Monday, July 27, 2015

Figuring out another DNA Cousin

 I finally figured out the relationship for one of my cousin's closest DNA matches at 23andMe.


This person falls neatly into line among my father and his siblings, who are third cousins of R.S.  Their common ancestors were Calvin Cook (1826-1889) and Mary Neil (1830-1898) of Morris County, New Jersey.  So this person is around a third cousin to R.S., based on the amount of shared DNA.  I figured that this person was not from the Cook/Neil line because she did not match my father or his siblings.

(The person at the top of the DNA Relatives is a male cousin from the Cook/Neil branch.  I know this, even though this person has not responded to my inquiries, because he also appears in the DNA Relatives of my father and his siblings.)


R.S. and this female cousin share four segments of identical DNA.  (There may be smaller segments, but 23andMe does not report them.)



I reached out to this person and a year later, she gave me some information, thank goodness, because this is what her tree looks like.  (Family trees can be moved from 23andMe to MyHeritage, but I don't like MyHeritage, so my trees stayed at 23andMe.)  She provided me with the surnames of her parents and the location of Bayonne, New Jersey.  No grandparents.  Nope, not adopted.  The only unusual thing here is that she responded.  Most matches never answer.


What I had to work with.

Based on the amount of shared DNA, I did not need to go back far in either cousin's tree to find ancestors in common.  Her parent's surnames do not match any known ancestors for R.S., so all I had to go on was a location.  Bayonne is in Hudson County, New Jersey, which is a great place to be to look for a match.  Surnames can and will change without rhyme or reason, so look for the same place.

To find commonality in a DNA cousin's tree, look for the same geographic area.




I started with one of the offered surnames, Lezinski, and looked in Jersey City, which is next to Bayonne, and where R.S's ancestors lived two and three generations ago.  Jersey City's newspapers are online at Genealogy Bank (fee-based site).

And here is a connection:  Martha Lezinski mentioned in the 1961 obituary of her sister, Julia Ottenberg- the maternal grandmother of R.S.  Martha and Julia were Catholic, so I found more records online at FamilySearch and the burial search for the Archdiocese of Newark (both free resources).

After some more searching, I discovered that Martha Ottenberg married Vincent Lezinski.  They were the great grandparents of this DNA cousin of R.S., making R.S. her second cousin, once removed.

Martha and Julia were daughters of Simon Ottenberg and Johanna Wolowski.  Julia was born around 1887 and Martha in 1892 in Germany.  I first found Julia in the United States in the 1910 census in Jersey City, when she was already married to Joseph Michalski.  Finding Julia's obituary confirmed other family members.

I hope this narrative provides guidance and inspiration for tackling your DNA matches.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

New Ancestry Database: Social Security Applications and Claims Index

Ancestry added a new database, U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007.  For decades, the United States Social Security Death Index has greatly aided researchers tracing people born in the late 1800s forward.  Copies of the actual applications can be ordered directly from the Social Security Administration for a fee.  This new database goes beyond the Death Index.  I played around with it and noticed that many people listed in the Claims Index, but not in the Death Index.  Plus, the Claims Index can include names of parents- and parents are a search field!

The Claims Index is an excellent tool for figuring out what happened to someone when other trails run cold.  I'll use Grace Catherine Joyce to illustrate how to use the Claims Index to trace someone.

Grace Catherine Joyce was born January 9, 1917 in California to James William Joyce and Margaret Catherine Mason.  Grace was a second cousin to my maternal grandmother, Jeannette ODonnell (1920-1993).  Their common ancestors were their great grandparents, Peter ODonnell and Margaret Gallagher, who were probably born around 1820 in County Donegal, Ireland.  Jeannette descended from their son, Patrick Francis ODonnell (1856-1931).  Grace descended from their daughter, Kathryn.  I did not know about Kathryn until I read about her in Patrick's obituary in the Bayonne Times newspaper.



This obituary was printed in 1931, so I looked in the 1930 federal census for Kathryn Mason Kennedy in Stockton, California.


In 1930, Katherine Kennedy was residing in Stockton, California with her daughter, Margaret C; son-in-law, James W Joyce; and granddaughter, Grace.


