Saturday, April 21, 2018

Does the Big Y500 Provide Value?


Along with most of the genetic genealogical world, I discovered Friday that Family Tree DNA had added 450 new Short Tandem Repeat markers (STRs) to our project's Big Y accounts. It was fascinating to look at these markers within my surname project and to try and understand if these results provided any real value. Currently, we have 14 Big Y accounts that are spread across numerous lines and branches of the Owston/ Ouston family that originated in the Ryedale District of what is now North Yorkshire.  You can access the project's charts at Owston.com.

One of the issues with the additional 450 markers is the predominance of no-calls that occurred in the data. In our project, the no-calls varied in number by individual and they ranged from 3 to 35 per person with the average being 11.07. If I remove the outliers of 20 and 35, the average drops to 8.3 no-calls per person. A total of 155 no-calls were reported from 7,854 cumulative markers. This represented 1.97% of the whole. This percentage is less than the reported no calls found in YFull’s analysis of the Big Y’s STR data.

A second issue resolves around the naming of these markers, as it appears that FTDNA has placed proprietary names on many of the markers in Panel 6 (112-561). This makes it difficult to compare with YFull results. Where the naming convention is the same designation as used by YFull, the numbers do not always agree. This is probably based on FTDNA’s counting of the repeats. This was something that those of us who transferred Y-33 and Y-46 results from Ancestry, GeneTree, and other companies to FTDNA had experienced in the past. The same situation may apply here.

Third, several folks on various Facebook groups have noticed that numerous low values appear in the results. This may indicate a lack of variability across participants. The lowest marker value in our project was “4” with 116 modal results. Five repeats also occurred 116 times as the modal value and “6” appeared 65 times. With the new 450 markers, double digit values appeared 69 times as the modal result.

Fourth, while we have not tested many individuals from the same line or branches, we’ve only observed three markers that are genealogically relevant. It is helpful to note that the Cobourg line and the Ganton branch are overrepresented in the study, as it was necessary to check research that was conducted 20 years ago to ascertain if the conclusions reached at the time were valid. More on that later. The relevant markers include DYS631, DYS489, and FTY510.

DYS631 at 11 repeats rather than the modal of 10 is a signature of the Cobourg line of the Sherburn family. All three participants who descend from William Owston (1778-1857) carry this result. This joins the signature value of 11 instead of 12 repeats on DYS643 in Panel Five. Five of the six members of the Cobourg line share this value; the sixth appears to be a back mutation. In addition, the three members of the Cobourg line share the A10921 SNP.

DYS489 at 13 markers as opposed to the modal of 12 is shared by all four members of the Ganton branch of the Sherburn family who have tested with the Big Y. This is the only STR marker that is indicative of this branch, which descends from Thomas Owston (1755-1823) of Ganton, North Yorkshire. These participants also share the A10208 SNP.

FTY510 with 10 repeats as opposed to nine are shared by two seventh cousins, once removed who descend from Richard Owston (c. 1670-1739) from Thornholme in the parish of Burton Agnes in the East Riding of Yorkshire. This family also shares another signature STR: Panel Four’s DYS481 at 25 markers as opposed to the modal of 26. There is also a unique SNP for the Thornholme family – A15739. 
Further Big Y testing may reveal other STR markers with genealogical significance; however, without Panel 6, we’ve had SNPs that were family specific in all three cases and other STRs in two of the three groups.

GENETIC DISTANCE AT 561 MARKERS 


As we determined with our study that the additional 450 markers provided little genealogical value, do they provide the ability to predict relationships based on genetic distance? I analyzed 91 relationships from among our 14 participants.

Two distinct families who share a common ancestor born in the late 1400s comprise our study: the Sherburn family represents 91% of Owston and Ouston males, while the smaller Thornholme family round out the additional 9%. Two Thornholme participants are represented with Big Y testing.

The exact relationship between the Sherburn and Thornholme families is not presently known; however, by analyzing naming patterns, the closest possible relationships are represented here. There are other possibilities that would place the relationships one to two generations further back in time, but not closer. The two families were familiar with each other and it is believed that both are descended from John Owston who died in 1520. These conjectured relationships are identified with an asterisk.

