Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Another year is behind us

I think 2016 will be an unforgettable year for man. Forget the election. Forget the loss of all of the celebrities that represent memories of our youth. 2016 was for me another year where I made new friends with relatives, distant and not so distant.

This December marks 18 years since I started on genealogy, and made some friends I still correspond with to this day. Some aren't relatives, they are just very good friends who share my addiction to genealogy. Some after DNA are surprise relatives. Each and every year, I make more contacts, and friends, and since I joined Facebook 8 years ago, well that number has certainly grown. I suspect I have close to 200 friends on Facebook who I have met through genealogy.

I am so grateful for the online community I have developed of friends, relatives and fellow researchers who share my love for this hobby. Who value the time, the journey, and the knowledge this hobby gives us. Who cheer me on with my research and my blog. From the mailing list of 1998, to, to Facebook, so many of the folks I have met have enriched my life.

My wish list for 2017? Well, lets see.
1. A breakthrough on Elijah McCurdy.
2. More trees in my DNA matches so I can figure out the connectin.
3. Find one of my mother's half brothers.
4. An answer on how we relate to the Bobo's.
5. An answer on Suzie, the wife of Joseph Rogers and James Wallen/Walling
6. Most of all, a blessed year full of joy and happiness for my friends and family.

See you in 2017!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A review of My Evil Twin

There are two new utilities added to the tier one level for Gedmatch. I have tried both, but for now, I want to talk about the My Evil Twin utility. Basically, it is a way to take your kit, compare it with a parent, and create a phased kit of the DNA you didn't get. Since I have tested both of my parents, I was able to make phased kits for the DNA I didn't get from each parent. After batch processing, I am able to look at the one to many matches for each kit.

I don't know that this utility is necessary, but if you are like me, and are curious about the way DNA is passed and the randomness of it all. It's a pretty cool tool. It would probably be easier to in fact compare the evil twin kits directly with a phased kit for each parent, but I never bothered with that. Since I have tested both parents, I rarely even look at my own matches. I just go straight to the source.

It is interesting to see the DNA I don't share with my top matches, especially those that I share a lot with on my real matches, and those I share a lot with on my evil twin. I think with time, and probably genome mate, I may be able to look at some patterns, and figure out really a bit more of the DNA I didn't get, because at this point, I have a pretty good fix when comparing my kit with my parents and my daughters on the DNA we seem to have a higher degree of. 

I was even able to do an admixture on the phased kit. Now that was interesting, because of the native DNA I didn't get from my mom was visible in the admixture. I may play around a bit more with that function and see what I get from the different admixture tools, but in my world of curiosity with DNA, now, that is right up my alley. I may do my daughter's evil twin too, just to look at the admixture differences.

The other Beta utility, Triangulation Groups, will probably be way more beneficial for my use of time, but, given my fascination with how DNA is passed, I think that my Evil Twin just may satisfy some of my curiosity in a totally unexpected way.

So if you are on Gedmatch, consider donating and become a tier one member. If you aren't on Gedmatch, and you have tested your DNA, you really should consider joining. Remember it is free to use, it's a great place to fully get something out of the DNA if you used Ancestry for your tests, and it allows you to compare across companies. And if you still haven't tested your DNA, what in the heck are you waiting for?

Monday, October 31, 2016

What Ancestry DNA doesn't get quite right

Six months after testing myself, my daughter and my great Aunt on Ancestry, well, we have some mixed bag results. I have my first (yes first) ancestry hint. My great Aunt has one as well, and my daughter now has two. Funny because all my other kits have several, I guess I have more of a complete tree and that's why, but to be honest, not sure at all.

Almost all of my circles only include ones where my daughter falls. So no one that I match alone but match many in the circle seem to appear. Oh, and then there are the two funny circles. Funny because for both my daughter and I there are two circles not to an ancestor, but to an ancestor's brother. Thus I have a circle for one of the brothers to Martin D. J. Collins and to Sterling Alexander Hager (listed as Sr, and NOT the father of Sterling Alexander Hager who lived in Arkansas and Texas). This Sterling was the brother of Steeley Hager who died in Lauderdale county, Tennessee in 1848.

