Wednesday, December 30, 2015

5 Years and 10 Genotypes Later!

As the year 2015 comes to a close, I've decided to do some reflecting on the genetic side of my research! It's kind of crazy to think that it has already been 5 years since I first got my DNA tested with 23andme and currently I am up to 10 genotyped family members!

23andme home page [23andme]

Getting my DNA tested back in 2010 was an amazing and wonderful decision. I remember getting my DNA tested because I wanted to learn more about my family (duh--- right?) but I had VERY little information on my family at that time. I had heard about 23andme on TV and was interested in this test for a project I was interested in going into at the time. Since I had to start my family tree from scratch, I only knew the name of 6 of my 8 great-grandparents, and that was about it! At this point I was 20 years old and still naïve with certain things about genealogy since I had only known about the census records. Testing with 23andme opened many doors, I was introduced to various cousins and especially one (dunno if she reads my blog) who took the time to speak to me about the Puerto Rican Civil Registry, and other records, and how I could further my lines with their use. Since then I have searched other records online, in microfilm, and even in Puerto Rico allowing me to reach the 1600s in some lines and I have also discovered that I have ancestors from Martinique and Guadeloupe! Of course I was able to learn about myself genetically, but finding out about this community was really a refreshing breath of air; I had only known myself and co-worker who were interested in genealogy since no one in my family could be bothered, really.

After I tested myself, I decided I wanted to get other members of my family tested for various reasons (Y-DNA, mtDNA, disease inheritance, etc.) and so I decided to test various members of my family during sales, 9 besides myself including: my mother, father, maternal uncle, maternal grandmother, maternal grandfather, maternal great-grandfather, maternal cousin, paternal great-aunt, paternal great-aunt. Sadly my great-grandfather and a paternal great-aunt have passed since they have tested and I am eternally grateful for their contribution to our genealogy.

Testing these members of my family allowed me to see how I have inherited certain DNA from both sides, for example: my mother contributes ~11% of African DNA to me while my dad only gives me ~5% and European-wise I get about ~35% from my paternal side while my maternal side gives me about ~28%, which isn't too different. My native DNA is pretty similar from both sides also as well my Middle Eastern/North African. I have also been able to learn more about the Y-DNA and mtDNA my ancestors carry, so far I've gotten European, African, and Asian haplogroups with African and Asian being only maternal haplogroups. With my grandfather, his J1e could be Jewish/Arab (there is still a debate as to what group it can specifically be attributed to) which is interesting since his last name Correa is popularly known as a Sephardic surname. On the other hand, my great-grandfather has a haplogroup which is commonly found amongst the Irish which was interesting to learn about as well. Also, I have tested another cousin through ftDNA who is a male descendant of my 4th great-grandfather Jean Charles Chaleau and I'm hoping to learn more about his mixed ancestry from Guadeloupe.

Parental Split View [23andme personal photo]

One thing that has been extremely difficult for me though is using my DNA to find and match cousins. Since Puerto Rican genes have been recycled throughout the years with endogamy and it being such a small island, sometimes it is difficult to see which side of my family a cousin comes from. A lot of the time, the genetic cousins match both my sides and those that I can bring down to a certain side - it's still difficult to pinpoint which of our ancestors match. Things like limited researched genealogies and limited documents on the island make it hard to find cousins through the site for many Puerto Ricans, not just myself. To this day I haven't been able to confirm through paper trail and genetics a cousin who I haven't previously known about on 23andme. Maybe I'm doing something wrong especially since I have so many family members tested, but so far no luck! A lot of it also is two-sided, I can't figure out our connection just with your parents' names or by telling me all of your ancestors are from Spain, but luckily there are cousins who we have been able to pinpoint a specific town and/or certain surnames but we're just missing the actual connection between us two.

I'm definitely grateful for what I have learned throughout these 5 years and 10 genotypes of my family. I have seen my family tree through a different light and especially how diverse my family is on the inside. I'm proud to know approximately how much I carry of each of my ancestors' European, African, or Native DNA and how that has contributed to who I am today. Hopefully DNA analysis gets much sharper and helps to pinpoint better certain aspects of DNA, for example finding African tribes/regions my African ancestors belonged to (AncestryDNA has gotten into this a bit). Equally, I hope to test some more cousins and learn some more about other lines in my family and help to prove/disprove certain theories I've been building with paper trail. 

Finally, testing with other companies and comparing my DNA has been interesting as well. I'm hoping that more cousins test and build their trees so that we can connect and see how we connect through our DNA. There are some cousins who I have confirmed through paper trail and would love for them to test! So don't be afraid... test primos!!

How has genetic DNA changed your perspective on genealogy? Feel free to share! 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Languages They Spoke…

This is just a quick post looking at genealogy through another aspect --- linguistic heritage.

When I learn about ancestors, I always try to learn different aspects of their lives, and for me that includes even the languages they speak. Luckily, most of my ancestors spoke Spanish (in some form or another) and is the language I was raised in by my parents. However, there are other ancestors who spoke different languages that came into my family. Those languages so far are Catalan and French (creole as well).


Even though Catalan is very similar to Spanish, it is for sure another language. This language can be found in the eastern parts of Spain near France and on the balearic islands. Now a days, the language is blossoming again with Catalan pride where the language is used in everyday life, school, and government.

Catalan speaking areas of Europe [Wikipedia]

Recently, I found out that Duolingo in Spanish has a course for Catalan, which I had no idea since I usually take the courses for learning a foreign language from English. It has been cool to learn Catalan and see the similarities with Spanish and/or French. I'm not sure how good I'll get with it through Duolingo but I want to have some working knowledge of Catalan. It was most likely the language (or one of the languages) Damián Magraner spoke in Sóller, Mallorca and I would love to be able to converse and/or read in it. Hopefully if and when I return to Mallorca I'll have a good handle of Catalan and use it while I'm there!

Duolingo Catalan course tree 

French (Creole)

With my ancestors coming from the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, I knew that I would like to relearn French and get much better at it. My goal is to one day head to both of the islands and use my French to get around. Chat with some people about life on the islands and who knows --- maybe even find some long lost cousins! But these islands also speak their own version of French, which are both creoles. From what I have seen it's hard to understand any of the creoles without some kind of base with how their grammar works; even though they are rooted in French they vary enough that not anyone could easily understand some of their words (think Jamaican Patois and English).

Similarly on Duolingo you can learn French which has been fun to relearn a lot of what I forgot from high school. Also, on Amazon I was able to find two books about Martinican and Guadeloupean Creole so hopefully I can learn a thing or two about speaking those languages. 

Guides to Créole Martiniquais & Guadeloupéen [Amazon]

Why learn a language?

Even though you might not have any plans on becoming fluent in the language, just learning some of the simple phrases can do a lot for you. It's never a bad idea to try and learn a foreign language especially if you have plans to travel there. Also, seeing as how your ancestor spoke this language it could bring you that much closer to understanding their life and even struggles in a new country. They say when you learn a new language you develop a new personality, so even though your 2nd great grandmother was known as stern and quiet in English, she might have been comedic and quick witted in her native tongue. Also, if you do decide to advance a lot in the language, it can help you read and study records in the original language. By taking French in high school and college, I was fortunate to be able to read records from the French islands and not have to hire a translator, allowing me to delve right into the documents myself and with the help of Google Translator I was able to fill in the gaps of words I didn't know. Having that knowledge provided, for me at least, some comfort knowing that I could at any moment read the documents and analyze them at my own pace. 

Languages play such important roles in our day-to-day lives, so why not take a look at what some of your ancestors spoke when they were around!