The Big Y results represent the following relationships:

  2nd Cousins, Once Removed1
  4th Cousins4
  5th Cousins1
  5th Cousins, Once Removed2
  6th Cousins2
  7th Cousins1
  7th Cousins, Once Removed6
  8th Cousins6
  8th Cousins, Once Removed14
  8th Cousins, Twice Removed3
  9th Cousins10
  9th Cousins, Once Removed6
  9th Cousins, Thrice Removed1
10th Cousins, Twice Removed7
11th Cousins, Once Removed3
12th Cousins*1
12th Cousins, Once Removed*8
12th Cousins, Twice Removed*3
12th Cousins, Thrice Removed*1
13th Cousins*7
13th Cousins, Once Removed*3
13th Cousins, Twice Removed*1

The following chart plots genetic distance based on time to the most recent common ancestor (TMRCA). There were 14 instances where one party had a mismatch from the modal results and the comparison individual had a no-call. In these cases, the no-call was treated as having the modal result. This was an arbitrary decision that should not greatly affect the overall results.

The lowest GD was 1 for two fourth cousins, while the greatest GD of 20 was found between pairs of seventh cousins; seventh cousins, once removed; and 13th cousins. One of the parties was an outlier, as he had a value of 5 at DYS602, while the modal value was 12. The dots in the chart below often represent more than one relationship at that TMRCA and GD combination.



CONCLUSIONS 


As one notices from the above chart, the results vary greatly. While relationship distance increases, GD correspondingly increases; however, there is enough variability from seventh cousins and beyond that the predictability of the Big Y500 based on genetic distance is tenuous at best. Even in the closer relationships, it is impossible to accurately predict a relationship based solely on genetic distance. Fourth cousins have a GD range of 1 to 10.

Because of this and the presence of very few genealogical relevant markers identified for our family, I am hesitant to believe that the addition of these 450 markers provide much value for our purposes. The SNP results in the Big Y and the first five panels in the 111 test should be adequate in determining lineage signature markers. The SNP results are the real value of the Big Y test.

As Kelly Wheaton astutely added on her All Genetic Genealogy Facebook group, “The point that needs underscoring is that STRS change back and forth so their predictive value is less than SNPS that you either have them (and so do all your Y line descendants) or you don't. They are definite and predictive and now with Next Gen sequencing they are useful in a genealogical time frame. Sometimes STRS are helpful but they can also be misleading and have you barking up the wrong tree.”

While this is only one family and one set of results, other projects may reach different conclusions. Furthermore, different haplogroups may provide better return on value. More data will need to be gathered to better ascertain the overall value of the Big Y500.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Strange Case of the Missing Y37 Match



 
The other day the subject arose in a Facebook group about the possibility of matching someone at 67 Y-STR resolution while simultaneously not matching that same person at 37 markers. The conclusion was that this was a rare occurrence.  

In our project, several participants were not matching documented relatives with the same surname at 37 markers, but they had subsequently matched these same individuals at 67 markers; I realized that this was a significant occurrence in, at least, our project and set out to see if it included non-family members as well.

SURNAME PROJECT BACKGROUND


Since the 1970s, three researchers have been cataloging past and present descendants of two extant and three extinct families with our surname that ramified in what is now the Ryedale District of the present county of North Yorkshire, England.  It is estimated by counting the number of cataloged males that 296 exist to the present.  With a 5% margin of error, that number increases to 311.  We are a very low frequency surname that has three current variations Owston (72%), Ouston (26%), and Owston-Doyle (2%). 

The Owston/Ouston DNA project began in 2010 and has risen to 33 Y-DNA participants.  About 10.6% of the entire male population of our surname has had their Y-DNA tested. Not counted in this percentage are six other Owston males who have tested autosomally and most certainly match the surname haplotype due to matching autosomal DNA to those who have tested their Y-DNA.  Four of these males have been identified as having the I1 (I-M253) haplogroup via 23andMe.  Our participants were recruited from the United States, England, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Finland.  Including all autosomal participants, we have 62 members total.

Of our 33 Y-STR participants, ten have a paper ancestry to one of the two extant families, but these ten have ancestral non-paternal events and do not match the family modal haplotype.  Five of the remaining 23 tested at GeneTree with a 43-marker test between 2010-2012.  The remaining 18 have all tested at Family Tree DNA at 111 markers. In addition, 15 have tested with the Big Y (with two tests pending).   

Of the 18 participants, there are 153 relationships that range from a sibling pair to 13th cousins, twice removed. Relationships of 12th cousin and beyond are estimated due to onomastic evidence linking the two families to a common source born in the latter half of the 15th century; the closest possible relationship is used for the estimates; the relationships should be no further than two additional generations than our estimation.  

