Observations on DNA Research Three Months Later

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As many of you know, I got my DNA results in July. It’s been an interesting experience–and an educational one. There are a couple of things that have struck me

a) There are many people who have had the autosomal DNA test done, but who have only researched their father’s side of the tree. Autosomal results are based on both sides of your tree, so it isn’t as if they are highlighting the side of the tree that their test was for. When I contact them, for the most part, their maternal roots seem to be an afterthought, which is kind of sad.

b)  My Mom’s father’s side is completely Portuguese (Azorean, to be exact) yet I have matched very few Azoreans or even Portuguese.  (I am basing this on the family trees that people have posted at FTDNA.)

This surprised me. I had my test done at FTDNA which has an Azorean DNA Group, so the outreach is there. I have my Azorean tree researched well into the 1700s and to the 1400s on a few lines, so the opportunity to connect with people is there.  My roots are long and deep in one village, Maia.   But, other people with roots there have not connected to me.  I do know that my DNA checks out because I connect to my Pacheco 3rd cousin.

The majority of my hits have resulted on my English and Irish lines…the ones I know little about and don’t have enough information to connect with people…YET.

c) I have had a fairly good response rate. I have made  confirmed distant cousin connection with two people.  Yet,  I have not been contacted by anyone through GEDMatch or FTDNA since my results came through. I am assuming many people draw at line at which generation they are willing to contact.

What the experience has stressed for me is the importance of research.  For example, There is a family that I’ve now matched a woman, her brother, her sister, and her son–all in the 3rd to 5th relationship range.  I also match another woman in the 2nd to 4th relationship range who matches the brother and son (but not the woman).  But, our research limits us and we’ve yet to resolve where we connect.

DNA research is handy tool for researchers. But, you still need to do the research in order to figure out the connections. I knew this coming in, but given some of the responses I’ve gotten back, I wonder if others know it?

I would not discourage anyone from getting their DNA tested.  It’s a fascinating journey.  But, I think expectations need to be realistic.  If you aren’t willing to get your hands dirty with research, you aren’t really going to get much out of your DNA results.

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SNGF: The Day of my Grandfather’s Birth

Randy Seaver over at GeneaMusings.com has his weekly Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge out.  This week we’re to look up our grandfather’s birthday, find out what day of the week it was, note any historical events, and see if anyone famous was born on that day.

My Paternal Grandfather, Jean Lassalle, was born 29 Jun 1888 in Ogeu les bains, France.    I used Google Search to find the information I needed.  The website HistoryOrb.com gave me the day of week:  Friday.

They had one historical event for his birthday:  the first recording of classical music was made.   It was produced on a wax cylinder.  The piece was Handel’s “Israel in Egypt”.  Using Wikipedia, I found that the recording was made by George Edward Gourard.  According to the History Channel website, Gourard was Thomas Edison’s agent in Europe.  Wikipediea has a copy of the recording on their page for Gourard.

Wikipedia lists two famous people born on Grandpa’s day in 1888:  Alexandr Friedmann, a Russian physicist and mathematician, and Squizzy Taylor, an Australian gangster.

I decided just to stick with the exact day to make it pertain more to my grandfather.  However, it was an important year.  The first wax drinking straw was invented, the National Geographic Society was founded, George Eastman took out the patent on the “Kodak Box Camera”, California got its very first seismograph (really, 1888?), and Thomas Edison took out a patent on the first movie machine, the “Optical Phonograph.”  Sounds like science and discovery was booming that year…and really, where would we be without the invention of the drinking straw?

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Why did all these children die in Maia in 1861?

I’m working through the Obitos (death records) for the village of Maia, Ribeira Grande, Sao Miguel Island, Azores.  Sometimes death records can be depressing.  They also present questions that can’t really be answered unless someone has written a history of the area.

Case in point, I am working on the 1860s.  In 1860, there were only 10 pages of records–23 death total.  Then, in 1861, there 29 pages–112 deaths total.  The following year there are only 14 pages of death records–45 deaths total.  After that year, there are never more than 19 pages of records.

What really struck me was in 1861 the majority of people who died were children.  And, most of them under the age of 5.  I would say 85-90% of the records were for children.  Some families lost more than one child.

What happened that year that saw such a spike in child mortality?  Was there an epidemic?  Perhaps it was a flu strain that hit children the hardest.

The records in this era don’t include a cause of death, so there’s no way to know for use.  But, it is clear from the amount of records that something happened that year.  It would be interesting to see if other villages also experienced a spike.  For now, I am only left wondering what happened in Maia in 1861.

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