Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Great-Grandmother's Wedding Dress - Rose Gross Ryan

As mentioned in the previous post, I attended the Celebration of Life for a James Hugh Ryan this past weekend.  In the process, I got to meet several second cousins I'd never met.  One of these was Pam Biederman.  I'd been told by Pam's mother that Pam had part of the wedding dress of our g-grandmother, Rose Gross Ryan, framed and hanging in her living room.  Pam said she had been given the dress by her grandfather, Ray Ryan, with the promise that she would wear it in her own wedding.  In an email Pam said, "I never married so I did the best next thing and framed it. The dress is in my family/living room and I enjoy it every day."

I'm one of those lucky family historians who actually was left INFORMATION by my ancestors.  My grandmother, Virginia Ryan, left records stating that James Hugh and Rose Gross were married in a "mission" church in Ottenheim, Kentucky.  I wrote to the church and they sent me this record.

Based on this information, I'd tried to discover why the Ryan/Gross families were living in Kentucky -- a fect not supported by any of my research.  It was only in the past year, thanks to Matt Biederman, that I discovered that they only got married in Kentucky, but did not live there.  He sent me a copy of the dispensation James and Rose got from their parish to get married before their banns had been published three times.

Pam kindly agreed to send me pictures of the framed wedding dress.  I don't know what the top looked like, but I can't believe the detail in the skirt portion.  I tried to enlarge part of the embroidery so that you can have an appreciation of the handiwork involved in the dress.

Click to see detail

What talent!  This dress gives me a better understanding of how my ancestors were able to support themselves through embroidery.  Thanks, Pam, for sharing.

Monday, June 27, 2011

James Hugh Ryan - A Celebration of Life

I attended a "Celebration of Life" for a relative I had the pleasure of knowing for about two hours. He is my first cousin, once removed. My mother was his first cousin. I can only say I wish I had known him.

Jim is one of the relatives that I had the opportunity to meet because of this blog.  A couple of cousins found this blog by searching on their names.  One of the search results was this blog, leading us all to meet and share artifacts and family stories in February.  You can read about it here.  Jim knew that he had colon cancer that had metastasized to his lung, but he, his wife Peg, and son, Tim came to our little reunion anyway -- and I am so glad he did. 

Jim was the son of Raymond Matthew Ryan and grandson of James Hugh Ryan -- the head of the Ryan family that first settled in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Both the names "James" and "Hugh" are sprinkled throughout my family tree, but usually not in that combination.  If anyone was to carry the name forward, Jim seems to have been the right guy.  I'm told he inherited a great sense of humor and was a jokester, much in the tradition of his father.

I won't pretend to try to summarize the life of someone I knew so little, but I got to meet his four children, their spouses, and eleven grandchildren.  Pictures of his life were found on posters and you just can't fake in pictures the obvious love that Jim had for his wife, Peg.

I learned of frequent family camping trips to the Ohio River.  His children cherished the memories and as a River Rat myself, I could identify.  He was described as a man not rich in the financial sense, but rich in family and the blessings that can bring.  His was a life well-lived and one that will continue in the lives of the family and friends he so obviously touched.  I would estimate that about 300 people were present at his funeral.  That says a lot about the man I hardly knew.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Understanding Relative Disease Risk Using 23andme

 Click to Enlarge

There is a difference between "absolute disease risk" and "relative disease risk."  If you notice in the table above, my results showed that my risk of developing coronary heart disease is 39.6% vs an average risk of 24.4%. This puts my risk at 1.43x the average member of the population.  What's of interest to me, however, is my risk of developing a venous thromboembolism.  Despite my overall risk of 33.5% (lower than the risk of heart disease) I am 3.44x more likely to develop a venous thrombolism than the 10% risk for the overall population.  Thus, in comparison to the average, my relative risk is higher.

In an earlier post, I explained that I have the Factor V Leiden mutation, so this was not a surprise to me.  What I loved about my results is that their testing protocol picked it up!  I could not have been tested for this mutation for $99 alone much less received all of the additional information supplied to me.