The first documented use of the surname in the region dates to 1452. Big Y participants from both families share A10206 and 14 additional phylogenetic SNPs. The Sherburn family (including its Cobourg and Ganton subsets) all share BY31751, while the Thornholme family members share the A15739 SNP. 

67-MARKER MATCHES ABSENT AT 37 MARKERS


In analyzing the matches of 18 matching FTDNA Y-STR participants in the Owston/Ouston DNA study, 100% of the men who tested at 67 markers matched at least one individual who was not found in their 37-marker match list. The numbers ranged from one to six non-matching individuals at 37 markers with the average being 3.77.  The percentage of non-matches at 37 within the 67-marker match list ranged from 3.6% to 35.3% of their total 67-marker matches.  An average of 14.1% of their 67-marker matches were absent from their 37-marker match list. 

The following table shows the total matches at 67 markers and the number of these matches that are missing from their 37-marker list. A percentage of the whole is also provided. 


KNOWN FAMILY 67-MARKER MATCHES ABSENT AT 37 MARKERS


Eight of our 18 participants (44.4%) had non-matches with a family member at 37 markers.  This is a significant number and can be greatly attributed to a person’s genetic distance from the family modal haplotype. Even a genetic distance of 1 when paired with a genetic distance of 4 will produce an absence of a match at 37 markers.  This is a factor that could be extremely important to genetic genealogists, as there may be a matching family member at 67 markers that does not show in the participant’s list at 37. 

The following table provides an analysis of missing family members at 37 markers.  In order to understand this phenomenon, the participant’s genetic distance from the surname model haplotype is listed.  Each person should have 17 matching family members at 37 markers; however, eight individuals are missing one or several matches to family members they match at 67 markers.   

 
The absent family members at 37 markers in our project included the following relationships:

  • One seventh cousin, once removed pair;
  • One seventh cousin, twice removed pair;
  • Two eighth cousin, once removed pairs;
  • One eighth cousin, twice removed pair;
  • Two ninth cousin pairs;
  • One ninth cousin, once removed pair;
  • One ninth cousin, thrice removed pair; and 
  • Three tenth cousin, twice removed pairs.  

The 12 relational pairs represent 7.8% of the total number of matching family relationships (153) at 67 markers.   

An interesting development with absent matches at 37 markers is that this phenomenon occurred intra-family within the Sherburn family and was not present with matches to the more distantly related Thornholme family.  Some of this may be attributed to a lack of viable participants within the Thornholme family. 

Although the Thornholme family is rather small with only 25 living males, all four lines have been tested.  Of the 25 aforementioned males, 14 have non-paternity events within their ancestries.  Of the 11 potentially remaining matching members, three have tested (one at 43 markers).  The other eight are closely related to at least one participant who has already tested. Among those not tested, the most distant relationship is that of a first cousin, twice removed.  It is not likely that any new data would be gained in further testing any of the remaining eight Thornholme men.

CONCLUSION


Do not discount the possibility that match may exist at 67 markers but be absent at 37 markers.  In our family, 100% of our participants were missing at least one 67-marker match at 37 markers. Forty-four percent of our participants were missing at least one family member at 37 markers.  One participant was missing six and another missing five family members.  

While the data presented has a small sample size and is only indicative of our singular family project, the results may differ from the general population of FTDNA Y67 results. Therefore, it is suggested that a similar analysis be replicated within a haplogroup project to see if the results are consistent.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Halves & The Halve Nots


The “halves” and “halve nots" – didn’t you mean “haves” and “have nots?” No, I meant what I said and here’s why. While it is generally accepted that the amount of shared autosomal DNA roughly halves with each generation, is this conclusive when we are discussing relationships at a variety of levels? In looking at my own family, I wanted to see if there were any discernible patterns in the amount of DNA shared with a relative when compared to two generations of a family, viz. a parent and a child.

METHOD

To do this, I analyzed 630 relationships from my family that included the amount of shared centimorgans of autosomal DNA. This required looking at shared DNA between two parties and the child of one of the parties. Only autosomes were used in the calculations and the X chromosome was ignored. The age span of the participants ranged to nearly 98 years with the oldest participant having been born in 1918, while the youngest was born in 2016. Two of the participants are deceased. There were 20 parent/child pairs:

  • Seven mother/son pairs.
  • Six father/daughter pairs.
  • Five father/son pairs.
  • Two mother/daughter pairs.

The results were compiled from a variety of relationships that included 33 participants in total. The relationships spanned parent/child to fourth cousins, twice removed. Tests were primarily from 23andMe and FTDNA with one at Ancestry. To be consistent, the data for matching shares in centimorgans were only gathered through GEDMatch.com. In addition, relationships that included fully identical segments were omitted (affecting only 8 full sibling relationships).

