Where there’s a will and a bucket of money

I have just figured out how I can prove, without the benefit of historical records, the country of origin of my 5x Great Grandfather. I am now seeking financial backing for the project. This is going to take a lot of laundry room change, cousins. I hope you are prepared.

The question is this: What was the country of original for our American paterfamilias, James Gerald? Was he Irish? Was he French? Was he perhaps from somewhere else?

We don’t know because we don’t have records. But if everyone who is related to me sends me a whole bunch of money, I can find out by following a few simple steps.

1. We take DNA samples from a good cross section of James Gerald’s American descendents.
2. We go to Ireland and take DNA samples from a good cross section of people named Gerald and Fitzgerald who can demonstrate that their families have been in Ireland for at least 10 generations.
3. We go to France and take DNA samples from a good cross section of people named Gerald, Fitzgerald, or Frenchy versions thereof. Again, they need to be able to demonstrate that their families originate in France from at least 10 generations back.
4. We run comparisons for family matches and see where we get the strongest hits.

When I say we, I do mean me with the proper financial backing, of course.

Message me if you need my address for sending the checks. 🙂

Failing that, if anyone is interested in started a Gerald DNA project on Ancestry.com or some other site that allows for genetic genealogical research, let me know. Over time, maybe we can track down enough volunteers from varying lines of the Gerald/Fitzgerald family to answer the question from DNA.

I’ll still be glad for your checks, however. Really. Message me, and I’ll take your money off your hands.

Genealogy by DNA, Part 2

I’ve had quite a good time today studying the DNA map I got in the mail yesterday and trying to make sense of it. I’m sure I should have tried to learn more about what can be determined about ancestry through DNA before I ordered a test, but there’s nothing like having the results in hand for a good object lesson.

For example, I was aware of the fact that it would be impossible to tell the origins of a particular ancestor from several generations back through this type of DNA test, but I hadn’t stopped to think quite what the odds would really be.

We have this family question of where a James Gerald who was seven generations back from me came from. I had always been told he was from Ireland. I learned only recently that some of my relations believe he was French rather than Irish. This shook up my sense of my own identity. I had grown up thinking of myself as a descendent of Irish immigrants. It just felt funny to consider that they might not have been Irish after all.

So now I have my own DNA results, and if no one else in the family is an Irish descendent, I certainly am. Some of my strongest population matches are for Ireland.

But what about the paterfamilias? Did the family name actually come to us via Ireland, or was my Great Great Great Great Great Grandpa Gerald from another country altogether? Who knows? By the time you go back seven generations, you have 128 ggggg grandparents.

128. That’s a number I have never really stopped to think about before. I have devoted a great deal of curiosity to the origins of one ancestor, and I have no idea who the other 127 ggggg grandparents were. Some of them were without doubt Irish. Some of them were probably French. The vast majority of them were of European descent in one fashion or another. That’s what my DNA map says. In fact, it says they were all of European descent. I just don’t agree. I think that some of them were Native American, and the company that ran my DNA profile just didn’t have quite the right Native American matches in its database for mine to show up.

Which brings us to point two of what a DNA ancestry test cannot tell you. It cannot tell you about kinship with people who are not in the databases against which your own genetic traits are compared. It can tell you what it has in its system and nothing else.

Nonetheless, I noticed something today that I missed yesterday. This has me all in an uproar of curiosity.

My DNA Map Part 3

Look at that green dot up in the middle of all that snow. The green dots on the map indicate strong matches to populations in that area. The red dots indicate a weak match or no match.

That particular green dot up in the middle of all of that snow is, I do believe, in Siberia.

That seems sort of random. With all of my other strong matches, you can see a trail of migration that mostly follows the general historical migration of the Anglo-Saxons and the Celts. Certainly some Germanic people would have migrated to Siberia at some point, but there is no trail along the way.

Here’s the European portion of my map again.

Day 258:  My DNA Map

See where I have several matches in Poland, and one yellow dot to indicate a good match but not a strong match to the east of Poland. What is that? The Ukraine? Anyhow, according to Google Earth, there’s quite some distance between The Ukraine and Siberia. I have no idea why I have one lone but strong match way off out in the frozen lands.

One thing I do know from studying my own DNA map is that population matches don’t necessarily mean that you had an ancestor there.

See my Australia connections for that.

