Thursday, January 29, 2015

My Kirwan Cousins - Published in First State Genealogist ~ newsletter of Delaware Genealogical Society January 2015 ~

                                                   Paper records and DNA

I do a lot of work with DNA and have done so since about 2005 when my first cousin, Francis Faunt tested his DNA via the National Geographic project and catapulted us into another age and broke down brick walls between our family and the “old country”. He matched a man named Fant, of the Virginia Fant family is his Y line, which is my own grandfather’s male ( Y) Line. Their family had been in Virginia since the late 17 century while our folks were clearly still ensconced in Limerick.
Three major companies test DNA for genealogical purposes, more actually but let us stick to the 3 main ones. These companies which test DNA ancestrally in what is called autosomal DNA or “Cousin Tests” are:, AncestryDNA and Family Tree DNA.
I am an Administrator of 5 “Surname groups” at Family Tree DNA, including the large Lower Delmarva DNA group and my own Carrow and Faunt surname groups which are also in the Guild of One Name Studies. I have tested more than 20 persons in my own line using the “cousin tests”. I was a “beta tester” with 23andme when the first such test went public.
The majority of tested persons in my family is at 23andme, which I like the best for autosomal cousin matches. I also, as mentioned tested years ago at Family Tree DNA and still have a big presence there. Ancestry DNA which has a huge database, almost as large as 23andme has only one test from my! The reason for that is that aside from their “Trees” they have no “tools” to use to make sure that we are really looking at a DNA match that we inherited from a common ancestor with other cousins.

So oddly enough the single test from AncestryDNA has given me some recent stupendous results. A few years ago a cousin contacted me whose ancestor Anna Kirwan Downey was sister to my Great Grandmother Sadie Kirwan Carrow. Sadie and Annie were daughters of Patrick Kirwan and Lizzie Sweeney. He was adopted. The Sweeny/Huey line is well documented in NJ and Leckpatrick Tyrone and also, we now know, has offshoots in Chicago and has Delaware ties as well. ( More on that in a moment)
Anna Kirwan apparently marries Daniel Downey in Delaware and her sister Sadie Kirwan meets and marries Grover Carrow through her sister. I did always wonder why. And how she met him as both were young and likely not so very mobile. The men were working at Fort Delaware and Sadie and Grover Carrow lived there until the WWI when they moved to Carneys Point NJ.

All of these questions were solved when Five 3rd cousin matches jumped out at me when I finally tested at AncestryDNA, or very shortly thereafter. As I had mentioned, I had been reluctant to test there because they lack any type of comparison tools to make sure that we have inherited a segment of DNA from a common ancestor. The fact that their database of tested persons now exceeds 600,000 testers overcame my reluctance. Many researcher believe in “Fishing in all 3 ponds” which is all 3 companies. 23andme’s 800,000 testers and Family Tree DNA’s growing database of autosomal testers which although small at 150,000 is growing weekly. All three of these added together means that I am comparing segments of DNA against a pool of people which is soon to approach 2 million.

My 3rd cousin who is a Downey and a Kirwan turned up on my AncestryDNA 2 months ago and also matches another person who is a 3rd cousin. The new 3rd cousin shares segments of DNA which do indeed come from a shared ancestor, but her research does not tell us who that person or persons are. That they are Irish is definite as she has no other ethnicity in her background.

Enter Cousins 4 and 5 2 months ago, also at AncestryDNA. Well Cousins 4 and 5 were THERE prior to this date, but Ancestry DNA “refined” their interpretation of DNA matches in late November. When they did that, a HUGE amount of small matches were discarded and existing matches were sometimes enhanced.

At this point I was able to see that I had 3rd and 4th cousins sharing the surname of Kirwan and living in Chicago. My 2nd great grandfather Patrick Kirwan had come from Ireland to Southern New Jersey before 1878 when his daughter is born in Salem County to his wife Lizzie Sweeney. These new cousins felt that their ancestor, Sylvester Kirwan was from Carlow. My Irish researcher and myself had chased my Patrick all over Ireland with negligible luck. A death record and a marriage document indicated his parents were Jane or Jenny Kelly and Michael Kirwan AND his only son had been named Sylvester. Wow!
So someplace in County Carlow was probable and I went back and looked. After my Lizzie Sweeney died tragically leaving 5 children and a new born who did not long survive her, Patrick remarries. Patrick remarries very shortly after he is widowed to someone from Philadelphia. How did he find her? She was born in Knockroe Borris Carlow so we went and looked there. Yes. There is my Patrick being born to Jane Kelly and Michael Kirwan and 5 of his siblings. Jubilation for all of us.

What does the proof look like? Well for many many thousands of people the proof is that AncestryDNA indicates they are 3-4th cousins. Not good enough for researchers so I had to beg these cousin matches to “Download” their raw genome ( DNA segments) to a place called The other companies do it internally but not Ancestry. No tools remember? Here are the results.
Some of us share a Chromosome # 13 segments and some share #11 and some of us share more than that and from who remains to be seen.

Start Location
End Location
Centimorgans (cM)



Start Location
End Location
Centimorgans (cM)

My lesson here is that we need more than a common surname or a common location as paper records can be wrong, and conversely we need more than just DNA as how do we link it to a common ancestor?Everything that is in my arsenal is what I use, and I have broken down a big brick wall in my Kirwan line.
I also should add for you that my Carrow lines had DNA matches right away, almost as soon as 23andme went public with the first cousin test in 2009. Some of these lines go back to 1750, again with paper records as dual confirmation. It takes a lot of work and it is not magic nor is it a shortcut. Just proof.

Kathleen Carrow Ingram

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