thegenealogygirl


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My DNA Results – How do they compare to my tree? (Updated)

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Yesterday I shared my ethnicity percentages based on my tree.  They look a little something like this:

  • 62.5% – British Isles (English, Mixed British Isles, Scottish, Welsh)
  • 15.6% – Europe West (French Canadian, French)
  • 9.4% – Scandinavian
  • 6.3% – Some mixture of European Jewish & Italy, Greece
  • 6.3% – Iberian Peninsula (Spanish)

As you can see from my screenshot up there, I have some interesting differences between my tree and the DNA I inherited.  Here is a comparison of my tree ethnicities and my DNA ethnicities.

Ethnicity comparison - Sheet1

The first important note is that those trace ethnicities, 2% or lower, are often considered noise.  In my case, those bottom three surprise ethnicities are not backed up by documentation.  The first six however, are documented, even the 1% Iberian Peninsula.

The biggest surprises for me are these:

  • How little of the French and French Canadian DNA I inherited.
  • How much European Jewish DNA I inherited.
  • How much Italy, Greece DNA I inherited.

John Costello and his ancestors make up 12.5% of my tree.  And yet, I inherited 19% of the three regions he could have contributed – Iberian Peninsula, European Jewish, and Italy, Greece.

And here is where I need to beef up my learning, you see something I read recently caused me to misunderstand a very important point – you inherit 50% of your DNA from each parent, beyond that, it is a random mixture of all that came before them.  I had a handful of paragraphs with some interesting questions and insights into some of the nuances of my tree.  But those questions and insights were based on my misunderstanding, so I chopped them out.  😉  Thank you Deborah for some helpful pointers!  (See her comment below).

I have so much to learn about genetic genealogy.  I need to test my siblings and cousins so I can isolate the various pieces of my DNA and do some fancy-science-y-ultra-nerdy-but-oh-so-cool-DNA-genealogy like this.

While I am still learning, and not completely sure of what my next steps are, the thing I keep coming back to is… How can I be 10% European Jewish when I had no idea I had ANY European Jewish ancestry?  10%.  That’s a lot of percent.  Especially when I didn’t see it coming.

This DNA stuff is oh-so-fascinating.  Have you tested?  Did you find any surprises?

Happy Wednesday, I hope you make a fantastic genealogy discovery today – DNA or otherwise!


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My Ethnicity Fractions – Based on My Tree

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Years ago my younger brother Derek asked me, “What are we?

He was curious about our ethnic makeup as so many people are.  All those years ago I did a quick calculation based on the research I had done and drew up this little map for him.  Over time I have learned more about my heritage and can now update that set of data to reflect my most current understanding of our tree.

ethnicity percentages

Based on this new chart, our ethnicity percentages – from our tree – are:

  • 34.4% – English
  • 12.5% – Mixed British Isles
  • 12.5 % – French Canadian
  • 12.5% – Scottish
  • 9.4% – Danish
  • 6.3% – Italian Jewish (I don’t think this is really a thing, but I’m not sure yet what to call this portion of my tree…see here.)
  • 6.3% – Spanish
  • 3.1% – French
  • 3.1% – Welsh

I know that totals 100.1% – I rounded.

Based on how Ancestry DNA lumps things together, these percentages should look like this on my Ancestry DNA ethnicity estimates:

  • 62.5% – Great Britain (English, Mixed British Isles, Scottish, Welsh)
  • 15.6% – Europe West (French Canadian, French)
  • 9.4% – Scandinavian
  • 6.3% – Some mixture of European Jewish & Italy, Greece
  • 6.3% – Iberian Peninsula (Spanish)

But here’s the thing about DNA.  We don’t inherit exactly half of what our parents inherited.  We inherit a unique combination of half of what they inherited.  So while the percentages based on my tree look one way, the actual DNA I inherited is an entirely different matter.  I have four siblings.  Each of us inherited different combinations of our parent’s DNA – half from each parent, but a unique and random half.

My DNA results are in.  I will share them tomorrow.  They are fascinating.  The portion I am most curious about happens to be the potion that is brand new to me – the Jewish ancestry of John Costello.  What combination of DNA did he pass on to me?  12.5% of me comes from him.  Based on what I know, he could have given me DNA from these three regions – Iberian Peninsula, European Jewish, and Italy, Greece.  Because the Jewish portion is a brand new – weeks old – discovery, I wonder if I inherited any of it?  If so, how much?

Care to take a guess?

Tune in for my DNA reveal tomorrow.

 


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John Costello’s DNA – Well, half of it.

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John Costello, my great-grandfather

 

Just last week I shared my amazing, once-in-a-lifetime find of 7 seconds of video footage of my great-grandfather John Costello.  I continue to delight in it and probably will for the rest of my life.

Seeing John has been so enlightening.  Especially when it is coupled with some recent DNA results.  The last few weeks have felt like “the big reveal” in a few key ways.