So while the ancestry DNA has helped confirm my tree, well, I don't know that it's any better than 23andme. And since Ancestry changed their file format, I can't upload to familytree DNA just yet either. So I am waiting. I feel like I do that a lot. Because despite the fact that all the other bloggers say that the testers on ancestry and familytree DNA are more into testing for genealogy, you really don't get more responses from either.

In the time since I tested with ancestry compared with the same time as 23andme, I got better responses to my inquiries actually on 23andme. And I could compare the DNA segments. Frankly though, I find the 23andme price too  high, and well, you have the same kind of looky loo mentality in testers now on both Ancestry and 23andme. A plethora of testers who are testing for curiosity sake for ancestry make up on Ancestry, and for health on 23andme.

I haven't given up though. Still love Gedmatch and the capability of comparing across all the companies. And still have great hopes that I will solve those mysteries, and eventually find one or both of my  Mom's half brothers.

My advice hasn't changed. Educate yourself. Learn about DNA. Correspond with as many as you can get to answer and have a robust tree to start. Don't give up on DNA, it's valuable, but just don't think it will provide all the answers yet either.

Yes, you can call me an Arkansas hillbilly

I have written before about how deeply I feel my ties to Pensacola. I have, however, omitted that I live in a state where I have several family ties. I didn't know until I was 20 that my grandfather's family came from Arkansas, but it was many more years before I knew just how strong my ties to Arkansas are.

From the window of the hospital where I worked, I could look out and see a church in Benton that was built on land donated by my grandfather's great grandmother and her two brothers. A few of the cousins I have found a long the way have shown me where the family lived and are buried. Through them I walked on land that my family owned when my grandfather's father was born.

Pop never knew his father, so that's what makes the discovery of his father's family, and of his half brother's children so special. I know that for all of his life, what he wanted more than anything, was to know about his father. Sadly it was about a decade after he died, but I found them.

A few weeks ago we took a drive up to Mount Magazine to see the fall foliage. On the way we drove through the area where my Adams, Roger and Hager family settled around the time of the Civil War. I know we were not far from the family cemetery for the Rogers, and a cousin told me that on the way up the mountain, I pass the remains of the saw mill ran by Henry Rogers. ( I still haven't seen it though).

I am not allowed to stop at  cemeteries on family outings any more. My daughter doesn't even want me to mention I have noticed one, and well, my mom isn't too fond of it either. So I plan on making a trip up there I hope soon with a co worker, whose husband is my fourth cousin. At least she shares my interest in visiting the family grave sites.

My mom and daughter did reluctantly agree that they could see why the family settled there. On the plateaus of the Ozark foothills, with scenic vistas I can picture the lives my family lived 160 or so years ago. And if she doesn't share my interest in family history, my daughter shares my interest in architecture.

We drive by and point out the interesting older homes, and she absolutely fell in love with the Franciscan Abby at Subiaco, Arkansas. I talk a lot about the history of our country, our state, or our family on these trips.  I hope she remembers at least half of what I say, and that someday, she may drive the same roads, walk the same land, and feel the same connections to her own history.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

DNA is complex

There is a lot of great information about using DNA to triangulate matches and do genetic genealogy. Some very good information if you take the time to read it, which  a lot of folks do and some don't. Some don't get it, no matter how hard they try. What's a cM, what's a valid match, how much means what degree of relationship? Questions.

What I have learned from all of the tests I have had done now is this. Read everything. Get a good grasp on what triangulation is. The difference between an X match and a match elsewhere. Use the tools out there, but take the "estimates" of what DNA means what relationship with a hefty grain of salt.

As I have mentioned before, my mom has a 74 cM match on chromosome 11. At this point I have lost count with all the folks who match her there, but I can tell you that everyone I have been able to trace, has had one shared family group other than one in mom's tree. And that family group, would be her 6th great grandparents. Yes 6th, and she is not closer related to anyone than 4th cousin 2x removed and averages 24-35 cM matches with most of over 30 matches.

