Thursday, November 2, 2017

DNA and Our Granmother Mary Raney's Jewish Roots

 
Jewish Quarter, Girona, Spain


 DNA - it can give you a jolt. I think I've discovered our Grandmother Mary Raney's ethnic origins - a couple of bloodlines, anyway.  And may I say that her ancestors were living cultured lives while our grandfather's British ancestors were leading a rather barbaric existence. 
Jewish Quarter, Ribadavia, Spain
 I have the Ancestry.com DNA results of Pat Raney, male child of Paul Whitman Raney, and of Jack Raney, male child of Dennis Patrick Raney. Paul and Dennis were sons of Frank Whitman Raney and Mary Emma (Smith) Raney, who was descended from French families from the Franche Comté in eastern France.
Franche-Comté
If you are Pat Raney's siblings, your descent is 45% Western Europe; 35% Great Britain; 8% Scandinavia; 3% Iberian Peninsula (Spain/Portugal); 2% European Jewish; 2% Ireland, Scotland, Wales (which I interpret as early Celtic); 1% Europe South; less than 1% Middle East.  Paul's wife Grace Bernhardt was of Austrian descent.

If you are Jack Raney's siblings, your descent is 50% Great Britain; 35% Scandinavian (specifically Eastern Norway); 3% Western Europe; 2% Finland/Northwest Russia; 2% European Jewish; 1% Ireland, Scotland, Wales (Early Celtic); 4% Europe South; 2% Caucasus, less than 1% Iberian Peninsula. Dennis's wife Junice Moe was of Norwegian/Finnish-Russian and British descent.

A couple of years ago I took the National Geographic DNA test, which is more general and, because I'm female, gave only my maternal results - for Geneva Raney, sister of Paul and Dennis. It indicated 69% Great Britain and Ireland, 20% southern Europe (Spain, Portugal, Italy, or Greece), 5% Scandinavia, and 4% Asia Minor (modern Turkey, Israel, etc).

I've read that ethnic strains of DNA can be different in siblings, stronger in one, weaker in the other.  No doubt it's even more evident in cousins trying to parse out the ethnicity of their ancestors.

It's difficult to isolate 25% of DNA origin in Pat and Jack for our grandmother, Mary Raney. We know her parents were descended from farmers in the Franche Comté. Here is my speculation:

Someone in Mary Raney's ancestry was a Spanish converso - a Jew who was forcibly converted to Catholicsm, perhaps in the late 14th century (or voluntarily converted for the convenience of not being expelled from Spain in 1492). Recall that our grandmother had black hair, as did her daughter Mary Agnes, and her mother Louisa had flashing black eyes (as my mother recalled). That wasn't from French blood - that was from Spanish blood.  I base this conjecture on Pat Raney's 3% Iberian, 2% European Jewish, 1% southern Europe; less than 1% Middle East. That equals less than 7%. Where is Mary Raney's other 17%? Probably some of the 45% western Europe belongs to Mary. When I first saw Pat's DNA I emailed him and suggested the Jewish blood came from his mother's side. I changed my mind when I saw Jack's DNA.

Jack Raney's DNA for Mary is less than 1% Iberian Peninsula, 2% European Jewish, 4% southern Europe, 3% western Europe. That is less than 10%. Where is Mary's other 15%? Recall that I wrote that even brothers will show different percentages of ethnic strains in their DNA, so I think we're seeing this in the cousins' DNA.

My DNA, ascending through Dennis and Paul's sister Geneva Raney, for Mary is 20% southern Europe and 4% Asia Minor. That's 24%, but because it's Mary's daughter Geneva, who inherited half of her mother's DNA  - where's the rest of Mary's DNA - 26%? It's rather confusing. 

Our grandmother's Jewish ancestors left Israel during the Diaspora. Divided into two groups, the Ashkenazi entered northern and eastern Europe and the Sephardic emigrated into the Middle East, north Africa and up into Iberia. I believe her ancestors entered southern Spain and may have already been there when the Moors conquered Spain in the 8th century. A wave of Muslim fanaticism in the 11th century pushed most of the Jews up into northern Spain. Forced conversions of Jews to Catholicism began in 1391 with mob violence. We don't know when our grandmother's ancestors converted to Catholicism, but most likely it was between 1391 and 1492, when Jews were forced either to convert, leave Spain, or be executed. A history of the Jews in Spain is HERE  - it's long, so skim until something catches your attention.
I am inclined to think that Grandma's ancestors did not leave Spain in 1492, but remained as conversos, intermarrying with the Spanish.  So how did their descendants come into the Franche Comté of eastern France?  Here is my theory. The Franche Comté was ruled by Spain as part of the Holy Roman Empire until shortly after the devastating Thirty Years War (1618-1648). France took advantage of Spain's weakness and conquered the Franche Comté during the Franco-Spanish War in 1674 HERE.  It was ceded to France in the Treaty of Nejmegen in 1678. 
 
