Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Shotgun Weddings

Ever pay attention to the dates a couple married followed by the birth date of their first born child? It's not always possible because we sometimes don't have exact dates for either the wedding or the child's birth, and I think because of that, I don't always pay close attention to them when I do have them. But at one point, I made an effort to go through my tree and identify all known "shotgun weddings" - that is, weddings that took place less than 9 months before the birth of their first child. *Nudge, nudge, wink, wink*

Above: Oh dear, there's no hiding this! Anna gave birth less than 2 months after her wedding, so she was likely about 7 months pregnant when they married and probably very visibly pregnant.

Granted, some of them could just be premature births. But in other cases, the length of time between the wedding and the birth is too short to have just been premature, especially in a time before modern medicine could help preemies survive, such as the example above.

Thanks to's custom tagging option, I now have all potential shotgun weddings labelled as such, and it's kind of amusing how many there were. 15 couples in my ancestry have been identified so far as having a child less than 9 months after their wedding. And again, that's not including the couples who I haven't yet found a marriage record for, and/or don't have an exact date for the first child's birth. There could be even more among those if I could just find the right dates. It's also not including those who simply had children out of wedlock. That's a whole different tag, and there's at least 6 cases of those. 

In this case, my ancestors Agostino and Rosaria had a child out of wedlock, then waited more than three years before getting married, which was then a shotgun wedding! Rosaria was about 3 months pregnant when they married.

It kind of makes you wonder how many of our ancestors actually waited until they were married to have sex, like they were "supposed to", or like the stereotype that is always taught to us about sex and marriage in history. Because there must have been even more ancestors who lost their virginity before getting married, but it didn't result in a pregnancy, so there was no evidence of it. In one case, I have love letters between ancestors which seem to suggest they may have been intimate before marriage, even though they did not have a shotgun wedding.

When you consider all those factors, it really seems plausible that just as many people didn't wait until marriage to have sex as those who did. Maybe even more. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Is it Okay to Feel Ashamed of Our Ancestors?

This is a topic that comes up a lot in genealogy, so I'm going to say my peace about it here. I'm probably going to say some things that will make some people uncomfortable (because when I say them in social media, there are always people who get very angry), so if exploring our feelings about immoral things our ancestors did, like for example, owning slaves, or accusing someone of witchcraft, makes you uncomfortable, I suggest you stop reading now.

Above: A photo of my once-slave owning relatives alongside their black servants who were probably once slaves if they were old enough - this photo is from the 1890s. I also have ancestors who were slave holders but no photos of them alongside former slaves. Is it okay to feel ashamed of this photo and the relatives in it?

I'm not going to beat around the bush, I'm just going to say it: don't let people tell you your feelings are wrong if you feel ashamed of something an ancestor did that was really heinous. 

I know what people will argue. "But it's not your fault! You had nothing to do with it! You're not responsible for your ancestors actions!"

And yeah, that's all true. But feeling ashamed of what someone else did doesn't mean you're responsible for it or had anything to do with it. Those things are not mutually inclusive. Feeling ashamed of an ancestor doesn't mean feeling ashamed of yourself.

Because let's flip things for a moment. Have you never once felt pride in something great, something positive that an ancestor did or accomplished? I'm pretty sure we all have - it's a large part of genealogy. We all feel some kind of ties or connections to our family history and our ancestors, because why else would we do this? Genealogy sort of loses all meaning if we don't feel some kind of connection to our ancestors. And if it's okay to feel pride in our ancestors through these ties we feel to them, why would we not also be allowed to feel ashamed of them when appropriate? Isn't it a little bit hypocritical to feel pride in our ancestors when they do something wonderful, but shrug it off with "nothing to do with me" when they do something terrible? Isn't it just a little too convenient to have the luxury to only claim a connection to the good stuff? And again, to be clear, that connection doesn't make you responsible.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to shame people. I'm not saying anyone should feel ashamed - certainly not of themselves. I just think people who do feel ashamed of an ancestor or relative shouldn't be insulted, mocked, told they are wrong, or given a hard time for it in any way, and yet this something I see a lot whenever the topic comes up. On the contrary, I think people who are able to explore those feelings, and understand they can feel ashamed of an ancestor without being personally responsible for their actions, are very emotionally mature and intelligent. It seems to me that people who can't accept that dual reality are uncomfortable with something their ancestors did and instead of processing that emotion, they just shut it down. The fact that other people are able to process it makes them doubly uncomfortable, and so they lash out. And if what I have to say about that makes some people angry, that kind of just proves my point. 

Just let people feel whatever they feel. It doesn't mean they're consumed with guilt, it doesn't mean they can't still enjoy genealogy. Ultimately, it's not anyone's place to tell anyone else how they should or shouldn't feel. 

So yes, it is okay to feel ashamed of something an ancestor did, just like it's okay to feel proud of something an ancestor did. It can even be the same ancestor you can feel both ashamed and proud of at the same time. Human beings have the emotional complexity for both those feelings to exist at the same time. That doesn't mean you should or have to feel ashamed of an ancestor, but it does mean when you come across someone who does, just respect their feelings because they're not wrong to feel that way.