And then after I tested my great Aunt, and my daughter, I got to see a few more interesting things. My mother, her Aunt, myself and my daughter match a family who I already had "figured" out was on my maternal grandmother's side, just not how. Here's the kicker though, we all match at about the same amount of cM's (in the same spot). Four generations with what amounts to a "third" cousin match in total cM's. But to find out how we relate, I have to go back to my great Aunt as a potential third cousin, because four generations are sharing the same amount of DNA.

It's also been interesting to see how much and how little of DNA from various family groups has passed on from one of my parents through me to my daughter. I wonder if it has anything to do with the function of that DNA, and you know the stuff we learned back in the dark ages about dominant and recessive, or is it purely just random.

Not a very informational post I know, but my point is this. You should test your DNA. You should learn what it means, and for christ sakes, don't just do it for the ancestry composition alone. You should educate yourself as much as possible, and then realize, that the science is still not there a hundred percent. The "you should" have this amount of DNA once you get past your grandparents kind of goes out the window, and because as I saw with my daughter, she didn't get equal amounts of DNA from both my parents, it will affect every generation you go past. Sticky DNA isn't a very scientific term, but it does explain why some pieces of DNA don't seem to go away. So when you look at that match of 30-40 cM just realize, you may have to dig further back then you realize.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A question of Race- the Freedman Question

A case involving descendants of Cherokee Freedman is being decided. I can't speak to that case, I do not know enough about the Cherokee, but I can address the question as it applies to the Choctaw.

As like most matriarchal tribes, the Choctaw citizenship guidelines were always that you take the tribe of the mother. The only exception to this occurred when the tribe accepted children of Choctaw men and white woman, but only if they were married. Before the Dawes act, before registration, some Choctaw men adopted their illegitimate children to make them tribal members. There are children of Choctaw men with white woman who weren't married who were denied membership to the nation during the Dawes enrollment.

But what is the freedman question? First you have to understand how it came to be. During the civil war, most of the Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw, and other tribes who were in what is now Oklahoma supported the south. Slavery was as prominent within those nations as without, and some economists suggested that as farmers with slaves, the Choctaw were more successful. When the Civil War ended, the nations had to agree to a new treaty with the United States. In a large part, they were penalized heavily for their participation. One of the stipulations of the treaty of 1866 was that they must allow all former slaves to be full members with equal rights in their nation.

It's ironic because the United States didn't offer the full equality to their former slaves in the south until the Civil rights movement, but I digress. So the former slaves were given a choice of remaining or leaving. Those that remained were called freedman. Now comes the tricky part. There is without a doubt many descendants of freedman who are part Choctaw who are on the freedman rolls. Dawes testimony for the freedman was at times as contested for the freedman as much, if not more, than some of the applicants of the Choctaw. The question was whether the applicant was a freedman or a statesman (meaning born outside the Choctaw nation).

Not every freedman is not on the Choctaw rolls though, because it comes down to the Choctaw tradition. You take the tribe of your mother. So if you take the tribe of your mother, and your father was Choctaw, but your mother was a freedman, you are on the freedman rolls. If your mother was Choctaw, you are on the Choctaw rolls. It is understandable that descendants who were as much as half Choctaw to begin with may resent the difference in the status on the Dawes, which ultimately effects their rights within the tribe today. However, I would argue, that if they were to state all descendants of Freedman be given equal rights to their respective nation, then all descendants of unmarried women who were denied because their parents weren't married, even though testimony stated their father was Choctaw should be included.

That would open up a hornets nest that won't happen. The court may decide that the Cherokee nation must give equal status to the Freedman descendants, we will have to wait and see. It's a tricky question, because, while many were in fact part native, many were not. I can understand how from some people's standpoint, despite living in the nation, you don't carry the genes of the nation, you don't belong. Yet, it was never right to deny those that had native blood because it belonged to their father and not their mother. Ultimately, it's not an easy issue, and I don't know that there is an easy answer.

