Reconstructing Limerick family histories using DNA
8:00 p.m. Friday 28 September 2018
***** NB: FamilyTreeDNA kits will be
available after this talk for anyone interested via the DNA
Outreach IRL project *****
The objectives of this talk are:
- to give examples, using Limerick families in general and
Palatine families in particular, of the types of question that DNA
comparisons can help to answer;
- to explain the various components of DNA and their
different inheritance paths; and
- to show how to use the DNA companies and websites to
advance genealogical research.
My Limerick Palatine connections
- As long ago as 1943, doctors recognised a hereditary
component in medical investigations; companies like 23andMe
now tell you, for a fee, what your DNA can say about your health.
- According to a letter dated 25 February 1943 from my
grandfather John (Jack) Waldron (1884-1959) to the medical staff
treating his aunt Anne (Ina) Waldron (1872-1943) in Argentina, my
greatgreatgrandmother Catherine Waldron née Parker (1832-1873) was:
farming stock in southern Ireland, descent being from Palatines who
took refuge in Ireland in the 17th century.'
- But that Palatine descent
remains to be proven.
- In any case, the Palatine settlers in west
Limerick did not arrive there until 1709.
- Catherine Parker's parents were Thomas Parker and Mary
Keas, who lived in Ballybrown (mixed marriage).
- On which side was the Palatine connection?
- Thomas Parker's brother and Mary Keas's sister married two
Smith siblings: were they Palatines?
- A third Smith sibling married a Corneal, which appears to
be the closest certain Palatine link.
- One of the Smith/Keas children married a Latchford, whose
mother was a Teskey.
- Lots more Palatine surnames in the extended family.
What can the Y chromosome tell us about surnames?
- The Y chromosome comes down the patrilineal line - from
father's father, father's father's father, etc. - like the surname.
- Y-DNA comparison may reveal whether my relatives were
Schmidts or English Smyths.
- The Y chromosome and the spelling of surnames both evolve
(or mutate) very slowly over the generations.
- Sometimes Y-DNA comparison confirms unexpected spelling
variants: e.g. Clancey, Clanchy, Clancy, de Lancie, Delancey,
Delancie, Glancey, Glancy, Mac Fhlannchadha, Mac Fhlannchaidh,
- Mary Keas's father and brother, John Keas and John Keas
Jnr., although apparently Catholic,
signed the minutes of a Vestry of
the Established Church
legally called and held at Kilkeedy Church (now in ruins) on 17
- The unusual spelling K-E-A-S is still used by American
- Is this just a variant of the more common
- Or do the two spellings have different Y-DNA signatures?
- Keas of Ballyveloge descendant has old Irish Breassal Breac Y-DNA (R-Y5058 SNP
mutation), not Palatine Y-DNA.
- Keays of Abington descendant has his closest match in The Haplogroup of Scientists and Kings
- No common ancestry for thousands of years.
- Similarly four Irish Waldrons have compared
Y-DNA and found that they have no common ancestry for thousands of
- Y-DNA is inherited patrilineally
by sons from their fathers, their fathers' fathers, and so on, "back to
- Most geneticists are not creationists, but the concept of
"Adam" is still useful and used, with a subtle difference.
- The "biblical
was the first and only male in the world at the time of creation.
- The "genetic
Adam" or "Y-Adam",
most recent common patrilineal ancestor of all men alive today, was
merely the only male in the world in his day whose male line descendants have
not yet died out (or been daughtered out).
- There were almost certainly many other males alive at the
same time as
genetic Adam who have no male line descendants alive today.
- Y-Adam is estimated to have lived between
160,000 and 300,000 years ago.
- The SNP mutations which distinguish Y-Adam's descendants
were mapped on a Simplified
Tree of Y-Chromosome Haplogroups (top level haplogroups A-R
etc. c.20,000 years old)
- R-P312 branch (2013 diagram; P312
- R-L21 branch (2017; L21
- Geographic concentration of haplogroups:
- FamilyTreeDNA's public version recently released
- FamilyTreeDNA hosts a Palatine Y-DNA project, for men
with Palatine surnames (and hence Palatine Y chromosomes).