Additional relationships (several) where there was no matching DNA to a parent in the study were ignored. A number of relationships found only on 23andMe and Ancestry, although close, were not included, as they did not have GEDMatch accounts.   

All 630 relationships in this analysis were confirmed by other evidence and no speculative connections were included. The relationships were grouped according to degrees of DNA sharing. Not all possible relationships were present and only those in the study are listed below:

  • Degree 1: Parent and Child.
  • Degree 2: Half sibling, Grandparent, Grandchild, Aunt/Uncle, and Niece/Nephew.
  • Degree 3: Half Aunt/Uncle, Half Niece/Nephew, First Cousin, Great Grandparent, Great Grandchild, Great Aunt/Uncle, and Great Niece/Nephew.
  • Degree 4: First Cousin, Once Removed and Half Cousin.
  • Degree 5: Half Cousin, Once Removed; Second Cousin; and First Cousin, Twice Removed.
  • Degree 6: Half Cousin, Twice Removed and Second Cousin, Once Removed.
  • Degree 7: Second Cousin, Twice Removed and Third Cousin.
  • Degree 8: Third Cousin, Once Removed.
  • Degree 9: Third Cousin, Twice Removed and Fourth Cousin.
  • Degree 10: Third Cousin, Thrice Removed and Fourth Cousin, Once Removed.
  • Degree 11: Fourth Cousin, Twice Removed.

The goal was to analyze the percentage of DNA passed from parent to child. In addition, the child’s match with the relative was compared with the segments shared with the parent in question. In one situation, a child had matching DNA with a fourth cousin, once removed that was transmitted from his mother and not his father – the parent with the confirmed fourth cousin relationship. The relationship with the mother is unknown. This data was not included.

We also had thirty comparisons where there were two shared recent ancestral connections. The nearest relationship was that of second cousins who were also second cousins, once removed. These results were listed under the closest degree level. The relatives of those having fully identical segments died prior to advent of autosomal DNA testing – only half identical segments were present.

RESULTS

The degrees of sharing and their statistical data are included the following table:

Parent/ChildPairsMeanMedianStd Dev
Degrees 1/21650.90%51.79%5.82
Degrees 2/36548.38%48.59%6.78
Degrees 3/46349.81%49.72%8.97
Degrees 4/54049.65%46.86%11.89
Degrees 5/63648.20%50.45%11.51
Degrees 6/72050.39%52.26%22.37
Sub Total of Above24049.28%48.69%10.88
Degrees 7/81235.96%32.57%28.13
Degrees 8/92251.28%59.59%32.46
Degrees 9/103635.77%0.00%41.84
Degrees 10/11560.00%100.00%54.77
Total of All31547.53%48.48%21.18

Initially, I only looked at 480 relationships where all parent and child relationships (Degrees 1/2 to Degrees 6/7) exhibited shared DNA with the relatives in question. This produced 240 data points. For Degrees 1/2 to Degrees 6/7, 77% of the results fell within one standard deviation. A typical bell curve would have 68.2% of the results within ±1 σ.


Removing the outliers with the interquartile range, the mid results of the original 240 pairs skewed to the left of the mean as demonstrated in the chart below.


An additional 150 relationships, representing Degrees 7/8 through Degrees 10/11, were added. The only caveat for inclusion was that the parent had to match the relative in question – but the child did not need to have matching DNA to the parent’s matching relative. Of the 75 parent/child pairs that were included, 28 children failed to match the relative in question at levels of 5cM or higher. These 0.00% shares were included in the overall results.

The children’s non-matching data were so pronounced in Degrees 9/10 that the median score was 0.00%. Only 47.22% of the children at this degree level shared DNA with the said relative. The parents were either third cousins, twice removed or fourth cousins and the children were either third cousins, thrice removed or fourth cousins, once removed.

At the Degree 10/11 level, the children either matched the parent’s share at 100% or not at all – indicating an all or nothing proposition as we moved to more distant relationships. Unfortunately, only five pairs were included – which is too small to make a critical analysis.

As we moved further away from a Degree 2 relationship on the part of the child, the standard deviations increased. In other words, as the relationships grew further distant, there was a larger corresponding spread of the results. With the greater the relationship distance, the results were more heterogeneous. In most cases, the SD increased with each generational degree. The only exception was at Degrees 5/6. With a SD of 11.51, it was slightly narrower than Degrees 4/5 at 11.89.

