our ancestors Thomas and Judah Farrell. That was very exciting!

Funny thing about working with autosomal DNA results is that you don't pick the line you are going to be exploring. Instead, it sort of picks you. You hear from matches or reach out to them and it's simply the luck of the draw as to weather you'll make a good connection and which ancestral line you'll be digging around in. There's much that's not in your control, or at least that's how I feel.

Having a fully built out tree, to the best of your ability, and having it accessible online is very important in this work. A goodly number of those contacts we've made over the last year didn't know where to start, but that's changing rapidly as more people get tested and become knowledge about terms and tools and how to use them.

Now, let me introduce you to cousin Rich. His wife is a descendant of Thomas and Judah Farrell so he's technically not a blood relative but we like him anyway and are glad to call him cousin because he's passionate about genealogy and finding out about the ancestors, just as Mom and I are. Mom has been in touch with this couple for years, first emailing his wife and then when Rich took over the search emailing Rich. He even visited Mom last summer to get copies of her files in his seriously dogged search for one court document. He's a good solid researcher and very organized too. And he likes spread sheets. How cool is that?

Don't quite remember how it came about but Rich's wife, our blood cousin, had her elderly aunt and uncle tested. They are both in their 90s, and so is Mom. Now we had four individuals in our informal grouping who were tested and two well researched trees we knew to be accurate. When the results came back we could see a lot and it has to do with shared chromosomes. This looking for shared chromosomes is often referred to as chromosome matching.

What we're looking for in chromosome matching is segments of DNA that are greatly similar - so-called sticky chromosomes - because they are passed down through the generations relatively intact. And if you can identify folks with a specific known lineage descending down from one couple and no other connection, that share those sticky chromosomes, then you've really got something. And if you find even more people with those same chromosome segments as well as the same ancestors on their tree, and no other shared ancestor, then you're really cooking.

When Rich and I looked at the DNA test results, Mom and I having tested at 23andMe and both Uncle and Aunt having tested at AncestryDNA, we needed to meet in the middle so to speak so we uploaded our raw files to GEDmatch. At GEDmatch we could do some chromosome matching and then look for others who match both Mom and Uncle. Let me show you the results and you'll see what I mean. Here are Mom and Uncle's results. I used the One-to-one matching utility which is great as a way to see where a match exists.

As you can see, Mom and Uncle share a bunch of DNA on seven different chromosomes. I find this practically mind blowing when you consider the nearest common ancestor. Look at this, below, to find Thomas and Judah Farrell, back four generations.

There on the bottom row you'll find Mom and then just follow her female line back to Thomas and Judah Farrell. Uncle's Farrell ancestor was through the second born daughter of Thomas and Judah while Mom's was through the first daughter.

Another anomaly is that Uncle shares quite a lot of DNA with Mom but Aunt doesn't share quite so much. Just shows me how strange and mysterious are the ways of autosomal DNA.

The next thing we did is go see who matched both Mom and Uncle, and here's what that looked like.

Once we had that, and I've cropped out the email addresses there on the image above, off we went to contact them. As of right today we've heard back from all. That's right, ALL.

And so that's pretty much where we are at the moment. From the nine on the list three are our group, and one person has a parental mismatch and is playing a round of who-da-baby daddy so we'll find no answers there. Four don't yet show Thomas and Judah on their trees even though we all suspect that the connection traces back to Ireland. And that leaves one person we're still working with. He knows that his mother's people come from Paw Paw, West Virginia and that's the next town over from where Thomas and Judah lived in Magnolia. He can't email back fast enough for us!

Rich did a work sheet with each of the players, their GEDmatch kit number and which chromosomes they matched each other on. For some reason that I don't yet totally understand, Mom, Uncle, and Harold and Ed all matched heavily on chromosome 13, and the rest only matched on chromosome 9. Fascinating.

My exercise now is to go through each of these matches and do a one-to-one comparison with Mom and Uncle looking for shared chromosomes and then see if that tells us anything at all. Maybe I'll write about that soon. But first, and next time, let's look at Rich's Great Idea: the Thomas & Judah Farrell Connections tree on Ancestry.

And this is funny: not one of my matches so far from either 23andMe or GEDmatch is from Dad's side. What is that about?! It's all Mom's people.

Along the old road to Magnolia, Morgan County, West Virginia, now gone but not forgotten by her descendants. This is in the general vicinity where Thomas and Judah Farrell had their farm and raised their family. The town is gone, most of the homes are also gone, but their memory lives on in us.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Thomas and Judah Farrell DNA Project: ask me, I'm excited!

