The Donegal Distraction

Mess on the Desk

A rainy summer weekend.  My favorite outdoor activity, kayaking is off the agenda.  That means more time for genealogy!  However, I had promised myself I would not do any further research until I scanned the pile of wills, deeds, and NYC vital records collecting dust on my desk.  Once that is complete then I could look into ordering Elizabeth Shown Mill’s latest edition of Evidence Explained, and only then start some new research.   Then it happened, an email kicking off the “Donegal Distraction.”

We were running early errands.  I was a passenger in the “white knuckle express,” a combination of New Jersey traffic and my husband’s unique style of driving.  When it gets to be too much I will glance at my personal emails on my phone.  I have a tendency towards motion sickness when I read in the car, so it’s not something I do frequently.  The message was several emails down, but it stated “Donegal Ancestry” in the title.  Well, what’s a girl to do? It’s not like I was at my desk at the moment with my scanner and document pile, so of course I opened it.  It was an email from a nice gentleman, introducing himself, his research and why he contacted me.  I was a match for 5 DNA kits he managed for his family.  He wanted to know if I knew anything about my Donegal ancestors, ca. 1830.

To my knowledge, all my Irish ancestors were from Dublin.  The furthest back I have been able to get was 1842 on one surname, and 1856 on another.  I was fortunate that some of the churches in Dublin have had their records online for a few years.  I was hoping that as more records open up online I would get a little further back.  I have no evidence of anyone from Donegal, yet, and the locations are on opposite sides of Ireland.  I could have easily ignored the email, but it instead I gave a quick reply that I would look into it, and once I had a chance would look at it more closely.

I am a member of a few genealogy based Facebook groups and it appears one major gripe of genetic genealogy discussions is private family trees, and positive connections.  My family trees are private.  Earlier there was a time my main tree was public, and then my documents ended up on another public tree which was grossly incorrect.  The error was replicated, and my user name was on the document. After fruitless attempts to contact other users, I decided to keep my research private.  I am more than happy to share my findings with others, upon request, but I no longer have my work in the public domain.   Now that I have entered the DNA-based genealogy “playground,” I do feel more than ever it is important to at the very least reply to requests for information.  While I have no record of a Donegal ancestor, I clearly have a genetic connection with a group of people that have that ancestry.  I gladly shared what information I had on my Irish ancestors, and I responded quickly.  Although Ireland is probably not my main focus right now, you never know what might come of the collaboration.

For those of you that are looking at the long list of “matches” with private family trees.  It doesn’t hurt to ask nicely.  Introduce yourself, explain why you are contacting the user, and hope for the best.  If you haven’t joined Gedmatch yet, you might want to give it a try.  I find these users are more willing to respond to emails, and the basic edition is free, although I encourage you to donate or subscribe if you find you will be using it.

I am back to my piles of documents, wistfully wishing for time to explore my DNA matches further.

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence Explained. : 2015.

GEDmatch.  Online databases. GEDmatch Inc. : 2015.



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