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.

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