107 NE Monroe Peoria, Illinois 61602-1070

The Luck of the Irish...DNA

By Amber Lowery

When it comes to St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), suddenly everyone you know becomes Irish. Everything becomes green in honor of our collective Irish heritage. This is mildly amusing as the color of St. Patrick is supposed to be blue according to many trivia and historical websites. In fact, I once read there are more people who claim to be descendants of Ireland in the United States than there are actually Irish people in Ireland. But nowadays that is easy to prove with DNA.

If you ask anyone who spends significant time around me, they will tell you that I’m always talking about DNA. I talk to family, friends, coworkers, patrons of the library, and even total strangers about DNA testing and genealogy. Some would say I’m obsessed with DNA. I will admit that I just might be.

We’ve all seen the ads for commercial DNA testing from some of the top companies in the United States. Among them are recognizable names such as Ancestry.com, 23andme, FamilyTreeDNA, and MyHeritage. These companies spout beautiful commercials with picturesque scenery about discovering who you are. But trust me; this is only the tip of the iceberg of what you can learn with DNA. For much like said iceberg, DNA goes deep. It can also rip a massive hole in your titanic mountain of research. But let us look at the positive features of DNA.

Recently, I used DNA matching results to break a reinforced brick wall in one of my Irish lines. I had done the traditional research, trailing back through census records, hunting down obituaries, obtaining death records and all information stopped at my great-great-grandparents. As far as I knew, they left Ireland around the time of the Great Potato Famine, but HOW? Did they come alone? What part of the massive wave of Irish immigration were they? Did they know each other long before they married in 1863 and settled down in Peoria to start a family? Brick. Wall.

Fortunately, I was recently contacted by a match, but she wasn’t sure where our families connected. Using our mutual matches provided with our DNA results, I realized very quickly which family line she matched, but based on how close our DNA was, she had to be related further back than I had information on. So, I did what any good genealogist does, I dove into research, scouring other family trees, checking records, and contacting people who had done a DNA test, but did not show a family tree.

With all my gathered information, I went to my DNA buddy. Like Sherlock Holmes, I laid out my evidence, showed my work, drew my conclusion and then waited with bated breath. My DNA buddy agreed with me. After six years of searching and coming up short, my reinforced genealogic al brick wall went down without a fight.

With access to AncestryLibrary at Peoria Public Library, I was then able to track down and find baptismal records for my great-great-grandmother, which included her parents’ names, baptismal records for her older siblings, her parents’ marriage record, and more.

So what does this have to do with the library? Everything. Do you have questions about doing a DNA test? Come to the library. Have you taken a DNA test and do not know what to do with the results? Come to the library. Want to learn more of your Irish (or not-Irish) heritage? Come to the library. We are here to help you discover more about you. Perhaps the luck of the Irish will be with you, too.

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