Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tombstone Tuesday - Pierre Dextraze and family

Photo courtesy of Annie Carlile

This is a photo of the gravestone of my fourth-great-grandparents, Pierre Dextraze and Charlotte Robidoux of Quebec, Canada. I've done some research on this family, and I've found a lot of information with the help of other researchers, but my information on them is by no means complete. I'm sure that the second Pierre Dextraze listed is the son of the first, as the age matches that of the son listed in the 1881 census I've found for Pierre Sr. Adeline is probably Pierre Jr's sister, given the birthdate. The third Pierre could be the son of Pierre Jr, which would make three generations of Pierre Dextraze's buried in the same place.

The IHS on the cross looks familiar. This family was Catholic, as was Michael Barrett, whose gravestone I saw this symbol on previously. So it's neat to see some consistency in religious symbols, even though these families were separated by language, culture, country, and distance.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Genes Day Friday - My wife is no longer a Viking

I've written previously about my wife's ethnicity results from her AncestryDNA test. Today, Ancestry emailed me that they've released an updated version of those ethnicity results. After hearing about other's reactions to their updated results (both positive and negative) I was very interested in seeing what Ancestry now thought of my wife's background.

More than anything, I wanted them to revise her Scandinavian ancestry. Before, they said she was 73% Scandinavian, which I honestly thought was dead wrong. To give you an idea why, let me go over a list of the surnames of her 2nd- and 3rd-great-grandparents:

McFarland, McNeese, Thacker, Vann, Crow, Hoskins, Wright, Qualls, Dickson, Eskridge, Dean, Gould, Baugher, Smith, Gast, Red Corn, Hudson, Mead, Johnson, Duncan, Horton, Bacon, Crane, Houchens, Lewis, Carswell, Stauffer, and Tomlin.

I understand there could be inaccuracies in there, and there could be NPEs as well. But to tell me that somehow, of those 28 ancestral lines, 21 of them go back to a Scandinavian country? That just makes no sense to me.

Because Ancestry apparently emailed everyone in their customer list about the revised ethnicity results, it took several hours for traffic to die down enough for me to get in. Once I finally made in it, I quickly navigated to Lisa's revised ethnicity results.

Lisa's revised AncestryDNA ethnicity estimate

First up, the Scandinavian component is MUCH more reasonable. I'm willing to accept that she could have some Scandinavian ancestry way, way back on one or even a couple of her English lines. Going from 73% down to 2% is quite a jump, and it's gratifying to see that their revised calculations match much more closely to my wife's known ancestry. 

Also, I was happy to see the Native American results. Given that she has a full-blooded Osage great-grandfather, the amount of Native DNA is spot on. I figured the 12% "uncertain" in her previous results was probably her Native DNA, and it looks like I was right.

The only real surprise in the breakdown was the Jewish percentage. Her previous results gave no indication of Jewish ancestry, so this was completely unexpected. I'll have to go back to Gedmatch and look at their calculations again, see if they see the same thing. None of my relatives that I've tested so far have had any Jewish ancestry DNA identified, so this is something totally new. Makes me wonder if my kids received any Jewish DNA from her. That will have to wait a while though, I still have a few more older relatives to test.

All in all, I am pretty happy with the new results. It's confirmed a lot of what I knew about my wife's tree, while opening up some interesting new possibilities for future research. Just like any good genealogy find, it answers some questions, while creating more than it answered. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Genes Day Friday - Finding my French relatives

Photo couresty of www.as-found.net
Now that I've confirmed my French ancestry from William Vadnais and built a pretty good pedigree
for him, I've gone back to some of my grandma's 23andMe matches to see how many I can identify as coming from her French side. Turns out, there's quite a few!

The closest relative is obviously the cousin whose test helped me confirm the Vadnais connection. Their common ancestor is my grandma's bio-dad, so even though it doesn't pinpoint an ancestor very far back in terms of generations, it gives me several hundred cM worth of verified Vadnais/Bessette DNA, so anyone who matches my grandma and my cousin on those segments is tied to my Vadnais/Bessette line, which will come in very handy in identifying common ancestors.

Then there's the cousin whose Vadnais ancestor in his pedigree on Gedmatch helped me begin figuring all this out. He's a bit more distant, a descendant of my 4th-great-grandparents Louis Vadnais and Josephett Fregeau dit Laplanche. Finding common matches to him and his mom, who have both tested and share the same size segment with my grandma, will be tougher since they only share one small segment of about 10 cM. But I won't forget how his pedigree helped me solve this mystery.

There's a match on the Bessette side that has multiple connections to Antoine Bessette, my 5th-great-grandfather. That's pretty far back, but because of the multiple lines of descent, she and my grandma have almost 50 cM of DNA in common.

Finally, in the last couple weeks I've found two more Bessette side relatives. One contacted me because of the French surnames listed in my profile, and the other I contacted because she matched my other Bessette relative. In both cases, we were able to determine our common ancestors in just a couple of emails. It was awesome!  Both of these cousins have Moise Bessette and Scholastique Dextraze, my 3rd-great-grandparents, as common ancestors with my grandma.

I still need to download the chromosome mapping tool Kitty Munson created for us on the DNA Newbie mailing list. Now that I have a whole bunch of identified segments, I can't wait to see what her mapped chromosome looks like.

Plus I found out today that Family Tree DNA has upgraded their Family Finder match sorting to allow you to tag someone, and sort your matches to include only those people that also match that person. That is a HUGE upgrade to having to email them individually like you used to have to, or compare them 2 and 3 at a time like 23andMe still does. This could really help in finding more Vadnais/Bessette relatives, as well as with my grandpa's test (the only other one I've moved to FTDNA so far).

All in all, a very exciting week for this genetic genealogist. And many more good things to come, I'd wager!