A Divided nation- a look at Choctaw politicians

The Choctaw nation between 1825-1830 was one that was divided politically. There is a lot of information on the period in history books, but today I want to look at four of the prominent mixed Choctaws who were involved in that period. All are my relatives.

James L. McDonald is perhaps the least known by non historians, sadly, since what we know about him shows that he was in fact one of the shining stars for the Choctaws. Educated in Washington he was the first Choctaw to obtain a law degree. The little correspondence you find from him lies in letters in the Peter Pitchlynn Collection, Thompson McKinney's records, and in correspondence with the government. His correspondence on the behalf of my ancestor Peggy Trahern show that it was his influence, along with that of Robert M. Jones that included Peggy and her sister Delilah in the supplement to the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek. His letters show a man torn with his failings with alcohol, who loved his people and sadly, is rumored to have killed himself over the love of a white woman who shunned him.

James wrote that all Choctaws needed to be encouraged to emigrate because he felt (rightly) that the government would not honor the 14th article of the treaty. He was considering a run for politics, and was very outspoken against Jackson. Which is why I say he was rumored to have killed himself. Honestly I am not so sure. A lifelong resident of Jackson, Mississippi (except for his youth in D.C.), James came from a politically advantage lineage. (His mother Molly was given land in both 1820 and 1830, as was James and his nephew James M. Hamilton). Unlike most of his counterparts, he had years of exposure to the very decision makers the Choctaw were fighting. He was perhaps the best educated for his time, and he was known to have felt the conflict between his native and white lineage. He may have been disposed to melancholy, but just before his death, he didn't appear to be so despondent in his letters.

Robert M. Jones, a first cousin of James L. McDonald and paternal half nephew of my ancestor Peggy, is unlike his cousin James, well known among Choctaw descendants and historians. It is from Jeff Fortney, PhD that I know that Robert spoke of his childhood on his father's trading post on the Natchez Trace, and that Robert spoke English from childhood. Like all four, Robert M. Jones was undeniably a patriot for the Choctaw, but, it is reasonably argued from the wealth he acquired, he wasn't above profiting from them either. Despite his business acumen, Robert M. Jones spent a lot of time on behalf of relatives that were in the Choctaw tradition not his relatives.

Sadly most of his correspondence burned with his mansion, but what we do have shows that like James, he is well spoken, well educated, and his desire to further the education among the Choctaw can't be denied. His involvement in politics appears more in relation to schools than tribal leadership. His letter about the confrontation between Mushulatubbee and Greenwood Leflore at the Choctaw trading post shows respect for the elder leadership, despite disappointment with it. For me, this is perhaps one of his most redeeming qualities. I don't really like Greenwood Leflore or David Folsom when I look at their actions. Not very academic, but I am not one, so I can feel however I want to.

Jones had a lifelong friendship with another relative, Peter Pitchlynn. Peter Pitchlynn's mother was a first cousin of my ancestor Susan Riddle. Where Jones and McDonald I believe had familial ties to either Apuckshunubbee or Franchiamastabe, Pitchlynn was a great nephew of Mushulatubbee. It is from his journal, and much less the letters in his collection (few are from Peter), that we can glimpse this man. He acknowledged both his mother's Uncles (the Folsoms, who weren't traditional relatives) as relatives, along with his mother's brother, Captain Joseph Kincade. In a letter to an unknown relative, he speaks of his mother who wanted all her children to speak English in their home. He states because of this, not all of his siblings were fluent in Choctaw.

Pitchlynn like Jones had a similar education. His correspondence shows a man much more literate in grammar than his father John Pitchlynn when you look at letters written by both. According to the correspondence, his great Uncle had stepped down in favor of Peter Pitchlynn but reneged on it during these trying times. We don't have letters from Peter that show his opinion on the matter, but we do know that there was not an armed conflict to remove Mushulatubbee, or if there was, I haven't ran across it.  During this time, there are letters to Washington D.C. where David Folsom is writing that Mushulatubbe and Tappenahoma aren't fit for office, but no one has ever suggested that Peter wrote anything like that.