Here is what I have always known – John was born in Barcelona to a Spanish mother and an Italian father.  Pretty simple and straightforward.  John was Catholic and attended Mass regularly – usually twice each week his whole adult life.  His wife Mary, who was a Protestant, was baptized Catholic after his death so that she could be buried next to him in a Catholic cemetery.

John had two sons who each had two sons.  From those four grandsons, there are four great-grandsons.  That gave me a potential of ten Y-DNA candidates to test.  I chose my Uncle because that was easiest.  My Uncle took a Y-DNA test for me shortly after RootsTech.

The results surprised me.

A lot.

I was expecting my Uncle to match to a bunch of Italian men with Italian surnames, hopefully several men with the same surname, and hopefully at least one who had a tree and was willing to work with me.  I was hoping this test would help me chip away at the John Costello brick wall.

Well…

That is not what happened.

My Uncle matched to 149 men at the 37 markers level.  149 men who ALL have different surnames from each other and from my Uncle.  All different surnames.

Here is a small sampling of some of the surnames on the list:

  • Persson
  • Benowitz
  • Mudd
  • Plotkin
  • Kalmuk
  • Chiprin
  • Meriems
  • Rosenthal
  • Gladtke
  • Mechlowe

There are 139 others.

When I look at his Ancestral Origins list I am seeing this huge list of Eastern and Western European countries like – Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Latvia, Turkey, Hungary, Germany, and Austria.  Notably missing is Italy.  As I am scrolling through this list I keep seeing the same note over and over again – Ashkenazi, Ashkenazi, Ashkenazi.  About 90% of my Uncle’s matches are noted as Ashkenazi.  The rest are not noted with anything.

John Costello’s Italian father was Jewish.

John Costello, who was a devout Catholic, was the son of a man who was, at least on his direct male line, Jewish.  He descended from a male line of Jewish men.

John’s three children who survived infancy never knew that their father was Jewish.  They knew him as a Catholic Spaniard.  So here I am, almost exactly 51 years after his death, discovering a part of himself that he never chose to share.

For many years no one spoke of the fact that he had any Italian blood.  In fact, no one but his children and myself knew that he was half Italian.  His children learned that fact from him, I from research.  It wasn’t until the last few years when I started asking more questions that they were forthcoming with that fact.  Or I suppose it is possible that just my little branch of the family was unaware of his Italian heritage because of separation caused by divorce – and believed this was a new revelation.  Either way, John’s Italian ancestry was a quiet fact.

I wondered if part of the reason behind this was related to his Alien status – a status he held until his death – and the feelings towards Italians during WWII, the internment of Italians during WWII.  Surely, that was an uncomfortable time for him.  Now I wonder if there was more to it.

Now I am wondering how John felt during the war years – Italian and Jewish?

Now I am wondering what happened to his family members on his father’s side during the war years.  I bet he wondered too.  As far as anyone knows, he had no contact with his family after he left.  None of them were literate, or so the story goes.

But all of that leads me to another important question – did he even know any of his father’s family?  His Italian, Jewish father married his Catholic, Spanish mother and they lived in Spain.  Did John ever meet any of his father’s family members?

There are so many more questions now than there were before.

But suddenly I find myself understanding the lack of information just a little bit better.  Or why John may have chosen not to share information.  Jewish persecution is very real and it’s been going on for what feels like forever.  I suppose if you leave your homeland and everyone around you accepts that you are a Spaniard, that is a safe thing to be.

But that means that so much was lost.  So much knowledge and understanding of our family and our family’s roots.  Traditions and faith were left behind.

In fairness, it may well have been John’s father, or grandfather, or great-grandfather who did the leaving and chose not to share information.  I will never know.

Genetically speaking, 12.5% of me is John.  If his father was 100% Jewish, that would make me 6.25% Jewish – assuming the DNA that was passed down reflected the fractions of the tree, which of course is not how that actually plays out.  But for argument’s sake, let’s say that I am 6.25% Jewish.  That is 1/16.  When you look at a family tree – that is a large portion of me.  A portion that I had no inkling was Jewish.

That is a lot of myself that I did not understand.  That I did not know about.

I have so much to learn about this part of my tree.

So much.

Grandpa Costello – you have left me a puzzle that I will keep working on until I solve it.  Even if it takes my entire life.  Even if all I do is stare at the small pieces you left behind until they are emblazoned upon my brain.  Even if those pieces never fit into a bigger picture because so much of the puzzle has been lost to time.  Whatever your or your father’s reasons were for keeping this a secret, I have learned the truth of your ethnic origins.  I honor it, I treasure it, and I will not keep it a secret from our mutual posterity.

And now to commence the learning.

