COVID-19 Changes Part 1 Genetic Research

COVID-19 Celtic

You can be a Celtic Creator

As we all alternately wash and wring our hands over the consequences of the world wide attack on humanity from the novel coronavirus, there are numerous opportunities for making constructive change, even while we are isolated in our homes. Volunteers, working from home, are NEEDED. (Link: How you can Help)

Months into this pandemic, several respectable sources have reported statistics showing that while Germany certainly has a high incidence of obesity it also has had a markedly lower rate of hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Similarly, Scotland is doing better than parts of England, although they share the same island. Last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci and several other public health officials noted that these differences in how different populations respond to the virus, cannot entirely be explained by underlying conditions, age, and lifestyle. Some people have suggested that differences are from lower or higher numbers of tests being conducted per so many millions in population. However, Italy and Germany have both tested far more than the U.S. and the UK, but are very different in numbers of cases and outcomes from one another. It also suggests diet may not be the great preventative that has often been touted. Italy and Spain have the much lauded ‘Mediterranean diet,’ that is generally much healthier, but Germany and some of the other northern countries that have done much better do not.

It is very early to be looking for trends, but to us, there seems to be a trend for northern populations to have less susceptibility to COVID-19’s worst effects, compared to their neighbors Spain or Italy. If proven, such an effect might explain Germany’s, Scotland’s and Ireland’s lower rates of mortality. Here is a link to that website, https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus. As a public service, they are maintaining a current, world-wide list of COVID-19 statistics, including numbers of tests, for all countries.

As with cancer, genetics can play a role in human response to viruses and bacteria: resistance, severity when an illness is contracted, and recovery. A ‘holy grail’ of modern medicine is to be able to tailor medicine for greater and better effect to families and perhaps ethnicities as well as by sex and age. Researchers would also like to know how genes developed in some families, what environments the people lived in, to make some people more resistant, better able to recover, etc. This is true for both cancers and deadly viruses. It helps in prevention, but also may help in using stem cells and CRISPR to actually permanently correct some genetic weaknesses and strengthen and increase ‘herd immunity,’–and to do that faster.

The founders of Genetic testing company 23andMe had that realization early and for a time, solicited family histories along with DNA test samples, but they then ran into problems. Too many people were submitting, poorly documented, or undocumented trees. Some were even submitting trees of families using adoptive parents. When the 23andMe staff looked at this issue, they found that, first, many people didn’t know how to do research, couldn’t even read well, much less understand the values and problems of single primary and secondary sources and sources that are mixed primary and secondary data, and second the dearth of available documentation. In the US, prior to 1850, records are scant, but also for the period of 1880-1900, because the 1890 census was destroyed in a fire. Autosomal DNA analysis can only show matches inherited within 250 years (unless there are some cousin marriages), and only when measurable in whole percentages (above a trace). Prior to the widespread cheap availability of steamship and railroad travel (1840’s for the steamships and steamboats, 1850’s and later for rail), most people were marrying within about 20 miles of one another–and cousins were marrying cousins. Even in the U.S. people were often migrating together in extended family groups, from the seaboard colonies to the first states developed. Thus, meaningful family histories really need to cover a minimum of about 12 generations, ~300 years. Mutations occur often enough to create new haplogroups somewhere in the 300 to 500 year range. To better analyze differences in haplogroups and what they may mean for disease susceptibility prevention, (like cancer) and resistance infectious agents (like viruses) as well as effective treatments, means accurate U.S. family histories should definitely go back to Europe, to cover a 300 to 600 year range. The good news is, once you find the places families were before emigration to what became the U.S., the families were often there for many centuries before.

Up until the 1840’s-1850’s in the UK, and later for all other parts of the world, some 80-90% of people were farmers and herders; the economy was mostly agrarian. Land was strictly controlled, top-down and the same families owned–and tenanted–the land for centuries. Even many mercantile families had a base city or town where the numbers of family members were and often still are greatest and where the family resided for centuries. A number of Scottish families, for instance, had cadet houses, not far off from the head houses, that were mercantile houses engaged in shipping trade and with investments in a certain amount of early manufacturing like weaving, to help support the entirety of the clan, and which the head of a branch or clan could call upon for money for projects, weapons, etc. In my late mother’s clan, Clan Wallace, the House of Failford, right below the House of Craigie, was the mercantile part of the clan for centuries, and came to own both agricultural lands, business properties and townhouses in Glasgow, Liverpool, etc., and quays in a number of port towns and cities on both sides of the Irish sea. They also set up branches in cities in the Hanseatic League in the 1500’s, as Paterson in compiling records for his History of Ayrshire, noted..

