Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Irish DNA Soup!!!

On to my Irish side of the family.........oh, what a tangled web!

Most people throw their hands up when faced with Irish ancestors, and say "all the records were burned", and give up!   This is so not true!!!  Yes, researching your Irish ancestors can be challenging, but it is possible, there are plenty of records, and you just need to hone your skills even further and dig in.

The advent of DNA testing, has been a huge help in my research and it has helped tie up some of my loose ends and prove some of my suppositions, that I couldn't prove through traditional records.

Irish research also requires the use of "oral history", since the records don't go back much further than 1800 or so.  I am lucky in that my Grandparents emigrated in the early 1900's, and several of their siblings stayed behind in Ireland, leaving many cousins still living in the area.

My roots are in Connemara, the rugged area west of the City of Galway.  Irish is the native tongue, and many people still speak it today.  Local nicknames are important, as it is often a mini-family tree in a name!  To identify people with common names (Mary Walsh, for example), people are often referred to by their first name, their father's first name, and even his father's name.  So someone might be called Mary Bill, or Mike Tony, or Martin Seamus Padraig.   This helps distinguish families in conversation and oral history, but not in the written records.  So the written records say Mary Walsh, father Patrick --- which isn't helpful, when trying to sort out your family tree!   Occasionally you may see a name written in parentheses on a record (i.e. Griffith's Valuation) to distinguish the Father of 2 landholders with the same name.  Another record source that I've used, is the cemetery inscription book --- in these, the nicknames are listed, as well as a bit of the the family line.

I've DNA tested with both Ancestry.com and FamilyTree DNA.  Since I'm a female, I've only been able to do autosomnal testing, but I had a 2nd cousin test our male line (surname CONNOLLY/CONNEELY).  Since so many Irish emigrated, there are plenty of researchers here in the USA who've tested, to try and find their Irish roots.   Thus, leading to LOTS of matches. Sorting them all through is a challenge, which is compounded by the fact that there was a lot of inter-marriage between cousins (both close and distant), and the isolated nature of Connemara, means the gene pool was small and families tended to marry amongst their local area. 

Update: Not sure what the point of this blog post was originally, other than my utter confusion!!  I am still busy working, so only able to dip in and out of my genealogy research, and I feel like DNA requires my full concentration!!  Maybe by the time I retire, I will have lots of close matches and it will all be sorted out for me! Ha!

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