Sunday 29 November 2020

Ancient Irish DNA (or lack of)

'Do you share DNA with any of the four ancient Irish samples on GEDmatch?' asked Margaret O'Brien of Data Mining DNA recently.1
Unlikely, I thought, given they lived four or five thousand years ago and I don't even share DNA with some known third cousins. But wouldn't it be fun to investigate!

GEDmatch is a 'free' third-party DNA site, where people who have tested with various testing companies can upload their results and compare them to each other. The results for the four ancient Irish people have also been uploaded, so it's easy to run the comparisons.

Ballynahatty Woman
DNA analysis on the bones of a Neolithic woman discovered in Ballynahatty, near Belfast, Co. Down, reveals that genetically she most resembles modern people from Spain and Sardinia - not Ireland. It is estimated this woman lived here over 5,000 years ago. Her ancestors originated in the Near East. I didn't expect to have any real matching segments with Ballynahatty Woman, so the normal minimum threshold level of 7cM was reduced to a just 3cM, so there might be something to see. And, here are the results:-

I have four matching segments greater than 3cM with Ballynahatty Woman, the largest being only 4.7 cM. Segments this small are notoriously unreliable, meaning they are most likely identical by chance. And it's a total coincidence I share any DNA with Ballynahatty Woman.

As you can see, neither my mother nor father share these matching segments with her, and I inherited ALL my DNA from them. Granted, like me, my mother shares a 3.1cM segment on chromosome 2, but her match is towards the end of the chromosome, and mine is near the beginning.

Obviously I received a bit of this, and a bit of that, which in total just happened to create these small matches. After all, we both have human DNA. But it's pure chance!

The Rathlin Island Men

DNA analysis on the bones of three Early Bronze Age men, discovered in a cist burial on Rathlin Island, off the Co. Antrim coast, reveals they shared the genetic ancestors of modern-day Irish people. Their ancestors hailed from the Pontic Steppe on the northern shores of the Black Sea. It is estimated these guys lived about 4,000 years ago.

There is perhaps a greater chance of finding legitimate matching segments with the Rathlin Island crew. Such segments would be small, and match solely IF they are prevalent among the Irish population today. So...

Perhaps I do share an ancient connection with Rathlin Man 1. I have no matching segments exceeding 3cM with Rathlin Man 2 (F999802) or Rathlin Man 3 (F999801), maybe because their genomes were not sequenced to high coverage. But, I have seven matching segments exceeding 3cM with Rathlin Man 1, and the largest segment is a whole 6cM. Tiny!

But look, my 4cM matching segment on Chromosome 4 was probably passed down to me by my mother. It would take a whole lot more work to investigate this any further, so I'm just going to take it as gospel, and say I'm related to Rathlin Man 1, haha!!! 😉  None of the other segments were inherited from either of my parents, rendering them truly false matches - pure coincidences - identical by chance, once again.

What do we really learn from these tiny matching segments? We learn not to rely on such tiny segments as genealogical proof, that's what!

But, isn't it mind-blowing to think we can compare our DNA with the DNA of those who walked the shores of Ireland two and three thousand years before Christ was born.

1. Margaret O'Brien, 'Do You Share Ancient Irish DNA? Find out with GEDmatch', 2020, Data Mining DNA.
2. Lara Cassidy, et al, 'Neolithic and Bronze Age migration to Ireland and establishment of the insular Atlantic genome', 2015, PNAS.

Sunday 22 November 2020

A little research victory, with the help of an angel

This week, I received a copy of my great-great-great-grandmother’s death certificate. Jane Byrne died in Brooklyn, New York on 28 December 1901. A few years ago, I found a transcription of this death certificate. It revealed the names of Jane’s parents, William and Hannah Daly. Not wishing to rely on a transcription for this key information, I ‘needed’ to see a copy of the original certificate!

Jane (Daly) Byrne’s connection to my grandmother

Except it proved way too difficult to obtain from the New York authorities. And, having confirmed the name of Jane's parents with records back in Dublin, I reluctantly gave up on ever seeing the actual death certificate. Now, the document is said to be freely available at a Family History Centre (FHC) run by the Mormon Church. Only there is no FHC near me, at least not one that is seemingly ever manned.

Cue the ‘Parking-Lot Angels’ (they’d be called ‘Car-Park Angels’ in Ireland).

Blogging pal, Marian from ‘Climbing my Family Tree', introduced them, recounting how they helped her obtain a relative’s death certificate. Marian gave me the name of the Facebook group, New York City Genealogy, where the angel volunteers hang out, and explained they go to the 'parking lot' of their local FHC where they download records over wifi. Remember, the FHCs are all currently closed, due to Covid.

I joined the Facebook group and provided the information requested, and the very next day I received a copy of Jane Byrne’s death certificate. Simples!