Click to Enlarge
I love the simplicity of the graphics.  The Odds Calculator clearly shows what 33.5 members of a population of 100 would look like compared to an average of 9.7.  YOU CAN CLEARLY VISUALIZE YOUR RISK!  If  I didn't already understand what Factor V is, they provide me with a clear explanation.  In addition, they cite the articles that back up their conclusions.  You can see what years the research was published and determine for yourself how current it is.

Click to Enlarge
They provide a nice color graphic that shows the role that scientists believe is attributable to genetics vs. environmental and other factors.

You can see, that in this case, genetics plays a significant role.  As if all of this isn't enough information, you can click on tabs at the top of the page for even more information.

Imagine that all of this is provided on each of the diseases tested by 23andme.  I'm impressed.

Note:  All charts are part of my individual report from 23andme.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Looking at Disease Risk with 23andme

In recent posts, I have discussed the kinds of results you can get by submitting a sample to 23andme.  In this post, I'm going to discuss the one aspect of 23andme that seems to be more troubling than that used to identify ones genealogical heritage.  There is also a health component that can give you some idea of the role that your particular genes play in predicting disease.  Anyone who does this should be aware of a couple of a few facts:
  1. This is a new and evolving science.  In many cases genes are clear markers for a given disease, while in others they are not.
  2. Often it's not one gene that will predict your chances of eventually developing a disease but a cluster of genes.
  3. Genes ARE NOT the total story when it comes to disease.  In many cases, environmental factors can play as large a role if not more of a role in whether or not you will eventually get a disease.
  4. Often there are things YOU CAN DO to prevent disease.  
  5. For the really sensitive diseases, like Alzheimer's, 23andme gives you the choice of looking at the results or not.
One of the things I like about their service is that you can look at the research on which their predictions were based.  You can see how recent it is, how large the sample size was and their level of confidence on what they are telling you.  Did I have any surprises?  Yes and no.  Here is a graphic for some of the diseases that my genes indicate may put me at an increased risk.

Click to enlarge

According to their results, I am most at risk for coronary heart disease.  This surprised me only because we think of ourselves as a "cancer" family.  My Dad and all four of his siblings developed cancer -- often at a relatively young age.  My mother and her sister did, too.  When I investigated the science behind their prediction, however, I really should have been paying more attention to this one.  I am treated for high blood pressure, common in my family, and I've been diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia.  Interestingly, both of these conditions are easily treated -- so I can probably avoid what looks like a high risk.

I was NOT at all surprised by the venous thromboembolism prediction.   As I mentioned in an earlier post, I know I have the Factor V Leiden mutation (which they picked up in their testing) that puts me at a higher risk.  The cool thing about knowing, however, is that I doubt I'll ever have this problem.  Any time I've had surgery that puts me at a high risk (knee replacements), I've been treated with blood thinners.  Problem solved.  I also know to avoid certain behaviors (like sitting in one position too long, especially on a long flight).  Movement is essential.

I was really interested in the macular degeneration prediction as this, also, is prevalent in my family.  My opthamologist is aware of my concern and is on the alert for any signs.  So far so good.

I did open my Alzheimer's risk, and even though I have a higher chance of developing this than others in the population, it still is only a one in seven chance.  I'll go with those odds.  What surprised me was how low my genetic predisposition was to ulcerative colitis, since this is a disease I did develop at age 49 and has had a huge impact on my life -- proving once again that genes are only part of the story.

In the next post I'll show you some of the information that is available for each of the diseases.  I'd love to hear your comments on whether or not you would feel comfortable getting results such as these.

A Father's Day Diversion

Thinking of the men who contribute so much to our lives!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Health Results from 23andme

When I first discussed with my daughter, Liz, that I wanted to submit a sample to 23andme, we discussed her concerns.  First of all, she is a Genetic Counselor.  Secondly, there is a bit of a debate within the Genetic Counselor community about the wisdom of "direct to consumer" DNA analysis.  Will the typical consumer be able to understand the results (much less be able to deal with potentially negative results)?  After all, that is what Genetic Counselors do.  There are genes that have been identified that are associated with breast cancer.  Worse yet, what if an analysis shows that you have a gene that will definitely lead to an early death -- like Hungtington's.  Do you really want to know that your genes predict that you are likely to develop Alzheimer's?  What about Parkinson's?  All of these are possibilities and something you should consider.