My DNA Map Part 4

I clearly did not have any ancestors in Australia, but what I do have are some distant genetic cousins there in people who are descended from common European ancestors.

Perhaps something like this explains my Siberia connection. Perhaps the ancestor responsible for my genetic kinship to certain populations in Poland and The Ukraine had roots in Siberia. Or perhaps in a bizarre random long shot, this is where my Native American heritage is showing up. Native Americans did come to this continent by way of Siberia originally, and Native American populations do still share genetic markers with indigenous people of Siberia.

Who knows? Since the information packet that came with my DNA results was pretty sketchy, and since it is my DNA after all, I feel free to just make up anything I don’t understand. I happen to like the Native American connection to a Siberian genetic kinship, but I could be wildly wrong.

All of this does make me more interested in finding out who the other 127 ggggg grandparents were. I thought I might take the easy way out on determining my ancestry by just swabbing my cheek. Now that I see a map of where my people came from, though, I feel much more motivated than I did before to try to find out who they were.

And what were they doing in Bosnia? My inquiring Irish mind wants to know.

Genealogy by DNA

Not too long ago I wrote a blog post about one of my distant relations who was somewhat infamous. This was something of a random topic for me. I just ran across the information online and was so entertained by it that I had to share.

I found out from this that I have a lot more Gerald relations than I even knew about, and I have always known it was a large family. I also found out that I have a whole lot of distant cousins researching the branches of our family tree.

Most specifically, there is a particular great-great-great-something-great grandfather of mine named James Gerald (father of Gabriel Gerald) who has become a sort of genealogical brick wall. We know who his son was, but we don’t know who his parents were. Some people think he came from Ireland. Others think he came from France. They at least think he came from people who came from either Ireland or France. It’s an enormous cousinly controversy, and we don’t have any concrete information in any direction to solve the question. Was James Gerald an Irish patriot who changed his name from Fitzgerald to Gerald somewhere along the way, or was he a French Huguenot? I don’t know.

I didn’t even know this was a question until a few weeks ago. I still don’t know the answer, but I do have something to add a little fuel to the fire.

One of my friends suggested a DNA profile for ancestry, and on an absolute whim, I sent off for a kit. I just got the results in the mail today.

I did this without doing any research on what kind of DNA test could tell us the most, and I ordered the results in map form, which probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but doesn’t make a whole heck of a lot of sense to me today. For you science people, it looks like what I have is a DNA STR profile, which has been matched against traits in populations around the world. The map supposedly shows where my genetic markers have the strongest matches to general populations.

My DNA matches were entirely European and European immigrant. This surprised me somewhat since I am certain of Native American ancestry on my mother’s side. What I don’t know about an STR is which ancestries it can match me to in the maternal or paternal lines. I’m hoping some science people do read this and take it upon themselves to enlighten me.

That said, if we have to answer the GGGGG Grandpa question based only on my DNA profile, my best guess would have to side with Ireland. I have a strong match to Ireland in my DNA and only a good match to France. Whatever that means.

Of course this doesn’t anything about where a specific ancestor came from. I have branches and branches of ancestry in all directions, and I still don’t understand the particular kind of DNA test that was done.

Regardless, here’s the European portion of my DNA map.

Day 258:  My DNA Map

Green indicates a strong match. Yellow indicates a good match. Red indicates a weak match or no match.

For those of you who wonder what my Gerald connection is and whether my DNA counts as evidence in your own ancestral searches, my great-grandfather’s name was Albert Sidney Gerald, and he was the grandson of William Gerald, who was the son of Gabriel Gerald.

For those of you who understand what an STR DNA profile actually is and can tell me what kind of information I can learn about ancestry from it, please feel free to chime in. I would love for someone to explain the science to me. I am beyond clueless. All I know is that I’m not really all that French, but I am surprisingly much more Spanish than I ever knew.

Any guesses where that came from, cousinly people?

***

Addendum:

After pilfering around online a little, it looks to me as though the strong Spanish ancestry (when I know of no Spanish connections in my family) is actually even stronger evidence of Irish ancestry. Apparently there was an influx of Celtic people into Ireland by way of Spain at some point in history, and a large percentage of the population of Ireland tests as having strong DNA markers for Spanish ancestry — http://killarney-ireland.info/genealogy/dark-irish-celt-genealogy.html