The death certificate confirmed the details given in the transcription. In addition, the cause of death showed Jane got Pleurisy, which led to Pneumonia, which caused heart failure nine months later.

I am so grateful to these volunteer angels for their help!

Now, I wonder if records can be accessed from the car-park at the FHC opposite Glasnevin Cemetery, in Dublin, even if no one ever works there. Anyone?

Sunday 8 November 2020

Patrick Hynes: my great-great-granduncle, or not?

Pat Hynes, named as the son of John Hynes and Margaret Hayes, died in Victoria, Australia, in 1885. My third-great-grandparents were John Hynes and Margaret Hayes. The question is, was Patrick their son?

BDM Victoria, Australia, Death 4067/1885, Pat Hynes

John Hynes and Margaret Hayes married in Limerick city, Ireland, in February 1826, and had a daughter Bridget (my ancestor) baptised there in July 1830, followed by a son John in June 1833, and a son Edmond in August 1835. In addition, although their baptism records have not been found, they had a daughter Catherine, born about 1837, and a more recently discovered daughter Mary Ann, born about 1829.

Given Patrick was said to have been 51 years old when he died, so born about 1834, he'd fit right in. Unfortunately, his 'obituary' in a local Australian newspaper did not contain any information regarding his origins. It merely provided the date and cause of his death, and the time of his funeral.
HYNES-On 1st June [1885], Patrick Hynes, near Linton, of hydatids [tapeworms, according to Google]. Funeral Wednesday, 2 o'clock. 
In life, acording to a case taken at the Ballarat Circuit Court, Patrick Hynes came across as an unpleasant character, certainly not someone who'd make an attractive addition to the family tree. It seems, he stabbed a young bullock in the chest with a hay knife, so savagely it had to be put down. He acted either out of malice borne against his brother-in-law, one Patrick Maloney, or in annoyance at finding the steer in his farmyard. Who does that to a defenseless animal?

Argus, 18 April 1866, p. 5

The fore-mentioned brother-in-law, Patrick Maloney, or Moloney as he was more commonly called, married Hanora Kearn[s] in 1863. Hanora was presumably a sister of Mary Kearns, Patrick's wife. They lived near each other at Lucky Womans, in Happy Valley (though it seems it was anything but 'happy'!), a small post town in county Grenville, about 100 miles north-east of Melbourne.

Showing Patrick Hynes + Pat Moloney, near neighbours, in Argyle parish,
Co. Grenville (1889, Dept. of Mines, Melbourne)

Patrick Hynes and Mary Kearns, members of the Catholic church, married in the Presbytery at Ballarat, Victoria, on 21 January 1857. Both gave their birthplace as Co. Clare, Ireland, and not Limerick city. Patrick was a bachelor, 25 years old (so born about 1831), and worked as a miner. His father John was said to have been a farmer.

Co. Clare - now that's not the showstopper. Clare and Limerick are adjacent counties. There are already noted DNA connections between my Hynes ancestors and a Hynes family from Broadford, Co. Clare, going back as far as the 1820s.

BUT, by all accounts my third-great-grandfather was a carpenter, while Patrick's father was a farmer. A carpenter might easily pick up sticks and move county, but an Irish farmer has a particular affinity to his land. He wouldn't move county willy-nilly, now in Co. Clare, now in Limerick city. You'd completely understand if you've ever watched the movie, The Field?

My third cousin Phyllis, a whiz-kid on, built a 'dummy' tree for Patrick Hynes and his family. He appears in over 30 other online family trees on Ancestry, where there is an unproven suggestion he was from Caher, Co. Clare, 15 miles north of Broadford and 40 miles north of Limerick city.

Most notably though, not one known descendant of my third-great-grandparents, including three people in my generation and three people in my mother's generation, share DNA with the owner of any of these 30+ family trees - certainly an unlikely outcome for proposed 4th cousins, give or take.

There was no mention of a second 'John Hynes & Margaret Hayes' couple in the Catholic Parish Registers held at the National Library, and indexed by Findmypast. However, there could have been two couples sporting these same names, both of child-bearing age and both living in Munster at the same time. Agreed, this is not the most radical idea out there, but it's something to be borne in mind, nonetheless.

1. Death index, Pat Hynes, 4067/1885, Victoria BDM
2.Marriage register and baptism registers, St Mary's Cathedral, Limerick city, accessed Findmypast.
3. Ballarat Star, 9 Jun 1885, p. 2; Argus, 18 Apr 1866, p. 5; accessed Trove.
4. Marriage index, Moloney-Kearn, 392/1863, Vixctoria BDM.
5. 'Parish of Argyle, County of Grenville', Geologically surveyed by F.M. Krause, Melbourne Dept. of Mines, 29 July, 1889, accessedTrove.
6. Copy marriage register, Hynes-Kernes, 494/1857, Victoria BDM.