Genealogy

Genealogy Sucks

So yesterday I tweeted this;

tweet

And believe me, that is a true statement. I have been chasing my Campbell line (and other family lines – but mostly Campbell) since the late 90’s. I have had and canceled, renewed and canceled again my Ancestry account ad nauseum.  I’ve had accounts at least three email addresses ago.

In the beginning, finding family members from long ago wasn’t all that hard. My paternal grandmother (Nanny – I’ve written about her before), told me many stories of my dad’s early time and his father. His father, my paternal grandfather died in the Spanish flu epidemic of 1919. Although my siblings tell me that they believe Nanny had some men friends, she never remarried leaving my father as an only child. Because of this, finding cousins and other distant relatives isn’t easy.

I remember one day at my mom’s house in South Carolina (she moved back near where she grew up after dad died) and Wifey® and I going through boxes of old stuff in her garage. Everybody said we wouldn’t find anything but what did they know!  We found sister-the-eldest’s baby book with birth records. So sweating our asses off and drinking cheap ass beer (this was before the wonderful Craft Beer revolution), paid off greatly. I found my paternal great-grandfather’s name along with his wife!  So let’s renew that Ancestry account and go searching the census records.

While it still took about ten more years to add another generation, I kept going. I finally found my great-great-grandfather and his family along with all my great-grandfather’s siblings.

In those ten years or so, I managed to fill out a lot of the missing data on my family. Birth, marriage, and death dates were located and added to my family tree.

But I still have two stumbling blocks. One, my father had a marriage prior to marrying my mother. He has always told us that “Trudie” had died within the first year of their being married. I have pictures of her (quite the beauty too). But that is all he would tell us. No dates, places, or even her real name. So that is a minor hurdle.

don & trudie campbell

Donald & Trudie Campbell

And mom was no slouch in the look department either..

with love neva

The second hurdle is finding the next generation. What I have so far;

  • My father – Donald Sherwood Campbell 1912 – 1985
  • My grandfather – Herbert J. Campbell 1884 – 1919 (No idea what the “J” is for but guessing James as that name is all over the place)
  • His father – Samuel W. Campbell  1861 – 1924 (This was the one I found in the baby book)
  • His father – James Harris Campbell 1825 – 1902

There the train falls off the tracks.  I do have a lead on his father, a possible James Richard Campbell.  The problem in the 1880 US census James Harris lists his father’s birthplace as Pennsylvania (my paternal line is very heavy in Centre County, PA), but in the same census, James Richard lists his birthplace as Maryland. No this is not a show stopper. From what I’ve read, back then the census was done by hand. After all, they didn’t have all the technology we have today to screw everything up. Instead, they screwed it up by hand, you know, the old-fashioned way!

It would not be unheard of for the census taker to ask questions about neighbors instead of the individual in question. If the person that the census taker need information from was not at home, or maybe the next home was far away (this was rather rural country then), or just plain lazy, they would ask neighbors. And many times the neighbors guessed at the answers, or the worker just made it up. Let’s face, it still happens today.

Enter the DNA tests. I have done DNA at both Ancestry and Family Tree DNA. They both are quite similar in results. The problem lies in that I cannot find any close matches from the Campbell side. Nanny’s side, Bodle, is all over the place. I have more cousins on that line that I could list! But, Campbell’s? Not so much.

Then about five minutes after tweeting the tweet above, I found a new line! It had all the correct sibling names and dates, but a different set of parents for James Harris. Naturally, this peaked my interest.  A whole different set of parents could very well fix my birthplace problem. So I jumped right in with both feet.

One of the main goals I have right now is to find the “immigrant ancestor”. The first person to come over the Atlantic from somewhere in Europe, most likely either Ireland or Scotland.  This family tree had exactly that and so much more!

As I went generation by generation back I became more and more suspicious. The names that were appearing were the BIG names in Campbell history. This tree placed me directly in the same tree as the Duke of Argyll (the current Chief of Clan Campbell, The 28th Mac Cailein Mòr, the thirty-fifth Chief of Clan Campbell, His Grace, the 13th Duke of Argyll (S), and the 6th Duke of Argyll (UK) Torquhil Ian Campbell. See here for more information on His Grace.

This “tree” listed the 1st Mac Cailein Mòr, Sir Colin Campbell or “Colin The Great” (wiki here). But (and there’s always a “but” and this one is big) it didn’t stop there. Many generations after Mac Cailein Mòr was (wait for it…) the one, the only, King Arthur. Yes, that King Arthur. With a birth date and place none the less! I just about punched my laptop screen when I read that. I mean come on. There is no proof of a real Arthur, King or not. There is no consensus of a date, place or even a name for this legend. A great resource for King Arthur can be found at The Great Courses, King Arthur: History And Legend. This 24 lecture series is presented by Professor Dorsey Armstrong, Ph.D.  I highly recommend it.

