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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