- Results show Palatine surnames
scattered through several of the top level haplogroups.
- A Piper from Nenagh, a Switzer from Limerick and a Schweitzer who
died in Ireland appear to be the only Irish Palatines listed among the
most distant known patrilineal ancestors of the first 299 project
- There are probably many other members who have traced their Palatine lineage all the way back through Ireland to Germany.
What can the rest of our DNA tell us?
- DNA is:
- made up of chromosomes and mitochondria, each consisting
molecules of four nucleotides
named adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and
- represented by strings of the letters A, C, G and T
- When a sperm fertilises an egg, each brings DNA, which is
replicated in every cell of the resulting person.
|22 paternal autosomes
|22 maternal autosomes
is short for autosomal chromosome.
- Y chromosome
- Only males have a Y chromosome.
The Y chromosome comes down the patrilineal line - from father,
father's father, father's father's father, etc.
This is the same inheritance path as followed by surnames, grants of
arms, peerages, etc.
- X chromosome
- Males have one X chromosome, females have two.
X DNA may come through any ancestral line that does not contain two
Blaine Bettinger's nice colour-coded blank fan-style pedigree
charts show the
ancestors from whom men and women can potentially inherit
- Exactly 50% of autosomal DNA comes from the father and
exactly 50% comes from the mother.
average 25% comes from each
grandparent, on average
12.5% comes from each greatgrandparent, and so
- Due to random recombination,
one might inherit, for
example, 27% from the paternal grandfather and 23% from the paternal
Siblings each inherit 50% of their parents'
autosomal DNA, but not the same 50% (except for identical twins).
Similarly, siblings each inherit 50% of their mother's X DNA, but not
the same 50% (except for identical twins).
Sisters each inherit 100% of their father's X DNA.
- Everyone has mitochondrial DNA.
- Mitochondrial DNA comes down the matrilineal line - from
mother, mother's mother, mother's mother's mother, etc.
The surname typically changes with every generation in this line.
What can we learn?
- With one sample, you can fish for long-lost cousins in
several pools with commercial laboratories (FamilyTreeDNA,
AncestryDNA, etc.) and use data files from the laboratories to fish in
other online pools (GEDmatch.com, etc.) not associated with physical
- Combining your DNA sample with your known pedigree chart
makes the fishing trip much more productive.
- With two samples, you can confirm or disprove theories
about relationships (e.g. Richard III).
- It can potentially break through all sorts of genealogical
- For people with adoptions (or foundlings) in their family
history, it may be the only option to find their genetic family; such
people are disproportionately represented in all the databases, even
compared to the 2% adoption rate in the past.
- Those whose genetic ancestry has been
concealed from them have a right, and usually a great desire, to know
- On the other hand, if there is a family secret that you, or
in your family, would like to remain a secret, then genetic genealogy
may not be for you.
- sensitive to the (often unspecified) reference
- distorted by recombination (e.g. 33% rather than 25%
from one grandparent)
- "genetic astrology"
- most Irish people are within the margin of error of
100% Irish (or 100% British Isles
according to one company)
- great marketing value in the U.S. melting pot
- Data-mining, lies, damned
lies and statistics
- Ultimately, genealogists compile family histories by
matching up three categories
- the oral traditions passed down through the generations;
- the archival sources used by traditional genealogists; and
- the DNA evidence that often reconciles both, but
refutes either or both (NPE).
big DNA companies
Other competitors come and go:
The big two currently are:
- Part of ancestry.com
Autosomal DNA only
- Very limited analysis tools
Overcharges non-U.S. customers
- Full access requires paying ongoing annual subscription
Internal messaging system
Reached 1 million samples in July 2015; 2 million samples in June 2016;
3 million samples in January 2017; 4 million samples in April 2017; growing exponentially
- Most people use pseudonyms or initials
- FamilyTreeDNA (FTDNA)
- Dedicated to genetic genealogy
Autosomal DNA (Family Finder) plus various Y-DNA and mtDNA products
- Good analysis tools
- Single worldwide price
- One-off payment
- No U.S. bias
- Simple e-mail communications
- 997,537 records
as of 28 September 2018
- Most people use real names: but married women are
to use maiden surnames
- Projects - e.g. Clare Roots or Palatine or surname projects
(administators needed to start individual Palatine surname projects)
What do you get for your money?