I think like James McDonald and Robert M. Jones, Peter Pitchlynn had a different patriotic approach to the push for the Choctaws to remove. After the treaty, Peter Pitchlynn spent many years in Washington D.C. attempting to get the government to honor the treaty. As much as  Jones, if not more, you can definitely argue that Peter profited from the Choctaws as well. Choctaw leaders never saw anything wrong with gifts, or taking money for their services, and especially in this day and age, looking back at a lot of their actions is prone to make one raise their eyebrows at the wealth accumulated by some. Nevertheless, I don't think any mixed blood did more for the Choctaws when you look at Peter's work with the Choctaw Academy, as Chief, with developing the Choctaw school system and with his tireless work in Washington D.C. Work that his family tried to get a large sum of the Net proceeds for. Definitely you can argue they were asking for more than their fair share.

The last mixed blood I want to talk about is Pierre Juzan. The eldest son of my ancestor Peggy and her husband Charles Juzan, Pierre was educated at the Choctaw academy as well. However, if one reads his correspondence it lacks the polish and grammar of the other three. Many have said that he was fluent in four languages, but to me, his grammar suggests that he learned English later, his verb usage is similar to someone who hasn't spoken English as a young child. It is quite possible he learned French or Spanish from his father, but then, the Spanish were out of the Choctaw nation, though not far away, by the time Pierre was born.

Pierre is the opposite from his contemporaries. There isn't a lot of documentation and correspondence from him, but what there is shows he had strong ties to his maternal uncles Oklahoma and Tappenahoma, and that unlike those mixed bloods who stepped forward to lead, he supported another full blood (unlikely a relative) Nitakechi. Where Greenwood Leflore and David Folsom openly, and Robert M. Jones, Peter Pitchlynn and James McDonald in correspondence, criticized the full blood contingent during this time, nothing shows that Pierre was ever involved. He was a far more traditional mixed blood than the others, whether because of his Kunsha roots, where there are far fewer mixed bloods of prominence, or because of his beliefs, we don't see the same rebellion against the establishment from him.

Where I haven't seen much on what Robert M. Jones and Peter Pitchlynn did during removal, we know that Pierre and his brother William were involved. And we also know from testimonies in the court of claims, Pierre was brutal in enforcing removal. Ironic, because it doesn't appear that removal was something that Nitakechi or Pierre supported. It is almost as if, once done, they were going to make sure that their villages complied, even if it meant beating and humiliating the village chiefs in the process. If Peter Pitchlynn and Robert M. Jones represent a new approach to leading the Choctaw nation, Pierre Juzan represents a traditional one.

There is nothing that I know of that links a relationship between Robert M. Jones and Pierre Juzan, despite the fact that he shares the same relationship with him as my ancestor James N. Trahern did. I am not clear if it's a rejection of the relationship, which does not exist in Choctaw terms, or if it is just lack of proof. I know that James N. Trahern resided with Jones for a time after he returned from the Choctaw Academy. James spent 9 years there, so he would have definitely been influenced by Christianity in a way that the Juzan family was not in 1830. Such an effect would effect a view on family relationships from a Choctaw one, to a European one.

All of these men, even Greenwood Leflore and David Folsom, were undeniably patriotic. Although I will argue that the children of Louis Leflore were the least traditional of all the families. Yet despite that love of their people, they didn't always see the direction and leadership needs of their nation the same. Choctaw history is not bloodless. Until the Dawes act, it wasn't uncommon to see murder occur over political, and not so political reasons. There was a rift between the mixed blood and full blood components that started at least by 1825 if not before, until the Dawes Act which for a time, effectively ended the Choctaw nation as a tribe. (The position of chief was abolished with the Dawes Act until 1934).

Some may argue that the Choctaw nation isn't an example, I would argue maybe it can be an example that American's can learn from. I think that the nepotism, the division, the violence, and the struggles that the nation went through are lessons that every one can learn from.