Saturday, January 20, 2018

Y Chromosome DNA In Genetic Genealogy; Jan 2018

the castle of Iníon Dubh, where I first located the trail of my McCain family

Y Chromosome DNA In Genetic Genealogy

This is a brief introduction on Genetic Genealogy using the Y chromosome. The Y chromosome (Y-DNA) is passed from father to son only, in a direct male line, and this makes it the best test for surname studies. A Y-DNA test is for men only. Women do not carry the Y chromosome.  Women use a male proxy in the line they are researching to obtain a Y-DNA sample.  Men who are researching a non direct paternal line must also use a male proxy from the line they are researching. 

There are two types of tests used with Y-DNA.  There is a STR (short tandem repeat) test and a SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) test.   STR tests are used to find genetic matches in a direct paternal line.  These matches can be recent to distant.  With a company like Family Tree DNA Ltd, this test comes in the form of a 11, 25, 37, 64, or 111 loci test.  Most participants use the 64 or 111 level as it provides more data.  The STR test will easily locate a paternal DNA match and give an estimate of the time to the most recent common male ancestor. 

One aspect of a Y-DNA STR test is that it allows you to confirm kinship to lines that you have no paper records to show a connection.  This allows the Y-DNA participant to use primary source records to all the families in his match group.  A family may have branches they did not even know of prior to testing.  As these matched families collect their data, a much better history of the family is revealed.  One letter from one family, one note on a census record, etc., can allow all the matched families to use the data with complete confidence. 

A wet day in County West Meath just prior to a Bean Sí incident

However, STR matches can have some issues in analysis.  Some STR loci will mutate back to, or close to, their original position.  This means two branches in a family may appear much closer (in time) to their most recent common ancestor.  This situation is called ‘convergence.’     

Conversely, if Joe sat under a UFO one night, he might have one STR mutation that shows a great distance to a shared common male ancestor, even to the point of Joe not being listed as a match at the lower level test.  At the higher level test, we can see Joe is a match. Poor ole Joe just had a unique mutation on that one STR locus. I have seen this happen several times in my consultant work. The issue is one STR locus mutated a greater distance than is normal. This is why the higher level STR tests are recommended.

In the early days of genetic testing, SNPs were dated thousands of years ago and showed basic ethnic and tribal connections.  In the past few years SNP testing has advanced greatly. Many new SNPs have been discovered and the number is growing. The new SNPs are younger in age and provide data that can be used in genetic genealogy.  SNPs are more stable than STRs.  The mutations are permanent and take place at a stable rate.  SNPs provide a method to expand on your STR test and match group and resolve any issues that come up.  

The data is becoming so detailed that the SNPs can differentiate between individual branches in a family.  So, even when there are no primary sources available, an advanced SNP test can ascertain how two branches of a family are related and locate the geographic point of origin.  As you explore down the SNP path, downstream to newer SNPs, you may find a SNP unique to one line in a family.  For example: this will allow you to tell the difference between a branch in a family from Porthall, Donegal, to a related branch in Corbally, north County Antrim.  Alas, with SNP test at this level, you had best bring your cheque book as the path can be a long one, but it is the ultimate tool for the genetic genealogist. 

R1b Y-DNA Haplogroup

 I work in the geographic area of the north of Ireland and western Scotland.   This includes the province of Ulster, the west Highlands and southern Hebrides, and the western Scottish Lowlands.  This population is remarkable homogeneous and many families share distant common ancestors.  Irish and Scottish families often benefit from advanced SNP testing.   

A summary: both STRs and SNPs are used in Y-DNA testing for genetic genealogy. Your Y-DNA test will include your STR results and matches, and a basic SNP Haplogroup.  This Haplogroup will show paternal ethnic origins and pre surname connections.   At this point, you will normally do more advanced SNP tests to discover your downstream (more recent in time) haplogroup.  This will allow you to confirm family branches, clan connections, and locate the geographic area associated with your family.  

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Genetic Genealogy When No Paternal Relative Is Available

Genetic Genealogy When No Paternal Relative Is Available 

County Meath
In genetic genealogy surname studies we use the Y chromosome in our DNA tests.  This chromosome is only passed from father to son and this is why this test is used in surname studies.  There are two sex chromosomes, X and Y.  Every person has one pair of sex chromosomes in each cell.  This is the 23rd pair, i.e. the sex chromosomes, which determine if you are male or female.  The Y chromosome is present in males.  Males have one X and one Y chromosome.  Females have two X chromosomes. The Y chromosome is the perfect tool to research family history and genetic genealogy, because it can follow a direct paternal line.