I am 62 years old.  I already have experienced some significant health issues.  Would the results support what I already know?  In my family, there is a significant history of cancer.  We all "assume" that that is what will eventually kill us.  Quite a few relatives have developed macular degeneration.  And the bigger question -- how strong is the science behind 23andme's health predictions?

I told my daughter that if she didn't want to know the results, I wouldn't share them.  She said she didn't think I could keep my mouth shut.  Even if I could, she wasn't sure that she could stand "not knowing" if I knew.  I decided I was going to do it anyway.

Well the results came.  I was pleasantly surprised.  For one thing, they let you know whether or not you are a "carrier" for genes that are responsible for things like cystic fibrosis, sickle cell, etc.  I found out that I was not a carrier for any one of them!  What a nice thing to know.  You can click on each disease for a description of what it is.  The yellow stars indicate the level of confidence in the research that backs up the prediction.  Not only that, but you can be referred to the specific studies that identified the gene.  Here are some of my results.

Needless to say I was consoled by these results.  Of course if my results showed that I was a carrier, I may have felt differently.  In my next post, I will discuss a few of their predictions for disease and how closely the results correlated with what I know about my health status.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Anticipating DNA Results

So you send your sample in for testing and then you wonder what kind of results you might get.  Everyone knows that we inherit half of our DNA from our mother and half from our father.  Knowing this, it is logical that 25% of our DNA would come from each of our four grandparents.  The waters get a little muddier with siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins.  I found this great graphic on Wikipedia that helps make it clear. (All graphics can be enlarged by clicking on them).

Graphic Credit: Dimario, Wikipedia Commons
The Human Genome Project determined that humans share 99.9% of their DNA in common, although this exact percentage has recently been challenged.  This means that all of the diversity among humans comprises a relatively small part of our entire genome.  Since I'm not aware that any of my close relatives have been tested (yet) and I know most of my close relations, I really didn't expect to find any "cousins" that would fall within the second cousin category or closer -- and I didn't.  Here is what I did discover.

Unlike FamilyTreeDNA, 23andme scans all of your genome to look for patterns that may be used to predict your ancestry.  Mine turned out to be 100% European.  No surprise there.  Here are my results.

I really didn't understand this graphic until I compared it to a graphic for someone that had more of a mixed inheritance pattern.  Here is a sample for an African-American man.

I find it interesting that, as is the case with so many African-Americans, a lot of this man's ancestry is European in origin.  You can go to 23andme, create a free account and explore other sample groups under "Ancestry Painting."

When 23andme compared me to others in their database, the closest relationship they could identify for me was a potential 4th cousin. You can see from the table posted above that I would not anticipate sharing much of my DNA with this person.  23andme computed that we shared 0.48% of our DNA -- big whoop!!! (Note:  I've since found out that the 36 cM we share is a big deal.  Who knew).  Here is what we share in common.

You are reading it correctly.  We share one little section on chromosome 20.  I'll bet I share that much with my husband.  I guess I'm going to have to have him submit a sample.  So come on, cousins, submit a sample!  I want to have some fun.

In my next post, I'll discuss what I found out from a medical point of view.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Genetic Genealogy

Photo Credit: 
U.S. National Library of Medicine
My daughter is a Genetic Counselor and I have always found her work interesting.  Part of our mutual interest in this field was the result of a diagnosis that I had inherited one copy of the gene for the Factor V Leiden mutation from either my mother or my father.  She, in turn, inherited it from me. It makes us more genetically predisposed to developing a blood clot than other members of the population -- three to ten times more likely.


I was an elementary science teacher so DNA has always held a fascination for me.  I learned several years ago that the mitochondrial DNA located outside of the nucleus of a cell is passed from a mother to all of her children (male and female) largely intact.  (CeCe,  the Genetic Genealogist, reminded me that mitochondrial DNA is found outside the nucleus of the cell, whereas our chromosomes are found inside the cell nucleus.  The X chromosome is inside the cell nucleus along with the 22 other non-sex related chromosomes. You can follow the link to her article on the subject). The mitochondrial DNA travels through each generation.  Males, on the other hand, inherit one copy of their mother's mitochondrial DNA and one copy of the "Y" chromosome from their father -- that's why the 23rd chromosome is XX for females (one X from Mom and one X from Dad), while males are XY (one X from Mom and one Y from Dad).  That Y chromosome is then passed from father, to son, to grandson, etc. down the paternal line.