 
With this said, many of the degrees of DNA sharing exhibited means very close to 50%. The only variations were found in Degrees 7/8 at 35.96%, Degrees 9/10 at 35.77%, and Degrees 10/11 at 60% (3 of the 5 were at 100% and 2 were at 0% shared). Both Degrees 9/10 and 10/11 had examples of all or none of the relational DNA passed from parent to child.

CONCLUSION

The conclusions are not beyond what we’ve already known about the percentage of shared DNA passed from parent to child. Up through Degrees 6/7, the shared DNA is generally within one standard deviation from the means, which are approximately 50% of the share of the parent. As these relationships become further distant, the spread of one standard deviation increases in size.

As we enter the realm of Degrees 7/8 and further distant relationships, we begin to see the phenomenon of none of the parent’s shared DNA with a relative being represented in the child’s results. With Degrees 9/10, many (but not all) of the results exhibited 0% or 100% shared DNA. At Degrees 10/11, it was either all or none proposition. It is to be noted at this level, the shared segments were between 5cM and 10cM. Since we have three generations that can be tracked lineally with these specific relationships, these segments are identical by descent (IBD), as they can be traced back to the grandparent’s much larger segment at the same position.

The rule of thumb is as follows: the closer the relationship, we are generally “the halves” – at least within one standard deviation of the half share. As for more distant relationships, it is likely we will be “halves not” – perhaps, all or nothing.

LIMITATIONS

While 630 relationships may appear to be a large number, a desired number of at least 768 (384 pairs) would provide the minimum necessary sample size with a confidence level of 95% with a 5% margin of error. As with all statistical measures, a larger sample influences a greater confidence level and a diminished margin of error. A sample size exceeding 384 parent/child pairs would be greatly desired.

A second limitation is that this study is largely represented (but not totally) by the descendants of one ancestral couple. The results include those of the ancestral mother who had tested prior to her death in 2016 and includes three generations of her progeny.  Only one of her descendants failed to participate.  In all cases, the participants (including relatives not descended from this couple) have ancestries from Northern and Western Europe. A more diverse population might provide different results.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Exogenous Ancestry – Proposing a Replacement for NPE


If I were genetic genealogy king for a day, I would replace the term “Non-Paternity Event (NPE)” with a more comprehensive term – specifically, “Exogenous Ancestry.”

Exogenous ancestry? That’s a mouthful, but what does it mean?  Well, it’s a term that I have borrowed from biological studies to explain some of the discontinuity of single source surnames with Y-DNA from outside of the family in question.  I have been contemplating for some time of using a different term from what is now commonly used in genetic genealogy – non-paternity event (NPE).

Bryan Sykes and Catherine Irven (2000) first used non-paternity event in the context of genetic genealogy to explain haplotypes that differed from the typical Y-DNA signature of a surname.  It was a borrowed term as well, as it was used in anthropology and sociology where the presumed father was not the father of a child.  Generally, this referred to infidelity on the part of the mother. 

In genetic genealogy circles, the International Society of Genetic Genealogy’s Wiki cites least 13 different categories which have been considered as non-paternity events.  While infidelity is one of these, there are other scenarios where genetic genealogists have used this moniker to describe the discontinuity between surnames and ancestry.  

What's the Beef?

The term non-paternity event and its synonyms don’t neatly fit every situation where it is used.  It assumes that the designated father (and even the child) is unaware of the child's ancestry.  This is not always the case. 

In some cases, there may not be a father in the picture and the surname traveled from mother to child.  The birth father’s name was not associated with the child and there was no “official” father from whom false paternity could be claimed.  It wouldn’t be a surname discontinuity as it continued from the mother; it would be a Y-DNA discontinuity.

In the case of complete adoptions, not only would the paternity be different, but the maternity would be as well.  Using a term such as “Exogenous Ancestry” would better fit full adoption circumstances as not only is the paternal DNA different, so is the maternal DNA.  This term would be applicable to discontinuities found in mitochondrial and autosomal DNA. 

Name changes are often considered NPEs – however, these can be voluntary and NPE doesn’t fit the situation – I am not sure any term other than “name change” would fit this scenario.

Finally, the term appears to pinpoint a given “event”; however, we may not be able to identify a specific generation when this discontinuity occurred.  While a person’s recorded ancestry may have confirmation going back several centuries, Y-DNA tells a different story.  Yes, there was some sort of misattributed paternity, but where did this “event” occur in the lineage?  Can we find it – sometimes, but not always.  We know that somewhere along the ancestral line exogenous DNA entered the picture. 

