2020 RootsTech – My Cousin Discovery Part 2

The 2020 RootsTech family history conference was amazing. I shared a post a few days ago about meeting some new cousins. Let’s pick up where we left off and talk about DNA!

If you missed part one of this post, you’re going to want to read it here.

DNA in Family History Research

I’m sure all of you have heard of DNA and have an idea of what it has to do with family history, but have you ever seen it used in practice?

Well, with this new cousin discovery I had the opportunity to utilize my DNA analysis to prove our connection!

Here is my Ancestry DNA Ethnicity Estimate:

What is an ethnicity estimate anyway? 

On the Ancestry site you will find this explanation for ethnicity estimates:

Creating an ethnicity estimate based on your DNA sample is a complex process based on probability, statistics, shared DNA, and ongoing research and science. AncestryDNA calculates your ethnicity estimate by comparing your DNA to a reference panel made up of thousands of people. Because reference panels and the way we analyze your DNA both change as we get more data, your ethnicity results can change as we get more data, too.

How does AncestryDNA decide if your DNA came from Ireland or Polynesia or Senegal or another region? First, our scientists create a reference panel by testing lots of people whose families have lived in one area for generations—Ireland, for example. Then they look for trends in their DNA results and compare those to other groups. Once they identify these trends for each region in the reference panel, they can look for them in your AncestryDNA test results. Finding patterns that are distinct enough to tell one group from another is harder in places like Europe, where people have moved around and intermarried a lot. That’s why AncestryDNA continues to gather samples and improve its reference panel. Here’s a simplified example of how AncestryDNA turns those trends into an ethnicity estimate. AncestryDNA looks at about 700,000 markers in your DNA sample. Those markers are called SNPs (pronounced snips). Each SNP refers to a certain position in human DNA. And each SNP is made up of a pair of letters representing some combination of A, T, C, or G. Let’s say that at SNP rs122 there are two possibilities: A and T. Because you get one letter (or allele) from each parent, you can have an AA, AT, or TT.

Each possible outcome at each SNP has a probability for how likely it is to show up in each region represented by the reference panel. We’ll pretend that rs122 occurs in three populations—Native American, Swedish, and English—at the following frequencies:

A = appears 5% of the time in Native American populations, 75% in English populations, and 80% in Swedish

T = appears 95% of the time in Native American populations, 25% in English populations, and 20% in Swedish

So, if you have AA at rs122, it seems you are more likely to be Swedish than Native American. If your DNA reads TT, the opposite seems more likely. One SNP doesn’t tell us much about your ethnicity, but when we apply the same process to thousands of SNPs, and then do the math, the grand total becomes the basis for your ethnicity estimate.

See full article here: https://www.ancestry.com/lp/ethnicity-estimate/reading-your-ethnicity-estimate

You Can Utilize Your DNA Too

A few tips to remember as you begin your Cousin DNA adventure:

  1. Make sure to have a complete and sharable tree on Ancestry.com- locked trees help no one.
  2. Be accessible. Do not hide your contact information.
  3. Find a good system to locate, find and record those you have contacted.
  4. Begin with the largest segments first.

Back to My Story

Anyway, on with the story.

John and Elizabeth’s children were rescued and though they were initially given to Hugh, guardianship was eventually given to John Ramsey, in Augusta County, Virginia. (John was either Elizabeth’s father or brother.) An extraction from the original court records, dated June 19, 1764, states:

“John Ramsey chosen guardian by Mary McDonall, aged 16; John McDonall, aged 14, and the Court appoints him guardian for Francis, Hugh, Rebecca, William, Elizabeth and Saml. McDonall, all orphans of John McDonall.”

I have a digital copy of the book Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia, by Chalkley, which has this extraction, but I’d like to get my hands on the full court records to see if there is more information.

The McDonald name is spelled in so many ways (McDaniel, McDonal, McDonell), it is difficult sometimes to weed things out, especially with all the unverified information and stories floating around on FamilySearch and Ancestry. 

Here’s a look at my McDonald line:

We still have more digging to do, but we are a step closer to making some amazing breakthroughs in our family tree!

After RootsTech 2020

As I returned home from RootsTech, my husband became very ill. One week later the world stopped.

The new focus was the China Virus and how I was going to run a Relief Society program from home.  

Soon I became ill.  

Tests for the virus are still not available in my area, however, I sure had every symptom. 

As my Bishop reminded me at our first zoom ward council meeting last week, “Amy your technology skills have allowed us to meet today, you were defiantly prepared for this calling”.

I get the feeling however, that my family history research skills are really how the Lord has prepared me for this calling.

As I have helped those in my ward settle into this new-normal thing we have happening right now, my main focus has been temporal needs. Now it will shift to the spiritual.

Preparing for General Conference is my focus this week. Then I can work out the big role family history work has to play.

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