Katherine was not easy to trace.  She moved a lot.  In the 1900 census, she was living in Brooklyn, New York, as the widowed Katie Mason.  Her children, Margarite and John, used the last name Mason.

I did not find Katherine in 1910.  In 1920, she was living in Bridgeport, Fairfield County, Connecticut, with her son, John Mason.  Between the 1920 and 1930 census, Katherine married a man by the name of Kennedy, was widowed, and moved to California to live with her daughter.


In the 1940 census, Katherine is not living with her daughter, Margaret; perhaps she has passed.  This is the end of the trail for Katherine's granddaughter, Grace C Joyce.  What became of her?


I tried the Claims Index for Grace Joyce.  I searched for someone whose father was James Joyce and mother was Margaret Mason.  Found her.


Grace Joyce married Robert Duggan and changed her last name, making it more difficult for me to find her.  But I did.  She died December 23, 2003 in California.


Grace had children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  I don't see Grace in any family trees, but I've added her to mine.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

One in a Million

In DNA news, AncestryDNA announced that it has tested one million customers.  Last month, 23andMe announced that it had achieved one million customers.  As AncestryDNA began autosomal DNA testing services after 23andMe, I would say that AncestryDNA is gathering customers faster than 23andMe.  A percentage of these customers tested at both companies, as I did.  (And FamilyTreeDNA.  And uploaded to GedMatch.)

The drawback to AncestryDNA is that you cannot see how much DNA you share with a match, where the identical segments are located, and if your match shares this segment with anyone else.  Maybe if I keep writing this, AncestryDNA will implement this service?



The other part of AncestryDNA's announcement is that it will be offering health information based on DNA, called AncestryHealth.  I immediately thought of 23andMe's difficulties in offering health analysis based on DNA.  Today into my inbox popped an email from 23andMe, asking me for additional saliva samples "to help us affirm our laboratory processes" in a "validation study."  The email stated, "23andMe is working closely with the FDA to provide the next generation of health reports.  An important step toward re-introducing health content is by validating the accuracy and reproducibility of our testing processes for a wide range of customers."


None of the other 23andMe accounts that I manage received this email.  I don't know if I was selected at random or because I am active on the site.  Everyone can't submit new saliva samples- one of the people I tested, my mother, has since passed.

The lure of testing DNA at Ancestry was that most of the customer base should test for genealogy, whereas 23andMe's customers tested for health, genealogy, or both.  I tested at 23andMe for genealogy purposes, but I reviewed the health results out of curiosity.  23andMe detected that some family members and I carried a hereditary gene mutation that corresponded with clinical symptoms we were experiencing, causing us to seek specific medical testing that confirmed a diagnosis.

My frustration at 23andMe is that people who tested for health reasons elect to place themselves in the genealogy database as well.  My DNA cousins are mostly anonymous and do not respond.  Sometimes someone will answer me, explaining that they are not interested in finding relatives.  "You can remove yourself from the database," I explain, to no avail.

DNA testing can reveal ancient migratory patterns across the planet, find close relatives to help an adoption search, and aid health-based treatments.  The problems arise when a company mixes customers seeking health information with customers seeking genealogical connections.  I hope that Ancestry's new health DNA services do not mix customers seeking genealogy services.


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Irish Catholic Records: ODonnell and Gallagher in Donegal

If you have not heard, you can now access digital images of Catholic records on the website of the National Library of Ireland.

A lot of these images are not (currently) indexed.  Some parish pages have links to potential indexes.  You need to know where in Ireland you want to search.  The map is great.

For my maternal grandmother's Irish lines, I only know the origins of her paternal grandfather, Patrick Francis ODonnell:  County Donegal.

I clicked on Donegal and the parishes appeared.  I had to make a further selection.


I chose Ardara based on a poem written by a cousin.  In the poem, Father Charles Leo ODonnell (1884-1934) wrote that his father (Cornelius ODonnell, a brother of Patrick Francis) was from Ardara and his mother (Mary Gallagher) was from Killybegs.  I hoped that Margaret Gallagher, the mother of Cornelius and Patrick ODonnell, was from the same area.

Before you jump into a batch of records without an index, you should map out what it is you are looking for.


Over the years and through many research efforts, this is the little family cluster so far discovered.