Holy Roman Empire in 1600. Note eastern France

A short history of the Franche Comté is HERE.  I believe a group of Spanish soldiers, and perhaps their families, settled there. Why go all the way back to Spain, which was not in good economic shape. If they remained in the army, they might be sent to the New World's Spanish colonies. Better to settle down and become farmers. The Thirty Years War had killed off so many through famine and strife - an estimated 8,000,000 across Europe - it's possible farmland was readily available. 

I also think Eugene (Schmitt) Smith's forebears on his mother's side (Meuniers and the Voisenets) all born in the Franche Comté, and the Petitjeans were related. Although Jean Baptiste Petitjean was born in Disertine and married Justine Piquet, who was born in Dijon, they moved to the Franche Comté. I think Jean Baptiste was actually returning to where his people had come from. The Schmitts left for America in 1830, the Petitjeans in 1853, joining the Schmitts in Shelby County, Ohio. On Ancestry.com a family descended from the Smiths, but not from the Petitjeans has that trace of Spanish and Jewish DNA, as does a family descended from the Petitjeans, but not from the Smiths. If you aren't following my logic, it doesn't matter.  We're still the sum of our DNA parts.

 I hope you'll find as haunting as I did this Sephardic Spanish lullaby from the Middle Ages.  HERE





Monday, September 18, 2017

The Raney DNA Mystery



Our cousin Pat Raney told me that some years ago he and Uncle Paul attended a Raney/Rainey family gathering in, I believe, Kentucky, at which a man approached them with a genealogy chart showing our 3rd great-grandfather James Rainey (1814- before 1870) as a member of the Raney clan of Pulaski County, Kentucky,  making him a brother to Aaron, son of James, grandson of Aaron Raney out of North Carolina, who had immigrated from Ulster.  Since our 3rd great-grandfather James had married Millie Roberts in Pulaski County in 1832 and farmed acreage on Buck Creek until they removed to southern Indiana after 1850, our Raney men had no reason to doubt this claim.  Distant cousins well met!
Pulaski County, Kentucky

But then a funny thing happened. Pat Raney eventually took a DNA test because all the Raineys and Raneys who received the Rainey Times newsletter (most of which is now online) wanted to sort out their relationships.  And whaddya know - it showed that our family isn't related to the Aaron Raney family at all, even though they lived in Pulaski County during the same period.  Our family had its roots in 17th and 18th century southside Virginia (a regional term I'd never heard while living in northern Virginia).
County Antrim, Ulster, in red
There was a common ancestor, William Rainey (born c. 1668 in County Antrim, Ireland - died 1722 in Prince George County, Virginia). And he left a will naming his children.
Prince George County, Virginia
I have worked diligently to connect James Rainey to William, but am unable to sort out two or maybe three generations between them. Once William and his brother and their families reached American soil, their families proliferated like a warren of rabbits. Sons . . . lots of sons, who begat lots of sons. Some descendants moved after the American Revolutionary War to North Carolina, some to South Carolina, some to Georgia. And some remained in Virginia. Who was James's father?  His grandfather? His great-grandfather?  He didn't just pop up in Pulaski County in 1832 without any family and marry Millie. But all the Raineys on the Pulaski County censuses appear connected with Aaron Raney's family. I've mentioned before that during the American Civil War Union troops burned numerous county courthouses in Virginia and other southern states, destroying documents that would have been so helpful to genealogists. Many southerners consider "burned counties" a great atrocity of the war, forever eliminating one's path toward proving George Washington and Thomas Jefferson distant cousins.

In 1850 the U.S. census asked for the first time, "Where were you born?" James answered the census taker's question with "Kentucky." Maybe he'd never wondered where he was born and it was the best answer he came up with. Perhaps he mulled it over in the ensuring ten years, because in 1860, he answered, "Virginia." He wasn't alive for the 1870 census. And his children were no help. In the early 20th century, in their dotage, when asked by the census taker where their father was born, they named most southern states, Indiana, and even Missouri.