In 2006, I convinced my brother Dan, to submit a sample to FamilyTreeDNA for analysis.  Providing my own sample would not allow me to have any results for my paternal side because, being female, I'm missing that Y chromosome.  The science was relatively new then.  They identified my maternal haplogroup as "H." Based on 25 "markers" for the Y chromosome, the paternal haplogroup was identified as R1B1a.  Bottom line: Both my maternal and paternal haplogroups are very common in Europe -- especially northwest Europe.


I'd pretty much left my "genetic genealogy" in a file folder as it didn't seem to tell me anything I didn't already know through from years of old-fashioned research. But then I read that I could send a sample to 23and me and not only get some genealogical information but a whole lot of health information, too.

What you need to know about me!

#1 - I'm cheap! (or should I say frugal).  I'll think long and hard before parting with my money.

Photo Credit:  ehow.com
#2 - I'm skeptical!  After all, I spent years teaching my young students not to be gullible and question everything.  So I wanted to know -- what were their health predictions based upon?  Did I really want to know their predictions? How big is their database for predicting genealogical ancestry?

But this time, they made me an offer I couldn't refuse.  The actual genetic testing was FREE!  That certainly took care of concern #1.  The only obligation was for me to subscribe to their online newsletter for $9 a month for a minimum of a year.  Since I also taught math, I know that is $108 -- cheap in the scheme of things.  As to concern #2 -- I would get the results and take all of it with a grain of salt.  I could determine for myself how much weight to give the results.  And so I took the bait -- and I'm glad I did.  Over the next couple of posts, I'll discuss what I learned through this process and why I'd love to have YOU sign up.  What a discussion we could have then.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Victor Becker - Civil War 2nd Ohio Cavalry and Kentucky 7th

My Ryan cousins grew up with this sword mounted and displayed in their family room.  However, when my cousin, Mike Ryan, brought it to my attention, I had no idea who "Uncle Vic" was.  It wasn't until I systematically started comparing the names of my ancestors to rosters of Civil War soldiers serving in Ohio units that I discovered just how many of my ancestors had served.

Another thing I discovered was that the decision to serve was often a "family" decision.  As discussed earlier, two Darby brothers and their brother-in-law served.  My gg-grandfather, Charles Gross served as did his brother-in-law, "Vic." Victor was part of the Becker family that immigrated from Sarraltroff, Lorraine (Moselle), France in 1858. 

The 1860 Cincinnati City Directory lists Victor as working as a "harness maker" at 102 Main Street.  He was 18 years old.  His obvious familiarity with horses probably led to his decision to join a Cavalry unit.  He served in both Kentucky and Ohio units.  I will need to do more research before I can say with certainty what battles he participated in.  Here is a copy of his listing in the roster of Ohio Civil War veterans.  It should be noted that at times the family used the "Anglo" version of the Becker name (Baker), however, Victor began and ended his life using Becker as his surname.

Mike Ryan and Tim Jones
at Civil War Museum
According to Victor's Civil War Pension application, he was elevated to the rank of "Sergeant" and was honorably discharged with the rest of his unit at the end of the war in Nashville, Tennessee.  Here is a link to the Wikipedia page describing the unit's participation in the Civil War. 

Victor never married.  He was part of the "family" that worked together to support his sister, Rose and her children, following the death of Rose's husband, Charles. Although it appears that Victor worked at one point in the family's Stamping and Embroidery business, later census documents list Victoras a "harness maker"  once again."

Victor is one of the many Beckers and Ryans buried in St. John Cemetery in St. Bernard in an unmarked grave.  He died at the age of 85 on February 5, 1927.  At the time of his death, he was living in Mt. Adams on Carney Street and was buried from the Church of the Immaculata.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Way I Think of Steve

I am the oldest of 25 grandchildren on my maternal side and 4th of 21 on my paternal side.  As one of the "older" kids, I've had the pleasure of knowing cousins, aunts and uncles that my younger cousins do not even remember.  One such cousin is Steve.