Do you ever get so wrapped up in a family group on your tree that it's almost as though they're haunting you? No peace day or night because there they are in your mind taking up all available space. Well it's been like that for Mom at times and now it's like that for me. (Mom, as you might remember is 95 and still working on genealogy. It keeps her young but it's about to wear on my brother's last nerve because Mom wants her computer moved so she can work more. You go Mom!)

Let me tell you a bit about the Farrells and then I'll fill you in on this DNA project. It might take a couple of posts to cover all the ground but it should be worth it in the end. I have a partner in this work and that's a first for me... well, besides Mom. And neither of us are experts in DNA stuff so we're learning as we go. And we're not doing a big surname DNA study either because of the problem of not having all the Y-DNA. We are using chromosome matching and find it fascinating as a way to proceed. OK, so that's where we're going, and now let's go!

First about the Farrels.
Thomas was born in 1797 in Ireland and he married Judah (or in the common version of that name at the time, Judy) who was born in 1815 also in Ireland. Honestly we haven't even scratched the surface of finding this happy couple in Ireland yet, but you can read about what Mom remembers that her mother told her about them here.

The sons, it seems, reverted to the traditional version of the surname and used O'Farrell. I've been told that dropping or keeping the O' was a choice that came and went on the tides of fashion and political sentiment, and that keeping the O' was a nod to Irish tradition.

Thomas and Judah married in Ireland and had two girls there, my second great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Farrell in 1835, and then her sister Catherine in 1837. I often wonder if they followed the naming traditions of naming the oldest girls after the father's and the mother's mothers. That might be a clue in locating them in Ireland... or not.

All four, Thomas, Judah, Mary Elizabeth, and Catherine came to the USA from Ireland about 1840 or 1841. Thomas applied for naturalization in Cumberland, Allegany, Maryland in 1841. Now, exactly why he came her is a mystery to us because they came before the Great Famine years. We imagine that times were getting hard. Were they forced off the land and into a poorhouse as so many others of their generation? Perhaps. But they were part of a great exodus west then, out of Ireland and on to America.

Once on US soil they lived over in West Virginia in Morgan County in a little town that's not there anymore called Magnolia. He farmed. (You can read about Magnolia here.)

Once settled in Magnolia, Thomas leased a piece of land called the Widmeyer Tract, and you can see part of that indenture between Thomas and Mr. Aaron Harlan, dated 22 February, 1845, below. I'm transcribing it now because we are searching for any and all details  about this family, no matter how small.

Once in Magnolia, they had these children: James born 1842, Thomas born 1843, and then the four youngest girls, Ann born 1845, Ellen born 1846, Bridget born 1849, and little Sarah born 1851. Am wondering if the boys were named after Thomas and Judah's fathers?

So there the family is, happily working the land and making a go of it, filling out the family with strong sons and beautiful girls, one hopes;) Then somehow, it all turns sad. Thomas the father died in 1851. Judah died in 1857.

We know what happened to the four oldest children but not the 4 youngest girls. Last we see these little ones is in the 1860 census and they all are working as servants, as follows:
* Sarah is but 9 years old and serving in her sister Catherine Farrell Boxwell's house in the Magnolia area. We guess she married someone close by and find a Sally (common for Sarah) Farrell marrying in 1880 in Berkeley County, West Virginia to a man named John W. Wageley, working as a railroader, whose parents were William and Susan Wageley. In the 1880 census there is a son in the family but that's got to be her husband's boy from a first marriage.
* Ellen is 12 and serving in the household of John Coulhan (?), a merchant, and living in Cumberland, Allegany, Maryland. He too was born in Ireland. Then we lose her.
* Bridget is 13 and serving in the household of Patrick Connor in Clarysville, Allegany, Maryland. He was born in Ireland and is working in the coal mines near there. And then we lose her.
* Ann is 16 and serving in the household of a Mr. Cosgrove in Morgan County, West Virginia, who is a railroad watchman and was born in Ireland. Then we lose her.

It strikes me that this is a good Catholic family and they placed the girls in Irish households to be with other Irish Catholic families. Maybe the girls all married in the locations where they worked. So where can we look for the girls marriage records? Ellen in Cumberland which is St Patrick's Parish. But Bridget in Clarysville? What parish is that? Can it be our own St. Michael's in Frostburg where Mom was born and still lives?

Well that should set it up for you. Mom and I are all excited about this project, as is Cousin Rich, and I didn't even start telling you how he comes into this. Let's save that for tomorrow because it's all about DNA and then collaboration.

My second great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth (Farrell) House (1835-1917)
Born in Ireland, died in Western Maryland.
Had 16 children.

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