Parents:  Peter ODonnell and Margaret Gallagher.  Born suppose about 1820.  (No direct records of them.)

Five Children born in Ireland from around 1840 through 1860:
*Cornelius "Neal" ODonnell, married Mary Gallagher; lived in Indiana.
*Kathryn ODonnell, married Charles Mason and Mr Kennedy; lived in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and California.
*Patrick Francis ODonnell, married Delia Joyce; lived in Bayonne, New Jersey.
*Rose ODonnell, married James Kenny; lived in Bayonne.
*Charles Mhici ODonnell; was living in Altnagapple, Ardara, County Donegal in 1923.

All of the children, except Charles, were probably in the United States by 1880.  I do not know if Peter and Margaret left Ireland.

The records for review for Ardara were:  Marriages 1867-1875 and Baptisms 1869-1880.  These were not years conducive to my little group, but I looked through all the images anyway.  Nothing jumped out at me.  There were lots of entries for ODonnells and Gallaghers, but little information beyond names of the parties and sponsors.

Neighboring Killybegs was my next choice.  These records were for Baptisms 1850-1881.  I was more excited for this collection because these years would contain the five children of Peter and Margaret.  Yet I found no children baptized with parents named Peter ODonnell and Margaret Gallagher.  Again, plenty of people with these surnames.

I found two baptism entries for the year 1855, listing Peter ODonnell as a sponsor.  Margaret ODonnell was also a sponsor for one; Margaret Byam for the other.  "Peter" is not a common name in this collection.



March 23, 1855:  James, son of Patrick Mc[?] and May [?Boyle?];
sponsors Peter ODonnell and Margaret ODonnell.

September 9, 1855:  Mary, son of Denis ODonnell and Mary Byam[?];
sponsors Peter ODonnell and Marg Byam.


From this information, we don't know if we have the correct Peter ODonnell and Margaret Gallagher.  These records may place the couple in the area.  Perhaps their marriage record and their children's baptismal records are in a neighboring parish, if those years are available.

Of note is that these records from Donegal did not contain any entries for some of the other Irish surnames in my lines:  Preston, Joyce, Sheehey, reflecting Ireland's areas of surname concentrations.

Friday, July 10, 2015

First Close Relative for Haas and Zolder lines

A close match appeared at Family Tree DNA among my maternal uncle's matches.  This is the first close match from his father's side of the family.  The common ancestors are Samuel Haas (1867-1945) and Mary Zolder (1870-1948).

Use of a full name is encouraged at Family Tree DNA.
Unlike 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA testers do not have to "consent to share genomes" to view the matching DNA segments,
while AncestryDNA does not show shared segments.

The only information about this match is his name, email address, and the amount and location of identical DNA.  This was enough to figure out how he is related to my uncle:  they are first cousins, once removed.  This cousin is the generation after my uncle, though my uncle is younger than this cousin.
Family Finder Chromosome Browser

Here is a graph that Family Tree DNA can create for a physical representation of the identical segments shared by relatives, called a Chromosome Browser.  (23andMe also creates such graphs.  AncestryDNA does not.)

The orange lines are the segments shared by my uncle and his first cousin on his mother's side of the family- ODonnell and Preston.  The blue lines are the segments my uncle shares with the first cousin, once removed, from his father's side- Haas and Zolder.

Note that in some areas, such as chromosome 11, that both cousins appear in the same areas.  This is because every person has two pairs of chromosomes numbers 1 through 22.  One came from the mother; the other from the father.  Current DNA analysis does distinguish which side the segment is on.

For distant DNA cousins, usually only one or two segments are shared.  Other people will often share the same spot on a chromosome.  If they do not match each other, this means that one is from the mother's side and the other from the father's side.  (Unless the segments are too small to report, or there is an error in reading the DNA in that spot.)

Samuel Haas and Zolder were from what is now Slovakia.  They spoke German.  There do not seem to be many of their relations in the DNA matches of my uncle.  Family Tree DNA provides and "in common with" tool.  Out of the 400+ matches to my uncle, only three also match his new close paternal cousin.  In comparison, seventy matches are shared by my uncle and his maternal first cousin on their common Irish lines.  Certain populations are more numerous than others in the DNA databases.