Women, and men that are researching a line other than their direct paternal line, cannot use a Y chromosome test.  But, there is another way to locate the Y chromosome data that you need for your research.

We use an autosomal DNA (atDNA) test to locate a match to a man from the line being researched.  We can then use this man's existing Y chromosome result or have him test to obtain this.  When an atDNA match is located and confirmed that it is the needed male line, you are good to go with your research using this proxy Y chromosome.

For example, I researched my father’s mother’s father’s line.  I carry their atDNA, but because this was not a direct paternal line I could not use my Y-DNA result.  I had already researched my father's paternal line using Y-DNA. Using this Y-DNA I located my cousins in Ireland and have been over to visit and found the family's progenitor in the primary sources.  The research was a complete success.   

the castle of Iníon Dubh, Porthall, Donegal
My father’s mother’s father’s line was also from Ireland. Their surname is Tweedy, however,  I do not carry the Tweedy Y-DNA.  I do carry the Tweedy atDNA DNA.  I used an atDNA test to locate a match to my Tweedy line.  I was hunting for a male Tweedy from that line and have him proxy Y-DNA test for me.

I did the Family Tree atDNA test which they call their Family Finder test.  Through this test I located a female Tweedy cousin and her father was a Tweedy.  She had a brother and we had him do the Y-DNA test.  This way, both she and I, could use him as a Y-DNA proxy to for our research. We now had the needed Tweedy Y chromosome and to begin our research.  

We have many women that participate in Irish Y DNA projects.  As in my case, they can use a male relative to proxy test for them.  It is a simple technique to use atDNA to locate a male proxy to obtain the needed Y-DNA sample.  This method works with both women, and men researching a non-direct paternal line.

Autosomal DNA testing does have limitations.  As a research tool, it can only go back around five or six generations.  But, most people can locate the family line they need within this time frame.  In my case it was a fourth cousin match and the time connection was mid-1800s.
All you need is one good match to the family you want to research and then have a male in that family test their Y chromosome.  Once you get the Y chromosome, you are set.  The Y chromosome does not have time limitations, you will find close matches, distant matches, even very distant matches. Once the Y-DNA is confirmed, you can go on to STR and SNP (two types of Y-DNA) testing which will give you very detailed data that will confirm geographic location, family branches, clan connections, and even tribal histories going back several thousand years.

Barry R McCain (c) 2018

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Mountains

when the cities lie at the monster's feet there are left the mountains. 

Robertson Jeffers

Old Christmas January 6 2018

The Old Christmas on January 6

Do you remember the Old Christmas, back when Christmas came on January 6?  Old Christmas is not the Twelfth Night or Epiphany.  It is Christmas Day as reckoned on the Julian calendar.   In 1752 the English Crown adopted the Gregorian calendar.  The switch over to the new calendar was not immediate and for years many people in the Anglo-Celtic world preferred using the Julian calendar.   Gradually, the Gregorian calendar became the norm, but, some people in rural areas, in the Upland South and Backsettlements, continued to record time according to the older Julian calendar.  For them the Yule Holiday came on January 6. 
My own grandmother, Sarah Peal McCain née Tweedy, practiced the custom of Old Christmas. I have childhood memories of the Old Christmas at her house.  Like many in her generation, the new Christmas was celebrated, but they were also aware of the Old Christmas, and celebrated it also. By her generation, some of the New Christmas customs became incorporated into the Old Christmas, but there was still an element of the Old Christmas and Yule around. 

It was among the Anglo-Celtic early settlers that Old Christmas held on.  These people were of English, Irish, Welsh, Scottish, and Scots-Irish origins.  My grandmother was Scots-Irish and came from County Cavan, in Ulster.  Her family left Ireland early, circa 1700, and followed the frontier.  They were in the Carolina Uplands in the mid-1700s and then to the hills and ridge country of southern Illinois by 1805.  That area today is known as the Illinois Ozarks.  The region was settled primarily by Anglo-Celtic Scots-Irish and the people and their culture expanded into the Missouri and Arkansas Ozarks.  It was here in the Ozarks, much like in Appalachia, that old customs and folkways endured for well over a century.  These customs and folkways, like Old Christmas, are still remembered.

