This month’s post is a bit different. Rather than focus on an ancestor, I’m going to talk about how DNA has helped me.
Back in 2010 I joined 23andme, mainly because I was interested in the health and traits features. They had a sale, and I decided to join, although I wasn’t interested in genealogy. I got the results and thought they were mildly interesting (I am not a carrier of the redhead gene and can’t smell asparagus pee – cool!).
About 2 years later I was contacted by someone in Scotland who was a projected 3rd cousin. My great-grandmother was from Scotland and her middle name (Rennie) was one of his family names. She had died when I was 16, so I remembered her well. I knew she’d come to Canada at 15, but never thought about the how or why. I googled her name, trying to find out some information and found a family tree made by a descendant of her sister. From that tree and the help of its creator, we were able to determine the connection between me and the 23andme relative and realized that the family was Rennie in Scotland and Rainey in Ireland. He and I turned out to be 4th cousins. His family had been in Clydebank, Scotland working at the Singer factory (pictured below), while my branch was in Glasgow, working on the docks.
This is what got me sucked into genealogy. I became interested in my great-grandmother’s story of how she had been orphaned and how she’d come to Canada as a home child. I was amazed at how much I didn’t know (and annoyed at myself for never asking) about her life.
In the next few years I did more family research and went back another generation (to William Rainey and Elizabeth Kilpatrick) in my great-grandmother’s tree and did a lot of fun digging. I also started researching all my branches and managed to convince my mom and paternal uncle to test their DNA. My mom then convince her parents. Having my grandparents’ DNA is priceless, as they are 2 generations closer. Now that my grandfather has passed away, I’m even more thankful to have it.
Earlier this year, I found an other DNA connection living in Belfast with the Rainey surname, who was good match through my grandfather’s side. He also had a William Rainey in Tyrone, Ireland. After a bit of comparing, we realized that his great great grandfather was the brother of my greatX4 grandfather. I had never been able to find siblings for him, as the birth records weren’t available in those years in Ireland. This was a perfect example of how DNA can help: once we knew the information we were able to confirm it through other records, but we wouldn’t have found those records without the DNA hint. His William Jr. had gone to Sailortown in Belfast (where my DNA connection was born – he still lives in Belfast) around the time my Robert Rainey (William Jr.’s brother) went to Scotland.
Last week or so I was playing around with my Ancestry DNA results and I realized there is a feature to see shared matches. I found another Rainey who also shares with my other Rainey connection. This person lives in the US and traced his Rainey ancestors to Robert Rainey (b. 1768), who immigrated to Lower Canada (Quebec) between 1810-1825. Robert had immigrated with his daughter Jaine (b. 1810), and an other Rainey, James, who were both in this person’s tree. These Raineys, who were Irish protestants, had been some of the first European settlers in the Beauce area. Besides headstones and their abandoned church (below), there is almost no trace of these protestants in this French Catholic area. I think it’s likely that Robert Rainey (b. 1768) is an ancestor to us all, and as an older man he emigrated to Canada with his daughter and possibly other children, while some of his other children remained in Ireland. Strangely enough, my great grandmother (likely Robert’s great-granddaughter) immigrated to the same province 100 years later, probably completely unaware of the connection.
Using GEDmatch, I compared all of us in the Rainey crew, and we all match each other (me and my grandfather, the first 23andme connection in Scotland, the guy in Belfast, and now the American). There’s also another good match on GEDmatch who has a segment in common with us but hasn’t responded yet. I’d love to hear about what happened to another branch of the tree.
I’ve enjoyed using DNA to help with genealogy and got my start with paper genealogy after DNA, which is a bit unusual. The learning curve has been steep, but it’s been interesting, and sometimes (but still often not) quite rewarding. I am looking forward to more and more people joining the databases so that I can learn even more about my family tree. Making connections with people all over the world has been fascinating.