BIGSbits & pieces

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Pat's Prompts - April 2023

Pick an ancestor’s hometown and focus on what it was like to live in that area in your ancestor’s lifetime.


Arrow identifies my twenty-six year old Great-Uncle John J. Murray, when he was elected a Director in the baseball club “United Base Ball Club of Bellaire City,” soon to be aka – “The Clippers” of Bellaire.

Two newspapers of the area: The Wheeling Register (Wheeling West Virginia) and the Belmont Chronicle (Saint Clairsville, Ohio) supplied this information.

Transcribed from the Wheeling Register, August 12, 1875 is this Bellaire column:

“There will be a match game of base ball (sic) played on the Public Square in this city on next Saturday, between St. Clairsville club and the Clippers of Bellaire, and all we have to say is that the St. Clairsville boys will have to sail in right lively, or they will get badly beaten.”

St. Clairsville is eleven miles east of Bellaire, today, a fifteen minute drive, but in 1875? How long on horseback or walking?  Want to know what the weather is like in Northeastern Appalachia in June?

From a column of “Fillers” in the Belmont Chronicle Thursday, June 7, 1877.

In the years following the Civil War, “Base Ball” became enormously popular all through America and had significant growth in the state of Ohio, particularly in Cincinnati. It seems unlikely that Uncle John and his Clippers on the Ohio River had “match games”with the famed Cincinnati Red Stockings players of 1875: Amos Booth, Dory Dean, Charlie Gould, or Scott Hastings, all four of whom soon joined professional teams in the newly formed National Baseball League, nor did the Bellaire Clippers travel 125 miles west to play that famous Columbus team named “Clippers.”  Much historic baseball was played in Ohio between 1875 and 1900, but I suspect those new Irish lads, the Murray brothers, were simply keen to Play ball! Make friends! Be American!

If you would like to share your response to this prompt for publication in a few weeks, please send it to Joleen Aitchison or Susie Wood. Thanks!

DNA Ditties

Caveats and complications of using shared centimorgans to predict relationships: Pedigree Collapse and Endogamy
Now that we have discussed the connection between the number of centimorgans (cM) of DNA shared with a match and the relationship with that match, we need to complicate the discussion with some situations that can change that relationship. The good news is that these situations don’t apply to most people. The bad news is that if they do apply to you they can complicate your genetic genealogy. The simplest situation to understand is when you have individuals in your family tree who appear at more than one position in that tree. How can that happen? Consider what happens when two first cousins marry – as occurred fairly frequently in the not too distant past.
You can see that John Smith and Mary Johnson each appear twice as great grandparents of “Tester” Smith. Normally a person would inherit about 12.5% of their DNA from a great grandparent, but because John Smith and Mary Johnson are “double” great grandparents, Tester Smith will have about 25% of each of their DNAs. Or, to put it another way, John Smith and Mary Johnson will look like grandparents to Tester, rather than great grandparents, based on the amount of DNA they share with Tester. Similarly, when Tester matches with any descendants of John Smith and Mary Johnson, they will appear to be closer relatives than they really are. 
In this example the effects of pedigree collapse are dramatic. If the duplication of positions in Tester’s family tree happened in more distant generations the effect would be lessened but still apparent. Pedigree collapse is used to describe isolated incidences of family intermarriage that happen within the past 200-300 years.
Endogamy is essentially repeated pedigree collapse that has happened over many generations, even further back in time. How does this occur? Any community that is isolated, either geographically or socially, forcing repeated intermarriage within a relatively small group of people, will generate endogamy. Examples include island communities, or those living in a rural area at a time when transportation was limited, or immigrants who didn’t mix with the locals (the Amish), or perhaps the best studied group, Ashkenazi Jews in Europe. The Ashkenazi Jews had a centuries long history of persecution in Europe, which combined with a strong cultural identity, led to continued intermarriage within the Jewish community. Genetic studies have shown that probably the number of Ashkenazi Jews who first migrated to Europe was probably small. So repeated intermarriage among a small gene pool has led to significant endogamy in today’s people of Ashkenazi descent.
What are the consequences for your DNA matches if you are of Ashkenazi descent (or any other endogamous group)? Firstly you will have a lot more DNA cousins on your match list than people who are of non-endogamous descent. Because the DNA testing companies predict relationships solely from the total number of shared cM, you will find an enormous number of 3rd-5th cousins who are not your 3rd-5th cousins but much more distantly related. Your shared DNA has come through multiple paths much further back in time. A clue that this is happening is that the total number of cM comes from sharing many small segments of DNA (endogamy) rather than a few larger segments (non-endogamous relatives). So to prioritize which DNA cousins might actually be “real” relatives, look for those who have a few larger segments of shared DNA – perhaps over 20 cM.

Make It Quick!