Thursday, April 25, 2013

DNA Testing - Part 4

Happy National DNA Day!  A few months ago, my mother's AncestryDNA results came in after I finally convinced her to take the test.  As you may know, both my father and I had already taken it.  I wanted my mother's results to help determine what DNA matches came from her side of the family and to compare my ethnicity results to both of my parents'.  It's important to keep in mind, however, that my test results came in about six months before my mother's, so AncestryDNA's data and/or techniques may have changed in that time.

Ethnicity Mix-Match

My mother, a French Canadian of almost entirely Norman descent (with some Huron in there that shows rather strongly in my family members' physical appearances), was given results showing an unexpected ethnic mix.  I didn't anticipate results showing that her ancestors were from France, given that so many French Canadians who took the test wrote about having that exact issue.  Because many colonists of New France were from Normandy, test results often show British Isles as a major ethnicity.  My mother's results showed none.  Instead, she was identified as over 75% Scandinavian, with the remainder being Eastern European.  Huh?!  I suppose the Scandinavian comes from raids on the Norman shore, but I haven't the slightest idea where Eastern European made its way into her DNA.  If you knew my mother, you also would guess on appearances that she didn't have a drop of Scandinavian blood in her.

What bothered me the most about my mother's DNA results is that, when comparing it to my own and my father's, it all doesn't add up.  Ancestry correctly identified both as being my parents, but at least one of us has errors in our ethnic make-up data.  Every person on the planet gets exactly 50% or 1/2 of their DNA from each parent.  No exceptions.  Yet, I had no Eastern European in my own results, and only 4% of my DNA was listed as uncertain.  Based on my mom's overwhelming Scandinavian, it therefore wouldn't be possible for me to only have 25% of my DNA be Scandinavian (which is what my results showed).  I also couldn't have over 70% of my DNA be British Isles if only my father has British Isles DNA (which is what the results also showed), because he only gave me 50% of my DNA.  It's impossible for all three of the results to be correct, and they tend to show a major error somewhere, since my results are off by a total of 20-30%.  This huge amount could be a result of all three tests being off by smaller amounts.  Also, I'm inclined to believe that the more recent tests are more accurate than mine, the first one we did, as AncestryDNA presumably improves and expands.

My "Matches"

What I love about having access to matches for not just myself, but both of my parents, is that I know on what side of the family I'm connected to another Ancestry member.  I can easily remove matches that aren't also matched to either of my parents ("Distant Cousin" relationships are only given an accuracy rating of "Moderate" by Ancestry).  When someone matches both me and a parent, I can immediately cut out the other parent's ancestors as the potential link between us.  This makes is much easier to determine how we're related, although getting back to the common ancestor is still a challenge.  I like being able to reach out to a distant cousin match and tell them that we're connected on either my Irish/English or French Canadian side (this is especially useful when they are unaware of any French Canadian ancestry in their own families).

Unfortunately, a lot of matches don't seem interested in communicating or working together to find our common connection.  I don't know if this is a marketing issue where people expect to easily uncover their family history by taking the test, if people just want ethnicity results and aren't interested in specific genealogy, or even my inability to properly communicate how I know we're related on one side of my family or the other.  It can be disappointing, especially since most of the matches are on my Irish/English side, which is where nearly everyone needs help to get further back (at least with Irish lines).  Luckily, the enthusiastic genealogists I get matched with are so incredibly pleasant and helpful that they make up for the people who disregard me.  Overall, I believe I can learn a lot from the matches who are interested in working together and sharing information.  It's just a matter of reaching out and finding more.

The Raw Numbers

Of my father's approximately 275 matches with at least moderate accuracy, I also was matched with about 90 of them.  Of my mother's approximately 145 matches with at least moderate accuracy, I was also matched with about 80 of them.  Just over 50 of my matches with at least moderate accuracy weren't matched with either of my parents.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tackling the Québec Drouin Collection for English Speakers - Part 4

This is a continuation of a series of "how-to" for English speakers to more easily decipher the Québec Drouin Collection records (although it may help you in other French records as well).  Part 1 of the series can be read here.

Through this series of posts, I will cover determining the type of event, the dates of the events recorded (baptism, marriage burial), the dates of birth and death for baptism and burial records, the individual's name, the individual's marital status, the individual's spouse or parents' names, and where the event occurred, among other facts.

If you have any questions (in general or specific to your research), corrections, additions, or anything else, please do not hesitate to leave a comment or email me directly!