And, of course, the “tree” continued another five generations or so. I was so pissed, so frustrated. Who would post a tree to a reputable genealogy site, with “myth and legends”.

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Two hours wasted…

So now I’m stuck back in 1825 Pennsylvania. No Campbell DNA matches, no hints other than one with questionable parentage.

If you have any hints on other research areas for Pennsylvania genealogy, and onwards to Scotland, please, PLEASE let me know. I did contact a professional genealogist but was basically told: “go find someone else”.

And yes, I renewed my Ancestry membership (but only for a month). With any luck, this link will take to Ancestry to view my current tree.

Peace,
B

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DNA Testing – What Can You Learn?

So just what does a DNA test tell you about your heritage?  You may have seen the Ancestry DNA commercial that’s been all over (at least my) TV lately. I tried to find it on YouTube, but couldn’t. It shows a young woman who has discovered a long-lost relative using their DNA testing service. It even goes so far as to imply that she not only found this ancestors name but that he had blue eyes as she does.  All from a DNA test? Not likely. What it doesn’t tell you is that you need a lot of hard genealogy work to find these kinds of things out.

I have had my DNA tested by both Ancestry and Family Tree DNA. Surprisingly, the results were very similar. Both give my heritage as very “Scottish”.  As a member of the Campbell group on Family Tree DNA, I have found that my DNA just might POSSIBLY point to a Pictish lineage.  For those that don’t know who the Picts were, they are considered one the earliest inhabitants of Scotland. They are basically made up of the Celts that came across from what we would call Germany today, Vikings that come from the northern Scandinavian countries, and the people who came across from what we call Ireland and then north up to Scotland. This shows just how impossible it is to be of “pure stock”.

Bruce's ethnicity

As you can see, my results from Ancestry DNA show a varied makeup.

The image above somewhat supports the findings from Family Tree DNA. My main groups do point to the historical makeup of the ancient Picts. But, since the Picts did not leave any written records of us to study, we can’t be completely sure.

But what does it prove? In all honesty, it doesn’t “prove” a damn thing. Without some genealogy work, it will never tell you much.  I have done a bit of work at Ancestry chasing down my family tree. I have managed to solidly confirm the Campbell line back to the 1860’s or so. I just may have a lead going back to the 1780’s or so, but have not been able to confirm it. Ancestry does have very fine resources such as US and UK census records. How much access you get depends on how much you’re willing to pay.

Unfortunately, all the matches I’ve found through DNA testing have not been on the Campbell side. I did have one gentleman who matched my DNA (up to 37 markers) exactly. But he will not answer my emails to see how we are related.

I would like to call your attention to this page; “Two Lies And The Truth About DNA Testing”. The big take-away for me from this blog post was;

I want to stress that DNA Testing is of little value to anyone except yourself if you don’t do the genealogy research to back it up and share it.  A common complaint among testers is that the test result is wrong.  That’s probably a misunderstanding. Genetic testing is pretty reliable.  What isn’t so well-known is that people traveled, sometimes quite a lot, even back to ancient times. Our genes have been mixing through migrations, marriages, immigrations, wars, and conquests for as long as we have been here.  If you believe it to be wrong, prove it. But don’t forget to study up on world history first.

Source: http://blog.ancestorcloud.com/2017/05/19/two-lies-and-the-truth-about-dna-testing/ 

And from this blog;

Alva Noë explains at NPR:

Shakespeare’s kid probably had 50 percent of his DNA; his kid in turn, on average, a quarter, and so on. Within 10 generations, Shakespeare’s DNA has spread out and recombined so many times that it doesn’t even really make sense to speak of a match. Putting the same point the other way, each of us has so many ancestors that we have no choice but to share them with each other… The truth is, you have your history and your genes have theirs.

So basically, trying to say some famous person is related to you without doing the genealogy work, and only relying on a simple DNA test, is impossible.

I’m not telling you NOT to do DNA testing. I just want you to know that the test alone will not answer most of your questions. Wifey’s® results from Ancestry gave her what she wanted. She wasn’t looking for a long-lost relative. She only wanted to see the “mix” of her heritage. But no, I will not post her results. That would be TMI. Hell, I don’t even use her name on this blog, why would I give you her DNA makeup???

One more consideration. What happens to your DNA test results? Family Tree DNA does not share your results without your consent. Can’t say the same for most of the others.

In the end, ask yourself why you want to do the test. Is it for health reasons? Trying to fill out, or start, your family tree? Just curious (as was Wifey®)? For whatever reason, read the fine print before you do the test.

And remember, your results may very well vary between companies. Take your results with a grain (or maybe a shaker) of salt.

Peace,
B

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