Sunday, November 22, 2015

Additional version of life events: Midwife's Records

Family Search digitized microfilm containing the records of Anna Weyel, a midwife in Bayonne, New Jersey.  (Thanks to the JC Geney blog for bringing attention to this latest addition.)

The records are a log of births for the years 1884 through 1917.

This midwife signed her name as the attendant on the birth certificates of my great grandfather, Frank ODonnel (1888-1959) and his six siblings.  (Or maybe just five of them.)  Frank was the oldest, born in 1888.  Katharine was the youngest, born in 1904.  Parents were Patrick ODonnell (1856-1931) and Delia Joyce (1862-1929).

The records of the midwife coincide with the information on the birth certificates except for James, born in 1892.  James' birth certificate gives a date of June 3, while the midwifery records list him as June 14.  James wrote June 3 as his birthdate on his World War I draft registration.

The main person of interest was the fourth child of Patrick ODonnell and Delia Joyce, Marguerite, born in October of 1894.  I found a birth certificate for Maggie ODonnell, born 18 October 1894 in Bayonne, but her parents were listed as James ODonnell and Ellen Gallagher.  Back at the New Jersey State Archives, I carefully searched for a birth certificate in the indexes for a child of Patrick and Delia, born in  between James born in 1892 and Joseph ("William" in birth records) born in 1897.  I found no such record.  I also searched the births filed under "O" in Bayonne for this time period.

The midwife's records are consistent with the birth certificate for Maggie ODonnell:  born 18 October 1894 to James ODonnell and Ellen Gallagher at 16 RR Av [Railroad Avenue].  Two years earlier, James ODonnell, son of Patrick and Delia, was born at 14 Railroad Avenue.

Was Maggie the biological daughter of a relative, given to Patrick and Delia to raise as Marguerite?  I doubt it.  Marguerite's children tested their DNA.  They share the anticipated amount of identical DNA for first cousins, once removed, with my mother and her brother, including a long segment on their X chromosomes.

Maybe the midwife mixed up the records.  She had been busy.  Two days earlier, she delivered a set of twins and a single.  She delivered another baby the same day Maggie was born.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sale at Family Tree DNA

FamilyTreeDNA has launched a sale on its DNA tests for genealogy.

I ordered a full sequence mtDNA test for myself.  (More about my matrilineal line in an upcoming blog post.  Preview:  Ireland.)

Additional coupon codes are issued to existing customers.  Please visit Roberta Estes' site for a centralized location of discount codes not needed by others.

DNA tests are great "gifts" for family members.  You can start with the Family Finder test for $89.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

23andMe Modifies DNA Relatives

After reinstating its health interpretations of DNA and doubling the price, 23andMe announced changes to its genealogy offerings.  The screen shot below may be difficult to read, so here it is:

"As of November 11th [2015], some aspects of DNA Relatives have been modified in preparation for the transition to the new 23andMe experience.  Pending introductions have been canceled, and anonymous participants may no longer receive introductions or messages in DNA Relatives.  If you are anonymous you can message any Public Match, but this message will include your profile name."

DNA helps genealogy pursuits by comparing your DNA against other people who also submit DNA.  You will share tiny fragments of your DNA with other people, your "DNA cousins," handed down through the generations from an ancestor in common.

The problem with these genetic genealogy databases is that most people do not respond to inquiries.  Of the few who do answer, most lack an understanding of the meaning of the DNA test and are unable to participate in an analysis to figure out where the common ancestral lines may be.  Few people have a comprehensive family tree going back many generations on every line, which is prohibitive when the common ancestors are predicted to have lived in the 1700s.  This scenario is not unique to 23andMe.  I experience it daily at FamilyTreeDNA and AncestryDNA as well.

The problem of unresponsive, anonymous DNA donors was perhaps more noticeable at 23andMe because its main competitor, FamilyTreeDNA, required a visible name or username of its participants.  (AncestryDNA more recently joined the autosomal DNA pool, but it too is plagued with people using pseudonyms instead of names and a high non-response rate.)

Most of my tested family members have at least 2,000 DNA Relatives listed at 23andMe.  This list of matches is not exhaustive, but is dominated by anonymous cousins who ignore requests to exchange genealogical information.

[On a related note:  The letters and numbers in pink and blue are maternal and paternal haplogroup predictions.  They have nothing to do with figuring out how distant cousins connect.  If 23andMe could add these to the list of things to disappear, that would be great.]

This list shows distant cousins who have submitted their DNA to 23andMe, clicked the box to participate in the genealogy section of the website, yet never chose to reveal any genealogy information or take any further genealogy steps.  They bump out other matches who may be willing to work on genealogy, as the site limits the number of matches a person can see.

There are lots of reasons why someone (actually tens of thousands of people) may do this.  But the system at 23andMe needs to stop supporting this.  Send anonymous matches notice of their inactive status.  If they do not respond, then boot them out of the genealogy section so that genealogy-minded testers have room to appear.

The change I see today is that the anonymous matches are still present, but the ability to "send an introduction" has disappeared.

This could be the prelude to ousting these anonymous matches entirely.

The downside to anonymous matches vanishing is that you will not know if a very close anonymous match is in the system.  All of my profiles have matches in the second cousin range who are anonymous and have not responded to messages within 23andMe's mail system.  Now, with no ability to reach out to these people, we may never connect, which is a shame, because they already tested their DNA and could greatly help uncover more of the family's story.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

Photograph of covered mother holding child.
Denville Historical Society and Museum, Morris County, New Jersey, USA
Identity of subjects not known.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Bureaucratic Redundancy

A second unrestricted copy of my mother's application for a Social Security Number came in the mail last week.  A redacted version was received in June.  After appealing, the unrestricted version arrived in August.  For some odd reason, another copy was sent in October.

You can search the Social Security Death Index for free at Family Search.  A copy of the application costs between $16 to $29 (US Dollars).