Marriage Records

Marriage date

Marriage records generally start with the date of marriage, written out.  Sometimes other dates will be listed in a paragraph of information after the marriage date and before the spouse names; these are dates that marriage banns were published, prior to the marriage date, and you can ignore them.  Stick with the date that starts off the record.

I'm going to skip over the information sometimes available directly after the marriage date in favor of what I consider more important information.  My French skills aren't good enough to determine what some of it is, and I assume the officiating Priest is the one whose signature is at the end of the record.  If you'd like more details, I suggest using an online translation tool.

Names of the couple, their parents, and/or most recent spouse

After recording the marriage date, I skim down to where I see the word "entre," in this case meaning "enters."  Immediately following "entre" are the groom's given and surnames.  A little bit after the groom's name will usually be either "fils majeur de," meaning "of age son of" or "fils mineur de," meaning "underage son of," followed immediately by the groom's father's given and surnames as well as the groom's mother given and maiden names.  In most cases, the groom's parents names are only included if this is the groom's first marriage.  Otherwise, after the groom's name the record will say "veuf de," or "widower of" (as there are no divorces in the Catholic Church), and the given and maiden names of the groom's most recent spouse.  Thus, if the record is for the groom's third marriage, only his second wife's name will be provided.

After the information about the groom and his parents, you should find "et," meaning "and," followed by the bride's given and maiden names.  Then the bride's age status is given by "fille majeure de," meaning "of age daughter of," or "fille mineure de," meaning "underage daughter of."  Like for the groom, these phrases lead to the bride's father's given and surnames then the bride's mother's given and maiden names, but usually only if this is the bride's first marriage.  If the bride was previously married, instead the record will most likely say "veuve de," or "widow of," followed by the given and surnames of the bride's last husband.

Ages and occupations

On occasion, the groom and bride's specific ages at the time of marriage will be included in the record.  Look for "à l'âge de [age in number of years, written out] ans," which means "at the age of [age] years."

The groom and his or his bride's father may have one word after their names describing their profession, such as "cultivateur," which means "farmer."  This is the profession I usually come across in my research, but others appear, too.  If you see a lone word immediately after a male's name, I suggest using Google search to determine its meaning because it is likely a profession.


Where a bride, groom, or parents live at the time of marriage is often recorded.  If it is, it will almost immediately follow the individual or parents' name(s) and will begin with "de," meaning "of."  Most commonly, the bride and/or the groom will be married in the parish in which he or she resides.  The phrase "de cette paroisse" after a name means "of this parish."  It indicates the aforementioned individual or couple (if parents) reside in the parish in which the record is kept.  If an individual or parents live elsewhere, however, you may see "de la paroisse St(e)-[insert parish name here]" or simply "de [parish name]" to indicate their residence.  

Many smaller communities in Québec have the same name as the church or parish name because there was only one church at the time.  In larger cities, such as the capital of Québec, there are multiple churches, and the parish will provide a good indication of what area of the city people listed in the record lived in.


Towards the end of some marriage records, witnesses' names and familial relationships to the couple are listed after the phrase, "en présence de," or "in the presence of."  A witness's relationship to the bride or groom follows the witness's name and is phrased like "uncle of the wife."  In French, "l'époux" means "the husband," and "l'épouse" means "the wife."

Some key points to note:

  • Marriage banns, or "trois banns de mariage" as they are referred to in the church records, are a series of three announcements of an upcoming marriage required in the Catholic Church before a marriage can take place.  They provide notice of the marriage in the parish as a way to allow anyone with information that would prevent the marriage from being solemnized to come forward with that information.
  • On rare occasion, the marriage record may include both the names of a previous spouse and of the individual's parents.  This is highly unusual though, so you will need to locate any previous marriage records using deceased spouse names until you find the individual's first marriage in order to learn (or confirm) his/her parents' names.
  • If you see "defunct" or "feu" preceding a parent or prior spouse's name, this simply means "deceased."  It can be excluded from prior spouses' names because "veuf" or "veuve" already indicates the most recent spouse is deceased (not to mention the plain fact that there is another marriage).  However, noting this for a bride or groom's parent will help you narrow down possible death years for the parent.
  • Residence or parish information can provide good leads for locating baptism and burial records.  A bride or groom's residence at the time of marriage is often the same parish he/she was baptized in if the record is of his/her first marriage.  If this is not the first marriage, then it is sometimes the same parish his/her previous spouse was buried in.  If a bride or groom's parent is deceased, the listed parish for that parent couple will often be the one where the deceased parent (or parents if both have passed) was buried.
  • At times, marriage records will say "aussi de cette paroisse" when stating residence.  "Aussi" means "too" or "also," so be careful to interpret previous individuals' parishes appropriately.