My mother's sister, Florence, was the mother of six children.  Unfortunately, she died at the age of 34, leaving her husband, Bill, with six children to raise.  Steve was only seven years old when his mother died and had two younger siblings.  Uncle Bill married Phyllis and moved the family to Tucson, Arizona. Our Cincinnati family "lost" one of its branches.

But I'm one of the older kids -- so I have the memories . . . and the pictures. Carol was the sibling closest to my age.  She very much "mothered" her younger siblings, as all of us did.  Pictured above is a typical Easter Sunday picture with Carol and Bill each holding a younger child.  Tom and Karen are my siblings, and Terry is one of the Ryans.

One of my earliest memorable presents was a "Brownie" camera.  Taking photographs was an expensive proposition by the time you bought film, flash bulbs and paid for developing -- so different from today.  In the picture album from my childhood, I found the following two pictures of Steve.

I've always loved the picture with Steve and Jim wearing their cowboy outfits.

As one of the oldest, you grow up with the expectation that when illness strikes your generation, you will be one of the first to have to deal with it.  This, however, has been a surprising year.  My brother had to have a triple-bypass.  One cousin was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and another just had a mastectomy.  Imagine my surprise when I heard from Steve's sister, Pam, that Steve was diagnosed with anaplastic thyroid cancer.

Steve's son, Ryan, sprang into action and put together a blog discussing his "Superman" father and the courage he has to address this disease.  In a few short days, Steve has been supported by nearly 100 comments of support and more than a couple of thousand page views on the blog from all over the world.  You can't help but believe that Steve is receiving the best care possible and that he is surrounded by his supportive family including his wife, three children and six grandchildren.  So I encourage my Cincinnati family to stop by Ryan's blog for Steve and leave some comments!  Let him know that despite the distance and the years, we are family.

Note:  Be sure to click on the word "blog" above to be linked to Steve's blog.

Monday, June 6, 2011

My Immigrant Beckers from "France"

My gg-grandparents are Nicholas Becker and Anna Marie Butro from France.  One of the things I love about writing this blog is that it makes me review the research I have in hand and search to see if their are "new" items that may have been added since the last time I researched these ancestors.  This time, once again, I hit "pay dirt." 

I knew that my Becker immigrants had come from Lorraine, France.  I also "proved" for the Hamilton County Genealogical Society that this set of ancestors was living in Cincinnati before 1860.  This enabled me to submit their names and documentation for inclusion in the "Settlers and Builders" Lineage Group.  However, in preparation for this post, I found a few "new" facts that I did not know when I was submitting my original application.

I had not attempted to find out where the Beckers were buried.  I should not have been surprised that I found them in St. John's Cemetery in St. Bernard, Ohio.  Numerous other relatives from this family and the Irish family they married into are buried in that cemetery.  Unfortunately, all of them are in unmarked graves.

Last week I visited the cemetery office located at St. Mary's Cemetery and was able to get a map showing the general location of their graves.  In addition, they provided me with a list of names of the six people who are buried in the plot.  The office told me to look for the grave marker for Joseph Hauscher and his wife, Augusta, who were buried in marked graves in the same plot.  I took a picture to use as a reference point and discovered that the marker for Augusta was no longer there (for whatever reason).

I have no idea who the Hauschels are.  The "M" designates that the grave has a marker (as pictured above).  Anna and Nicolaus Becker are buried there, along with two young grandchildren of their daughter, Rose, and her husband, Charles Gross.  I have at least 13 relatives buried in this cemetery and none of their graves are marked.  I think it speaks to their level of poverty at that time.  I wonder how many of my readers have relatives buried in unmarked graves.