If we are to correct all the badly compiled, undocumented or poorly documented family trees, and add a body of good new ones, we need more researchers, and more ‘raw materials,’ online documents. There is a very large entity trying to do this–get more records THAT HAVE ALREADY BEEN MICROFILMED online. They need people to help index what has ALREADY BEEN DIGITIZED FROM MICROFILMS, and the work can be done at home, communicating with the organization by internet online.

I had some questions and concerns about the availability of the microfilm records that were no longer being rented out. The goal of 100% of all the microfilmed records being available had passed–a year and a half ago. I was wondering what was taking so long and when some records might finally be available, especially during this pandemic shut down, and should we decide to restrict some public places and groups in the future for bad outbreaks of flu. Here’s the response I got from the entity doing ALL the digitizing of microfilm records that have been used by subscribers to several companies: Ancestry, My Heritage, Family Search, etc..

Thank you for your feedback and suggestions. A great majority of the records we have filmed are now available online. We are currently Indexing records to get more of them online and invite you to help us by Indexing some of those records. You may be aware that we do not own the records, but have permission from the owners of those records. Sometimes they will not allow us to film their records and that is why we are missing many places. We guard the privacy of living people so the records that may apply to them will not be displayed. But we would like you to help us with trying to transpose the records we still have that are waiting for volunteers to help us get those ready to get online. Go to the website and just Find a Batch. Instructions about how to index the records will be given to you when you open the batch.

https://www.familysearch.org/indexing/my-indexing

If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact us directly by phone or chat. Click on <https://familysearch.org/ask/help> for details.

Regards,

FamilySearch

The most critical needs for indexing and uploading are the pre-1850 counties’ and states’ records, particularly the most populous of the original 13 colonies and the first states that were developed from those. The most populous were: Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. At the end of the Revolution, the new U.S. government had no money, and no taxation for a time. To pay the soldiers for their service in the Continental Army and the colony/state militias, lands from tribes that had been allies of the British were opened up for distribution to the soldiers. These included lands in western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. After the War of 1812, the same was done and lands included Mississippi, Alabama, Indiana and Illinois, and parts of Georgia. Western New York was opened up after the Revolution, and likewise Western Massachusetts. So these are the most ‘critical needs’ states for family history researchers trying to develop accurate, well-documented trees that can also be used for medical genetic research, and to help find matches when people need kidney transplants and bone marrow donors. Even part of a relative’s healthy liver can be given to a person whose own liver has failed. The closer the matches, the less the medical team has to worry about transplant rejection, and a lower amount of anti-rejection medications may be needed.

In addition to these, the LDS had a very important copy of all the microfilm reels made from original early 19th century and late 18th century records by the late Dr. Lyman Draper, researcher and librarian for the University of Wisconsin. He was attempting to compile an almost entirely primary source history of the U.S. during the late colonial, Revolutionary and early U.S. as a nation, periods. Many of the items in this collection are one of a kind eye-witness accounts of events, personal knowledge of families, etc. and absolutely vital for researchers as they cover the period of time for which the U.S. as a whole has the fewest remaining records from other sources. Some of the records provided in this collection make up for church floods and fires, courthouse fires, destruction of county records in the U.S. Civil War, destruction of records in the national archives during the War of 1812. This is called the Lyman Draper Collection. It is thousands of reels of microfilm. Only three full copies are known to exist: one at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, one at the Library of Congress in Washington DC, and one at the main LDS library in Salt Lake City. A partial copy exists in Chicago. NO copies exist anywhere on the West Coast or in the deep South.

DNA changes within individuals and families as they move about and adapt to new environments. However, substantial amounts change over centuries, and most Americans still retain a lot of European DNA. About 90% of Americans, based on studies done of the huge Ancestry.com database and others, have been found to have at least 5 to 6% Irish, Scots or Scots-Irish, or northern English DNA. At least 60% have been found to have 25% or more Irish, Scots, Scots-Irish or northern English DNA. All of these are closely related to one another besides, of course, being related to their American cousins. The next most critical need for indexing and uploading records is the Irish records. The Scots records are mostly online, and likewise large amounts of English records.

