What’s DNA got to do with it? Or how I found James Downing!

Question Mark

Photo Credit: hisks from Stock.xchng

Let me tell you a little DNA story. My genea-buddy sister took the opportunity and submitted a DNA sample through Ancestry. Given that we share the same parents I look at her test as nearly being my own.

Once the results came back they weren’t surprising and didn’t differ from what we have already documented in our family tree. We are 99% European.

Then to break that down further:
Great Britain 32%
Europe West 20%
Ireland 19%
Italy/Greece 12% (I was mildly surprised this % was that high)
Scandinavia 9%

Trace Regions – The % was so small it’s possible it showed up by chance
Iberian Peninsula 4%
Europe East 3%
West Asia 1%

As I said there really weren’t any surprises here. I will say it did answer conclusively that we do not have Native American ancestry. Like everyone else we had a couple of those stories passed down through the generations about a great great grandmother who was Native American. So this cleared that up but overall nothing of great note. You know that’s pretty much how I looked at DNA testing. So you get the results. Cool. Now what?

James Downing

Stark County Cemetery
Photo Credit: Rick Platt

Well let me tell you now what. My sister gets a few messages from people on Ancestry regarding possible matches. The matches meant we shared surnames and some DNA with these folks. There was the possibility we could be 5th to 8th cousins. One person my sister communicated with is Rick. He happens to be the author of the blog Ohio Ancestors.

After a few emails back and forth it turns out Rick’s 5x great grandfather and my (our) 5x great grandfather were brothers. In fact Rick had recently written a blog post about a cemetery visit where he found my 5x great grandfather James Downing’s headstone. Holy Moly! You can read Rick’s post about it here.

James Downing Headstone

James Downing Headstone
Photo Credit: Rick Platt

If that isn’t enough Rick did a little research and found more photos of James Downing and his wife Sarah Laughlin in a 1972 application for the First Families of Ohio adding all the pics to Find-A-Grave. Wow!

I’ve done very little research on the Downing surname but this certainly catches my interest and fires me up. This man has a story in fact he fought in the American Revolution. There is some research to be done here and it’s sure worth a summer road trip!

You know the chances of finding Rick, his blog, these Downing photos without the DNA test are pretty slim. Just think this additional info came from a little swab of saliva. Hmmm . . . maybe I’m not giving DNA enough respect . . . .

If you happen to have a James Downing or Sara Laughlin Downing in your family tree I’d love to hear from you. Please let me know in the comments.

Also I’m interested in your story about finding a cousin or any family history through DNA testing. Please tell me how it came about in the comments. I’d love to hear your story!

Although not Civil War related I have a hard hitting genealogy question for you!

Family history, genealogy, family research

Photo Credit: stock.xchng.com

Have you ever been reading a fellow genealogist’s blog or maybe while surfing through Facebook or Twitter when you read where the author has either in their possession or recently received a “to-die-for” family heirloom? Like a Bible or photographs?

I’ll bet you have, haven’t you? It’s happened to me! As I read their account of this wonderful genealogical treasure arriving out of the blue there’s this tiny little voice at the back of my mind that whispers, “Oh man! How come I don’t get my great grandmother’s diary or a family photo album filled with ten generations of photos all identified!”

Now I know we all cheer when a genealogist is contacted by a previously unknown cousin through their blog. Especially when that distant cousin has info about the blogger’s direct ancestors. Lucky dogs! We smile and give them a Hooray! when they receive a package in the mail. One that contains oodles of handwritten family letters loaded with valuable family information or the afore mentioned Bible. We marvel at their luck! We thank the genealogy gods on their behalf and quickly check our inbox for a similar message. I also turn a couple shades of green. I know, I know. Not cool but I wonder, “When is it going to be me?”

Then another small voice (who seems to show up at these times of envy!) reminds me of all the valuable family heirlooms I already have. Like Continue reading

I’ve had a couple misses but this past week it happened!

Pvt G W Lowery Co. A 81st Penn Inf

Pvt G W Lowery Co. A 81st Penn Inf

We research our family history. We blog about it. We continue to research. We keep blogging. Weeks go by then months.

I’ve had a couple misses but this past week it happened! It was a bulls eye! It was right on the mark! I checked my email Wednesday morning and this is what I found:

Guess what…George Washington Lowery was also my Great Great Grandfather…. born in Franklin County PA. Moving to Ohio after the Civil War to the outskirts of Sandusky….
He is the father of my grandfather Calvin Tyler…
I have found records back to his parents in Virginia around 1803 as Susan was the mother of George. George’s wife was named Barbara I do believe.
I would love to discuss and share any information that you have as I am only an hour away from the Adams County Courthouse, loaded with records, located in Franklin County here in PA. Please reply and thanks in advance!

Eureka!! Pay dirt!! A distant cousin who stumbled on my blog! I can’t reply fast enough to this email. After several email conversations back and forth which compare names and descendants I am positive we are distant cousins! We agree to share information. We trade addresses.

Then another email comes: Continue reading