Monday, December 7, 2020

FamilyTreeDNA Updated Ethnicity Results

FTDNA have jumped on board the update wagon, and a few months ago, released myOrigins 3.0. They've broken down some regions into more specific locations, but not a huge amount and of course, they still find it impossible to accurately tell apart the British Isles, Scandinavia, and Germanic trifecta (though that's not unusual for most companies).

Here's my result history with FTDNA:

myOrigins 1.0:
Scandinavia 34%
Western/Central Europe 26%
Southern Europe 20%
Finland/Northern Siberia 3%
Asia Minor 12%
Eastern Middle East 5%

myOrigins 2.0:
British Isles 54%
Southeast Europe 33%
West and Central Europe 6%
Finland < 2%
East Middle East 3%
West Middle East < 2%

myOrigins 3.0:
England, Wales, & Scotland 48%
Scandinavia 11%
Ireland 5%
Greece & Balkans 28%
Italian Peninsula 8%

With Version 3, they've wrongly put most of my Italian ancestry into Greece, whereas most other companies are able to tell the difference better than this (I usually only get trace amounts in Greece, if anything, except at MyHeritage). Added up, it still equals about 36% Southern European though, which isn't far off the mark (should be about 32%).

And as noted, I have no results for Germanic now (previously West/Central Europe, now simply called Central Europe), when I should have around 20-25%. That means my British results (England, Wales, & Scotland) are somewhat inflated. Scandinavia is consistent with my tree though, since I had one Norwegian great grandparent. And they've finally managed to get rid of the trace amounts in unlikely locations (like Finland and Middle East). Considering it's common for companies to not be able to tell British from Germanic, the results aren't entirely off base.

My mom's kit probably saw the biggest change (she did not test early enough for Version 1):

myOrigins 2.0:
Scandinavia 42%
British Isles 35%
East Europe 18%
Southeast Europe 3%
East Middle East < 2%
West Middle East < 2%

myOrigins 3.0:
England, Wales, & Scotland 91%
Scandinavia 9%

My mom's tree is also about 20-25% Germanic so the lack of any results in that area yet again seems to suggest their results lean towards Britain instead. Likewise, her Scandinavian results went from one extreme to another and most of it went to Britain. She had one Norwegian grandparent, so should be about 25% Scandinavian. The fact that they can't get this anywhere near close suggests my Scandinavian results being fairly accurate might just be a coincidence.

Although they managed to eliminate the trace results in inconsistent locations like Southeast Europe and Middle East, and also removed the high percentage in East Europe where my mom has no ancestry, I'm not sure I'd say the update is a huge improvement for my mom.

My dad's results (again, no Version 1):

myOrigins 2.0:
West and Central Europe 65%
Southeast Europe 8%
Asia Minor 22%
East Middle East < 2%
North Africa < 1%
Scandinavia < 2%
West Middle East < 2%

myOrigins 3.0:
Italian Peninsula 38%
Malta & Sicily 15%
Scandinavia 22%
England, Wales, & Scotland 14%
Central Europe 8%
Ireland <2%
Anatolia, Armenia, & Mesopotamia <2%

They've at least managed to correctly put his Italian ancestry in Italy instead of Greece! My dad is half Italian (Southern Italian), and his results add up to 53%, so that's very close. However, I don't know where that Anatolia, Armenia, & Mesopotamia is coming from - if it's from his Italian ancestry, that adds up to 55%, which is moving away from accurate. Additionally, his British ancestry should be about 20%, so 14% is not far off from that.

Unfortunately, it's downhill from there. My dad has no Scandinavian ancestry, so 22% is really high, but he does have a lot of German ancestry (about 30%), so only 8% in Central Europe is very low. I guess I should just be pleased he got any results in Central Europe at all, given that my mom and I don't!

My paternal grandfather's results:

myOrigins 1.0:
Scandinavian 48%
Southern Europe 32%
British Isles 11%
Jewish Ashkenazi Diasporia 5%
Central Asia 4%

myOrigins 2.0:
West and Central Europe 84%
Scandinavia 8%
Asia Minor 7%
Ashkenazi < 2%

myOrigins 3.0:
England, Wales, & Scotland 62%
Central Europe 26%
Scandinavia 11%
Malta & Sicily <1%
Ashkenazi Jewish <1%

I really don't know why FTDNA insist on giving him Ashkenazi results when no other company does and has no known Jewish ancestry. His results really should be very straight forward - he's roughly 40% British and 60% German. And for the first time ever, FTDNA is giving him significant amounts in both Britain and Central Europe (usually it's one or the other), though if the numbers were swapped, it would be more consistent with his tree.

Finally, my husband's results:

myOrigins 2.0:
British Isles 97%
Ashkenazi < 2%
Northeast Asia < 1%
West Africa < 1%
Iberia < 1%
Oceania < 1%

myOrigins 3.0:
England, Wales, & Scotland 60%
Ireland 35%
Scandinavia 2%
Magyar 2%
Ghana, Togo & Benin <1%

My husband being a British native/citizen with no known ancestry outside the British Isles, if we dismiss the low results in Scandinavia, Magyar, and Ghana/Togo/Benin as noise, his results are probably the most consistent with his tree yet. He's basically half British and half Irish, so 60% British isn't too bad. Version 2 lumped them both together though, which meant 97% British Isles was probably even more accurate. This is a good example of how the broader the regions are, the more reliable they are.