Thanks to the Civil War service of one of the Becker sons, Victor, I know that the family emmigrated from a small town in France called Sarraltroff, (Lorraine) Moselle, France.  The father, Nicholas, listed his occupation as "farmer." (I've since learned, however, that everyone was listed as a "farmer" unless they were traveling in a higher class).  A google search of the town shows that even today the population is less than 800. You can view copyrighted pictures of Sarraltroff by clicking on this link.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Rosina (Rose) Becker Gross

In a previous post, I discussed what I new about my immigrant gg-grandmother, Rose.  Rose, although ethnically German, immigrated with her family from Lorraine, France.  The 1900 Census lists their immigration year as 1860, although the 1920 Census states that the family arrived in 1855.  I believe the latter is the correct date as I was able to locate an immigration record on the Ship William Tell that arrived in New York in 1855.  There are a few discrepancies, but most of what I know is supported by these records.

What is beyond dispute, however, is that Rose was a widow with four children by 1879.  The surviving children were:  Rose -age 15, Julius - age 14, Julia - age 12, and Eliza (Alice) - age 6.  The 1880 Census lists Rose and her four children living in the same residence as her older sister, Catherine, and younger brothers, Victor and Nicolas.  They were living at 288 W. 6th St. in downtown Cincinnati.  All but the three youngest children were listed as working in a "Stamping and Embroidery" business, apparently owned by the family.  Young Rose was also working in the store, but her brother, Julius is listed as working in a candy store.

For the times, I can imagine that the children were very fortunate.  They were raised in a home with four adults including two men who could serve as father figures.  Frequent occupations for women at the time included being a seamstress, milliner, embroiderer or similar.  Sure beats taking in laundry!

The women in my family were quite good at this.  We have a few remaining pieces of their work.  The one at the left in incomplete.  The one to the right was embroidered by the younger Rose.  It was a hat liner for her husband, James Hugh Ryan.  I'm told that Rose also embroidered beautiful flowers on her wedding dress.  It was obviously a labor of love for these women.

As far as I know, three of Rose's siblings (Catherine, Victor and Alice)never married. Victor, who was a Civil War Veteran of a cavalry unit, was listed as a "harness maker" in the 1900 Census. All are buried in St. John's Cemetery in St. Bernard, Ohio -- all in unmarked graves.

Final note: The 1900 Census lists Rose Gross living with three of her children at 851 Findlay Ave. Her siblings, Victor, Katharine and Alice are living a few doors away at 838 Findlay. By then Rose was receiving a Civil War Pension based on her husband, Charles', service in the military. By 1900, the family was using "Baker" for their surname, the "Americanized" version of Becker. It's interesting to note that by 1910, they reverted back to Becker.

Source Citation for Passenger List

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Were Women EVER This Manipulative?

Anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time knows that I often say that "I come from a long line of STRONG women."  I'm about to write yet another post about a strong female ancestor who was widowed and left with several children to raise.  It's almost a theme in my 19th and early 20th Century family.

A friend emailed me several newspaper and magazine ads from the past that would be considered highly offensive to our 21st Century sensibilities.  Here is an example of one of the ads he sent me:

Ad Credit:  http://www.dumpaday.com/

When I first read the ad, I was amused.  However, I immediately started comparing the "message" to my personal experience of women I have known.  I can honestly say that I've never known any women who could be that manipulative.  Have you?  Of course in 2011, if I feel I need anything in the ad, I can go out and buy it -- with my own money and without consulting my husband.  Yet growing up in the 50's, I still cannot identify with the sentiment expressed in this ad.  My mother, who had very little disposable income raising seven children, would never have cried in an effort to manipulate my Dad.  I can't imagine any of our neighbors, aunts or grandmothers resorting to this tactic.  So why do I believe that this ad, probably put together by a man, was thought to be effective?  Do you think they thought it was funny or a real reflection of how women got what they wanted?

My friend sent several other similar ads.  I just had to share another one of the ads because so many of my readers have questioned that drugs such as morphine and cocaine could easily be obtained in the 1880s -- often from the pharmacist.  Check this out:

Ad Credit:  http://www.dumpaday.com/
That must have been some toothache! I'll bet it was an "instantaneous cure."  I'd love to hear your comments.  Maybe if my husband sheds a few tears, I'll cook dinner -- or better yet, I can shed a few and he'll take me out to dinner.  I AM dreaming!