The Old Christmas was before there was a Christmas Tree or Santa Claus. Those are New Christmas December 25th customs from the late 1800s.  The Old Christmas predates them in time and custom.  With the Old Christmas houses were decorated with boughs of holly and evergreen and this was when Father Christmas, or Lord Christmas, held his court.  Father Christmas brought cheer and merriment, not presents.  Father Christmas was dressed in a green robe and wore a holly wreath around his head. He had a long white beard and black staff with a crozier.   Carols were sung and the emphasis was on food, drink, dance, merriment, and the Christian faith, albeit with a Dual Faith element of pre Christian Yule.

Yule was the term many Anglo-Celtic settlers in early America used for the Holiday Season. Yule was the Lallans  (an English dialect spoken in parts of southern Scotland and Ulster) word for Christmas. The word Yule goes back to the Old English word Geol and the Norse word Jól and was the pre Christian term for the twelve days of winter celebration after the Winter solstice and ending on or near what is now January 6.   The celebration was incorporated into Christmas and Yule and Christmas became the same thing, and celebrated on January 6. 
The use of the Julian Calendar persisted even after the official change to the Gregorian calendar.  The Old New Year was on March 25.  Slowly however, the New Year was marked on January 1, making the dating of events confusing.  As historians and family history researchers know, any dates prior to the Gregorian calendar’s use are often broken down into Old Style (Julian dating) and New Style (Gregorian dating).  Clerks for many years after the calendar change had to abbreviate OS or NS to clarify a date on a record. 

the Southern Uplands

The Old Christmas is still with us, not entirely forgotten.  Some people still use the Old Christmas and some will celebrate both December 25 and January 6.  The Old Christmas is also celebrated widely in Easter Europe, as the Julian Calendar is still used in liturgical matters.  Because of slight changes in the Julian Calendar this date falls on January 7.   Many millions of Europeans still use the Old Christmas just like our Anglo-Celtic ancestors in the Uplands and Backsettlements.  

Father Christmas of Old
The Old Christmas still lives and is growing in popularity.  I keep both the Old and New Christmas at my house and it is a way to enjoy the holiday season.  There is something special about Old Christmas.  It is a quiet celebration of our old customs, wonderfully free of consumerism.  It is just pure Christmas, no commercialism.  It is wonderful.  I hear of other families that use the Old Christmas to celebrate those things most important... family, clan, one's faith, the season of winter and reflection.  These are good things.

And... a Merry Old Christmas to you all!!!   

Friday, January 5, 2018

Book Review: Brings The Lightning

The Lookout, by Remington


Brings The Lightning by Peter Grant

Review by Barry R McCain, Oxford Mississippi.

Brings The Lighning is treat for readers of historical fiction.  The book is set in the chaotic time after the War Between the States.  The story takes the reader on a journey from Appomattox Court House, to Tennessee, and on to a trek west to the growing mining community of Denver City, in the Colorado Territory.   Walt Ames is an interesting protagonist, a former Confederate cavalry man and scout, who is trying to rebuild his life after the South’s defeat and the death and destruction that swept the land during the war.  He must overcome the consequences of being a defeated soldier and a hostile world all too ready to take advantage of him and his ilk.  Ames decides to head west as so many did in the wake of the war and make a new life for himself. 

The book is well written and moves at an agreeable pace.  Author Peter Grant shows off his wide breadth of knowledge on geography and the technology of the 1860s.  The price of flour, the cost of a box of cartridges, or a room in a St Louis hotel, etc., are details that add realism to the story and allows the reader be drawn into the 1866 world of Walt Ames.  Grant also shines in his skill as a storyteller and the characters are engaging, realistic, and sympathetic.  The reader follows Walt Ames across the plains accompanied by his woman, and two ex-slaves who are also anxious to see the West and began their lives there.

Peter Grant has several books out in different genres and Brings The Lightning is his first historical fiction set in the West of the 1800s.  It is book one of what will be ‘The Ames Archives.’   Book two in the series, Rocky Mountains Retribution, was published in May 2017. 
The story has many of the clichés of the Western book genre.  There is a pretty schoolmarm, hostile Indians, Jayhawkers and Bushwhackers, and brave and loyal men and women who endured all to find a new life in the West.  The ‘clichés’ are not forced or parodies, but reflect the reality of American frontier life, that while these have become clichés, we must remember they were the reality of people in that time and place.

I give this book the high rating of Five Stars.  It is good read, an interesting and fun read.  It has excellent characters.  It is well researched and historically accurate.   Peter Grant is writer with a growing following and I look forward to more from him.  Brings The Lightning is available on Amazon. 

Peter Grant was born and raised in South Africa.  He has been a soldier, worked in the IT industry, traveled throughout sub-Sahara Africa, and has worked as a pastor and prison chaplain.  He and wife live in Texas.