Last month I ordered the Ancestry.com DNA test kit and sent it to Cousin Pat. He spit in the vial and mailed it off.  I felt I would learn more with a male Raney's DNA than with my DNA.  The results have come into my Ancestry.com account.  And it seems to have worked, at least to establish that, yes, we are descended from those early Raineys of Virginia - William's son Roger (b.1700 in Prince George County - d. 1747 in what became Surrey County) is indicated as a common ancestor with two other Ancestry.com clients who did the DNA test, but ascending up two separate lines to Roger, who had seven sons, and not up the line I'd cobbled together, which I'm unsure of.  At least it shows we possess that common DNA I was hoping for.
Surrey County, Virginia
Other common ancestor names are gradually coming in - Dyson, Utterback, Dougan, and lots of our grandmother Mary Smith's French-American relatives' descendants.  So, it's reassuring that there is some scientific basis to this new-fangled method of tracing family.

But back to James Rainey.  I've begun to wonder if his father died early and his mother remarried and it was his stepfather who carried them to Kentucky. Maybe James really was born on the Kentucky/Virginia frontier.  He was illiterate, so he didn't grow up in settled southside Virginia where he would have been able to get some education. His oldest son's name was Absalom, but the only Absolom Rainey I could find had died a couple of years before the baby was born, in Monroe County, Georgia (his probate apparently handled by a relative named William, but no other family discovered). And our Absalom wasn't born until three years after James and Millie married, so they might have lost children, whose names would have given hints of forebears' first names. [I've since discovered that Millie's brother was named Absalom, so obviously the baby was named for him.]

So, I will continue to dig because there are some stories I want to tell. In the meantime, Jay and I plan to spend most of October in the medieval town of York in Yorkshire and then drive up to Northumberland on the English-Scottish Border. Our Graham and Kerr ancestors came from that Border area.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Graham Scottish Border Clan in the Raney Tree


The Brackenhill Pele Tower was built in 1584 by the infamous border reiver Ritchie Graham on the site of an earlier tower perhaps dating back to the 13th Century. Now a B&B
 While reading the book I've quoted in past blogs, Albion's Seed, by David Hackett Fishcher, I determined that most of our ancestors came to Virginia and Maryland from southwest England in the 17th century and were of the group called Cavaliers, who were Church of England (Anglican), which may have included the Raineys, although they appear to have immigrated from Northern Ireland in the 17th century. We don't have ancestors from the Puritan group that settled in New England (that we learned about in school). We don't appear to have ancestors from the early Quaker group that settled in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  I was beginning to think we didn't have anyone from the fourth immigrant group, the Borderers, who sailed across the Atlantic in the first half of the 18th century from Northern Ireland and the Border region of England and Scotland, and were mostly Presbyterian.  As I continued to research, though, there they were -  the Grahams and the Kerrs, traced up through wives' families. So now, I want to give you some Border history about the Grahams, a Riding Clan of the Scots Borders.

On both sides of what now is the western end of the Scottish - English border is territory that in the 14th century was called the Debatable Lands. Both kingdoms claimed it. Constant warfare raged between the English and Scottish crowns along the entire contested border, sometimes large armies battling, but mostly cross-border raiding by lords of castles. They burned towns and crops, stole cattle  (sheep, too, but were awfully slow) and killed anyone in their way. The Graham clan had moved into this contested area between the end of the 13th to the middle of the 14th century, where they became "a lawless people, that will be Scottish when they will, and English at their pleasure."

We have two Graham women in our line - 1) Mary Graham (b. Lancaster County, Penn. 1737- d. 1809 Randolph County, N.C.), our 6th great-grandmother, whose father Michael Graham allegedly came from Northern Ireland to Pennsylvania. She married Edward Sharp, future Revolutionary War colonel, about 1761. The Sharp family emigrated from Pennsylvania about 1763 with the Dougans, Grahams, Kerrs, and other Presbyterians to North Carolina Colony. It was the Sharp daughter, Hannah (our 5th great-grandmother), who married the future Colonel James Dougan, whom I wrote about HERE . 2) Isabel or Isabella Graham (b. 1744 in Monmouth, N.J. - d. 1833, Knox County, Tenn.) was our 5th great-grandmother, the mother of John Roberts, father of Millie Roberts, who married James Rainey in Pulaski County, Kentucky,, in 1832. James' story is HERE. Isabel's father was Nathanial Graham, who apparently immigrated from across the sea before her birth.

Brackenhill Pele Tower before restoration as a B&B
Back to the Border region. We are descended from Border Reivers, clan-loyal marauders, existing by intrigue and force of arms, often turning on one another. You can read about their violent history HERE.  More specifically, we are descended from the Graham clan (and the Kerr clan -Mary Kerr married Thomas Hill Dougan in North Carolina in 1745, and her brother married a Graham). By 1604, James I and IV of England and Scotland was ruling both kingdoms. He was fed  up with the reivers, especially the Grahams, who owned five pele towers (in red on the map below) in the Debatable Lands and lived on both sides of the Border.