Where did this Term, Exogenous Ancestry, Originate?

It isn’t an original term, although I have been sparingly using “exogenous Y-DNA” since 2012 to soften the blow when reporting NPEs in my study. While recently performing Google searches for terminology relating to DNA from outside the family/clan/tribe, I found it used in the study of wolf and coyote populations of North America. 

Lupine biologists used it to describe DNA found in certain wolf populations that originated from outside the pack – sometimes considered an unusual occurrence.  In addition, it was also used when wolf DNA was present in populations of coyotes – especially in areas where no known wolf populations existed – hence an ancestral occurrence (von Holt, Kays, Pollinger, & Wayne, 2016).

Exogenous ancestry is broader term than non-paternity events, it is already used in mammalian DNA studies, and it is a better fit to a variety of DNA discontinuities. Will it gain in popularity?  I hope, but sometimes teaching an old dog, wolf, or coyote new tricks isn’t that easy.  I would be interested in hearing your spin on this term.

Sources

Non-Paternity Event (n.d.). International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki. Retrieved June 10, 2016 from http://isogg.org/wiki/Non-paternity_event

Sykes, B., & Irven, C. (2000). Surnames and the Y chromosome.  The American Journal of Human Genetics, 66(4), 1417-1419. doi:10.1086/302850

von Holt, B. M., Kays, R., Pollinger, J. P., & Wayne, R. K. (2016). Admixture mapping identifies introgressed genomic regions in North American canids. Molecular Ecology, 25(11), 2443-2453.  doi:10.1111/mec.13667

Friday, February 12, 2016

He Inspired a Genealogist – Mr. George T. Ihnat




Today, I received notification that a teacher I had in junior high school and high school had passed away on Wednesday, February 10, 2016.  I hadn’t seen Mr. George T. Ihnat since the day I graduated in June 1973; however, he had a profound effect on me by instilling a love for family history.
 
George T. Ihnat in 1972
Beginning in 1967, I attended Park Terrace Junior High School in North Versailles, PA – where we moved from teacher to teacher instead of having one teacher all day.  I barely remember any of my instructors from Park Terrace, as there were so many – but one who made a lasting impression was Mr. George T. Ihnat who taught 8th grade English. I would later have him as my 11th grade American literature instructor at East Allegheny High School.
 
As I had many great teachers during my life, I can’t say I remember the specifics of the vast amounts of knowledge he imparted in either class; however, I do recall an assignment that had influenced my primary life’s interest.  One day in 1968, Mr. Ihnat assigned us a project to create a family tree – a typical project that occurs during many people’s school experiences.  I hadn’t thought about my ancestry until then and I haven’t looked back.
 
The assignment prompted me to ask my mother about her and my dad’s families.  Since my dad had passed away in 1962, I knew very little concerning my paternal lineage.  Mom knew my dad’s mother’s family, but only my grandfather’s name and a few scattered details about his siblings. She went into her secretary and pulled out a piece of folded paper in my father’s handwriting that had the names and dates of my father’s grandparents. He had jotted down these notes after visiting relatives in Ohio during the summer of 1960. She also found an old obituary about my great-great grandmother, Sarah Ann Jones Merriman, who was the oldest woman in McKeesport, PA at the time of her death in 1929.

Later that day, my mom and I went to McKeesport-Versailles Cemetery and found Sarah Merriman's and my second great grandfather’s grave – John Merriman was a Civil War veteran in the 101st Pennsylvania Volunteers. My research also inspired me to query my only living grandparent – my mother’s mother about her lineage. I was given a wealth of information about her and my grandfather’s sides of the family.

I also asked my Aunt Nath, my dad’s oldest half-sister who attended the same church as us, if she could provide some additional information. She gladly wrote down names of family members that she could remember. That was a little over 47 years ago and I still have all of these notes and clippings. It got me interested in family history and this was later rekindled in 1978 with the return of my great-grandparents’ family bible to its bloodline.


Mr. Ihnat’s assignment continues to inspire me even to this day in discovering family – old and new. This interest has expanded from archives, library, and cemetery research to DNA testing of relatives – a keen hobby thanks to an English teacher who went beyond the scope of grammar and composition with an assignment about a family tree.
 
Mr. Ihnat:  I am sorry that I never connected with your during my adult years to tell you how that one assignment changed my life forever. Thanks to you it did. While I am hard pressed to remember any of my junior high teachers, you’ll never be forgotten. Rest in Peace.