Posted by jutley on March 15, 2019 in AncestryDNA, Holidays, Ireland

Looking for your Irish ancestors can be like trying to put together a puzzle with only half the pieces. Many Irish records have been lost or destroyed, and oftentimes Irish ancestors who came to America left too few clues about where they came from. Fortunately, DNA can now provide much-needed puzzle pieces that can help complete the picture of your Irish ancestor.

When I started my search for an elusive Irish woman who immigrated to Pennsylvania, I was working with only a handful of puzzle pieces. Bridget Doherty braved the trans-Atlantic trip as a young woman in the 1800s, and her 2x great-granddaughter – let’s call her Maggie- was eager to find out where Bridget came from in Ireland. We scoured countless records in Pennsylvania, but they said nothing about Bridget’s origins. To make matters worse, Doherty is a common surname in Ireland, with many different spellings (Dougherty, Docherty, O’Doherty, etc.). With a common name and no good place in Ireland to start looking, it seemed our puzzle would stay half-done.

But then we looked at Maggie’s AncestryDNA results. To our delight, they gave us a whole new set of pieces to work with. AncestryDNA linked Maggie to a region in County Mayo, Ireland. This region was only 12 miles wide! Also, Ancestry told us that Maggie had over forty 4th-6thcousins with roots in this same place; this implied Maggie had a recent ancestor (within five generations) who came from that area. We knew Maggie had other Irish lines in her tree, but they came from County Cork; none that we knew of came from County Mayo. This 12-mile spot was likely where Maggie’s 2x great-grandmother Bridget came from.

Now that I had a place in Ireland to start looking, I went through the baptismal records of the local Catholic church. Sure enough, I found a Bridget Doherty who was born in Lecarrow Townland, right in the center of those 12 miles. This Bridget and her family matched up with what I knew about Bridget’s family in Pennsylvania. I confirmed this was the right Bridget Doherty. Thanks to DNA, Maggie now has a new connection to Ireland and more names to add to her Doherty family tree.

Lack of helpful records can make the search for an Irish ancestor’s origins difficult, even frustrating. The next time you go looking for your Irish ancestor, try including DNA in your search. It can point you in the right direction and give you the right pieces to complete your puzzle.

15 Comments

  1. Willis Kirkpatrick

    I’m new at AncestryDNA but it’s fun and very meaningful in many ways. I was amused when finding I DIED in 1956 when reviewing someone’s family tree. Son of Dr Merle & Mabel Kirkpatrick, Caldwell Canyon County Idaho , Willis Frederick Kirkpatrick 1931 – 1956. I will be 88 on April 29 2019.. I’m sure there’s a way to correct the data but I’m not there yet. Any advice would be great.

    • The content of the family trees on Ancestry is controlled by the owner of the tree. Many of these owners are inexperienced genealogists and it is very common to find major errors in Ancestry trees. You should never trust what you see on an tree without verifying first by either contacting the owner and asking them how they know it’s true, or looking for historical records on Ancestry that support the claims.

      In your situation, I would recommend contacting the owner of the tree that has you as deceased and politely ask them to correct this. If they don’t reply or refuse I would contact Ancestry and insist that they override the owner to protect your privacy. You should realise that since your entry in that tree is marked as deceased it is public information and anyone with an Ancestry subscription can see your birthdate etc as recorded in that tree.

    • Gary Armstrong

      I think you can make corrections through the Family History Library/Mormon Church. Also, make contact w/person who created the tree. Ancestry.com can also
      Explain how to correct errors.

      • Alec van Helsdingen

        The “Mormon” Church has their own Family Tree which is completely separate from those at Ancestry.com

  2. Jonathan

    I got a good deal on My Heritage for a DNA test. Can that info be uploaded to Ancestry, or do I need to take the Ancestry test as well? The Comments about Irish Ancestry, is especially compelling. My 4th great grandpa was Caliph Conner (my 106 year old aunt says family legend states the O was lost in the ocean) fought in the Revolution and had a son born in Susquehanna, PA.

    • Joyce

      Free uploads can be done @ GEDmatch and FTDNA. In FTDNA you can upload autosomal ANC (and other companies) DNA raw data. 23andme also does not take DNA transfers of data as far as I know.

      The key thing with DNA is you want to be where there are trees…now you might need to re-research the trees you find due to “operator error”…but usually if I poke around a bit I can find one good, well documented tree on somebody.

      On GEDmatch and FTDNA there are very few trees, on 23andme there are none. In my opinion, you will get a lot more results through ANC than their competitors because you can get useful info and hints via the trees you find on matches. I look at matches and matches of those matches. Search from someone else’s tree if anyone is visible and even if that tree is poorly documented, you can figure out the answer usually.

      I started on 23andme for a health report, then a cousin got Y-DNA on FTDNA and I did a test there to catch common matches. I’ve utilized all the big sites, and ANC is where I recommend people have a test due to the # of family trees and documents for research.

  3. Dale Reed

    In my opinion. unless you have a database of names via public trees the DNA results are not helpful. The DNA results thru Ancestry are helpful only to the extent tat someone in their tree matches your DNA. It is interesting to find that my daughter and my son may be related to me as a parent! They got it right, but they were already in my Ancestry tree! IO am hopeful that my DNA may someway match with an area in Ireland that is Protestant. In the 1700’s the Church of England took over in Northen Ireland and ran a lot of Knox followers out to end up in the Carolina’s. Look up the Rev. Martin in the 1700’s! Also what is ANC as mentioned above?

  4. Dale Reed

    In my opinion. unless you have a database of names via public trees the DNA results are not helpful. The DNA results thru Ancestry are helpful only to the extent tat someone in their tree matches your DNA. It is interesting to find that my daughter and my son may be related to me as a parent! They got it right, but they were already in my Ancestry tree! IO am hopeful that my DNA may someway match with an area in Ireland that is Protestant. In the 1700’s the Church of England took over in Northern Ireland and ran a lot of Knox followers out to end up in the Carolina’s. Look up the Rev. Martin in the 1700’s! Also what is ANC as mentioned above? I have a possible fit to a Robert Reed who arrived in Charlestown SC in 1773 on a ship with 51 total passengers. They came from Larne in Ulster N.Ireland. If anyone is working on this contact me please. I need a lot of help!

  5. Debbie Oxby

    I certainly don’t have any areas that narrowed down in my results. I wonder how many people do. I have things like Scotland or southern England. Not much help really.

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