The affiliated entities, Family Search and Ancestry.com had hundreds of rolls of microfilm of Irish records, that included Protestant parish records that had been copied or put into groups of pedigrees, in one collection 120 families’ records. There were old civil court records and muster rolls put under the single title ‘muster rolls’ and sorted by county AND surnames. There was ‘Betham’s Notes and Pedigrees’ (from wills, and certain other records) that were in a dozen or more microfilm rolls covering wealthy mercantile families, families of public officials, lawyers, and lower gentry–a few hundred families. I counted, just among what I hoped to someday access and search through for my own families from specific counties, about 400 microfilm reels of Irish records. Almost NONE of the data on those reels has been indexed and uploaded. To access the material now, involves an expensive and lengthy trip to Salt Lake City–after restrictions on social distancing have been relaxed, and people feel safe to fly in airplanes which recirculate everyone’s exhalations, without filter-cleaning.

To help may involve being able to read cursive handwriting, and not all of it neat Spencerian script. Then as now, longhand writers could be sloppy, and a number of letters may look the same. You have to be able to read more than just probable names and places–look at all the parts of entries, because the quality of writing may vary just enough to give you a better idea of what letters the writer intended to use. Second, it helps to know that spelling rules didn’t exist consistently until rather late in the 19th century. There are differences in English spelling generally from U.S. spelling. The U.S. started dropping extra vowels and consonants early. The English/British spelling of color, flavor, mold, etc. includes a ‘u’ after some ‘o’s’ as colour, flavour, mould etc. Then in both early U.S. writing and British writing, ‘s’ often appears as ‘f’ within words, though not as the first letter. This was explained to me once, a long time ago, as the way to call attention to a letter that hastily written often looked too much like other letters, ‘n,’ and ‘r’ in particular. Sometimes in a ‘double s’ word, the first of the two was written as a ‘f’ but the second was as we know an ‘s.’. More often both ‘s’s’ were written as ‘ff.’ This was NOT done in Continental Europe. So if you also volunteer to index batches of Continental European records, please be careful. I already encountered the result of a volunteer’s batching in which they assumed the British way of writing an ‘s’ as an ‘f’ was used elsewhere in Europe, with the result that one of my Hungarian ancestress’s surname, ‘Ifi’ is also ‘Isi’ in some records, making it hard to find all her children and other records about her.

Many Americans are a mixture of Scots, Irish, Scots-Irish, English, and Continental European ancestry. Understandably, many will have an interest in helping index Continental records also. There are books of surnames, old gentry, nobles, common names, etc. that are online for areas such as the ‘German kingdoms and principalities,’ ‘the Austro-Hungarian empire,’ etc. You might want to do a quick review of some to get an idea of some common patterns of letters in surnames and common surnames. Family Search also has online short guides to the differences in the alphabets, and common words, especially related to family history, in a number of languages. Do a quick review of one or more of those, depending upon your interests in helping to index the rolls. In the following website link is an example of good cursive writing. https://www.template.net/business/letters/sample-cursive-writing/

I can tell you one critical need for Continental European records to be indexed and uploaded; marriage records, especially France, Spain, Italy and central, east and southeast Europe. Having marriage records online, which often gave the ages of the couple, their residence at the time of marriage–and their PARENTS names, makes it a lot easier to find the birth records of the couple, and the rest of their siblings, and push the research back another generation.

So if you want to spend time–as much as you want to spend, doing something that is useful to you now, and will be useful to many others in the future, volunteer to help index and transpose all those newly digitized from old microfilms records and help get them online faster. This is something in which you could also involve bored teenage children or grandchildren who could use a little more education about research, documents–and family and U.S. history. They will impress the heck out of next year’s teachers with what they learned and earn some ‘community service’ points toward college admission or transfers. Last, spread the word about this project and its potential. Our newsletter has 3,000 subscribers, but only about 10% to 20% will read any given issue. The same is true for over 3,000 who get the Facebook edition. The more people know about this, the more volunteers there could be, lasting well beyond this shut down.

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