 

 

ps – Are you now ever-so-curious about my ethnicity estimates?  I certainly was after getting my Uncle’s results back.  Well, I have them.  I just got them last week.  I will share them soon.  Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Note:  Y-DNA is passed directly from father to son.  It mutates very infrequently and very slightly over time.  If you have a brick wall or tricky spot in your tree and you have a direct line male who is willing to test, the Y-DNA test is generally considered a pretty lucky and straightforward gift – unless you are Jewish or from one of a few other ethnic groups with their own unique challenges.  That doesn’t mean the test won’t help you, it just won’t be simple and straightforward like it is for many other groups of people.  If you have questions about the four different types of DNA tests and when you might use them, this is a great read.  If you don’t yet understand that those Ancestry commercials that encourage tossing the lederhosen for a kilt are not accurately representing the limits of ethnicity estimates, read this.

 


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My 7-second, $450 Miracle

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John Costello, front and center, looking away and pointing.

John Costello is my great grandfather.

 

My Mom knew him.

He died when she was about 11.

But more importantly, his three children that survived infancy were all still alive until November of 2015 when Uncle Dan died.

I have been grilling them for years.  (Nicely)

But…

John Costello is my brick wall.

 

My most recent, most tantalizing, most consuming, most stubborn, solid brick wall.

My collection of tid-bits about him is so small.  And so precious.  Every little bit I add to my John Costello treasury is cause for celebration.  I have exactly 5 pictures of him.  That one up there, plus another shot from this same sitting.  And these:

 

Young and Costello males

L-R: Andrew Young, George Vickers Young, ?, James Young, Alexander “Sandy” Young, John Costello, the two little boys are Vince and Dan.

Young and Costellos

L-R: John Costello, Mary Brown Young, Andrew Young, Catherine Brown, James Young, Alexander “Sandy” Young, George Vickers Young, front: Virginia, Dan, and Vince Costello.

Mary and John Costello

from the back of the photo: Mary and John Costello, Mistrey Castle Phoenix, Arizona, Jan 1965

 

Over Christmas my Mom was in a “I-want-to-get-stuff-outta-my-house” mood.  Among other things, she sent me home with this super-cool-clear-vinyl-60s-mod-flowers-decorated bag filled with old film reels.  She said, “I think it’s mostly dive videos of my Mom, but there may be some other stuff from when I was a kid.”  Intriguing.

(My Grandma was a rescue diver, hence the “dive stuff” comment.)

 

What hidden gems might there be in this magical bag from the 60s?

 

At RootsTech I entered the Larsen Digital drawing and picked up one of their coupons.  After RootsTech I got an email from Larsen Digital to let me know I had won $50 toward their services.  A few weeks later, two days before my RootsTech coupon was set to expire, I was headed in the direction of the closest Larsen Digital drop-off location.  I hadn’t yet figured anything out about the film reels – which had dive stuff and which had childhood stuff – so I just took a deep breath and dropped it all off so that I could take advantage of my coupon and my $50.

The next day I got a call to confirm my order – my nearly $600 order.

Gulp.

 

The one consolation was that they hadn’t yet applied my coupon or my $50 prize.

So, $450 and one month later, I picked up my film reels.

But I was packing to go spend some time with my Dad, so I just threw the thumb-drive in my backpack without watching anything and off I went to good old Kennewick, Washington.

I forgot all about that thumb-drive until my Mom arrived back home from a little trip she had taken.  We had one day together before I headed back home.  During that one day we were both taking care of a few things – she was unpacking, I was packing, laundry, etc.

Sometime in the early afternoon, I passed my backpack and remembered the thumb-drive.  I pulled it out and said, “Mom, let’s see what was on those old film reels.”  We sat at the kitchen table and started watching together.

About 13 minutes, and two video files in, we came across something that absolutely took my breath away.

There was John Costello.

 

Alive, in color, and showing me a 7-second glimpse into his personality.

As soon as his face appeared on screen, both my Mom and I said, “Oh.  {in gentle wonder}  There’s Grandpa Costello.”  After his precious 7-seconds, his wife Mary appears and then my sweet, infant Mom is passed to her Grandma Mary by someone off camera.

That 22-second family moment, immortalized on an old film reel, felt like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, a priceless gift, a miracle.

A good friend taught me how to cut that little clip out of the longer video.

I think I have watched this 22-second video 100 times since last Thursday.  Especially the first 7 seconds.

How is it that those 7 precious seconds have told me more about John Costello the man, than the last 19 years of searching, pouring over records, and asking questions of his children and grandchildren?

I can’t explain it.

But those 7 incredible seconds were worth every single penny of the $450 I spent.

Every.  Single.  Penny.

 

And so my dear readers, I present to you, John & Mary Costello, in all of their color-filled glory.

 

 

My cup runneth over.

 

 

ps – There were 14 film reels in all.  The movies are positively filled with other treasures.  What a joy to have, and what a joy to share with my family.