- An online list of DNA matches, ordered by closeness of
- Regular updates as the database grows
- Ethnicity estimates
- Raw data to use at third-party websites
- Various tools for analysing matches and data
- Surname projects (FTDNA only)
- Other projects (FTDNA only)
- Whichever laboratory you use, you MUST copy your
results to GEDmatch.com and persuade your DNA matches to do likewise
- for the vastly superior analysis tools; and
- for the vastly increased chance of finding someone who
will be able to confirm long-forgotten relationships
- If the GEDmatch transfer is beyond you or your match, you
can also share match lists
- There is a trade-off between maintaining privacy and
your long-lost cousins: you must be prepared to give up some privacy if
you want to find your relatives.
How DNA extended my known Limerick family tree by two
- My Family Finder results are dated 15 Nov 2013.
- My paternal and maternal first cousin's results are dated
- Paternal first cousin's closest match had an e-mail in a Texas
- I mentioned this to his Limerick namesake on 2 Sep 2014 and
discovered that they were the same person!
- We compared what we knew and found that we both had
ancestors in Ballybrown and were both somehow related to John Smith
(1849-1909) of Adare.
- My GGGGgrandfather John Keas (c1777-1845) farmed first in
Conigar (now part of the Irish Cement site) and then in Ballyveloge,
where he first leased a 145-acre farm in 1819 (Registry of Deeds, book
840 page 259 deed 563759).
- John Keas was grandfather of John Smith.
- The match's GGgrandparents John Ryan and Bridget O'Dea married by dispensation in
& Patrickswell Catholic parish on 21 Feb 1821 (no. 469).
- John Smith (who married into the business in 1877) employed
the young Denis Ryan (1858-1928), grandson of John Ryan and Bridget
O'Dea, and is
reported to have later said to Denis Ryan: "Why didn't you tell me you
were related to me?"
- Lease of Ballyveloge "for and during and untill the full
end and term of the natural life and lives of Edward Keas, 2nd son, of
the said lessee and John Keas, 3rd son of said lessee and William Keas,
6th son of the said lessee" (Registry of Deeds, Book 858 page
327 deed 572827)
- Edward Keas remained in Conigar when the rest of the Keas
family moved around 1819 from a parish
with no surviving baptismal records today (Mungret) to an adjoining
parish with surviving baptismal records (Ballybrown, Lurriga &
- William Keas was baptised
in Ballybrown, Lurriga & Patrickswell on 31 October
"ex Joanne Keas et Maria O'Dea" (no. 1798).
- So John Smith and Denis Ryan each had an O'Dea grandmother!
- Were they sisters? Or is the age difference too large?
Maria's last child was born the year that Bridget married.
- Almost certainly both were daughters of Edward O'Dea, after
whom they named sons.
- A possible third sister was William Keas's godmother,
probably the Anna O'Dea who married James
Patrickswell parish on 7 June 1825 and had children baptised in
Sixmilebridge parish between 1832 and 1844.
- But which of the many James Frosts in that parish was
- Relationship diagram
- Autosomal matrix
- But whatever became of William Keas?
Conclusion: Why you should submit your DNA
- The value of DNA "testing"
to genealogists increases dramatically with the number of people from
the relevant geographical area and relevant extended family group
already in the DNA databases used.
- Submitting your DNA to a
database has significant positive externalities for existing and future
- We need to persuade more
Palatine descendants to
DNA samples to the databases for purely genealogical purposes.
- Your descendants will be eternally
grateful to you for leaving them your DNA.